How to find the strengths and weaknesses of your SEO competition
Do you know the SEO competition of your website and where the strengths and weaknesses are that you can improve? If not, an SEO competition analysis could help you! Here you will learn why such an analysis should be part of every SEO strategy and what you should pay attention to!
What is an SEO competition analysis?
An SEO competition analysis analyzes the strengths and weaknesses of your direct competitors and compares them with your own website. This allows you to develop a strategy for your SEO. You may already know competitive analysis from traditional marketing.
However, this article is not about Porter’s five forces model, but about analyzing your competition on Google. Here you should determine in advance the criteria that will be examined so that you can compare several websites with each other. Better rankings can be the result because you have uncovered organic potential that you were not aware of before.
What does an SEO competition analysis include?
There are many ways to analyze your SEO competition and each article will advise you something different. The result should be the knowledge of how your competition is positioned and how you can exploit this knowledge for your SEO strategy. In this article, I’ll cover the most common topics you could cover in your research:
- Visibility of the page: How well is the page visible in the search results?
- Keywords of the page: How does the competition rank for my keywords?
- Technical findability: Can Google find the pages easily?
- On-page optimizations: Have important elements already been optimized?
- Editorial content: Is there new, optimized content on a regular basis?
- Other aspects: Analysis of backlink profile or social media presence
Guide for SEO competition analysis
Know your most important focus keywords
In the early stages of your analysis, it is helpful to think about your most important keywords. This way you can better check later whether the keywords your competitors rank for could be dangerous for you or not. Besides, a specific keyword set tells more during regular monitoring than general keywords that SEO tools determine.
If you are not sure which keywords are important for your site, it is a good idea to do extensive keyword research in advance. This way, you have a suitable focus keyword for each of your pages, for which your URLs should rank.
The Google Search Console can also be helpful here, as it lists relevant keywords in the performance report that your visitors use to find your URLs. Alternatively, if you’re working in a big company, your sales department might have suitable keywords available.
Analyze the visibility on Google
With SEO tools like the SISTRIX Toolbox, Ahrefs or Searchmetrics you can analyze the organic visibility of websites on Google & Co. This allows you to compare the visibility (mobile/desktop) of different websites down to the top directory level. Note, however, that each of these tools uses a different database for the calculation.
No matter which tool you end up using, be sure to find out how present your competition is compared to you in Google’s organic search results. This way you can see very precisely which directories and URLs are responsible for most of the visibility.
This helps you to narrow down the circle of relevant URLs. In a later step you can take a closer look at these URLs, so note the biggest competitors in a document.
Analyze the top ranking keywords
Even if your website already ranks very well, it is possible that your competitors are using the unused potential for themselves. With a keyword analysis, you can find out with which keywords the competition is present in the top positions on the first page of Google.
Furthermore, you can use the same SEO tools to check which top keywords with a lot of potential have not been used so far. Note that there may be keywords that are not relevant for you, your products, or your target group. This is why a specific keyword set (as mentioned above) is so important, where you can analyze the rankings of both websites in more detail.
Below just an example for one of our competitors (a cool guy by the way 😉 ) – and with AHREFS – but be aware – you can use whatever tool you like to use!
Here it would be just about “what’s a google drive stack” which he targets as well and we cover similar topics – so when we need new ideas we also look at his blog to see what we can cover as well as he often targets the low hanging fruits which can generate a decent amount of traffic!
Using Ahrefs as an example, you can also perform a kind of keyword gap analysis. This means that the SEO tool shows you the top rankings of the competition where you do not (yet) rank. It is best to do this individually for all competitors, otherwise, you will not get enough useful results. Please try to export or save those data afterward.
In order to learn how to do this with Ahrefs, click here! In this article, I want to focus more on the way, how to do an SEO competition analysis than showing you how to use a tool – only FYI.
Once you have done this for all competitors, you can use Google Sheets or Excel to create a working document in which the unused keywords of your competitors are listed. You can then add the unused keywords with the current search volume from the Google Keyword Planner.
Analyze technical aspects
A website must be easily found and indexed by web crawlers. If this is not possible, the page may not be indexed and no rankings can be achieved. For this reason, you should technically analyze your own pages as well as the pages of your competitors. If the competition has a much worse technical setup, you can score here and offer the Googlebot easy ways to find and index your (better) content.
Also note that Google will focus more on the user experience (UX) in June 2021. This will be especially noticeable in the mobile version and the mobile loading speed (core web vitals) of your website.
You could also explore the following:
Navigation structure: Do you know how many clicks it takes to reach your most important content and products? You can check this, for example, with the click depth of tools like Screaming Frog SEO Spider. If your competitor’s content is significantly easier to find (e.g. with two clicks), this may give them an advantage.
Page accessibility: With tools like Screaming Frog SEO Spider you can check websites like a web crawler. Here you can quickly see what response codes the website is transmitting. This becomes important if your competition, for example, can show significantly fewer 404 errors. You should also check NOINDEX attributes.
Page speed: As mentioned above, page speed also plays a role in the evaluation of a website. For example, if your online store loads significantly slower than your competitors’ stores, there is a higher chance that your users (especially mobile) will bounce from the page faster. In June 2021, this topic will also become more important.
Use of structured data: Do you know those yellow stars on Google or the display of price and stock on products? There’s structured data behind them. If your competitors use the many different schemas in this field, users will already get more information on the search results pages and can take action.
Mobile version of the page: If your website does not yet have a mobile version, you need to take action. As part of the Page Experience Signals, a new ranking factor will be created in 2021 that weights the mobile version of a page significantly more than it might have been before. Also, since March 2021, the mobile version of the page is being considered first.
Analyze on-page optimizations
You already read above that a specific keyword set would be quite interesting when looking at the competition. Now I would like to show you what you could use this for. In on-page optimization, there are many factors that you can consider and optimize. If you know your most important keywords, you can place them in headlines, metadata, or on the page itself. This is the only way to ensure that your content ranks for these keywords.
Tools for doing this are Page Optimizer Pro, Surfer SEO, or Cora Light. But there are many more… be aware: Tools are good. But YOU HAVE TO DECIDE what you’re going to do in the end. Google has lots of algorithms that decide if something is ranked higher or not. Those tools are good, but don’t use them without thinking about what you’re actually doing! Test and see what results you’re getting with every single adjustment you do on YOU WEBSITE!
Here’s what you could explore as well:
Metadata: What do your competitors’ search results look like? Is the meta data (title, description) cut off or are important keywords mentioned? Do the descriptions encourage click-through? You can check this with a normal Google search with one of your focus keywords.
Headlines: After you have determined important URLs via visibility, you can look at the headline structure. Are important keywords mentioned in the H-headings (h1, h2, h3) and do they follow a certain hierarchy? You can check this best with the Screaming Frog SEO Spider. Here you can see everything in one view.
Internal linking: You should also look at how these most important pages of the competition are linked internally. In the best case, related pages should link to the respective page by keyword, so that both Google and the users benefit and stay longer on the page. You can also use the Screaming Frog for this purpose, for example.
Images: Images are often neglected when optimizing a page, but Google’s image search is the largest image database in the world. Take a look at the images of the most important competitor URLs in the source code and analyze whether they have keywords in the file name or in the ALT tags. And best also see if they fit the theme.
Open Graph: Have you ever shared a link on Twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook and wondered why there was no thumbnail or description displayed? With social media tags like Open Graph, you can actively control that. If you generate traffic via social channels or people share your blog articles, then this is very important.
Analyze editorial content
Organic keywords are generated from the content that can be found on your site. If you have less content, the chances of generating keywords are lower (but this does not mean that you should create a lot of new non-sense pages). You should take a look at your competitors and analyze how they deal with their content on the site.
Do you see regular publishing or updating of content? Look at whether the texts of the competition reflect the search intent or whether you can provide better content!
Here’s what you could check as well:
Duplicate Content: If you have the same content in different places on your page, this can confuse the Googlebot. In the worst case, the version that is less relevant to your target audience will be indexed or ranked better. So check with your competitors to see if the issue of duplicate content occurs there as well.
Category texts: It can happen that the categories rank better than the products themselves because they are generic rather than specific in terms of the keyword. If you have determined in your analysis that the categories rank well (e.g. keywords), then take a look at which category texts are available on the page and how they are optimized.
Product texts: You should also look at how the product pages of the competition are structured. Are only the item and the price mentioned? Are product descriptions simply taken over? Or is the user provided with added value in the form of further helpful texts? You could provide frequent questions & use cases about the product.
Homepage text: Do users immediately know what your site is about? Often, users don’t even know yet and have to inform themselves accordingly. With a clear and informative landing page text, you can address this and answer questions users have asked themselves: Who are you? What do you do? Why should users buy products/services from you?
FAQ content: There are always questions about your products or services. You could look at your competitors to see if they have introduced FAQ sections or if product pages have been supplemented with e.g. frequent questions and answers. If they don’t do this, you have an advantage because you provide users with answers they might need.
Online encyclopedia: Do you have technical products that require explanation? Here an online encyclopedia would be suitable. Check whether the competition has something on the site in this respect. If they don’t, you have an advantage here too, because you can create dedicated pages dealing with a specific term. So a glossary would make sense.
Guides: Often your target audience is not yet mentally ready to buy your products. Rather, they would like to inform themselves about a topic first. For this reason, it makes sense to have a guide section on the page that picks up users in an informative phase and converts them where necessary. Check the competition in this regard.
What you could do is to put an extra page into your navigation which just asks: “First time here?”. Users which are new WILL click! … you can thank me later!
My final thoughts
In short, an SEO competitive analysis is quite simple but NOT EASY. Know the weaknesses of your competition!
Of course, the best SEO competition analyses are of no use if you do not take any action for your personal SEO goals (examples: more traffic, leads or sales).
A competitive analysis is ultimately only one part of many gears that make up an entire SEO strategy.
The lessons learned here should therefore contribute to your goals and ensure that you achieve better rankings in the long term. Thus, it is important that you know for each of these points what your competitors do better or worse than you.
In addition, it is important to perform this type of analysis regularly. The competition does not sleep, of course, and Google updates happen regularly – which could be good for you if you stay hungry. If this is too much effort for you, you can also automate individual points wonderfully, for example with your own Google Data Studio dashboards.
So be aware that SEO competition analysis should be a regular part of your SEO work.
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All the best,