SEO doesn’t happen naturally. It’s a process that takes time and practice to master if you want to earn a top spot on search engine results. SEO competitor analysis is often the first step in effective SEO, and it’s also one of the most overlooked.
It’s not enough to optimize your content for search engines based on your own hunches. You can follow SEO best practices, like using keywords and backlinks, but until you identify which keywords give you a real chance for ranking higher than your competition, your SEO efforts will likely fail you.
This guide will show you 10 simple tricks for conducting in-depth SEO competitor analysis to help you boost your organic rankings:
Tip #1 – Determine Who Your SEO Competitors Are
Your industry competitors might not be your only SEO competitors. You can use tools like SEMRush to see which sites are ranking for the search terms you want to rank for. You can also check with Alexa and SimilarWeb to discover other industry competitors you might not know about.
Tip #2 – Validate Your Keyword Competitors
Once you discover who you’re competing against, compare their keyword rankings with your own. You can use SEMRush to view their position for keywords or SimilarWeb to gauge search traffic. Tools like Google Keyword Planner or SuggestMRX can help you identify other keywords you might have missed.
Use these same tools to check your own scores and see which competitors outrank you. Doing this helps you narrow the field by focusing only on those competitors who have a keyword advantage over you.
Tip #3 – Analyze Your Content
SEO doesn’t just consider what your content says, but also how the information is conveyed. Elements within your competitors’ content could contribute to their ability to rank higher than yours. Consider the following criteria:
● Length of content
● Keyword density, consistency, and usage
● Consistent NAP (company name, address, and phone number)
● The presence or absence of images and videos
● How often content is updated
● Types of content (blog posts, landing pages, forms, etc)
● Position of page elements
Look at what your competitors are posting on their web page to see if you notice any variations from your own. You can use these insights to perform A/B split tests to see if you can achieve better results by making small tweaks to your own content.
Tip #4 – Compare Rich Snippets
Rich snippets are structured data that you can add to existing HTML code to strengthen your search results’ visual appeal. This data helps search engines to better understand what your content is about.
For example, your rich snippet data may include a star rating, image, price, or other defining elements that present your viewer with more information than standard search results.
For most Google search results, many of the returned suggestions on Page 1 are optimized with rich snippets, and your competitors are likely already doing this. A quick Google search using your competitor’s keywords can tell you for sure, and will also give you a chance to see how they’re leveraging rich snippet data in their strategy.
Tip #5 – Look at Their Backlinks
Backlinks are a crucial pillar of your SEO strategy. Having quality backlinks signal to search engines that other sources have found your content to be reputable enough for them to link to, which could give you a boost in the trust department.
If your competitors are building a backlink army, you need to know about it. Knowing where your competitors are earning high authority links can help you discover niche industry sites that can point users in your direction. Tools like SEMRush and Monitor Backlinks will let you “spy” on the competition by showing you where their backlinks are coming from and how much traffic volume those backlinks have contributed to their site.
Tip #6 – Verify Mobile Optimization
This is an easy one to figure out, but it’s so simple that it’s usually overlooked. More searches happen via mobile devices than regular desktops, and Google is granting mobile-optimized websites a favor in the rankings department.
Find out if your competitors offer a mobile-optimized experience. The website should be responsive to mobile devices, scaling the content to display according to screen size. If your competitors haven’t developed their site to be mobile-responsive, consider it a win for you.
Tip #7 – Investigate Their Topical Authority
Google rewards sites they can trust. If your competitors have won the trust of search engines, they’re going to rank higher than those who have not yet developed themselves as a topical authority. You can use backlink tools like Majestic to research your competitors’ trust factor to see how it stacks up to your own.
Tip #8 – Check Their XML Sitemap
Search engines need to know what type of content they’ll find on your website, which is why XML sitemaps can prove so useful. These files are like a table of contents to your website, listing individual pages, how often they’re updated, and their level of importance to other pages on your website.
Find out if your competitors have an XML sitemaps or robots.txt file on their website. You can view the site map data to find out how frequently your competitors are updating their website and other valuable insights for you to measure your own actions against.
Tip #9 – Research Social Media Spread
Competitors who rank higher on SERPs than you might be because of their reach on social media. A company’s social media signals could impact their positioning.
Tools like Simply Measured can help you find out which social media sites your competitors are on, their fans’ engagement levels on each network, their audience size, and how often they’re posting on each site.
Tip #10 – Never Stop Monitoring Your Competitors
SEO is never a one-and-done deal. Rather, companies who see the biggest benefit from competitor analyses are the ones who continue to monitor their competition to ensure their lead.
Search engine visibility isn’t easy to come by, especially when your competitors are better at playing the SEO game than you are. But that doesn’t mean it’s too late for you to learn the rules. Good SEO starts with a competitive analysis that lays the foundation for optimizing your content.