Regardless of whether we are talking about a sporting competition, a military engagement, or trying to outrank a rival local business on Google, the more you know about the competition, the better a chance you have of succeeding.
This reminds us of a great phrase that goes, ‘Knowledge Is Power’, and when it comes to SEO, there can be no truer saying. Many people when thinking about SEO, see it as a battle against Google, and an exercise looking for ways to ‘trick’ Google into ranking their website higher than maybe it deserves to. But nothing could be further from the truth.
Google is not your opponent when you are trying to rank a website, in fact, given that they are constantly telling us what they look for with regards to SEO, they should be regarded as an ally.
Competitor Analysis: Your Real SEO Competition
The real competition, when it comes to ranking, are those other local businesses, who are competing for the same customers you are, especially online.
In another article, we referred to SEO as a series of games, with each individual keyword is a separate game of who gets to rank highest for it.
Well, within in each niche or business sector, the keywords are more or less the same, and whoever wins the ranking game for more of those keywords than their competition gets more visitors to their website, thus more customers, and ultimately greater profits.
You might be thinking that if one or more of your competitors are already riding high on the first page of Google for a whole series of keywords, that trying to outrank them will be a fruitless task. That assumes that they have everything with regards to their SEO, set up perfectly, but that is highly unlikely to be the case.
Even if they are well optimised, that does not mean that you cannot at least match what they have done, and in most cases, you should be able to create an SEO campaign that will allow you to outrank them.
Given the title of this article, you might be thinking that the first step in getting to that highly desirable situation is to do some competitor analysis, but while it happens early, you must first create your overall SEO strategy. This allows you to plan each element of your SEO to ensure it is the most effective it can be.
If you need help with planning your SEO or want a professional SEO company to create and fulfill it for you, please get in touch.
What Is SEO Competitor Analysis?
You will note that we called it ‘SEO’ competitor analysis because this is not the only competitor analysis that you can undertake. Depending on the type of business you are and which niche you operate in, there are other ways you can analyse your competitors.
One example is that you could visit their premises to see how it is laid out, and how welcoming it is. You could also mystery shop them by sending a friend to experience how your competitor treats their customers and the levels of customer service they offer.
Another analysis might be with regards to their finances by checking their public published financial details. The reason we mention these is that you should not just seek to analyse your competitors on one level, such as SEO, but do so for as many as you can.
As for SEO competitive analysis, it will tell what your competitors are, or are not, doing to boost their rankings. The reason it can be done is that any website online is effectively an open book when it comes to SEO. After all, if they were not, Google would not be able to crawl, and then assign them a ranking for specific keywords.
Some of the individual points you want to analyse are:
More generally you will want to determine which pages on their website are the strongest, and more importantly, why they are so. You also need to assess what your competitors’ strengths and weaknesses are, so that you, 1) Take advantage of their weaknesses, and 2) Optimise the best you can to compete against their strengths.
Your Competitors’ Strengths and Weaknesses
By discovering these, the SEO campaign which is created for you has a much greater chance of not only producing good results but more likely, great results. so, let us identify what you are looking for.
Given that you are an expert within your field or business niche, you should be able to assess the content that your competitors have on their websites as to whether it is great, good, average, or complete rubbish. If it is great, do not simply copy it, but seek to create content that either equals or better, exceeds that quality level.
Competitor Analysis: Technical Factors
This covers a large number of elements that relate to how their website performs, but there are a few that you should take particular note of.
One is how quickly their website loads. If it is slow, that is an open goal for you to make sure your website has nothing which slows it down. Page load speed is an important ranking factor so if you can beat your competition on that it bodes well.
Mobile compatibility is also a ranking factor and any competitor with a website that has not been updated in some time, may not yet be mobile compatible. Again, you win if your website is mobile compatible and theirs is not.
Whilst there is plenty written and said about getting external backlinks, many website owners overlook the benefits of linking within their own website. Here is where you can get a jump on those competitors who have no or little internal linking.
As for those who do have internal linking, and seem to rank well, you want to assess it, and if it appears to be highly effective, try to emulate their URL structure, anchor texts, and breadcrumbs. As this is a technical factor, there is nothing to stop you copying those who have their internal linking well optimised.
This can be attributed to several factors so you will want to be looking at their backlinks and the strength of their brand. A thorough backlinks analysis will tell you a great deal about where their authority is coming from, with respect to what authority websites they are getting links from.
This allows you to create a backlink strategy with the aim of recreating the same level of authority, either from those same websites, or a combination of websites that have similar of greater authority.
Remember, every keyword is assessed individually by Google, and the chances of any of your competitors being fully optimised for every possible keyword related to your niche are extremely low.
This allows you to optimise for those keywords they have missed, ignored, or simply forgotten about, and scoop up lots of traffic and visitors that are literally there for the taking.
When it comes to more competitive keywords, and those that attract the most searches, the fact that you are analysing your competitors’ SEO, should give you a clearer picture of how they have achieved those rankings.
That means you can then take steps to better optimise your website pages for these keywords, with a view to exceeding that of your competitors and thus outranking them.
How To Conduct SEO Competitor Analysis
We have discussed the ‘Why’ of competitor analysis so let us take a quick look at how you can conduct competitor analysis. As we said previously, any website online can be assessed and analysed, but knowing the correct tools to use is the key to doing so.
This is where many website and business owners get confused, as there are so many tools available, and they struggle to decide which one is the right one.
Even after they have purchased a tool or piece of software that can carry out some of the analysis, the learning curve for some of these can be a long one. As well as learning to operate the software, the data it brings back then has to be analysed correctly, and then a plan of action based on that data needs to be formulated.
Bear in mind, that process might only be for just one single aspect of the competitor analysis such as their onsite optimisation. You also have tools that analyse backlinks, keyword rankings, keyword optimisation, and page load speeds, for example. Add all of them, and any other into the mix, and you can see why competitor analysis is often ignored, or even avoided by many business owners.
That is where an agency like ours can step in, and instead of you having to do it all, we will. Not only do we have all the necessary tools to complete a comprehensive analysis of your competitors, but we can also fully assess the data, make recommendations to you, and create an SEO package that will allow you to compete with, and ultimately beat, your competitors. View our: SEO Case Studies