There are a lot of different things to consider when ascertaining why your competitors perform better in search than you do. When clients ask ‘why did so-and-so appear on page one for this particular keyword?’, it’s not likely that I’ll be able to provide them with a quick answer (unless their site has issues that I am aware of that is going to be affecting their own visibility for this term, like a history of dodgy linkbuilding). In order to provide them with a concise answer and explain what to do about it, I’ll need to conduct a competitor analysis.
How do I conduct a SEO competitor analysis?
To conduct a competitor analysis, you will need to have a basic understanding of SEO. There are tools that can help you, a few of which I’ve listed below. Some are free, and some aren’t. Not all of them are essential, but they will most certainly make things easier and quicker, so I’d recommend familiarising yourself with as many of them as you can.
- A keyword research tool, such as Google Keyword Planner
- A backlink analysis tool, like Link Research Tools
- To see a snapshot of how popular a domain is, the Moz SEO Toolbar works well
- The Screaming Frog SEO Spider is a great tool that can crawl, analyse and audit a site from an onsite SEO perspective, or the SEOChat page comparison tool works well if you want a quick overview
- Use Majestic SEO or Ahrefs to dive into lots of metrics at domain or URL level, and SpyFu and SEMRush provide data on your competitors’ top keywords
- A reporting platform that allows you to monitor competition over time, like Raven Tools
- Keyword position tracking, such as Authority Labs or SERPs Free Keyword Rank Checker
Note that the free versions of these tools are great, but to get all the extra cool features, you’ll need to pay for them.
Tools that monitor and analyse content are important too. Again, there are a number of free versions of these tools that should be sufficient as long as you don’t have a massive website and a gazillion keywords you want to improve visibility for.
- Ahrefs Content Explorer can show you the most popular content for specific keywords
- Buzzsumo provides a great analysis of the/your best performing content
- Social Crawlytics shows which pages and which social channels your competitors use to share content
Finally, you need to have realistic expectations. Building visibility takes time (and time is money), so don’t expect to apply what you have learned from your competitors and wake up to find your website page one, position one for every single keyword you wanted to target overnight.
The first thing you’ll need to know is who your competitors are. As well as the ones you are aware of, use the a keyword research tool like Google Keyword Planner to identify the keywords you want to be found for, and then pop each of those keywords into Google (or Bing, but y’know, probably not getting much traffic from Bing, are you?)
You’ll get a pretty good idea of who you’re up against – you’ll probably be aware of most of them, but there might be a few you didn’t have on your radar.
Turn on the Moz Toolbar and you’ll be able to see some basic metrics in SERPs, such as page authority, number of links and domain authority.
Be realistic here. It’s going to be difficult to compete with sites that have high domain authority (DA) or a page on a site that has a high page authority (PA). Pages that have a lot of links to them will also be difficult to compete with. If you don’t think that you are able to compete with these sites, go back to your keyword research and think about variations of the higher volume keywords that would still drive relevant traffic while being less competitive.
Once you have identified a list of competitors, you can move on to the analysis, which we will cover in part 2