In the competitive world of the internet, every visitor to your website counts – literally. And a vast percentage of those visitors will come from search engines and specifically Google. So ranking high in search results makes a big difference, but the fight over organic traffic doesn’t end when you reach the first pages of search results. 

If anything, it only gets more challenging from there because the top three results get more than half of the organic traffic from search engines. So being good is not enough; you need to be the best. In order to be the best, you must beat the best. Performing an SEO competitor analysis can help you with that.

What is an SEO competitor analysis?

Competitor analysis is the process of examining your competitors’ SEO strategy, determining what makes them successful, and then learning from them. It’s a bit like performing an SEO audit but doing it on someone else’s website. You’ll want to analyze all three aspects of SEO – technical SEO, on-page SEO, and off-page SEO – as much as you can. This includes taking a closer look at your competitors’ content, site structure, keyword use, backlinks, and more.

Person looking at Google Analytics statistics
An SEO competitor analysis will help you learn from your competition

Why should you perform an SEO competitor analysis?

These days, you cannot run a business without an online presence. But an online presence is nothing without visibility. That is precisely why every business needs SEO – SEO makes you more visible online. But what if you’re already doing your best with SEO and not seeing any further results? The reason for that might be the fact that there is a limited amount of quality traffic in any given niche. 

Any traffic that goes to one of your competitors is the traffic you’ve lost. To prevent this from happening, you need to understand why people choose other websites over yours and then rectify your mistakes. And the best way to learn how your competitors are beating you is to perform a competitive analysis on them.

Performing an SEO competitor analysis

Surprisingly many website owners don’t analyze their competition or only do so haphazardly. As you can imagine, this doesn’t yield the best results. So instead of following in these footsteps, here’s what you need to do:

Step 1: Identify your competitors

The first step to analyzing your competitors is knowing who they are. Not all websites on the internet are your competition. If you’re working in real estate, for example, someone who’s running a successful blog about baking is not exactly going to steal your traffic. Not even all websites in your industry are necessarily your competition. 

A business that offers the same services as you but in a different state is unlikely to be your downfall. Finally, competing with some websites is simply not worth the effort. If you’re trying to rank for the same keyword as Wikipedia, reaching the top spot in search results would be a costly and unlikely endeavor.

Person searching on Google
Only the websites that rank better for you in your niche are your real competition

Take a look at the search results for some of your main keywords and their variations, especially the more specific ones – those that identify a specific service, product, or region. What are the websites that consistently rank better than you in those areas? That is your main competition.

Step 2: Do a keyword analysis

Analyzing your competitors’ use of keywords is about finding a gap. You need to identify valuable keywords for which you don’t rank highly, but your competitors do. Not every keyword will be relevant: you should be looking for something related to your business that will bring in a lot of traffic and attract people you can convert

If your competitors rank for these kinds of keywords and you don’t, then it’s no wonder they’re beating you – they’re getting all the traffic from these searches. But once you locate these keywords, you can work on improving your rankings for them. This will significantly help your website overall.

Ideally, you’ll want to compare several competitors for the best results. Of course, this includes potentially thousands of keywords. It’s impossible to manually do that kind of analysis, so you should use a plugin like Ahrefs instead.

Step 3: Examine your competitors’ content

The next step is identifying your competitors’ top content. Since content marketing is and always has been one of the most important things in SEO, analyzing it will be a crucial component of any competitive analysis. The thing you’re most interested in are links which are one of the biggest ranking factors. 

Find the pages that received the most links – this is the quality content you need to learn from. Identify what about this particular content made it so successful – the topic, the keyword, the page structure, the images, etc. Then, create your own content which improves upon what your competitors did. It’s important not to copy others’ content; this won’t help you much. You must use what they do well and make it better to rank better.

Traffic statistics for a website
Find the best content – it’ll teach you the most

Step 4: Take a closer look at your competitors’ backlinks

Backlinks are an incredibly valuable tool in SEO. Not only do they direct traffic from other websites to yours, but they also improve your domain authority and signal the quality of your content to search engines. So if you want to succeed, you need to build a strong backlink profile – your competitors probably already have! And this is where competitive analysis comes in handy. 

Take a look at where your competitors are getting their backlinks from. Odds are that these are quality websites that help them rank higher. And if they’re willing to link to your competitors, they will probably also link to you. So reach out to them and get your links on those websites too!

Step 5: Analyze the SERPs

The final step in your competitive analysis should be a closer look at the search engine results pages themselves. People don’t just search for specific keywords because they’re bored. They do it with specific intent. Google does its best to discover that intent and take it into account when serving up results. So Google will do the hard work for you – you just need to notice it. 

Google the keywords for which you’re trying to rank. What are the top results? Are they instruction videos? Overviews of historical accounts? Top lists? Whatever type of content Google is serving up, that’s the type of content you want to be creating for the given keyword. Chances are that your competitors figured that out and are beating you because of it.

Using the results of an SEO competitor analysis in your SEO strategy

The whole point of performing an SEO competitor analysis is to learn from your competition. So take this process seriously and approach it systematically. Write up a report on what you’ve discovered. Compare the successes you’ve identified in your competitors with your own content. Take note of your competitors’ weaknesses and areas where you’re doing better than them. Then use this information as a roadmap to improve your own content and beat the competition.


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