How to Do Your Own SEO Competitor Analysis
Have you been performing Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) for some time yet still being stuck behind your biggest competitors? Do you want to learn SEO strategies to beat them at their own game?
A long list of must-dos may have emerged if you have already done audits on your direct competitors’ websites based on SEO ranking factors. Yet, it may be unclear to you which actions to devote time and resources to first. After all, a huge diversity of tactics and opportunities exist in SEO, but many of them are highly costly.
If you find yourself in this situation, then this smart SEO competitor analysis guide is for you.
Tools We Will Be Needing
SEO competitor analysis tools are critical for performing this function. Broadly speaking, they can be split into competitor identifiers and SEO metric comparison tools.
Identifying Your Competitors
An obvious first step before starting SEO competitor analysis is to first curate a list of competing websites to compare against. If you are new to this, consider using a tool like Similarweb, which helps to list niche leaders in your market. This approach is more sophisticated than just looking up your local Search Engine Results Pages (SERP). Instead, it considers multiple different categories of keywords and their derived organic traffic to arrive at a competitor list. As such, both direct and indirect competitors are considered, including businesses that you may have yet to be aware of.
SEO Metric Analysers
Armed with a list of competitors, you need to next use SEO competitor analysis tools such as Ahrefs Site Audit Tool, Semrush Site Audit Tool, and Moz to compare critical SEO metrics. Free versions of each of this software do exist and can be used to give you a starting point for your competitor research. However, many of the critical comparison features are only included in the paid versions.
Finding Commonalities Between Your Competitors
A more efficient approach to SEO competitor analysis is to look for common factors amongst your direct competitors or category leaders. If all the best websites in your niche have a certain resource or are performing the same SEO tactic, then chances are that you need to match them in this aspect.
In this SEO competitor analysis guide, we will be delving into:
- Keyword clusters that they are ranking well in
- Backlinks that your competitors share
- Content format of their ranked pages
- Common website architecture shared
- Featured snippets captured
- Social activity difference
Before proceeding, it is worth noting that your typical SEO audit applies to all your competitors. But this smart SEO competitor analysis guide is intended to streamline your efforts and identify the areas of the biggest impact to tackle first.
1. Keyword Clusters Shared
A keyword cluster is a group of keywords that are related to each other because they share similar meanings or themes. For example, your target SEO keyword may be “SEO company”, then you might include words like “SEO agency”, “SEO service provider”, and “SEO vendor” in the same cluster.
It is easy to be tempted to zoom in on a single organic keyword cluster when performing your SEO competitor analysis. However, this can limit your understanding of the strengths of your competitors’ websites. For instance, while your competitors may be ranking for the “SEO company” cluster, they could also be getting traffic from other organic keywords. In this case, organic traffic might be flowing in via “SEO consultant” or “SEO expert” clusters.
An extension of competitor keyword analysis, studying differences in keyword cluster rankings only requires one extra step. Essentially, following the generation of keyword gap analysis via the keyword research tool, you would need to cluster the keywords by intent. Look for big keyword cluster gaps between you and your direct business competitors.
Not Overlooking Long Tail Keywords
When looking at target keyword clusters that your website is losing to competitors, it is worth including long-tail keywords. When added up, long tail keywords can offer decent organic search traffic volume to websites. As such, in a highly competitive niche, their combined organic keyword search volumes could be what gives your competitors the edge.
2. Backlink Profiles Shared
A backlink profile is a list of all the websites linking to a particular page or website. This information can be found by visiting the “Backlinks” section of any webmaster tool such as Majestic SEO, Ahrefs, SEMRush, etc.
When performing a link profile audit as part of your SEO competitor analysis, it is useful to compare yours against the backlink profiles of your competitors. In particular, you should be looking to identify similarities between your competitors by looking at their backlink profiles.
Known as link intersect analysis, you should be searching for domains that are linked to your competitors but not your website. Typically, they should have common backlinks from websites with high domain authority.
Finding these high-domain authority websites gives a good indication of the websites within your niche that are worth targeting for backlinks. In particular, they might share common linking domains that are .gov or .edu domains that are lending more SEO equity.
If you are just starting out, you can find an intersection of backlinks between your competitors using Ahrefs’s Link Explorer tool. Also, take time to view our updated list of high DA websites in Singapore that webmasters should try to get links from.
Analysing Individual Pages’ Links
A more advanced approach would be to go beyond looking at common domains linked and analyse the actual pages linked. Since not all pages are equal on a website, there can be a big difference in SEO equity passed to your website depending on where it is from.
You might have a backlink from the same domain as your competitors, but theirs could be from a page with a higher UR rating. In this case, you should prioritise getting the same backlink despite already being linked to the domain.
Commonly, authoritative pages that link to your competitors include listicles, research articles, and industry news. As such, there might be opportunities to get a backlink via a guest post, digital PR, or sponsored post arrangement.
Comparison Tool: Ahrefs Competitor Analysis
The Ahrefs free version is a useful competitor analysis tool that includes basic SEO metrics such as backlinks, domain authority, and anchor text. It also provides some basic keyword research capabilities. However, its most powerful feature is its ability to identify and rank competitors by comparing their SEO performance across multiple key areas. For example, if you search for “best SEO company”, Ahrefs will show you all the top 10 results ranked by SEO score. The SEO score is calculated from several key indicators such as backlink profile, content quality, and page speed.
Comparison Tool: Semrush Competitor Analysis
Similar to Ahrefs, SemRush is another popular competitor analysis tool with a free version that allows you to perform basic competitor research. Its most valuable feature is its ability to compare your website’s SEO performance against those of your competitors. To help with your SEO competitor analysis, you can also view how well your site ranks for specific keywords compared to others. In addition, you can see how your rankings change over time.
3. Content Formats Shared
An area that is easy to overlook is the types of content used for ranking a keyword. An issue then arises whereby your type of content may simply not match the determined intent of a search query by Google.
For instance, for the keyword “top SEO company in Singapore”, Google might see it as being best answered by a listicle. In this case, most of Google’s page 1 will be filled with articles listing the leading SEO companies, their background, locations, and prices.
If most of the web pages that are outranking you have a similar format, then you should seriously consider adopting the same type of content.
Using A Viable Content Format
The good news is that Google’s SERP often contains a combination of different formats. Of the top 10 results, five could be for products, three for listicles, and the remaining two for news. This means that you should have a variety of content formats to choose from. Though it is worth noting that the ratio of content formats on the SERP tends to be stable throughout a single algorithm version.
Common content formats include listicles, product comparisons, and “how to” pages. When performing the content gap analysis, map out SERP listings according to their content format. Next, look at which content formats are applicable to your website. Also, consider how many slots on page 1 are available for that format. If both checks out, then it is time to get started on fine-tuning your page’s content.
4. Website Architecture Shared
A more advanced area of SEO competitor research involves the comparison of website structure. This mainly involves looking at
- Crawl depth
- URL slug
- Internal link flow
All of these 3 ranking factors are part of your typical SEO audit. Yet, when used as part of a competitor analysis, it puts into perspective how strong your SEO is relative to the competition.
The crawl depth of your page refers to how many clicks it takes for a user to reach it from the entrance page. For example, if your product has an average crawl depth of three, this means that it requires three clicks before a user reaches the page. This could be due to the intermediary category pages between your homepage and the product page.
Used as a proxy for how important a page is, crawl depth could be the difference between you and your competitors.
The URL slug of your page refers to the named paths in your page’s URL. For example, for the URL “www.example.com/test-product /”, “test-product” is the slug. There are two areas here to compare with other web pages.
Firstly, is the page a parent page or a child page? A parent page would only have 1 level in the file path e.g. “www.example.com/test-product /”, while a child page would be “www.example.com/test-product/product-a”. Generally, parent pages receive more weightage for SEO as compared to child pages.
Secondly, having certain terms in your URL file path can also affect your SEO rankings. If your competitors all have the term “advice” in the URL, then you might be wise to follow suit. For example, if you are trying to rank for the keyword “SEO advice”, and your competitors all have “SEO-advice” or combinations of it in the URL, then you might want to add “advice” to the slug.
Internal Link Flow
Not unlike external backlink analysis, you will also need to look at internal link flows to the target pages as part of your SEO competitor research. Your competitors might all have internal links from the home page or from a listicle blog page. In this case, you can infer that such internal links are key to passing strong link juice to the target page.
If you have found that your website does not follow the category leaders’ internal links strategy, then do try to adopt their approach.
5. Featured Snippets Captured
This is one of the most advanced areas of SEO competitor analysis. It involves analysing what snippets appear on Google search results. These snippets are usually displayed below the organic search result. They are often used by users to quickly find information about a particular topic.
Fortunately, SEO competitor analysis tools like Ahrefs and Semrush do list down featured snippets attained by your competitors. This includes snippets such as People Also Ask (PAA), reviews, local business listings, and products. If your competitors have attained a common featured snippet that you have not, this would be an area to address.
Start by looking at the purpose of the featured snippet in question. Then compare it against your competitors’ page content. If you are able to identify matching information and intent, then consider adopting them.
6. Common Social Signals
Lastly, you cannot discount the social activity levels on your competitors’ social media platforms. Google has repeatedly confirmed that social signals from platforms like LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest contribute to SEO rankings. As such, if you are already at the very least on par with your competitors for the first four areas, then it is time to perform a social signal competitor analysis.
In particular, you should be looking for any similarities in their best-performing content on social media platforms. For example, they might receive the highest levels of engagement on giveaway posts or product announcements. If there is any overlap in the type of content that performs in your niche, then you can adopt the same approach.
Expediting Your Audit With Expert Help
Performing a thorough SEO competitor analysis can be complex and time-consuming on your end. This is why most marketers turn to an SEO agency like First Page Digital to at least do the very first competitor comparison audit. Our SEO specialists help you to correctly identify SEO leaders in your field and identify the gaps between you and them. Next, an SEO strategy is crafted to help you bridge the gaps and strategically overtake their rankings. Contact our SEO strategists to find out more today.
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