If you made it through part one, well done. Now we know who we are dealing with, let’s take a closer look at what we are up against by getting cracking on the analysis.
There are two main parts to a technical audit; on-page and off-page. There are many, many different factors that make up both, and how well each factor is executed or implemented (in the eyes of search engines, at least) will go some way to calculating your Domain Authority (DA). As explained in part one, typically, the higher the DA, and the better the content matches a search query, the better chance a site has of ranking.
On-page looks at how well optimised a website is. There are lots of other considerations to take into account, like whether the sites are mobile optimised, whether the sites have any indexing issues, and how fast your competitors’ websites load vs. your own site, but we’re going to mostly focus on content analysis.
Off-page mostly focuses on the analysis of links that point to a website, but also includes looking at social media channels. This helps to build a complete picture of how popular your competitor’s content is.
A good place to start when conducting an on-page content analysis is with a crawl of your competitors’ sites that rank well for high volume, highly relevant search terms. Check how well optimised their top level pages are – do the target keywords (and variations of these terms) appear in the meta title, description, headings, and throughout the body content too? You bet they do. Now, compare the content on these sites to the content on your pages.
Even making simple tweaks to meta and copy can make a difference, so it’s worth checking out your on-page content before you do anything else. Don’t try and shoehorn in keywords for the sake of it, write naturally, and write with the end-user in mind.
Leading on from the basic on-page analysis, you’ll want to dig a bit deeper into your competitors’ sites to see what else they have going on. Check out the blog and news sections, and look around to see if they have any other sweet content going on. This could include anything from user generated reviews on product pages to video, infographics, case studies and whitepapers. How does the content they offer compare to your site? Again, is the content optimised? It’s no good you publishing a great piece of research with a title and landing page that has no connection to the subject – no matter how catchy or pun-tastic you think it is.
It’s all well and good having lots of content for users to digest, but if it’s poorly written and not suited to the target demographic, it’s a waste of time and resources. Not every piece of content can be 100% awesome, but it’s well worth putting the effort in and doing your research, as this can give your site the edge over the competition.
Use a tool like Buzzsumo or Ahrefs Content Explorer to see which pages on their site are shared the most, and make this the benchmark to beat when producing similar (but better) versions of this content.
Another crucial factor when auditing content is whether it offers the visitor anything useful and unique. For example, if you have copied every product description straight from the manufacturer’s website and your competitors haven’t, don’t expect your pages to be shown above theirs – they put the effort in, you didn’t.
Ah, links. Good old links.
This is where things can get a bit confusing. To build the best possible picture of what your competitors are doing linkbuilding wise, you will need some kind of backlink analysis tool so that you can compare backlink profiles. The Competitive Landscape Analyzer (CLA) report in Link Research Tools is great for this.
SEO hasn’t been about just the quantity of links for a long time now – you should be looking at links that are on high quality, trustworthy and relevant domains. Obviously, a high number of links that meets both criteria makes for a great link profile that may be difficult to compete with – at least in the short term.
Backlink analysis is a great way of looking at the sites you should be aiming to appear on too; and it may also present opportunities that you’d note previously considered.
Social Media Audit
Last but not least, is the social media audit. This is where it can all fall apart.
In addition to follower count, look for engagement with posts and see what works best for your competition. Bear in mind that the majority of social media channels now charge to promote content (with Facebook being the worst culprit), so engagement metrics may be skewed.
On Twitter and Instagram, look at the hashtags they use most frequently, and on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google + see what groups they contribute to and share content in.
Check that social media is content tailored to each channel it is published through – posting the exact same Instagram link on every other social media channel is lazy and looks like they don’t care about their audience. Re-posting the same content many times over can be a turnoff for followers, so it is worth exploring whether they are guilty of this too. Also, consider whether the posts lack diversity – it is wise to publish varied content.
As I said, there are many factors that will influence how well your site ranks, but once you have all this lovely data on your competitors you can make a good start on looking for gaps in their marketing strategy that you can use to your advantage.