SEO is like a tug of war. You’re constantly battling with other businesses to climb the SERPs and outrank one another.
Studying and analyzing one’s own search performance is required, but think of it as a sport—where understanding the opponent is equally important and if possible, monitor for changes that can affect your brand.
That’s why every marketer needs to analyze competitor SEO profiles to find a chink in their armour. This creates the opportunity to steal keyword rankings and discover ways to offer a better experience to users.
But, it’s easier said than done. There’s no end of data to look for and track.
Luckily, I’ve put together this comprehensive guide on how to do competitive analysis in SEO. Check it out.
1. Identify who is outranking you
Before you crack your knuckles and start analyzing competitors, you need to determine who you’re in the ring with first. I recommend using a free SEO tool called Serpstat.
Begin by entering the domain of your website into the search bar.
Scroll down the page to the “Competitors in organic search” section. Here you will find domains that rank for similar keywords and topical relevance.
Export these domains or copy them into another spreadsheet. You will need them for the next step.
2. What keywords are they ranking for?
Uncovering what keywords a competitor is ranking for is like taking off their armour. You can immediately target the same or similar search phrases to generate traffic and rank ahead of them.
Let’s continue to use Serpstat from the first step. Type in a competitor’s URL and their highest ranking search terms will be displayed.
Click the “Show all” button to view all of the search terms that a competitor is ranking for.
Alternatively, our platform at Morphio offers detailed alerts when competitor rankings and metadata changes. Learn more here.
It’s not enough to simply target the same search terms, though. You have to improve upon the content, too.
You can see the URLs where the search terms are being used on the far right of the “Positions” page.
Visit the pages for each keyword you want to target and audit the following elements of the content:
- Word count: Use a free tool like WordCounter to determine how many words a blog post is. Aim for approximately 10% more than what they wrote.
- Structure: How is the article formatted? Look for header tags, lists, bolded words, and visual elements. Google wants more of what’s on the first page, so use a similar structure.
- Keyword placement: Use the search function (Ctrl + F or Command + F) to see how often and where keywords are placed. Take notes on secondary keywords, as well.
Produce a piece of content targeting the same keywords except better. Think of it as a skyscraper. They may have ten stories. You make yours fifteen.
Increase the word count, add new resources, and make it more useful. Go deeper in-depth than the original piece of content and a fresh perspective. This will be beneficial for both SEO and the readers.
3. Where do they earn backlinks from?
SEO is two parts: On-page and off-page. The latter mostly consists of backlink building campaigns where links are generated to increase authority.
Coming up with creative ways to build backlinks is tough, too. Seeing as it’s one of Google’s most important ranking factors, you can’t slack in this department.
This is precisely why peaking at competitors is a great time-saver.
Let’s switch it up for this step. Use SEMrush to uncover where a domain is receiving backlinks from by typing the URL on the homepage.
Scroll down to the backlink overview and you will see every website pointing to the competitor. Click through to these referrers and see which types of links they are, such as guest posts, reviews, sponsored posts, etc.
Reach out to these same publications and begin nurturing a relationship with webmaster and editors. Look for guest blogging or sponsored post opportunities. These are the most common and effective ways to build links.
Furthermore, inspect how many backlinks they have. This will give you an estimate of how many more links you will need to reach a similar level of authority.
4. Break down their content and on-page strategy
The bulk of SEO is on-page. It consists of optimizations and tweaks that are done to a website’s pages and content to help it rank higher. And, one of the largest components is content.
You can begin researching a competitor’s content strategy by visiting their website to see what they publish.
Look at Marketo, for instance:
If they were a competitor, you could note that they publish articles, case studies, e-books, and many other pieces of content.
Let’s dig deeper. Browsing their blog, for example, you could come up with many different topic ideas.
You would then ask questions like:
- What type of content are they publishing?
- How frequently are they publishing?
- Where do they promote and distribute content?
- Who are they targeting?
- What kind of lead magnets do they offer?
- How could I put a unique twist on all of the above?
Let’s spy on their metadata next. Presuming you’re using Google Chrome, right-click the web page and choose the “Inspect” option.
Here you will be able to sift through the page’s code to find the meta title, meta description, and other information like open graph data. (Twitter cards, for example.)
Since Google is all about fine details these days, I would also suggest running competitor’s pages through Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool to determine what kind of schema markup they use.
Schema markup provides further information to users and search engines about a website and its pages.
You can use the information this tool provides to optimize your own schema markup or use it as a competitive advantage if they aren’t.
Editing schema markup is like changing the oil on a car. It’s easy to get your hands dirty and do something wrong. If you’re on WordPress, use a free plugin like Schema to automatically generate the code.
5. Analyze their user experience
Google loves usability. They want their users to have a great experience when clicking a search result so they keep coming back for more.
This is why the last item to check off your list is user experience. UX for SEO? Yep. It’s more important than most realize.
Starting a few years ago, Google began weighing UX based metrics more heavily after releasing their RankBrain algorithm. Think about bounce rate, average time spent on-page, and click-through rates.
Run competitors through a tool like GTmetrix. This records page speed, caching, and other important data that relates to user experience.
This will display a PageSpeed and YSlow score along with page details.
Every recommendation for improving the performance of a website will be listed from highest to lowest priority.
In the above example, there is no browser caching or CSS sprites being used. That’s a great opportunity to inch ahead. Additionally, reducing the amount of 301 redirects and scaled images would speed up a website and improve the UX.
Final thoughts on how to analyze competitors SEO
Learning how to do competitor analysis in SEO is a cheat code in marketing. It will boost your performance in the SERPs and constantly keep competitors on their toes. And, more traffic means more customers.
The first step is to find who you’re competing with. Use a tool or simply type in related keywords to see who appears on the first page.
Note these domains and run them through an SEO analysis tool to discover what keywords they’re ranking for. Analyze the individual pages for content quality, keyword density, and the points I outlined earlier.
Then, spy on their backlink profile. Where are they earning links from? How many links do they have? Use these sources as a way to build links to your company’s website.
Break apart their content marketing strategy after this. Look at what type of content they produce, how frequently, and where they’re promoting it. Google loves nothing more than a business that publishes fresh content.
Lastly, what’s their user experience like? Audit items like page speed, caching, and redirects. Resolve these issues if you’re experiencing them yourself and you’ll be ahead of the competition instantly.
Here’s the thing—that’s a lot of grinding to do. And, you do enough of that with your team every day.
That’s why you owe it to yourself to try Morphio today for free. Our marketing security software monitors competitor’s SEO and content to alert you in real-time when changes occur to their metadata and other elements.