How to undertake an SEO competitor analysis (An in-depth guide)

How to undertake an SEO competitor analysis (An in-depth guide)

December 29, 2023

Written by: Ryan Walsh

Date: 29/12/2023

SEO competitive analysis

 

This is a critical point to understand; the only way any business will rank on the first page of Google’s organic results is if that business’s ranking factors are stronger than its direct competitors. So, businesses are ranked according to how strong their ranking factors are, such as backlinks.

So, therefore, before you even venture into building your first backlinks, or writing your company’s first blog post, it’s important to benchmark your website with your competitors.

There are two main reasons for this: you want to see the scale of the challenge that lies ahead of you. The second reason is that you must be realistic with your marketing budget, whether you can go up against the direct competitors.

Sure, some marketing agencies will say shoot for the stars; anything is possible, but in reality, if a business spends 1000 per month and their direct competitors are putting millions in every year; you must pause for a second and be realistic. Can we get to the first page of Google, and rank in the organic results with such strong competitors?

Therefore, it’s essential to ask a marketing company to conduct a detailed competitor analysis before investing in search engine optimisation.

In this comprehensive guide, we shall walk you through some of the features that should be included within that competitor analysis.

 

So why bother undertaking a competitor SEO analysis?

It’s fair to say that you could unquestioningly complete a lot of SEO work, and you may be diligently working like a busy-bee trying to get your company on page one of Google, and your website may end up on the first page of Google in time.

But a lot of people will want to get a grasp on the size of the challenge that lies ahead of them.

You might want to know how many backlinks they roughly need to build, how good the content marketing needs to be, and how they can improve your technical SEO.

It’s a bit like entering into a Formula One race; sure, you can diligently work on improving and refining your engine in isolation, without benchmarking how good the engine’s performance is against your direct rivals. Yet if you have a basic grasp of the competition engines, you know what you’re up against; therefore, you can aim to make your car even better.

If one of your competitors has one slight technical advantage over you in F1, they may take the lead in Formula One; this is the same with a business SEO. If a competitor starts to accumulate for example many good quality links, this could be enough for them to take the lead, so you do they too weigh up the competition to see how much SEO work in needed.

 

Don’t reinvent the wheel

This is a very old saying, but one we think is perfectly suited to describing how you should think about SEO. Not for one second are we saying copy your direct competitors to the letter T. Don’t copy them at all, yet, what they can set out, is an idea of the scale of the challenge, how much work is needed to overtake them. This can be invaluable information, as you can acknowledge their strengths and weaknesses, this should then help guide you as you write your own unique business plan.

How this relates to the saying “don’t reinvent the wheel” is, your competitors will have set a benchmark to beat, and where they are strong, this should then help steer your own marketing strategy. Your therefore haven’t got to figure out some cutting-edge method of SEO, instead if you use tried and tested methods, proven white hat SEO methods, this should be enough for your business to start to improve your search engine optimisation.

 

Hire an expert

However, we would recommend employing a talented SEO consultant to diligently work through why it’s a particular competitor is ranking and occupying the number one spot on Google.

Then, they (the SEO consultant) should be able to develop a comprehensive list detailing why that particular company is placed in the number one spot on Google.

There is usually an clear cut reason why any particular business ranks number one on Google, often due to one of these points, but could also be combination as well.

 

  •  The company offers a good user experience (U.X) to its customers
  • The company has really good-quality backlinks
  • The company has created very high-quality content marketing which meets the standards set out by Google E-EAT
  • The business has really good technical SEO

 

It helps you allocate your time more effectively

There’s absolutely no point in going for overkill, and building 1000 quality backlinks, which are all made in a white hat way, when your business might just need 100 links to reach the top of Google. Remember all backlinks you build, should follow Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.

There is equally no point in writing and publishing content marketing every three days, if the current company that’s occupying the number one spot on Google only publishes a quality piece of content marketing say just once a month.

Therefore, publishing too regularly could be overkill, and you might get tired of writing so often. So instead publish quality content marketing, rather than focusing just on quantity.

 

 

SEO is a marathon not a sprint

It’s important to remember that search engine optimisation is a marathon, its not therefore a sprint. Therefore, you must carefully plan how to optimise the website and how much time you will spend on improving each area of your company’s SEO. For example, write a plan for how you will earn backlinks, and create a “content calendar” to detail what you will write about and when.

By diligently working on these areas and allocating the right amount of time and effort into improving each area of your business’s SEO, you should start to see your business climb Google’s ranks.

However, a word to the wise: don’t expect results overnight; instead, have a long-term plan and work hard to meet those objectives. With SEO it can seem you are seeing no fruits for all your layout.

Yet do persevere, as when Google does roll out a major algorithm update on a regular basis, and refreshes to the algorithm on a regular basis as well. So, your business should get rewarded for all that hard work you put in, yet it does take time to see the results for the hard work you put in to improving your company’s SEO.

As a rule of thumb, don’t expect to see any real, massive leaps forward in terms of where your business ranks for at least 6 months.

 

Local, national or international SEO?

Therefore, you have to look at strategically essential keywords that your business wants to improve the SEO for. Then, you have to define the geographic area in which your business operates. For example, does your company operate locally or nationally, or do you work internationally?

Then, it’s a matter of coming up with a list of direct competitors with strong SEO so you can later analyse why search engine optimisation is so strong. There will always be reasons why Google or say Bing has ranked a company at the top of Google, a good SEO agency should be able to say why in a short period or time. It could because the strength of the companies’ backlinks, or the company might have particularly good onsite SEO.

 

Google’s algorithm fluctuations

It’s entirely possible, especially during the Christmas period, that the search engine results pages (SERP’s) change pretty drastically. Therefore, you don’t want to do a competitor analysis on just one or two competitors, you want to monitor at least 5 companies, so you get a rounded idea as to why Google has ranked those businesses at the top of the page.

The reason why you want to monitor say 5-7 businesses is that is Google can drastically change the SERP’s, sometimes overnight. This means a competitor that you might have been following that was on the first page of Google, after a reshuffle (algorithm update), that company might be moved to page 3 of Google instead.

So therefore, you need to hedge your bets; it’s much better to monitor say five direct competitors so you get a general idea of why they are on ranked at the top of Google, rather than just following one competitor.

Then you’ll get a balanced idea of why their search engine optimisation is so good, and you want

 

Which SEO tools should my business be using?

We would highly recommend using Ahrefs. However, you might also want to use SEMRush and Moz. Some of these tools are offered with a free trial period, so you could, for example, try the SEO tool for a week before you commit to a longer-term subscription.

 

There are many other good seo tools, such as Moz range of tools.

Moz also offers tons of good quality advice written by leading SEO experts.

You might be thinking right now that you don’t want to pay for an SEO tool; however, it could provide you with valuable insights when you are building backlinks.

Various SEO tools may also highlight significant errors with your website, such as, for example, a page can’t get crawled or indexed because of a no-index tab that’s been left on.

 

An expert eye

The truth is that various SEO tools can be really useful, and we recommend they are used as they can explain through dashboards, why your competitors seo is so strong. For example, it could be because of the ample quality backlinks that your competitors have. However, an expert SEO consultant will be able to work diligently through the website and analyse why the competition ranks at the top of Google.co.uk.

You may therefore wish to pay for an in-depth SEO audit. During these audits the seo company often uses a blend of the consultant’s knowledge, supported by information taken from a reliable seo tool, such as Ahrefs.

At the end of the report the SEO consultant should highlight a series of recommendations on how to improve the company’s technical seo, offsite seo and onsite seo.

 

Google

Through a straightforward series of Google searches, your seo consultant and your business should be able to see some competitors which consistently rank high on the first page of Google for main keywords.

So, for example, let’s say that you run an estate agency; let’s say that your agency covers multiple areas. If the SEO consultant sees that a competitor is ranking consistently high on Google for numerous locations, it’s evident that the search engine optimisation is good quality.

This business should, therefore, be further analysed, including to see where they have built their backlinks, how good their technical SEO is, and how good their content marketing is.

The point we are trying to make here is that you shouldn’t just use SEO tools in isolation; you should also carry out searches to find out exactly which businesses are ranking at the top, then use these websites within your various SEO tools to try and dissect precisely why the search engine optimisation is so good.

 

Remember to distinguish between PPC ads and Google’s organic results

Suppose you are manually using Google to find out which competitors are ranking at the top of Google. In that case, we recommend distinguishing which are paying Google Adword listings, also known as pay-per-click advertisements, and which are displayed in the organic results.

For this article, we are only interested in the businesses which are appearing in Google’s organic results.

 

At this stage, you might have scribbled down on paper or created a list on Microsoft Excel spreadsheet with a long list of your direct competitors. You will have spotted that these businesses rank consistently high for a number of the keywords that you want your business to rank for.

This is good; you have made an excellent start to the process, and you now have a list of competitors that you can use to benchmark your search engine optimisation progress.

This is a very important step because some businesses blindly work on improving their search engine optimisation, sometimes overdoing it, leading to “over-optimisation issues”. This could hamper your SEO efforts for a long period of time.

By analysing your competitors, you can start to appreciate why they rank on the first page of Google.

 

Start by writing a link-building strategy.

 

We would recommend using “Ahrefs Domain Comparison Tool”

Now it’s time to start analysing why your competitor’s backlinks are such good quality; you might want to use a quality SEO tool such as Ahrefs Domain Comparison Tool.

This fantastic quality tool will allow you to input multiple competitor URLs and to start to analyse why their backing profile is so strong. You can also gain a comprehensive list of all the domains which link to that particular website. You can gain an understanding of whether the links are do follow or not.

 

Referring domains

You might see mentioned within various SEO tools, when checking your competitor’s backlinks that they mention the description “referring domains”.

Referring domains are simply websites which link back to the domain in question.

The aim should be to gain as many quality; relevant white hat backlinks as possible from many and a broad cross-section of referring domains. This is much better and preferable than gaining backlinks from just a few websites. The reason why it is better to get link juice and equity from several quality websites than just getting it from a small selection of companies is you want as many quality links as possible, from a large number of businesses.

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Backlinks are like a vote of confidence

It’s important to note that the not all backlinks are the same. Some can help enhance your business’s search engine optimisation, and some can damage it. Some can actually lead the business into incurring what is known as a “link penalty”- this can mean sometimes the business vanishes off Google, simply because the website has built low quality and spam backlinks.

Yes, let’s concentrate, for the purposes of this article, on just quality backlinks; if you manage to gain a number of these, these can really help improve your business search engine optimisation.

They are like a thumbs up from other businesses. So, let’s say, for example, you own a legal practice, and you obtain a hundred links from other local businesses. For example, a link might come from a local website that offers awards to companies that excel at what they do.

The company might focus on providing awards to the legal business sector; therefore, these are relevant backlinks from a local company and a quality website. These backlinks can help enhance your business search engine optimisation.

 

Like a magnet

Your business wants to illustrate to your customers that you are an expert in the products or services you retail. Many of your customers will often have the same questions before purchasing a product or a service.

Therefore, you want to strategize and brainstorm which of these questions your business should answer through say your company’s FAQ or through many blog posts which you publish.

 

Aim to be the best

Then, don’t offer a mediocre answer to any question which you answer; instead push the boat out, go the extra mile, and create a comprehensive and helpful answer.

Put yourself in your customer’s shoes; how would you like the question to be answered?

And even if the content marketing just helps create better brand awareness for your company, this is a positive step in the right direction.

Your company directors or senior staff, are likely to have decades of experience, offering valuable and helpful advice to customers.

So, if they have the time, why not create a short video including those members of staff offering a helpful answer to the question?

You could embed it at the page or the blog post’.

You could then really offer a comprehensive answer to that question, demonstrating that you satisfy Google’s E-EAT guidelines.

By writing a comprehensive answer to the question, you will show that your company has in-depth knowledge and expertise on the products you sell. You could be deemed the experts, not just by shoppers, because you offer them a helpful answer but also by Google. Therefore, by writing a page, which follows the advice, Google wrote about when writing its E-EEAT advice this will help to improve your companies SEO.

 

Aim to reduce your company’s bounce rate

Your customers are likely to want to read and spend longer on your company website if it offers valuable advice. Us seo consultants, we refer to this as the “dwell time” for the website.

Google will pick up on this; if a website has good dwell time, it will notice that the shopper is engaged with the products and services that your business offers. The shopper may visit multiple pages and spend considerable time reading product descriptions and various blog posts- which will also reduce your company’s bounce rate.

As the bounce rate decreases, Google will notice this; it will see that shoppers are more engaged with what your company is selling, which can positively impact businesses’ search engine optimisation.

 

Your business may gain more backlinks

Other businesses and bloggers that might not might start to spot that you have some really high quality, useful information on your website, and they may decide to offer a backlink to that page.

 

For example

For example, the company might manufacture very high-quality turbos for cars. As any good mechanic will tell you, the engine turbo, to be kept in good running order the engine oil used must be good quality.

Therefore, a manufacturer of turbos might link to a website which manufactures good quality engine oil and offers advice about the different grades and types of engine oil for sale.

Therefore, the business will have received high-quality backlink (from turbo manufacturers’ website, to engine oil manufacturers’ website).
The reason the engine oil company linked to the turbo manufacturers website, is because the content marketing is really high-quality. Therefore, other business may think the same; they know your website offers high-quality valuable advice they want to share with their customers. Also, therefore, they may provide do-follow backlinks.

Have you ever wondered why your competitors write such detailed and long articles?

You might have a direct competitor writing high-quality content marketing weekly- the word count per blog post may regularly exceed 3,000 words. When you read through the work, it’s good quality, well written, offers multiple perspectives, and the article cited numerous quality sources- such as the Guardian newspaper. So, it’s clear the author spent considerable time creating the work.

Yet as a business owner, you might be scratching your head, wondering well why my direct competitors will spending so much time creating this work.

Well, one of the reasons is they are probably advised by an Seo consultant/marketing agency that to get on the first page of Google, they need to start earning high-quality backlinks. One of the ways of doing this is to write high-quality work that other businesses will want to link to.

Therefore, the business will want to offer super helpful advice, though say its blog, but at the same time, they might be in a to improve the business search engine optimisation by obtaining quality backlinks.

Because the written work, which may include infographics, YouTube videos, and all the work is good quality, offering super useful advice to the business’s customers, this, is likely to draw the business in many good quality backlinks.

 

Aim to be better than your competitors

It’s a term that you use quite a lot in business, that’s when manufacturing a product or service that is simply better than the competition.

And we fully appreciate that this is easier said than done, especially if your competitors are established companies, they may have been making an item for an extended period and may have engineered really good quality products.

However, this same concept should be adopted for your website, mainly your content marketing.
So, you shouldn’t just aim to write 1000 words on a specific question just because your competitors have written about that this week ago. You need to be a thought leader, showing off your company’s expertise, so aim to be the best, write content marketing that’s so much better than the competition, you amaze the reader. Then this way other businesses/bloggers should link to your work.

 

Utilise the expertise within your company

So, for example, you might have a large number of staff within your business who are simply experts at what they do. So, you should you utilise this knowledge by incorporating their knowledge into blog posts that you write for example.

By working with an expert on the subject, your content marketing will most likely have an edge over many of your direct competitors- its likely to be more detailed and the customer is likely to find the work more useful at answering their question. And here’s our best piece of advice: Don’t aim for quantity, and don’t aim to churn out content marketing like you’re producing a product on a factory production line!

Instead produce quality, this will take longer to write and proofread; yet it will also take input from multiple sources, such as your web designer, to ensure the pages are properly designed. You will often have to work with an expert, so often a series of meeting will need to be arranged, , asking questions to an expert and then them giving their opinion. You might also need to work with a videographer to embed a video and ensure that it is edited to look professional.

So, this does take more time and is most likely more expensive, but it’s worth it. Don’t cut corners and do not aim for just quantity; everything should focus on quality when it comes to improving your company’s search engine optimisation.

 

Pace yourself

This leads nicely to the last point, in that, especially start-up businesses, when they start to use various seo tools and they see the amount of work they need to climb to top of Google. Well, some people start to cut corners and implement substandard Seo work.

However, you instead you do have to pace itself, Google wants to see quality work added over the long run. So when creating a marketing strategy, think over the long term; you have to think of quality; so do pace yourself in writing a marketing strategy.

 

Social media

It’s also essential to look at your competitors’ social media accounts, for example, do they just use X or just Facebook? How many social media accounts do they actively manage?

If they have a Facebook account, an Instagram account, and a LinkedIn account- how active are they on these accounts?
Then you do have to think about whether you have the time to manage all these different accounts? However, with that said, social media can be brilliant at promoting your business, creating better brand awareness, and helping you gain more visitors to visit your company’s content marketing on your website.

For example, if your business has written a comprehensive article, why not promote this work on social media?

For example, you might have just written a 5000-word article; why not promote this work on your company’s Facebook account?

 

Website design

Why not look over your main competitors’ websites to look for features that they have, that you incorporate into your company’s website to further improve it? For example, it could be something as simple as a “callback feature”.

Let’s say that you sell an item, and a customer could enter their mobile number, a convenient time to call them back, and the product their interested in. This is useful to your sales team, as they can call the customer and answer any questions they have, potentially making a sale. Therefore, competitors might have this callback button on every page on their website.

Therefore, you might want to integrate this feature into your website.

 

Speed test

How fast is your company’s website compared to your direct competitors?
Your direct competitors might be paying for very expensive website hosting, but it might be worth every single penny, that’s if it’s helping to improve their search engine optimisation.

If, instead, you company’s website hosting company is slow in comparison, then this could negatively impact your business’s search engine optimisation.

 

Paid advertising

You might also want to consider how your competitors are gaining their customers. Are they using social media advertising? Are the vast majority of their clients coming via organic traffic?

Are they also paying Google AdWords? This should influence your company’s own marketing strategy; you may want a rounded marketing strategy, meaning that you want your customers to come from multiple sources. This could potentially increase your business’s chances of making a sale.

Therefore, you do need to make a note of how your competitors are promoting their business.

Are they just using organic search engine optimisation?

Are they heavily investing in Google AdWords every month?

Are they also advertising social media? You might also want to do the same if they are doing all of these?

 

PPC budgets

A good search engine optimisation agency will tell you that it can take a long time to get your business onto the first page of Google within the organic results.

It can also take much, much longer sometimes to get the business into the top 3 positions on Google.

It can take over a year for some companies to get on page one of Google, so often companies will need to bridge this gap between getting on the first page of Google. That’s because improving a company’s organic Seo can take such a long time, so you do need to think about how you will get customers in the meantime. Many businesses use PPC or Google AdWords, we can set this up for your business also.

Then, the business might decide to scale back how much it spends on PPC, once our SEO agency gets your company on the first page of Google for multiple keywords.

 

 

 

 

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