Competitor Analysis for SEO success

Suzanne Trainer by Suzanne Trainer | 1st April 2019

Any online marketing campaign, whether it’s social media, PPC or content marketing needs to begin with competitor analysis to gain an overview of the type of activity and content that works for your target audience.

Competitor analysis for SEO (search engine optimisation) is specifically about identifying backlinks and the keywords that your competitors are targeting and ranking on, and also those keywords they are not ranking on – as this is where you’ll discover golden opportunities to put in place some targeted content marketing to swoop in and rank above them.

You can learn a lot from your competitors, especially if you’re a marketer with access to the right tools such as SEMrush, Serpstat or Moz.

1. Identify your competitors

The first task is to identify your organic competitors. These are the websites that are coming up on the same online searches as you.

It’s important to understand that your online competitive landscape may be different from your offline one. This is where a tool can help you to identify your online competition. If you don’t have access to a tool, you can start by performing an online search for your product or service but be sure to go incognito with private browsing or your previous browsing history will influence the search results.

SEM Rush is great for identifying your competitors. You enter your domain into the search bar, and select ‘Organic Research’ in the drop-down. Then you click on ‘Competitors’ to view a list of sites that rank for the same organic keywords as you displayed in a graph and list view.

In this example, I entered and generated these results:

Competitive positioning map

Now we know that the closest competitors (based on common keywords) to Xero are Sage, Intuit, Freeagent, Kashflow and Sageone.

2. Competitor analysis keyword research

The first step is to check out which organic keywords your competitors are ranking for. They may be ranking for more keywords and doing more behind the scenes with their website SEO than you realise.

3. Use missing keywords to inform your content

The next step of your competitor analysis is to look for where your competitors are not ranking and filter by search volume. If they’re not ranking on some keywords you can focus on these keywords in your SEO strategy.

Identify the top 10 keywords/ search phrases by search volume or keyword difficulty. If you have a limited marketing budget and want really quick wins, you may prefer to select those keywords with a lower keyword difficulty as they’ll be easier to rank on.

Then take a look at the content your competitors are ranking on for this keyword and think about how you can you do it better.

You could answer the search phase better through a different content type, such as a video, e-book or long-form blog post. Perhaps their blog post which is ranking on this keyword contains out of date information or it’s text-heavy and your blog could be made to be more engaging with more images. There’s bound to be improvements that can be made.

4. Pay Per Click (PPC) keyword research

This is where it gets really exciting (or maybe it’s just me). Not only can you see the organic keywords ranked on by your competitors, but you can also see if they’re running PPC ads, how much they are spending and the ads themselves. You do need access to SEM Rush for this.

I used SEM Rush to analyse and can see they are spending an estimated $313k per month on ads. They have 873 keywords in their campaigns and this is generating around 67k of traffic each month.

Word of warning with the CPC amount shown – this is how much you can hope to pay in time, once you have earned your stripes with Google Ads and achieved a good quality score. You’ll need to expect to pay more per click on the same keywords.

Having this level of information at the start of a PPC campaign and even at the start of a new business, will enable you to be realistic about the marketing budget you’ll need to be found by your customers online.

If your competitor is spending a lot on PPC, then you can bet that their ads are converting well for them, otherwise, they wouldn’t be doing it. Therefore their website is likely to be well-designed and well structured. If you want to see what a ‘great’ website looks like, run a search on uber competitive terms and check out the websites on those coming up top!

Try searching on ‘buy viagra’ and take a look at Dr Fox (no 1 at the time of writing) but be sure to go incognito first – you don’t want viagra ads popping up every time you go online.

Copy a well-performing PPC Strategy

You do the exact opposite of what you did with organic keyword research (where you were looking for the gaps). With PPC keyword research you emulate a successful competitor campaign and build on it. But be realistic with it – don’t expect the same results, but with significantly less PPC budget.

5. Backlink analysis

Last but by no means least is backlink analysis. Having good quality backlinks to your site is still a key part of SEO strategy but truth be told the hardest part. You can’t (or shouldn’t) be buying backlinks, as you can with Google page one spot with Google Ads.

When looking at your competitor’s backlinks you can access how authoritative, relevant and appropriate these referring pages are for you and set about getting the same backlinks to your site.

Backlinks come in many different forms, they could be directory listings, guest blog posts, banners and links in forums.

For instance, if you don’t use Quora to get links and promote your product, and this works well for a few of your competitors, then maybe you may want to try this channel too.

6. Conclusion

Having a website is just the beginning of your digital marketing journey (and marketing investment).

Competitor analysis for SEO is the backbone to your SEO and PPC strategy, without which your website will fail to gain any visibility and therefore won’t be discovered, by your potential customers.

Fortunately, with expert marketing know-how (marketing help is at hand if you need it) and access to awesome tools like SEM Rush, the insight can be gathered to formulate a winning strategy to get your business seen online.

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