Following is a 4-step process for performing your own competitive analysis for SEO. There are many different strategies and tools one could potentially use, so feel free to adapt this framework to best suit your needs.
1. Identify your keywords
Although it goes beyond the scope of this article, it’s obviously important to first have a firm handle on the keywords you’re targeting; if you don’t, your competitive analysis simply won’t have legs. That said, you’re likely to discover many more new and profitable keywords in your competitive analysis, so approach the process with this in mind.
I’ve written in detail about how to find the best keywords for your business in the following articles:
The Rise of the Longtail Keyword for SEO
Why Your Keyword Strategy is Incomplete Without User Intent
The Definitive Guide to Using Google’s Keyword Planner Tool for Keyword Research
2. Identify your competitors
You likely already have a good idea who many of your competitors are; but be aware that business competitors are not always SEO competitors. From an SEO perspective, your only competitors are the ones who are ranking in the first or second page of Google for your top keywords.
It’s very likely, however, that you also have direct competitors who you know nothing about. This is where using competitive intelligence tools can help. SEMRush and Keyword Spy are great tools for determining which sites or pages are ranking for your chosen keywords. While the tool can provide a wealth of information about your competitors, at this point we simply want to know who is ranking for our keywords.
By going to the Organic Competitors tab, we can see the top 10 sites that are ranking for that keyword or phrase (upgrading to a paid account will give you access to a full list of competitors, but 10 gives you a good start). One of the most valuable pieces of information here is a list of all the keywords these individual sites are ranking for. This is a great way to find new keywords to potentially incorporate into your own SEO strategy.
3. Determine the authority of your competitors
A key aspect of competitive analysis will be determining how authoritative your competitors’ sites are. Without this information, you may find you have unrealistic expectations or aspirations for your own site. Some factors you’ll want to consider include the age of a domain, the number of unique linking root domains to the site, and the “Domain Authority” of the site, courtesy of Moz’s Open Site Explorer).
Since we’ve already identified who our main competitors are in step #2, we simply need to plug their URLs into the tool to get key data like domain authority, page authority, number of inbound links, and social metrics (although social data is only available with a paid subscription).
Other helpful data from this particular tool includes ‘just discovered links’ (links shared within the last hour), top pages on a particular domain and anchor text most commonly used on a site or page.
Keep in mind that domain and page authority will be relative; whether you choose to compete against a site should depend on the authority of your own site. For instance, if your site has a domain authority of 30, you’ll likely want to compete with sites with an authority of less than 30, or at least close to 30.
4. Compare your site and pages with those of your competitors’
Now that you have a good idea of who your competitors are and how difficult it will be to compete against them, it’s time to perform a detailed analysis of how your site compares to theirs. You’ll likely want to run this analysis at both the page and site-wide level.
My favorite tool for getting a detailed comparison of up to four sites is QuickSprout. Another is Internet Marketing Ninja’s Side-by-Side Comparison Tool, which will give you data like page size, number of links, and words on a page, keyword density, meta data and linking structure of the page.
As social media becomes increasingly important for SEO (if not directly, definitely indirectly), it’s also important to compare how you fare against your competitors in this regard. Klout is a great tool for giving you a broad overview of how influential a particular individual or Twitter TWTR -0.35% user is. Analyzing more than 12 billion signals every day, Klout can provide a good general idea of how difficult it will be to compete with someone on social media.
Alexa is another great tool for comparing influence at the site-wide level. Plugging in your own URL as well as your competitors’ will give you data like estimated bounce rate, daily page views and demographics. Overall traffic rank is perhaps the most important piece of information at this point; comparing global rank will give you a good idea of how you stack up in terms of traffic levels.
SEO Book’s Rank Checker add-on for Firebox is another free tool you can use to gauge how your rankings compare to those of your competitors. What I love about this tool is that you can plug in URLs from multiple sites to see which keywords they’re ranking for, as well as their position in Google, Yahoo YHOO -0.39% and other search engines. You can also download the results to track changes over time.
firefox-rank-checkerPutting it all together
At this point, you should have a good idea of who you’re going up against, and how all parties rank in the search engines. You should also have an understanding of which competitors and keywords are worth targeting, and which are – simply put – out of your league. Finally, you should understand why your competitors are outranking you, and what steps you need to take in order to compete.
Keep in mind that pursuing long-tail keywords is increasingly becoming the way forward for businesses; so don’t neglect to investigate a wide variety of long-tail and natural language search terms. For more on this, see my article, How to Identify Long-Tail Keywords for Your SEO Campaign.
via Forbes | Contributor