SEO Competitor Analysis: What is it & How to Benefit From it
Business is going great! You’re getting a steady stream of leads from your website, and your search rankings are the last thing on your mind.
Life is good! Until suddenly, it isn’t…
The phone stops ringing, your email inbox dries up, and your anxiety level spikes!
You step outside to see if Armageddon has occurred and you are the sole surviving member of the human race. Nope, everything seems normal?
Well before you resign yourself to a life of idleness and sign up for a CrossFit membership, we recommend that you strap on your digital marketing hat and perform an SEO competitive analysis to check on what your competitors are doing in your desired SERP space.
In this article, we’re going to help you learn the importance of SEO competitor analysis, tools you can use to flesh out competitive keywords, and who your SEO competitors really are… (this might shock you!)
What Is an SEO Competitor Analysis?
Basically, an SEO competitor analysis helps you answer the following questions:
- “Which of my competitors are totally kicking ass on my desired SERPs?”
- “How can I dominate relevant SERP spaces so my company can get ahead?”
SEO competitor analysis is the process of looking at your competitive online landscape to identify your competitors and ultimately create an SEO strategy that will help you rank higher on SERPs.
Throughout an SEO competitor analysis, you will evaluate companies targeting similar keywords as you in similar SERP spaces. Then, you can use those identified keywords to take over that particular space.
Why is SEO Competitor Analysis Important?
Completing an SEO competitor analysis allows you to find out who you are facing off against when someone inputs a keyword into search engines like Google or Bing. It also enables you to learn what challenges lie ahead and get a better overall understanding of the general keyword landscape.
Who Are Your SEO Competitors, Really?
Well… they might not be who you think!
Typically, when companies analyze their competitors, they think of direct business competitors that sell the same products, offer the same service, or are located nearby, but that’s not who your actual SEO competitors are!
Simply, SEO competitors are those that share the same SERP space as you.
When you’re discovering who your competitors are, look at the top keywords related to your business. Then, analyze those specific keywords so that you can better understand where your competitors sit in the competitive landscape and what actions they’ve taken to get there. If they’re ranking number 1 for a specific keyword, they have obviously done something to deserve that rank, so completing this analysis will allow you to determine if that keyword is worth battling it out.
Note: generally, we would exclude any competitor branded keywords from this analysis. While you can try to target a branded keyword with bottom-of-funnel content like VS. articles, that is generally outside the scope of what we’re discussing in this article.
Tools to Use for SEO Competitor Analysis
When you are completing your analysis, try to choose multiple competitors–around 3 or so. You can find these competitors through search marketing research tools like Semrush, Ahrefs’ Keyword Explorer, and Google Ads.
All three of these tools do inherently the same thing, in that they try to emulate how Google indexes and ranks websites, but each represents a slightly different lense in which to view the search landscape. As a best practice, we recommend that you use 2-3 different tools to properly triangulate your research, rather than being overly reliant on the data from a single source.
To start, create a spreadsheet that allows you to keep track of the following information for each competitor:
- Their site
- Their top ranking keywords in their target country
- Their keyword ranks in their target country
- Their keyword difficulties in their target country
When we refer to target country, we mean which country they conduct their business in. For international companies, you’ll often need to combine the data for multiple countries in this research.
Now that you have a sense of what you’re looking for, let’s break down the tools that will provide you with the necessary information.
In our opinion, Semrush is the go-to SEO competitor analysis tool. Within Semrush, you can find all of the information listed above. This includes the keywords you’re tracking and, most importantly, who your competitors are, the number of keywords they are ranking for, and where they are ranking.
Within Semrush, you can go in and see differences in keyword positions, the estimated traffic keywords are getting, how they move over time, if you’ve gone up in keyword positions, or if your competitors have gone up in keyword positions.
Ahrefs’ Keyword Explorer
Ahrefs’ Keyword Explorer is a great secondary tool that can help you with your competitor research. Like Semrush, you can view a ton of key information, including sites using the same keywords as you, sites with the most organic traffic from the keywords and more.
Google Ads Keyword Planner
When in doubt, go straight to the source (in this case, Google) for your data. After using multiple advanced tools, you may notice that they each provide you with different results. This is because all of these numbers from third-party tools are estimates and update at different times. Think of Google Keyword Planner as your final “double-check” site.
Finding Your SEO Competitors
Now it’s time to pull back the curtains, unveil your REAL competitors, and size them up to see if you can take them down. The following are three steps that you should take to discover your competitors.
Competitor Keyword Analysis
Place your keywords into your selected tool and begin comparing the keywords your website is ranking for to the keywords that your competitor’s website is ranking for. This will help you determine if there are any identified keywords that competitors are ranking for and why these companies are pursuing those specific keywords.
What Keywords to Consider
As you go through your list of keywords and your competitors’ keywords, ask yourself, are the keywords our competitors are using something we would like to target? Is our competitor already targeting our keywords? Do we believe we can also rank for these keywords?
To break this down, let’s say you’re a local brewery trying to target “best brewery in Calgary”. During your competitor keyword analysis, you look and see one of your competitors is already ranking highly for that keyword. You are now able to look at this competitor’s website and the content they have produced to rank for this keyword to understand how they’ve achieved this ranking and analyze if there are opportunities for you to rank higher. As part of this process, here are some additional things to ask yourself:
- “What content can we produce to rank higher than our competitor for this keyword?”
- “What other keywords is this competitor ranking for?”
- “Are there any other terms of value we want to pursue?”
- “What efforts has this competitor taken to rank for this keyword?”
- “Are they actively pursuing this ranking with updated content or has it become stagnant?”
Overall, when you are conducting competitor keyword analysis, you are taking a deep dive to find what keywords your competitors are ranking for, what efforts they have undergone to rank for those keywords, and if there are opportunities to produce content of your own to dominate the SERP space for these keywords.
Understanding Search Relevancy
The MOST important thing you need to understand when finding keywords is the difference between volume and relevancy. Mess this up and you could waste a ton of time and effort!
Let’s say you’re a local craft beer company, but you notice there are 9,900 monthly searches for “Coors Light”. If you target the keyword “Coors Light” with your content and somehow Google decides to rank your page on the first page of the SERP, you could end up with a lot of traffic from disgruntled light beer enthusiasts who won’t appreciate your hipster beer offerings. They’ll immediately bounce off your site and continue their quest for the generic beer they were craving.
You’ve got to find the balance between keywords with high search volume and keywords with the right search relevancy. It’s best if the one person that searches for your keyword comes to your website and thinks, “holy crap, this is what I was looking for”, rather than 1000 people who bounce off the site. At the end of the day, relevancy is everything and straddling that fine line between search volume and relevancy will provide you with success.
Additional Things to Take into Consideration
Now that you have an idea of what SEO competitor analysis is and how you can benefit from it, there are a couple of additional things that you should take time to consider.
When to Conduct an SEO Competitive Analysis
SEO competitor analysis is key when you first begin optimizing your site. Besides your initial analysis, you should complete SEO competitor analysis routinely, ideally every 6 months to 1 year, and whenever you make any significant site changes. This isn’t a “set it and forget it” kind of deal.
The Importance of Site Structure and User Interface
As you’re evaluating your competitor’s relevant keywords, ensure you take a look at their website. If you try to rank for a keyword also being targeted by your competitor, consider the design and structure of their site. Here are things you should ask yourself when analyzing a competitor’s site:
- “How user-friendly is this site?”
- “Is their website engaging?”
- “What about their core web vital metrics? How fast does the site load?” And so on.
Then you can think about your site. How does it stack up against the competition? Are there things you can do to improve your UX, web vitals, or overall site structure? It’s important to understand that the keyword your competitor ranks for may be a keyword you want to rank for, and with a good site, you have the potential to also rank high for that keyword.
You can have competitors ranking for the same or similar keywords to yours and have the exact same keyword strategy as them, but at the end of the day, if you have a website that is optimized to the gods, people will find your site.
Backlink analysis looks at the quality, quantity, relevancy, and more of the backlinks you have pointing at your page. Not only can you evaluate backlinks to your site, but you can also see the backlink performance of your competitor’s website.
When Google sees multiple high-quality links pointing to a website, it identifies the website as trustworthy and believes that it’s the go-to site for that topic. So, if you notice that your competitor has a huge amount of high-quality backlinks, you know that Google will consider them an authority in the space. You will need to develop a strong content strategy that will allow you to gain authority and outrank your competitor.
Although this is not an essential step of SEO competitor analysis, it is a great way to understand how your competitors’ sites are performing and gain insight into what Google may think of them.
It’s important to note that backlinking is not the number one factor in determining who ranks number one, but it can prove that you have skin in the game.
Using Your Results to Leverage New Keywords
Once you have completed your initial keyword research and have identified your competitors, you can put all of your new keywords together and apply them to your site. This is the on-page optimizing step, where you add your primary and secondary keywords to current or new content to try and rank higher on the SERP.
Here are places you can implement these keywords into your site:
- Landing pages
- Page title and meta descriptions
- Blog content
- Social content
If you’re interested in learning more about content development, including optimizing your content, check out our Content Development blog, written by our expert Content Lead.
Get Expert SEO Competitor Analysis Help
If any of the following apply to you, it’s time to seek some help!
- You’re still struggling to pull the curtains back and unveil your SEO competitors.
- You know who you’re up against but you’re not convinced you can beat them at their own game.
- You’re still convinced that armageddon has ensued and that’s why you’re not getting any more website leads.
Sit back and relax while the SEO Specialists at Konstruct Digital discover your SEO competitors, find out what keywords they are ranking for, and create a custom SEO strategy to help you boost your rankings on your desired SERPs.
At Konstruct Digital, we have expert SEO Specialists who will do whatever it takes to help you reach your SEO goals (without any blackhat or fraudulent tactics). Are you ready to see your site thrive? Contact us today!
Updated: March 23, 2022