Semalt Describes SEO Analysis Of The Competition In Practice
The dream of every online business promoter is to be ahead of his / her competitors in order to get more traffic in the market sector in which he / she operates. But there is one thing that you have to keep in mind: you can never outrank a competitor without knowing his / her plan of action and how he / she operates. That's why the SEO analysis of the competition should be the foundation of all SEO activities.
In today's guide, we will explain in detail how to successfully perform a competitive SEO analysis in practice. In addition, you will discover the appropriate tools to perform such an analysis.
Why should you do a thorough competitive analysis first?
There are several reasons why every SEO project should start with a thorough competitive analysis:
- Saving time. If you're starting a new project and you know it's fairly competitive, you also know that your competitors have long since done their homework and analyzed the keywords. This knowledge gives you a solid foundation to test keywords (for example in paid campaigns, before moving on to SEO) immediately after your website is launched.
- Developing your website. Have you made a blog store in a directory when all competitors have it on a subdomain? Let's see if this is a good idea. And while the correct answer in this example is "it depends", the preliminary analysis of the solutions used by the competition opens our eyes to many problems we might have missed while working on the site. However, analyzing your existing competition allows you to add additional sources of data to process for the benefit of your business.
- A perfect complement to the classic competitive analysis according to the popular SWOT model. The Internet is a wealth of knowledge and is currently the most powerful source of data. By analyzing the competition in the search engine, you can learn a lot about what is going on, for example in the category you are considering positioning.
Below, in the following points, we present a typical process of analyzing the competition for the purposes of an SEO project. For simplicity, let's assume that the page we want to position has a neutral link profile (a mix of good quality and questionable quality links) and a Google search history. This takes the burden of starting from scratch in the context of keyword planning for positioning.
So let's start with the first point!
Step 1. Selecting competitors for analysis
This is one of the most important steps in the competitive analysis process. This point determines how much effort the rest of the work will take you. It is also a key moment because based on this, we usually decide how much money we will have to spend on the link acquisition process and how long it will take to track the competition.
By default, the key is to talk to the client who has a slightly different view of their industry than you do. They look through the prism of the business competitors, often knowing their statistics or business efficiency and market share.
However, this is a completely different type of competition than search results. Blogs or content websites often rank high on popular e-commerce queries, which broadens the spectrum of analysis considerably.
It's also a trick on which to break down keywords by intent (the top three are navigation, information, and transaction). This allows us to create content that will help us achieve other business objectives through the mechanism of micro and macro conversions.
In order not to make a mistake, we must again involve the customer in the process. The exercise is simple and has two questions:
1. Ask the client to list all the business competitors he / she knows
We ask the clients to list all the business competitors they know - both in your country and abroad. We do not limit ourselves because of the size, popularity, and age of the market. Everyone is supposed to be on this list. This way, we get a relatively accurate list that we need to include in a more in-depth analysis.
Important: The purpose of indicating foreign sites is to make it easier for us to get independent information about keywords that make sense when translated into the country's market (after proper translation).
2. Ask the client to create a list of keywords that he / she associates
We ask the clients to create a list of keywords that they associate with or that seem to make sense when promoting their company's products / services on the Internet. The list of keywords presented is rarely good (ready for later positioning), but it does provide a better understanding of the client's assumptions and is a good introduction to a more in-depth, independent analysis.
Step 2. We work with keywords
Keywords are the basis for further analysis. Well-chosen and adapted to the offer, they provide valuable traffic that we can turn into conversions. Working with them is based on a few questions that I ask you to pay close attention to.
Let's detail each of these questions!
1. Check the potential of the keywords indicated by the client
We take the list of phrases indicated by the client and check if they have potential. For example: the client provided me with 10 search terms, of which I chose 5 reasonable ones (general enough and searchable) in my opinion to start my analysis of the keyword database in a keyword planner tool such as the Dedicated SEO Dashboard.
I immediately choose the "narrow" match option, which allows me to focus only on keywords that contain any of the words entered as a client's proposal.
Playing around with the language filters will also be a great addition. It's worth reviewing the suggestions that result from the list of adjectives, nouns, and verbs. When researching keywords, they can be useful in driving traffic to your website.
2. Use competitive knowledge to expand the list with your own research
Using the knowledge of the competition (business, indicated by the client) and expanding the list with my own research, I check the current organic visibility of each of the competitors' websites and download a list of keywords for which each of the domains is visible.
Important: If the page has a distinctive name and appears as a specific keyword among the list of keywords, it is wise to exclude these words at the export stage, using filters in the SEO Dedicated Dashboard. This way, we will avoid - at least partially - the tedious work of cleaning up the list of all keywords later.
3. Collect data on common keywords
If our domain already has some visibility, we collect data on common keywords (so we know where we can realistically compete) and on the differences between keywords. In this way, we can quickly identify what we need to focus on immediately (because we have such content) and what, for one reason or another, may remain out of our reach (lack of relevant content). In this case, the decision is made based on the availability of the offer. If, for example, someone has competitors with a much richer range of keywords, it is natural that they can compete for a much richer range of keywords. For us, this is a signal that he:
- has to invest in products to get more;
- shall try to outdo it with content, keeping in mind that it will be beneficial in terms of traffic, but won't necessarily translate into conversions.
4. Merge the keyword file into a whole and remove duplicates
In this step, we compare the prepared list of keywords with the content of the domain we want to position. This is a time-consuming but important task, especially when it comes to positioning online stores. What happens next?
- As far as possible, we match the keywords to the individual sub-pages in the domain.
- If the potential of the keywords indicates that we should create an additional sub-page, we clearly mark this on the keyword list. Sometimes it is enough to add a new ad, which will allow you to fight for caloric keywords in the search results at a lower cost.
- If a given keyword has a high traffic potential, but the content of the website is not as attractive as in the case of the competition, we can leave the keyword and test it on other channels (for example, paid search). Knowing whether a given keyword is important or not can be useful in the future when developing your page content.
- The above doesn't apply to content websites - because even if we don't have content for something, you can still play around with silos, which are the basis for creating SEO copies.
- It's a good idea to use the SEO Dashboard's keyword grouping tool, which will organize your keywords into semantically related silos. Also - randomly - I check the differences in search results for each keyword. If within the same silo, the search results differ significantly from each other, I consider narrowing the keywords with a dedicated sub-page.
5. Analyze the intent of the keywords and the characteristics of their results
Thanks to this, we know if a given keyword will be good at generating interest (solving a problem, showing how to do something) or if it is strictly focused on conversions. In new SEO projects, where it's all about generating conversions as quickly as possible, it's much better to focus on phrases that ensure sales rather than general phrases that generate organic visibility and traffic.
Step 3. We get a list of competitors for each word
This is a resource-intensive task (proxy), but essential for a complete picture of successful SEO activities. Using tools such as Scrapebox, we collect the top 10 search results for each query.
The list of competitors is divided into two groups:
- Domain rankings on one of the keyword groups.
- Exact URLs on specific positions.
Thanks to this division, we can better estimate whether the page's position on Google was influenced by specific links obtained to a specific sub-page or perhaps the general link profile (pointing to the whole domain, not to individual sections).
Step 4. We check which sections of the website offer the greatest organic visibility to the competition
This point largely depends on how the competition has handled the information architecture. Nevertheless, the mandatory point is to check which of the website directories generate the most organic traffic. You can do this in the Dedicated SEO Dashboard in the analysis part of the Google search program.
Of course, we export the list and sort it by the number of keywords in the TOP 10. This way, we have information about the subpages that are mainly involved in building the organic traffic of the competition.
Step 5. We analyze the backlinks to the website
In this case, we do two things:
- First, we download information from the Dedicated SEO Dashboard about the number of domains and links pointing to a specific address, in specific positions. Then we supplement the information with the number of links / domains pointing to the domain in general.
- If a competitor's domain ranks high with subpages and there are no links to them, we have a signal that working with on-site and internal links will be very important.
Note: Competitor link research should also include information directly from Google, such as combining the URL of the linked subpage with the exclusions and site order.
Important: Ultimately, the key factor is the number of domains / links pointing to the entire domain/subdomain, not the URLs to individual subpages.
What do we do with the knowledge of the links?
We determine the minimum and maximum links according to the list of competitors. As positioning is a work in progress, the continuous knowledge of the average Domain Rating of the links obtained by the competition and their average number is the first indicator to work on it.
We group links according to types - the classification provided by the SEO Dashboard will be useful in this regard.
We estimate the cost of obtaining similar links by checking their availability on popular content marketing platforms. If there are other links in the link profile, the cost calculation is more difficult, but not impossible. For example, if many of the links to a competitor's website are from foundations / events / conferences, the link cost may be the cost of the cheapest sponsorship package described on the website.
Competitor SEO analysis in practice: What to remember?
In the past, doing a good SEO analysis of your competitors was 50% successful. The budget was well planned, the metrics were readily available and all that was left to do was to buy and index your links.
Since then, the website positioning process has become much more comprehensive. In fact, it's worth repeating the competitive analysis every quarter - not so much to look for new websites trying to do what you're doing, but - to check how we're doing in the context of the competition selected at the beginning. This is especially important when changes in the rankings are significantly slower than in the past.
The quarterly competitive analysis also reminds you that SEO is a "long game." There are no shortcuts here, and the amount of data we have and can get can help us create a sustainable strategy. Its purpose is to place us firmly in our chosen category.
And while SEO can be unpredictable, constant and frequent analysis of competitor activity will allow you to create an effective SEO strategy that is resilient to the fluctuations of search results.
If you need to learn more about the subject of SEO and website promotion, we invite you to visit our Semalt blog.