Want to rank higher in search results? Your rivals could actually be your secret weapon.
Most people turn to search engines to find information, products and services. This makes it extremely important for brands to rank well in search results.
HubSpot reports that 61 percent of inbound marketers said improving SEO and growing their brand’s organic presence is their No. 1 priority. They leave no stone unturned to outperform their competitors’ SEO efforts and outrank them in search results. And you should too.
Surprisingly, your competitors can be your greatest asset if you allow them to be. You can tap into their strategies through competitor analysis to see what’s working for them and what isn’t. These insights can help you reverse-engineer their success to beat them.
Let’s take a look at the step-by-step process to leverage SEO competitor analysis to improve your search result rankings.
Step 1: Research keywords.
Everything in SEO starts with keyword research. There’s no other way.
The first step is to identify keywords that you can realistically target. The key word here (pun intended) is “realistically.” For instance, if you own a jewelry store, you may want to rank for the seed keyword “jewelry.” Just search for the seed keyword in Google to find your top-ranking competitors. However, unless your brand has the potential to compete with heavyweights like Tiffany, the possibility of ranking for this keyword is next to none.
Therefore, you need to identify hypertargeted, long-tail keywords with high search volumes and low competition. These key phrases are more specific to a particular niche or location.
You can use Moz’s Keyword Explorer to discover high-value keywords and prioritize them by search volume and difficulty score. This tool shows you which domains are ranking for specific keywords and helps you build lists of high-quality keywords that you should target.
CRM software can give you great insights on your content, topics, questions and conversions. This helps you get on the same page as your customers and choose your keywords accordingly.
Step 2: Identify your top competitors.
Once you have identified your keywords, search for them on Google and find out which sites rank in the top 10. Repeat the process for all of your major keywords. You might find that a few particular sites come up in almost all your searches. These are the sites you’ll need to add to your list of competitors.
Keep in mind that your competitors are not just other businesses that offer the same type of products or services you provide. They can be any website that competes with you for your target keywords. For instance, if one of your target keywords is “jewelry stores in Tampa, Florida,” these top-ranking sites would be some of your competitors.
Step 3: Find keywords your competitors use.
The next step is to find out what keywords your competitors are targeting. SEMrush is one of the tools I use to find them. Here’s how to do it: Under Competitive Research, click on Domain Overview and type in your competitor’s URL. Then head over to the Organic Research tab and click on Positions. You’ll be able to see the list of keywords your competitor is ranking for.
Step 4: Analyze their sites.
The next step is to find the weaknesses and strengths of your competitors. Here are a few key factors to look out for.
This gives you an idea of how aggressive you have to be with keyword placement. You can use the keyword density analyzer in SEMrush to find the density of your competitors’ keywords. All you need to do is enter the URL of the webpage you want to assess.
Check out the density for your target keyword. For instance, if your target keyword is “watches giftware,” you can find that your competitor has used it three times on that particular page.
Repeat this process for all the competitors on your list. Find the average keyword density; this will give you an idea of the number of times to use a particular keyword on a page.
The next step would be to analyze the metadata your competitors use. Here are a few factors to look out for: Are they using LSI keywords? Have they used meta descriptions on their pages and alt text on their images? If any of these are lacking, then you stand a chance to outrank them by completing all of this information on your webpages.
Find out the number and names of sites that link back to your competitors. The Ahrefs tool can help you find this information. It also ranks the backlinks from most to least authoritative. This gives you an idea of the number of high-quality links you need to target to outrank your competitor.
Should you mirror or not?
Mirroring is the process of replicating your competitor’s exact link profile. The idea behind this process is that, by acquiring links similar to your competitor, you should be able to get similar rankings as them.
However, before you try mirroring, consider that not all links are the same. If your competitors have managed to secure their place in the SERPs by using black or gray hat SEO tactics, it’s better to avoid them. Don’t be tempted by short-term results. Instead, focus on building a long-term SEO strategy that works.
Look for quality links. If your competitor has backlinks from authority sites like Search Engine Watch or SEO Land, then you need similar backlinks. If they have backlinks from industry blogs, then you need to do the same.
Remember the best links are the ones that are hard to get. So, work on it, do your research, and concentrate on building high-quality links, even though it takes time.
Step 5: Analyze their content.
Now you have a clear idea of who your competitors are, what keywords they rank for, their backlink profiles, keyword density and meta information. The next thing you need to analyze is their content and social media marketing strategies.
High content quality is vital for Google to rank your site well. This includes the usefulness of the information, factual correctness, expertise of the creator and credibility of the information.
Evaluate the content quality according to Google’s EAT guidelines. This stands for “expertise, authority, trust.”
The required level of expertise varies by industry and topic. For instance, in niche topics like “your money, your life,” an expert voice is of utmost importance.
Here are a few other things to keep an eye out for while analyzing your competitors’ content:
- Their frequency of social media shares
- Engagement rate
- Number of active followers
- Number of active social media networks
- Blog post frequency
- Domain authority
- Lifetime body of work
Get ready to boost your rankings.
Spying on your competition can not only give you ideas and inspiration, but also save you a lot of time on planning your SEO strategy. Why reinvent the wheel? Start with what your competition is doing, and just do it better.
Now you have the tools and the strategy to analyze your competitors and beat their search rankings. Start analyzing right away!
Do you have any other tips on how to conduct competitor analysis? Let us know in the comments below.
Gaurav Sharma is the Co-founder of Attrock, a result driven Digital Marketing Agency. He’s a certified Google Analytics and Adwords specialist who regularly contributes to reputed publications like the Huffington Post, TechCrunch and many more. He leverages his experience and knowledge as a digital marketer to help influencers monetize their efforts and eCommerce and SaaS companies grow their revenues. When he isn’t inspiring his team of devoted individuals to achieve more, he can be found globe trotting, sampling all that the world has to offer