There is a popular saying that states, “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.” This phrase might have some relevancy when it comes to analyzing the SEO tactics of your competitors. This is because competitor research is a strategic part of SEO optimization. It is essentially studying competitor sites that rank well for their keyword targets. A competitor analysis is necessary since each keyword and industry can be opposites in terms of what puts the website at the top of search results.
Advantages of an SEO competitor analysis
While you naturally want to think of what keywords you should target, it might not always seem obvious to research your competitors in detail. But, you can see just a few of the benefits below:
- It conveys gaps in your keyword coverage
- You get a benchmark for your SEO performance
- You can identify any weak content areas
- You have an idea about your competitive advantage for keywords and content
- You get better insights for determining realistic SEO targets
In the end, the most critical factor of competitor research is an augmented understanding of what is helping sites to rank much more highly for keywords relevant to your website. You get to see areas of strength and weaknesses; they can then help you create a plan for putting your efforts and resources in the right places. Moreover, you’ll almost always learn something and, sometimes, may find valuable data you would not have noticed otherwise.
Criteria for an effective SEO competitive analysis
You want to know why your competitors rank higher than you in the search engine results pages (SERPs). What are they doing that you’re not? What are you missing?
Start by using an SEO tool to find out the page rank of the domain and any sites linking to it. Based on the domain authority score, you can gauge how much ahead or behind you are of your competitors. Also, you will see a page authority number based upon how good their backlinks are and to how many sites. And, you’ll see a linking Route domain number that is based upon the number of unique domains that link back to that site. It may also show you the site names.
The next step is to analyze your competitor’s keywords. If they have an exact match of your keywords, you can still rank higher if either your domain or page authority number is higher. If your competitor does not have an exact keyword match, then you can much more easily rank higher even if your page/domain authority isn’t too much lower.
The third step is to study your competitors’ optimization. There are free tools to help you go through your site, giving you an overview of what page titles you have for each description, page, tags in images and more. You can use this information to compare and contrast your site against your competitors. Page titles are critical to SEO. They should be unique and focused on what your audience searches.
Fourth, you want to find out what keywords are sending traffic to your competitors. Again, various tools can help you perform this action. For example, you might want to look at their top 10 performing keywords, which might also inspire you for potential keywords to use yourself.
After that, you want to continue your monitoring by setting up something simple such as a Google alert. This is because competitors can enter your space at any time. You want a signal that will let you know when any of your targeted keywords are mentioned.
Now, you want to take a look at how your competitors are advertising. For example, if they have long-term advertisements based upon a specific keyword, then it is more than likely that keyword is providing the conversions they want.
Also, it is essential to take a look at their link distribution. To illustrate, Google prefers links that lead to a variety of pages instead of always linking to only one page on your website. This is just one of the many reasons why having compelling content increases your page rankings.
Furthermore, you want to look at their usability. Google prefers sites that offer a rich user experience. Things you want to look at include:
- Cross-browser compatibility
- Page load time
- URL structure
- Broken links
- User-friendly navigation
- Custom 404 pages
If your competitor’s site features more variety, then you might take a look at how to improve yours.
Furthermore, take a look at their rich snippets. This is the search snippet that appears in SERPs, and it can contain an author photo, videos, reviews, images and more. Study the type of information they’ve chosen to provide. If they are in the top 10 results, then they are doing something that Google likes.
In the end, you can see why an SEO competitor analysis is beneficial. Not only does it help you see where you stand relative to your competitors, but it can also help you come up with a set of changes that you need to make to improve your rankings.