Many site owners are aware of the basic components of their own SEO – proper use of keywords, content optimization, meta descriptions. But equally important is assessing how your competitors are doing. It is because of competition, of course, that standards are set, so you should be up-to-speed on exactly where your competitors stand in all of the same areas you want to examine for your own site.
There are particular steps that you can take to go about the process. There is also SEO software out there that can help you in your analysis.
Determine who your real competitors are
In order to conduct an accurate assessment of your competitors’ SEO strength, the first thing you’ll need to do is determine who exactly your closest competitors are. You can make educated guesses based upon other names you hear being thrown around in industry discussions, but you won’t really be able to make a proper comparison until you conduct an actual analysis of others’ SEO strength.
Doing this can be advantageous for a number of reasons: if you find that you are lagging in certain areas, you can build upon them. You might even learn things that your competitors are doing that can be constructive for you, as well. If you determine that your own site is stronger, you know what to build upon even further in your SEO efforts.
Study particular aspects of your competitors’ sites
Overall content is, of course, one of the most important elements of a site. What types of articles appear on your competitors’ sites? Do they contain videos, how-to guides, or other types of media? How are different content types distributed throughout the sites?
It’s also important to take note of how frequently your competitors’ pages are updated. If there is a blog on a certain site, how often is it updated? Do comments get answered in a timely and appropriate manner?
Using Rank Tracker is an effective way to learn who your real competitors are, analyse them, and discover their strengths and weaknesses. You can find competitors either by domain or topic by looking in the section Competitor Research. A search by topic, for example, would look like this:
If you’ve already figured out what your most important keywords should be, you can find your competitors by doing searches based upon those keywords. If you have a professional tool to help you, such as Rank Tracker, you’ll be able to do this even more effectively.
Your closest competitors will be the ones who have the most keywords in common with you. They will likely be selling the same products or services as you. Take note of these sites’ rankings and how they compare to yours. Also, if these sites also use keywords that you’re not using, you might want to consider adding them to your content , as well. This depends on whether you consider these keywords relevant, of course, but nonetheless they are worth thinking about.
Another particular metric that you should employ is the ranking of individual keywords for different sites. Knowing where each keyword stands with each of your competitors will give you an idea of the strength that it has in your industry and how important it should be for you.
With Rank Tracker, you can assess competitors’ keyword strength over yours by going to the Keyword Research module and looking at the Keyword Gap function.
As with your own SEO strength, the strength of your competitors also depends on their backlinks. How their backlinks compare to yours will also be a good indicator of what you need to do to beef up your site.
As you do this, make note of the number of dofollow versus nofollow links. If you find that many of the backlinks are actually nofollow links, there will be less value to them, of course.
Where exactly the backlinks lead is what you need to focus on. Your competitors can have hundreds of backlinks, but if they don’t lead to quality sites, then they are not considered authoritative and don’t help the rankings of those sites. If you have a backlink to the “mom and pop donut shop down the street”, that is all well and good, but it doesn’t carry the industry authority of a major association of a serious global player.
Another reason why competitors’ backlinks are important for you is because strong ones can also be sources you can go to for yourself. By offering to advertise services or somehow else providing assistance to these groups, you might be able to earn backlinks from them, as well.
Take your competitors’ total rankings into consideration
One thing you should keep in mind as you go about the competitor analysis process is where each of your competitors stands in general. One or more of them might have very high rankings for some particular keyword, but this doesn’t necessarily mean that you should follow their lead.
If a site scores poorly overall, then some particular strength might simply be an anomaly. It also might not be relevant to your efforts. All of your analyses should be kept in perspective.
Analysing sites as a whole will tell you not only where your competitors rank in terms of keyword optimisation, but also their overall content optimisation, their use of meta tags, backlinks, and other site elements.
Some tools will allow you to assess your competitors’ overall strength by means of conducting a content audit. In Rank Tracker, you can look at the section Site Structure > Site Audit and get a general picture:
Examine your competitors by SERP results
Another method that you can employ is to analyse SERP results for particular keywords. Once you’ve determined a competitor’s strongest keyword, you can do a search for that word and see in what contexts the word appears. This will help you better determine which factors drive traffic to your competitors’ sites.
For example, if you see results appear for “People also ask…,” it will serve as an indication that some information that you might have considered peripheral is actually more essential to your site than you realised.
If your competitors’ keywords appear in the “popular products” section of a SERP, you may find that some or another product is more popular than you realised! And it could be time for you to improve this particular product.
Cross-check device usage
Another thing to consider is how good your competitors’ sites look on different devices. You should cross-check mobile and PC results. Also, keep in mind that SERP listings can be different on different devices, as well. So, whatever elements you study in your PC analysis, mobile listings should be looked at, as well.
Repeat the process regularly
Remember that the factors influencing the SERP can change at any time, so it’s a good idea to repeat this process on a regular basis. Keep records of your past analyses, too, so that you can see how things change over time. The more organised you are, the better results you’ll retain.