How to Conduct a Competitor Analysis

14 April 2021
by Archie Williamson
5 mins
How to Conduct a Competitor Analysis

An SEO competitor analysis is a process where you look at what other companies in your industry are doing in terms of content, keywords, links and search, with the aim of replicating and improving on some of the more successful elements.

By researching your competitors’ content output and search performance, you can make changes to your strategies that can increase your visibility in Google by ranking higher, driving greater levels of clicks, traffic and conversions to your web pages.

Without conducting a competitor analysis, you will be creating content blindly, without any knowledge of what is already working for rival brands. You can use their success as a foundation for your own campaigns. You will know what you need to do to outrank them and to produce materials that resonate with your target audience.

If you have already been publishing content during the last 12 months, an analysis will give you context to how certain keywords are performing and whether other phrases and topics may be worth pursuing instead.

And, if you are basking in SEO success right now, with optimised content that is ranking consistently, competitors will be trying to identify your weaknesses, so being vigilant and ready to pivot to new tactics is crucial.

Who are my competitors?

A competitor analysis should cover competitors that are ranking for brand-focused keywords with larger search volumes and those that are performing well for more specific, longer tail keywords. Try not to skew your focus to one pool of keywords, as you need to take a step back and look at the bigger picture.

Your analysis should also cover brands that may not appear to be major rivals but do actually target a segment of your market and do it well. In addition to defining competitors at this stage, you also need to identify sites ranking in SERPs that are not really a threat. This could be bigger sites such as Wikipedia or Facebook.

Analysis is centred around search and there are, accordingly, a variety of SEO factors that can affect rankings. Other things you need to consider include:

  • How many backlinks do high-performing pages have?
  • Do certain competitors have a better strategy for featured snippets and other rich results?
  • Have competitors published content that covers certain keywords in depth?
  • Which pages are driving the most traffic and other key metrics?
  • Which sites are content competitors and commercial competitors, or a mix of both?

What do I need to conduct an analysis?

While an analysis can appear to be a laborious undertaking on paper, the process is made relatively simple through the use of software. For example, you can use a keyword explorer tool to analyse keywords, a site explorer tool to analyse a competitor’s domain, and Google Search Console as a catch-all for general metrics and data analytics.

To start, use these tools to build out your listing of competitors, using the methodology outlined earlier. You can now start comparing and contrasting each competitor with actual metrics to see how competitive they truly are. Metrics you should keep tabs on here include:

  • Market share, click share and estimated visits.
  • Link authority and trends for link acquisition.
  • Brand popularity based on search volumes.
  • Page speed comparison for top pages.

What is a keyword gap analysis?

When a competitor ranks above you, you are effectively losing out on traffic. By conducting a keyword gap analysis, you can identify opportunities and pinpoint the exact terms that they are ranking for but you are currently not. By plugging this gap with content crafted by a digital marketing agency, you can potentially usurp your competitors in search results.

The SEMrush Keyword Gap tool is useful here. You can use the comparison website report to find keywords that other sites in the top three positions are ranking for.

Doubling this up with a domain authority comparison will tell you whether there is an easy opportunity for rankings. When a domain with a lower authority is ahead of yours in SERPs for your target keywords, it may indicate that your on-page optimisation is not up to scratch.

Is a content comparison useful?

Taking a deep dive into a competitor’s top-performing content should be a core part of your analysis, and it can double up as a SEO-centric content creation method. By looking at what works, you can take the basic outline for an article and improve on it.

Nextiva SEO Alina Benny recommends examining the “page type” rather than keywords that competitors are ranking for. Ask yourself:

  • What is the word count for top performers?
  • How are titles, headers and tags used?
  • Are there any sections commonly used across all of the top listings?
  • Are they listicles, how-tos, tutorials or comparison posts?
  • Are they product pages or blog posts?

By building out from competitor keywords and looking at the types of content that are aligning with search intent, you will have a better chance of coming up with something fresh and relevant.

Do I need to look at link building?

Trying to build a set of links that point to your site is always challenging, so it will pay dividends to round out your analysis by taking a look at the links that your competitors are getting and where they are coming from.

Tools come in handy again here, with Link Explorer, Moz and Ahrefs among those that allow you to dig into reports that highlight sites that are linking to competitors but not to you. These should be easier to target, as these sites are obviously interested in the topic you want to write about and the keywords you want to target for.

To conclude, a competitor analysis involves you examining the keywords, content, links and SEO tactics that work for rivals. You are essentially reverse engineering them and adding your own unique touch to create your own successful strategies. By using competitors as a springboard for SEO and content creation, you can manage campaigns that rank well and drive return on ROI.

If you want to improve your search strategies and are not sure where to start, contact us today and we will help. We include a competitor analysis as part of our free website audit.


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