Find out how to unlock your website’s organic search potential by following our top tips on SEO competitor analysis.
SEO Competitor Analysis: The Key to Unlocking Your Organic Search Potential
Author: Deep Shah, Project Manager
Whether you’re working on a brand new website or looking to optimise an existing one, one of the most important ways to drive your SEO strategy is to perform competitor analysis and research.
In this article, I’ll show you how to carry out competitor analysis by reverse-engineering your top ranking competition’s SEO to identify new keyword opportunities, link building prospects, content gaps and much more.
What Is Competitor Analysis?
SEO competitor analysis is the process of analysing the online presence and performance of your competitors to gain insights into their SEO strategies and tactics.
By examining their search engine rankings, backlink profiles, content quality, keyword targeting, and other factors that impact search engine visibility, you can identify areas where you can improve your own SEO efforts and gain a competitive advantage in your industry.
Why Is Competitor Analysis Important?
Conducting a competitive analysis is important as it allows you to evaluate the search environment for keywords that you want to rank for. This assessment helps you to understand the level of difficulty you may face and effort that you may need to put in to outperform your competitors.
Ultimately, competitor analysis and research gives you an insight into what your website is missing out on; for example, you can find new content ideas, new keywords to target, and new link building prospects that may otherwise have been overlooked.
How to Identify Your Competitors
To identify your SEO rivals, you need to search for websites that rank well for your target keywords in organic search results on search engines such as Google.
You can start by entering the main keywords that you want to rank for into the search bar and reviewing the websites that appear at the top of the search results page.
You can also use a tool like Ahrefs’ by entering your domain into Site Explorer and clicking on the Organic competitors report.
The report shows you a table of competing domains based on a number of factors such as the percentage of keywords that you share with other domains.
In this case, the top-ranking competitors are:
Top Tips on Reverse-Engineering Your Competitors’ SEO To…
Now that you’ve identified your top-ranking competitors, let’s look at how you can reverse-engineer their SEO to utilise on your own website.
Identify Keywords You’re Missing Out On
Using Ahrefs’ Content gap tool, you can easily find out which keywords your competitors are ranking for, but you are not.
Paste your competitors’ domains into the tool (you can add up to 10) and click Show keywords.
Not all of these keywords will be relevant to your site, so I recommend changing the Intersections filter so that you’re seeing keywords where at least (in this case) three of the competing domains are ranking, but you aren’t.
If you’ve entered three competitors to begin with, then you can adapt the filter so that at least two of the domains are ranking for the term etc.
Increasing the number of intersections makes sure that you’re seeing the most relevant search terms that you should also consider targeting.
Important: remember to select the correct target location for your website.
Here’s your final list of keywords:
Identify the Content You Need to Publish
Your blog is a great place to target long-tail keywords that have an informational search intent. It also helps show Google and your audience that you’re a credible source of information and an expert within your industry.
If you’re unsure what kind of content you need to publish on your blog, take a look at the content your competitors are publishing.
You can either do this manually or use a tool like Ahrefs Site Explorer.
Enter your competitor’s blog (make sure to select “path” mode) into the tool and click on the Top pages report.
The tool tells you which of the blog posts from your competitor’s site is bringing in the most traffic – allowing you to focus on publishing content that you know is already successful.
Identity Your Competitors’ Most Popular Pages
Following on from the blog, it’s also useful to know which of your competitors’ pages (across the entire website) is bringing in the most traffic or ranking for the most keywords.
To find these pages, you follow the same steps as above, except this time, make sure to select the “subdomains” option.
This way, you’ll see the top pages for the entire website, not just the blog.
Identify Why You Aren’t Ranking for a Particular Keyword
There could be a number of reasons as to why your page isn’t ranking for a particular keyword. If you’re ever in doubt, search your keyword in Google and open up the top-ranking competing pages.
Manually compare your web page against theirs and identify the core differences. Ask yourself:
- Is their page title more engaging or better optimised for the target keyword?
- Is their H1 heading more engaging or better optimised for the target keyword?
- Is the meta description more engaging, does it compel users to click through to the page?
- Is the URL more user-friendly and descriptive?
- Does the competing page have a better heading structure?
- Has the competing page added other types of content (i.e. images or videos) to support the textual content?
- Is the competing page’s content easier to read?
- Has the competing page added content that is missing from my page, but would be useful to the searcher?
- Does the competing page have fewer ads?
- Does the competing page have links to other relevant pages on their website?
The above are just some of the factors that may answer the question as to why you’re being outranked by your competitors. Addressing them may just be the answer to you outranking them.
Identify Featured Snippet Opportunities
Google often provides instant answers at the top of the search results for many keywords – these are known as featured snippets.
Here’s an example:
Getting these coveted spots can lead to more clicks onto your website as they take up more real estate in the SERP.
Your competitors are likely ranking for a number of these featured snippets, so what’s stopping you from taking them for yourself?
To find them:
- Enter your competitor’s domain into Ahrefs Site Explorer
- Click on Organic search
- Then Organic keywords
- Click on the SERP features filter and select Featured snippets
- Click Where target ranks (so you only see the keywords where your competitor is ranking as a Featured snippet)
- Click Apply, then Show results
In this case, the website is ranking for 281 keywords as a featured snippet.
You can now go through these keywords and the competitor’s ranking page, and compare it against your own page to see where you’re missing out.
Identify Broken Pages on Their Sites
Every website will have pages that no longer exist and are broken – that includes your competitors (and you too).
Some of those broken pages will likely have backlinks pointing towards them – but what’s the use of those links if the page being linked to is no longer live?
You can find these pages via Site Explorer once more, except this time, you want to navigate to the Best by links report and add a filter for results with 404 not found.
Click on the referring domain number of each of the URLs to find which site is linking to the broken page.
If you don’t already have a similar page, you can create one and then reach out to these websites to ask if they can replace your competitor’s broken link with your live link.
Identify Link Building Prospects
Similar to finding new keywords to rank for, you can also use your competitors to identify new link building prospects.
Ahrefs’ Link Intersect tool lets you see which websites your competitors have backlinks from, but you do not.
Enter their domains into the tool and click Show link opportunities.
Sort by DR to find the domains that have the strongest ranking power and filter the intersections to narrow down the results as you did with the Content gap report earlier.
You now have a list of websites that your competitors have a backlink from, but you do not!
Identify Your Competitors’ Most Linked Content
Links are one of the most powerful ranking factors. So if your web pages aren’t bringing in links, then they’ll struggle to rank.
Looking at your competitors’ most linked pages can provide insight into what kind of content people are more likely to link to.
You can find these pages via the Best by links report in Ahrefs – this time, instead of filtering for 404 not found, filter by 200 OK.
The above shows the site’s most linked pages overall, but you can also do the same for the competitor’s blog to see which of their blog posts also have the most backlinks.
The Bottom Line
In this article, you’ve learnt how to find and leverage your top-ranking competitors’ SEO strategies to boost your own website’s organic search rankings.
These techniques will allow you to increase your keyword visibility for a range of important queries, grow your site’s domain authority by finding new link prospects and improve the overall user experience of your site by providing content that your audience wants to see.
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