A Guide to Conducting an SEO Competitor Analysis | Reflect Digital
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  • 28/03/2019
  • by Jasmine

A Guide to Conducting an SEO Competitor Analysis

Using your competitors to get ahead.

So, you’ve been given the lengthy task of providing a competitor analysis, but what does it really mean? We’ve written a comprehensive guide on how to do the three main sections of an SEO competitor analysis:

  1. Technical Analysis
  2. Content Analysis
  3. Backlink Analysis

Regardless of the industry you’re in, every company has some kind of competitor. In order to gain an advantage over them, you need to formulate an SEO strategy that will give you the edge. An SEO competitor analysis can be a driving factor for this strategy, giving you an opportunity to assess your company’s strengths and weaknesses.

What is a competitor analysis?

Used to give an insight into competitor strategy, a competitor analysis is all about opening new opportunities for your business by analysing the actions of another. The ultimate aim is to help a business get ahead of the competition. You should conduct an analysis of your competitors every couple of months to keep ahead.

Why is a competitor analysis important?

  • Identifying industry trends. Missing out on trends can lead to revenue loss. This is a great way to identify them.
  • Looking for missed opportunities. Is there a product that your competitor is offering? Could you capitalise on this opportunity?
  • Outreach/content opportunities. You can have great content, but if it is not marketed correctly, it won’t be successful. Seeing where your competitors have been published is a great indication of where you should be sending content.
  • Formulating strategy. As previously mentioned, it can be a good way to formulate strategy and give your business a benchmark for their success.

Selecting your competitors - who are they?

There are many ways to identify your SEO competitors, mostly using online research. These include direct, indirect and up-and-coming competitors. Consider those that use similar marketing channels, offer similar products and/or operate in a similar location to you.

Although you may have some idea on your competitors, it’s worth giving it more thought, as you may discover companies that you’ve never considered previously. 

Next, you must categorise your competitors. This helps you decide which competitors are a priority to analyse.

  • Primary competitor - These will be the rivals that are the most important. Your direct competitor will likely offer very similar products, or tends to be the biggest threat when it comes to poaching customers or competing for the same business.
  • Secondary competitor - These businesses could be offering a substitute to your product. For example, a more premium version or a cheaper alternative.
  • Tertiary competitor - These are companies offering products/services that are related to your company. These companies offer ideas to expand or create partnerships with. For instance, a manufacturer of a product could decide to expand and compete with a retailer only selling the product.

Okay, so what now?

After identifying your competitors and selecting a company to analyse, it’s time to begin the analysis. There are three main sections to a competitor analysis: an analysis of the technical aspects of the website, a content review of the competitor site, and analysing a competitor’s backlink profile. Not every business will require all aspects every time a competitor analysis is carried out, but it is at your discretion whether each section is needed.

Technical Analysis

What is a technical analysis?

Undertaking a technical analysis is the foundation of discovering your rival’s website performance. A technical analysis gives insight into how technically sound a website is, and if it’s performing better than yours, it can give you guidance on how you can improve.

Using SEO tools like SEMrush or Searchmetrics are a great way to gain insight into your competitors from an SEO perspective. There are even free options online which can still provide good insight.

How to conduct a technical SEO analysis

Put all data is put into a table so it’s easier to read and draw comparisons from, including a column for your company and the competitor.

  • Comparing technical factors - Using a tool like Majestic or Authoritas, compare technical factors like inbound links, referring domains, pages indexed, deep link ratio etc.
  • Build Analysis - This involves the technology that goes behind a website, as it is an important influencer of security, mobile responsiveness and load speed. use a site like BuiltWith.com that provides you with a technology profile of the URL you search. Consider factors like ‘Do we have an SSL certificate, Which content management system (CMS) is my competitor on? Does this give them an edge? Is my site optimised for mobile? Does my site have viewport meta?
  • Page Speed Testing - To identify page loading speed, this requires a page speed tester. Regardless of the site you use, it is best to test a few times and calculate an average. A higher loading time will decrease user experience and is likely to bring rankings down. You can also change the device you’d like to test.

  • Backlinks - Using a backlink analysis tool, locate the number of follow and no follow backlinks for both sites. Ensure that you’re analyzing the root domain rather than the URL to get an idea of the site’s performance overall. Ideally, the more follow backlinks, the better. You can then enter this into a bar chart.

After completing the graph, provide a brief description of what you’re seeing and why. Give context and recommendations for improvement for more detail.

  • Authority - Domain Authority and Trust Flow are industry-recognised scores out of 100 that indicate a website’s potential to rank in search engines based on a combination of metrics. While arbitrary and ot used by Google, they give a guide as to how your website’s ranking ability compares with a main competitor.

  • Analytics and optimisation - This section requires using BuiltWith.com to see which analytics and optimisation tools the sites use. You’ll need to determine which applications are used for optimisation and analytics. You may want to try some tools competitors are using. You can list these and enter them into another comparative table.
  • SEO visibility - Use a tracking tool like Searchmetrics to create and capture screenshots of visuals demonstrating your SEO visibility to add to your analysis document. If it’s a graph or chart, explain the trends and recommend ways to improve.

  • Ranking Analysis-  This helps identify the most popular keywords people are using to access the your business and competitors online. Use a keyword ranking tool to find a list of the ‘top organic keywords’ for the URL. You can then create a list of terms you think are important or interesting. The level of detail is down to whoever does the audit, but we’ve entered an example below:

Content Analysis

A content analysis summarises key aspects of a website’s content, what it’s doing well and what could be improved. It is important you compare your business with competitors. 

Why conduct a content analysis?

In order to create unique and differentiated content, you need to know what your competitors are publishing. It can also give you an opportunity to evaluate your business in a qualitative manner, focusing on user experience rather than solely the numbers.

What can I put in a content analysis?

There are no specific tools that are required when conducting a content analysis. The sole purpose is to comment on various aspects of the site based on your opinion from an SEO perspective and user experience. Explore your competitor site, and find aspects that are better or worse in comparison to your business. 

What to write in a content analysis

  • Website layout and structure- What is the main navigation like? Is their homepage useful? Are their products easy to find?
  • Unique Selling Points (USPs)- Does your competitor have a USP that you don’t? Is there something that makes their website special? Or do they offer an extra service? This section may give you some good ideas.
  • User Journey- If your competitor does similar products, what is their journey like to get to this particular product? Can you easily identify their target market from their site? Questions can be tailored to each competitor analysis, as the journeys customers will take will vary considerably.
  • Content quality- Does your competitors offer product/service descriptions? How much detail do they provide? Is there any information missing?
  • Duplicate content- Does either your business or competitors have any duplicate content? If so, how can this content be changed to be unique?
  • Blog- Does your competitor have a blog? How frequently do they post? What do they write about?
  • Tone of voice- what is their tone like compared to yours? Is theirs more effective in selling products/informing users?
  • Mobile optimisation- What are the sites like on mobile? How do they compare? Could your site be improved in any way?

You can be flexible as to what is put into a content analysis, as it simply provides the opportunity to reflect on the usability and functionality of your site, and a chance to look for opportunities for improved experience. Comparing with a competitor can provide inspiration, or highlight the unique selling points of your website.

Backlink Analysis

What is a backlink analysis?

A competitor backlink analysis involves examining the links between a competitor’s site, and the sites that are linked to it. Backlinks are said to have quite a prominent effect on search rankings, which is why they’re considered very useful for improving a website’s SEO ranking.

How will a competitor backlink analysis help you?

Analysing a competitor’s backlinks will give you an insight into what sites may be interested in your content, and will consequently give you ideas on how to build links to your own business. Whether this is by adding your company to business directories, recommending content to new websites or stealing links by providing better, more engaging content, the backlink analysis is a fundamental aspect of SEO. 

Backlink analyses can take several hours depending on the amount of backlinks a site has, therefore you need to be extremely patient, and remain focused so you don’t miss out on a vital link opportunity.

How to conduct a backlink analysis:

  1. Using a backlink analysis tool, generate the number of backlinks to your competitor’s site.
  2. Next, export the data. You’ll only need some of the data available, but there may be thousands of links to go through. Keeping the trust flows is useful to determine whether the site should be considered as a linking opportunity.
  3. Go through all links, and identify the type of link - is it a news site, a directory or a company blog? Use your initiative to determine if you think it’s worth linking to. Make a note of your thoughts beside each link.
  4. Avoid spammy or suspicious looking sites. Links with lower scores tend to be riskier, but not always. Don’t rule out a site just because it has a bad score on a backlink analysis, it could be good for local SEO. Additionally, you get posted on a small site, this could be picked up by bigger sites and published there. Many companies get their big breaks on huge sites inadvertently by having their content published by smaller ones. Each link, if legitimate, can be beneficial in building a solid and respectable link profile.
  5. Don’t forget to check if your company has already secured each web link. For instance, you may already be featured in a directory. In which case, you can note this.
  6. Once all links have been gone through, you’ll have a list of sites you can act upon. You can add your company’s details to a directory; use the news/blog sites to target for your next campaign or any other opportunities that arise. Prioritise which sites would be most useful to your business

Looking for broken link opportunities

You can also view lost links with backlink analysis tools. This can be beneficial in many ways. You can quickly recover lost links if you’re monitoring your own business’ backlinks, but you can also gain links from competitors if you’re monitoring them too.

You can do this by contacting the site where the link originates, and offering alternatives to the link it’s just lost. For example, if a news article recently lost a link to a competitor’s infographic, you can contact them and suggest your site, with a similar infographic, as an alternative. It can be a win-win situation for both sides, as they give a better user experience providing to a legitimate, error-free link, whilst you gain the benefit of an improved backlink profile.

And that’s all there is to it!

In essence, whatever works for your business is by far the best indicator of how you conduct your competitor analysis. Regardless, of the method you choose, conducting an SEO competitor analysis is vital for your SEO strategy, as without it, it can be difficult to establish a direction and eventually an advantage over your rivals.

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