We Establish A Baseline Target For SEO According To A Thorough Competitive Analysis
SEO (search engine optimization) is essential to putting your company in a position to be found online with search engines like Google. A good SEO strategy addresses all of the ranking signals that Google (as well as other search engines) takes into account when ranking pages. But developing and implementing a successful SEO strategy relies on having a great understanding of the landscape of search results within your industry and competitive keywords. An SEO competitive analysis is where we start to gather this baseline information.
Why Conduct An SEO Competitive Analysis?
If you don’t know what SEO the competition is doing, then you’re only optimizing your content for SEO using assumptions and guesswork as well as general trial and error. This isn’t an efficient way to implement an effective SEO strategy. Analyzing your competition’s SEO efforts can help you guide your own strategy in the following ways:
Build A Better Strategy By Having A Starting Point
Although your company’s products/services and target audience will guide the general direction of your SEO strategy, a competitive analysis is useful in helping you to get started. This will allow you to see what works and what doesn’t work. A competitive analysis leverages other businesses’ SEO experience to do a significant amount of the trial and error of implementing and maintaining an SEO strategy for you.
Gain A Better Understanding Of How Much Work Will Be Needed
Many businesses don’t understand how much effort a good SEO strategy requires. Not only do you want to implement an effective SEO strategy, but you will want to continue working on it throughout the future. SEO is not a short-term strategy.
By evaluating competitive SEO strategies, you can get an idea of how much work is required for your SEO strategy to be successful. This knowledge can help prevent you from doing the bare minimum, which would have little impact on your place in the industry and be a waste of what little resources you were using in the first place. If you want your SEO to have an impact, your effort needs to exceed the effort being put into competitive SEO strategies.
Create SMART Goals
You won’t be able to judge the performance of your SEO strategy if you don’t set any SEO goals. Knowing what your goals should be and setting the right goals can be difficult, which is why a competitive analysis will help. Knowing what other businesses have learned from their SEO efforts and where they currently are (in regards to page rankings, traffic, and more), can help give you an idea of what types of SEO goals you should aim for. When setting your goals, make sure to use the SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely) methodology:
Specific SEO Goals
Trying to rank first for all of your keywords aren’t SMART goals, even if that’s what you would like the outcome of your SEO strategy to be. Just because a keyword doesn’t rank first doesn’t mean that it wasn’t successfully chosen and implemented. Instead, establish more specific SEO goals. For example, doubling the number of leads you obtain from organic search within a certain amount of time is a specific goal.
Measurable SEO Goals
If you can’t measure your SEO goals, then you won’t be able to determine whether you’re achieving them or not. There are lots of SEO KPIs that you can monitor that allow you to measure your SEO goals, such as your converting keyword rankings, the total number of links you built from authority sites, your organic traffic numbers, the percentage increase in organic conversions, and more.
Attainable SEO Goals
Knowing how you compare with the competition will make it easier to establish realistic SEO goals. For example, if you’re a small startup, trying to rank first for a common keyword in your industry, that a large corporation that’s been around for decades is currently ranking first for, isn’t very realistic. You need to make sure your SEO goals are feasible and that you have the resources to achieve them.
Relevant SEO Goals
Make sure that your SEO goals are relevant to your marketing and sales goals. There’s no point in achieving an SEO goal if it’s not having an impact on marketing or sales. For example, if ranking high for a certain keyword isn’t having an effect on the number of leads you’re capturing, then it wasn’t a relevant SEO goal.
Timely SEO Goals
While you’ll want to aim to meet your goals within a certain amount of time to determine success or not, it’s worth noting that SEO efforts don’t typically see results overnight. Because of the nature of SEO, you will need some time to see results. For example, setting a 12-month timeline to achieve your SEO goals is more realistic than setting a one-month timeline.
The Difference Between A Competitor And Competitive Analysis
One of the common mistakes that businesses make when performing a competitive analysis of any sort is that they will focus solely on their direct competitors. While it’s true that you will want to see what your direct competitors are up to, they are not the only businesses whose SEO strategies may be relevant to your own. If you’re just doing opposition research, it’s known as competitor analysis. Competitive analysis is different.
The Focus Is Broader And Encompasses Your Industry As A Whole
A competitive analysis refers to not just your direct competitors, but also businesses that may address slightly different needs of the same target audience or who offer the same type of product or service but are targeting a different audience. Some of these businesses could even be potential partners instead of direct competitors.
The Focus Is Less On Direct Emulation Or Inspiration
Competitor analysis is typically more about identifying what tactics a competitor is using to achieve certain results and then co-opting their most successful tactics for your own strategy. A competitive analysis involves much more than that. While it can allow you to obtain inspiration for certain tactics, it’s more about looking at the efforts and results of different companies and identifying trends and comparing what space your own business occupies within that same industry.
A Competitive Analysis Keeps Your Business At The Center Of Analysis
A competitor analysis focuses on direct competitors. A competitive analysis is more about viewing other businesses throughout your industry through the lens of your company. When analyzing the SEO strategies of companies who may not be direct competitors but who share a space in the same industry, you’re addressing what the results of your competitive analysis mean for your business and your brand.
We Draw Upon As Many Accessible Data Points As Possible
When we perform a competitive analysis within your industry, we will use our resources to collect data from as many relevant sources as possible. We aim to get a comprehensive understanding of the SEO efforts throughout your industry to give you a better idea of where you’re positioned within your market and the direction your own SEO strategy should take. Here are a few of different methods we will employ in order to collect valuable SEO-related data:
Your Competitors Websites
The first thing we will do is to identify who your competition is within your industry. We will identify both direct competitors and businesses that are similar to yours but that aren’t necessarily competing with you directly. Once identified, we will turn to their websites and collect valuable data about their SEO strategies.
Crawl The Website
We will use various tools to crawl the websites of your competitors to collect data about their on-page SEO. For example, what keywords they’re using on every page, what metadata each page has, and more.
Categorize The Website Page By Page
We will categorize every page of the websites that we crawl. This means that we will take note of what type of page each page is and what type of content was posted to that page. This will give you an idea of how certain keywords that they use are effective for certain types of pages or content.
Using Google Itself
Although we can obtain a lot of useful data about your competition’s SEO efforts from crawling through their actual websites, we will also turn to Google itself. Who better to collect SEO-related data from than Google. There are a few ways that we can use Google to collect data about your competition’s SEO strategies:
Index Checking For Competitor’s Sites
We will check to see if your competitor’s websites have been indexed by Google. If certain pages haven’t been indexed, it means that Google wasn’t able to crawl through those pages to index them. This can occur if the page is relatively new, but it can also be the result of poor site architecture or poor SEO.
Google Maps Pack And Google My Business Checks Where Relevant
We can evaluate the local SEO of a website by checking Google Maps Pack and Google My Business accounts. A lack of a Google My Business account often means that the website will be left off of the Google Maps Pack (the three local business listings that will often be displayed above the normal results on Google’s SERP). Businesses with strong local SEO strategies are often listed in Google Maps Pack.
Google Ads Auction Insights If Available
Many businesses use Google Ads for their PPC campaigns. We can use Google Ads Auction Insights to collect data such as how often their ads show in a higher position than your ads for the same keyword, how often their ads are shown at the top of the page of SERP, how often their ads ranked higher, and more. The data we collect from Auction Insights can give us some idea of their budget, performance, and strategy.
Using Third-Party Data Providers
There are many third-party solutions that can be used to collect data on any website as part of a thorough SEO competitive analysis. For example, Ahrefs is arguably one of the most popular digital marketing analysis tools used for SEO analysis in general.
Ahrefs Search Engine Data
We use Ahrefs to collect valuable search engine data concerning your competitors. As part of your competitive analysis, we will use Ahrefs to obtain the following information:
Visible Rankings Determined By Keyword
We will use the Ahrefs Site Explorer tool to identify all of the keywords that any individual competitor is ranking for as well as which of their webpages are bringing in the most amount of search engine traffic.
Estimated Search Traffic
We will use the Keywords Explorer tool, which applies Ahrefs’ clickstream data, to accurately estimate the number of clicks your competitors are receiving. In fact, their clickstream data allows us to identify the number of average monthly clicks your competitors receive for any given keyword, the percentage of searches resulting in a click for any keyword, and more.
Ahrefs’ Site Explorer is also incredibly useful for identifying the referring domains for your competitors’ websites. This means that we can identify where the traffic to each of their pages is coming from.
In addition to using the Site Explorer tool to determine the traffic sources of each page on a competitor’s website, we will also be able to identify the backlinks that they are earning for each page and exactly where those backlinks are generated from.
Cross Checking Our Website Assessment With Gathered Data
Once we’ve gathered the necessary data using a variety of competitive analysis tools and resources, we will begin to analyze it by cross-checking that data with our initial assessment of their website. We can learn a lot about their SEO strategy via this method. Some of the conclusions that we will be able to draw as we evaluate different websites using the data that we have collected include:
Identifying How Well Their Site Is Optimized
Matching the data that we’ve collected with the pages that we’ve classified, we will perform an evaluation to determine how well their website is optimized for SEO. The following are some of the steps that we will take to figure this out:
Small Investigation Into Technical And On-Page Errors
We can investigate pages that aren’t performing as well to identify potential technical issues or on-page errors that may have hurt their rankings. It helps to know how big of an impact technical issues and on-page SEO errors can have in general.
Checking Whether They Are Using An Advanced Architecture
Good website architecture is required to ensure that Google is capable of crawling the entire website. If not all of the pages of a website were indexed, it means that there may have been some issues with their website architecture, which we will then inspect further. If Google isn’t indexing your pages, it’s an obvious hit to your SEO efforts.
Looking For Footprints That Indicate Different SEO Strategies
Data that indicates certain results and issues allow us to look deeper into the SEO strategy of a website. In some cases, there may be conflicting results. This can result from implementing more than one SEO strategy. SEO strategies are developed by people, which means that if different people have been in charge of a website’s SEO strategy, they may have implemented different tactics and made different mistakes over time. We will be able to determine whether more than one strategist has worked on a website’s SEO strategy.
Often We See A Site That Has Two Distinct Architectures
One of the main ways that we can determine if a website has run more than a single SEO campaign is if the site has two distinct architectures. The reason that this information is valuable is because it gives us a better understanding of the churn rate of agencies in that particular industry. For example, if there are multiple architectures, it means that the website has gone through multiple SEO campaigns run by different teams. If an industry has a higher churn rate, it means that it will be more difficult to compete within that industry since agencies are being hired and fired on a more frequent basis than in other industries.
Identifying Pages That Gain A Lot Of Links
Earning backlinks is essential to a successful SEO strategy. Backlinks mean that other websites see your website as a trustworthy source and that they are exposing your website to their audience. Reputable backlinks are also a huge ranking signal for Google. We will determine what pages on competing websites are earning a significant amount of backlinks so that we can take note of the following:
Type Of Page That Receives Links
Certain types of pages may be more likely to earn links than others. It varies with each industry as well as the type of audience you’re targeting. Identifying what pages earn the most links can be very useful when creating your own SEO and content strategies. For example, maybe FAQ pages earn significant amounts of backlinks for your competitor websites. Or maybe specific types of content posted on their blog or resource pages earn the most backlinks.
Type of Page That Links Are Coming From
It’s also important to identify where those backlinks are coming from. This can help you develop a better link building strategy. For example, are the backlinks coming from highly reputable websites? Are they posting these links to their blog pages? Or are these links coming from influencers on social media? There are many potential sources for the backlinks your competitors are earning and it’s helpful to identify what those sources are.
Does There Appear To Be A Specific Link Building Strategy?
We will determine whether the website we’re evaluating seems to have a link building strategy with a clear direction in mind. For example, if the pages that are earning the most backlinks are earning the majority of their backlinks via social media influencers, then there’s a good chance that the company is targeting influencers as a major component of their link building strategy.
Are The Links Working For That Portion Of Their Site?
If those links are not working, then the website’s overall link health may not be monitored very regularly. Generally, this is not the best sign of a properly maintained link building strategy.
Identifying Pages That Gain A Lot Of Search Traffic And Rankings
Finally, we will use the data we collect to identify what pages are earning a lot of search traffic and are being ranked well. Identifying the best-performing pages will give you a better idea of what areas you should focus your SEO strategy on to achieve your goals.
Often We Will See A Trend Across A Range Of Sites
One of the most helpful aspects of identifying high ranking pages that earn a lot of search traffic is that it can allow us to identify industry-wide trends. For example, we may find that blog content tends to rank well and earn significant traffic numbers across multiple websites. On the other hand, we might find that product or service pages tend to perform best within your industry. Such a conclusion is impossible to draw if you’re only analyzing a single competitor’s website; however, such trends become pretty clear when you perform a thorough competitive analysis throughout your industry. Knowing the types of pages that perform the best across multiple websites can help guide your own strategy more effectively.
Doing The Pre-Work Saves A World Of Wasted Work Later
There’s a lot that you can learn about the SEO strategies of other businesses throughout your industry, which includes companies that may provide similar services or products, or that have similar target audiences but may not be direct competitors. By performing an SEO competitive analysis, we can discover a lot of useful information, such as what tactics they’re employing, how much they’re investing in their SEO strategies, how effective their SEO strategies are, and much, much more.
The information you glean from a thorough competitive analysis can be used to identify industry-wide trends to help guide your own SEO strategy and identify where you can compete, where you should invest your resources, what SEO tactics you should embrace, what SEO tactics you might want to avoid, and more.