There’s a lot that goes into a successful SEO strategy. From backlinks, internal links, and authority links, to page speed, mobile-friendliness, UI/UX, and, of course, the quality of the content itself. However, sometimes you can find SEO success simply by looking at what works for your competitors and reverse engineering their process for your own website.
Through a procedure known as SEO competitor analysis (or sometimes “competitive website analysis”), you can learn about what your competitors are doing to outrank you. With this information in your pocket, you can gain a competitive edge that can help boost your rankings on search engine results pages (SERPs). In this article, I’ll show you how.
What Is SEO Competitive Analysis?
An SEO competitor analysis is a report that indicates what your website stands in relation to other websites that share your niche. A standard analysis of this kind looks at key metrics such as organic traffic (measured in monthly visitors), high-volume keyword utilization, domain authority, and backlink profiles.
Competition analysis provides a roadmap for SEO success because it tells you how your competitors have achieved their results. From there, you can utilize their recipe for success to craft your own.
SEO Competitor Analysis: A Step-by-Step Guide
Below, I’ve listed the basic steps involved in conducting an SEO competition analysis.
Choosing a Keyword Research Tool
If you’re wondering how to do competitor analysis for SEO, it starts with using a reputable keyword research tool or SEO software program. Over the years, my SEO team at Little Dragon Media has used a variety of solutions, and I can personally recommend any of the following:
- Moz Keyword Explorer
For those who are hesitant about subscribing to a SaaS solution for their SEO strategy, note that many SEO tools come with a 7-day free trial. If you aren’t seeing results or feeling confident about their product within a week of using it, you can end your subscription at no cost.
When conducting an SEO competitor analysis, it’s important that you choose software that has comprehensive competitor website analysis tools. Although I currently use Ahrefs, any of the tools listed above can get the job done in equal measure.
Identify Your Competitors
Chances are, you already know who your competitors are. However, it doesn’t hurt to double-check since there may be some websites that have fallen under your radar.
You can do this by deleting the cookies and search history in your browser (or using “incognito mode” in Google Chrome) and searching Google for a top keyword in your niche. For instance, if you operate a health supplements store in Arizona, you can search “health supplements Arizona” and note the five top search results.
Alternatively, you can find your top SEO competitors by inputting your own website in Ahrefs’ “Site Explorer” bar and navigating to “Organic search” on the left-hand sidebar and then “Competing domains”. There you will find a list of other websites that are in competition with your top keywords.
Run a Batch Analysis
Tools such as SEMrush and Ahrefs allow users to do a “quick batch analysis” by inputting your top competitors’ URLs all at once. I recommend inputting the five main competing URLs identified in the previous step.
After you’ve hit the “Analyze” button, an auto-generated list of metrics will appear. This will tell you various pieces of key information, such as:
- Domain authority (DR/DA)
- Referring domains (#)
- Monthly organic search traffic
- Keyword rankings (#)
As a rule, the higher the domain authority score (DR/DA), the higher a website will rank in a SERP. Ultimately, your goal is to improve your DR/DA until it’s higher than your competitors’. However, the only way to get there is to increase the number of referring domains to your content and improve the quality of the content you publish.
I recommend paying close attention to each website’s “referring domains” growth over at least a one-year period. These are the number of hyperlinks directed to each of your competitors’ websites and they’re one of the most important ranking factors in off-page SEO.
Follow Their Links
Using your SEO research tool, navigate to the “Backlink profile” for each of your competitors. In the chart, look for periods of time where they experienced rapid or sudden link growth. You can do so by using the “Site Explorer” tool on Ahrefs and navigating to “Referring domains” and then filtering by the date range in which they experienced link growth.
At this point, your SEO research tool will generate a list of domains that link to the competitor you’re analyzing. Click the downward-pointing arrow beside each domain to generate a new list of URLs or web pages where links to your competitors are contained. Open each URL and see where your competitors have been cited.
It may help to keep track of referring domains in a simple spreadsheet. Here’s a basic SEO competitor analysis spreadsheet template you can use to assist with this step.
One-Up Their Content
This is the hard part. After you’ve found out which links are generating the most organic traffic for your competitors, you need to create similar content that delivers even more value. I recommend publishing longer articles with more details, more visual elements (including screenshots and infographics), and more useful suggestions.
Once you feel as though your content is superior to your competitors’, email or direct message the author or webmaster of your competitors’ referring domains. Politely notify them that you have created updated content that may be of use to them, and request that they cite the article in the URL that you’ve provided.
Although you won’t be able to convince every webmaster to swap out their original link for yours, you will inevitably change some minds and be successful in taking some of your competitors’ links. Not only will this have a positive impact on your SEO performance, but it will have a negative impact on your competitors.
Why You Need Competition Analysis in Your SEO Strategy
The steps outlined above comprise a basic SEO competitor analysis. Unfortunately, a truly comprehensive strategy requires a lot of time and effort in order to redirect referring links from your competitors’ domains to your own. As a business owner and webmaster, you may not have the resources to handle such demands.
The good news is that you can hire SEO professionals to conduct competitor analyses on your behalf, and to create content that rivals your competition. At Little Dragon Media, our team of SEO experts can implement a competitor analysis framework to help you improve your SERP ranking and write superior content that’s worthy of the top SERP position.