How to Do an SEO Competitor Analysis Step by Step?

SEO competitor analysis is the best way to improve performance by analyzing competitors' SEO strategies. A guide for SEO competitor analysis is on our blog!

Irmak Tekin
Irmak Tekin - 15 March, 2022 - 7 min read
How to Do an SEO Competitor Analysis Step by Step?

What Is SEO Competitor Analysis?

SEO competitor analysis, in other words, SEO competitive analysis, is a process in which you investigate the keywords, content, links, user experience, and more of your competitors in order to improve your SEO strategies. SEO competitor analysis allows you to enhance organic traffic and the ranking of your website by surpassing your competitors.

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Performing an SEO competitor analysis can help you understand your strengths and weaknesses inferred from the competitors. Instead of relying on guesswork for your SEO strategy, you can create a real plan by knowing your competitors.

So, SEO competitor analysis is a strategy that gives you an idea about how to improve the performance of your website by analyzing and comparing the bests and worsts of your competitors. 

Why Is Competitor Analysis Important for SEO?

Before diving into the details of competitive analysis, let's make it clear why it is critical for your business. 

Performing an SEO competitor analysis is important because it lets you: 

  1. Understand your industry better: Numerous different strategies are going on by your competitors. Figuring out which strategies work and which do not can be valuable to specify the SEO strategies you should focus on by outperforming your competitors.

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  1. Identify strengths and weaknesses of your competitors:  Knowing the strengths and weaknesses of your competitors help you to identify what you are doing well and worst. It can help you pinpoint the gaps between your website and your competitors' websites. So that you can work on new strategies to fill the gaps and improve the deficiencies.
  2.  Reprioritize your SEO strategy:  Once you identify and realize the positive effects of competitors' SEO strategies, you can prioritize your new tactics and existing SEO strategies according to them.

How to Conduct SEO Competitor Analysis?

Step 1-) Identify Organic Search Competitors

The first step of performing a competitive analysis is determining your actual competitors because you cannot make any comparison and work on a new strategy for your business without knowing the competitors. You may think that you already know your biggest rivals in the industry, but they do not have to be the same as your SEO competitors. Depending on the industry and the scope of your business, SEO competitors can be different from your real-world competitors.

For example, a vintage store located in the same neighborhood as your store can be an important rival for you in the real world, yet if the same vintage store does not rank for one of your target keywords like red vintage dresses, then that store would not be your organic search competitor. In this case, you would be competing online with other stores that rank for red vintage dresses on the first page of SERP. 

Websites Ranked on the First Page of SERP Illustration

Accordingly, your organic search competitors are the ones who rank on the first page of SERP for your target keywords, and they may differ from your real-world competitor. Also, please keep in mind that if you work in more than one distinct category, you may probably have different lists of competitors for each service you provide. 

But, the question here is how will you find your search engine competitors? There are two different ways of identifying your search engine competitors; using Google or getting help from SEO Tools.   

Firstly, you should decide on your top keywords for each service you offer. Then, search the keywords on Google and analyze the top sites on the first page of SERP to determine your actual competitors. By repeating this process for all the keywords, you can create your competitors' list from the top pages of particular categories. 

SEO Tools Example

The biggest problem of this process is working manually. If you have dozens of unique services, unfortunately, the process will take so much time. Therefore, you can always consider getting help from SEO tools such as; Ahrefs, Ubersuggest, Semrush, etc. However, even if you decide to use a SEO tool, we recommend you to always keep an eye on SERP to analyze better in a concrete way (e.g., if the most popular content form is blog posts for your target keyword, you can not know it without controlling SERP).  

Step 2-) Conduct Competitor Page Analysis

Once you decide your competitors according to the scope of your business, the next step to do is perform page analysis to take the competitive advantage. While examining the pages, you should try to understand their performance by looking at which pages of your competitors get the most traffic, rank top, and how. Understanding competitors' performance on a high level will give you an idea about the current SEO performance of your website compared to your rivals. And the easiest way to monitor performance is controlling SEO metrics by using SEO tools which can be free or paid (e.g., Semrush, Moz, Ahrefs).

People Performing Page Analysis Illustration

So, the metrics that you should monitor are as follows;

  • Domain authority and rating
  • Alexa rank
  • Organic traffic volumes
  • Page impressions
  • Ranking position
  • Ranking keywords
  • Referring domains 

According to the metrics above, you can investigate the weaknesses and strengths of your competitors that you can turn to your advantage. However, please note that the higher the competitors' metrics than yours, it will be harder to dominate them.

Step 3-) Perform Content Gap Analysis

After analyzing the pros and cons of competitors, the next step is performing content gap analysis (also called keyword gap analysis). Content gap analysis is a method that helps you to find the high-search volume and business-relevant keywords that you do not rank, but your competitors rank at the top. Content gap analysis gives you a chance to gain a competitive advantage by ranking for new keywords and threatening the SEO performance of competitors. Therefore, it is a critical part of the SEO competitor analysis.

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Doing the content gap analysis manually can be difficult because your competitors probably rank for hundreds of keywords on SERP. Therefore, using an SEO tool can honestly be helpful to save your time and not miss any opportunity. You may consider tools like Ahrefs Content Gap tool to perform the analysis and find new opportunities. 

While performing SEO content gap analysis, you can ask yourself the following questions below;

  • Which keywords do my competitors rank?
  • Why do they rank for those keywords which you do not? 
  • What do they do differently and extra from you? 
  • How do they drive organic traffic to their websites instead of yours? 
  • What can you do next to improve the performance of your pages and outrank your competitors?

When you complete your content gap analysis, you can optimize your pages according to the new and existing keywords to increase your traffic and ranking.

Step 4-) Analyze On-Page SEO and Content

The next step you must follow for the competitor analysis is studying the on-page SEO strategies of your competitors. Analyzing competitors' on-site SEO strategies and performance will help you determine what you can do better and differentiate to improve your performance.

On-Page SEO and Content Analysis Illustration

You should check and try to understand the following parts below;

  • Page title
  • Meta description
  • Headings
  • Content (check content and media types, topics, length, style, keywords, and publish and update dates)
  • Internal linking, breadcrumbs (pay special attention to schema markup and featured snippets for advanced ranking opportunities) 
  • URL structure

So, performing on-site SEO analysis and making comparisons with your rivals can help you recognize issues related to your pages which you can optimize and work on to rank better.

The next step to do is research the backlinks of your competitors. As link building is a significant ranking factor for search engines, it is one of the critical SEO strategies. If your competitors put so much effort into link building and have high-quality backlink profiles then, you should work on your backlink strategies. Otherwise, it will definitely be more challenging to compete against them to improve your SEO performance. 

Backlink and Link Building Illustration

You should look at the following features below while working on backlinks of your competitors;

  • Quality over quantity (prefer high-quality backlinks from reliable sources) 
  • Link-type (focus on dofollow links but do not ignore nofollow links which are great sources to increase traffic, brand awareness, and site performance)

After finishing backlink analysis, you can work on building your backlink strategy according to the sites where your competitors get their backlinks.

Step 6-) Focus Web Design and User Experience (UI/UX)

The final step of the SEO competitor analysis is making better the design and user experience of your pages compared to competitors. As it is known that Google has attached importance to user experience with improved page speed, better mobile experience, or rich search results over the past few years. Therefore, if your site is not performing better than your competitors and not working in accordance with the Google algorithm, you should clearly work on user experience. 

User Experience Illustration

Controlling and focusing on the following topics below can help you to learn what your competitors are doing, what you are currently doing, and what you can do to achieve the best; 

  • Responsiveness (both mobile and desktop)
  • High page speed and performance (both mobile and desktop)
  • Well organized and understandable site structure (especially check site navigation)
  • Meeting with user intent
  • Providing basic but smartly designed pages

Thus, if you realize problematic issues after your analysis, this is an excellent chance to get the competitive advantage on your side on SERP. 

Final Words

Finally, SEO competitor analysis is an ongoing process that you should redo every month that depends on the industry and scope of your business to survive in the market and be competitive. 

And do not forget that even the basic improvements can matter when it comes to SEO. 

If you have more questions about the competitor analysis or need any help related to SEO, do not hesitate to contact our team!