Competitive Analysis is a strategy used to identify and research your competitors and the techniques they are employing in their products, marketing, and sales.
Conducting a Competitive Analysis is important in order to keep an eye on your competitors and compare strategies being used and how you might evaluate and change your brand techniques to get an edge up on the competition.
This can also be a good first step before you start link prospecting. You can try to capture the best links that all of your competitors also have.
Why Conduct Competitive Analysis?
Competitive analysis is an important step to start employing as it has many benefits such as-
1. Finding your place in the market
2. Identifying your best strategy in moving forward
3. Identifying gaps in your campaign and finding areas you can improve on
4. Uncover market trends
It is important to note that a competitive analysis is not done to copy every move of your competitors or to obsess over each strategy they use. All companies are not the same, and so every comparison is not done on an even playing field. This is just useful information to have a general overview of where you stand and how to improve your position in the rankings.
If you are working on a campaign that is smaller and does not have a lot of competition, you can skip a competitive analysis.
Sending an analysis report to your client works as a “perceived value” deliverable and shows clients that you are putting in the work.
The Competitive Analysis Process
The Competitive Analysis Process involves three key steps
1. Running the Competitive Analysis
2. Analyzing the data
3. Reporting the next steps
1. Running The Competitive Analysis
Before analyzing and finding solutions for the data, we first need to identify competitors and collect information on them. This is why we first run a competitive analysis. This stage has three sub-steps in it. They are:
Finding The Right Competitors
In order to make a competitive analysis that is useful to your business, you will first need to select the appropriate companies. You will need to be realistic, compare your business primarily to ones on a similar level to yours.
For example,- If you are running a startup and are spending time comparing your business with a large corporation, the information you discover will not be insightful and will not help you grow.
The stats of the larger corporation may serve well as future goals, but for your current standing, it will be more helpful looking at businesses that are your direct competitors at the moment.
You do not need to analyze every business in your category as that will only be a waste of time and money. Identify your main threats and conduct a deep analysis on them instead.
To identify your threats, you will first need to know your brand well. If you are working with clients, ask them about their brand in detail. Identify who your target audience is, what your core product or service is, and what services you are offering as a solution to your client’s problem.
Ask customers and prospective buyers who they see as your competition. Pretend like you are a prospective customer looking for the same product or service and note which companies come up.
You can use websites like SEMRush and Ahrefs that display the keyword overlap your business has with others online. They also plot these results against how much traffic the website is getting.
(Source : https://www.semrush.com/)
It is important to know beforehand what part of the business you are looking to analyze and only focus on those results.
For example, if you are a company providing agency services, you need to make sure you are only looking at other sites in the same sector and ignore others like software websites. If your business or your client’s business has many services, you may want to run an analysis separately for each.
(Source : https://ahrefs.com/)
You can also use a keyword search to identify competitors. Search keywords for your own business or ask clients what they think their main keywords are. You then run the keywords through sites like SEMRush and Ahrefs, which will show you companies and their rankings in the search.
By running all your important keywords, you will be able to identify your competitors. Make sure you go through each website that comes up to make sure that they offer the same services as you.
Populate the audit template
After finding your competitors to analyze, you will want to open your audit template and start filling in the information you find into the appropriate tables. The tables are based on the type of company, the item, and the tool used to locate the item.
Examples of the information you will need to fill in include the website URL, age of the company, business name, number of employees, etc. You will also need to find information on the work environment of the company, its ethics, and its mission.
You can find most of the information manually as it is normally listed on the website and their about page. There are also some plugin applications that you can use to find out more. For example, SEOQuake will allow you to find the age of the company in years.
(Source : Google Images)
After adding in the general information on the website, you then need to look at the posts on the website to determine their consistency and quality. The amount a site is updated and the quality and engagement on their posts will give insight into these subjects.
To get a feel of their marketing strategy, you can also follow their social media, sign up for their newsletters, and read their blog posts.
Customer service provisions and reviews can give insight into how their products and services are doing.
You can also gauge the strengths and weaknesses of an organization by looking at reviews left by its employees on websites like Glassdoor.
Make sure to only fill in the columns that are relevant to the type of business you are analyzing. For example, if they are a lead generation company, you will want to only fill in the columns related to lead generation and not related to e-commerce or local business.
The template is pretty self-explanatory and also provides the methods, links, and screenshots needed to find all the information.
Using a virtual assistant or outsourcing your audit
We usually get the audit done offshore and then analyze the data in the house as the task can be tedious and time-consuming. You can also make use of a virtual assistant to get the audit done for you. If you plan on doing it yourself, the template given above will work perfectly.
2. Analyzing The Data
Once you have conducted your search and found out the information on your competitors, then you can begin analyzing the data. This involves three sub-steps-
Reviewing your audit template
You will now need to find insights into your competition by looking at your template.
If you have gotten your report done by a virtual assistant or by someone else, first identify if there are any gaps in the information and attempt to fill them out.
Highlight areas of interest
You can then go through the information line by line and compare your business to your competitors. In this stage, you can highlight and point out any information you may think is important or worth discussing with your client.
Do you have the same target customers? Do you both have the same business objective? Are their prices in the same range as yours? Overall, does the company seem to be doing well in reaching their goals? These are some questions you can keep in mind when analyzing your competitor.
You can also go in-depth and read reviews from customers to gauge the success of the company and its products.
For example, if you notice that your competitors have a significantly larger number of employees compared to you or your client, it usually indicates that you have a lower number of resources available. As a whole, the amount of resources available to a company does affect its organic traffic and the amount of money it can put into campaigns. Highlighting this point and discussing it will help give you or your client a better understanding of what you are up against when planning a strategy.
Look out for areas where you see a significant difference between your business and your competitors.
For example, your e-commerce site may generate more leads, but if your competitors have significantly lower pricing, it may explain why they are doing better than you. You will have to contemplate adjusting your prices to better suit the competition or offer better perks than your competitor like better quality, shipping, customer service, etc.
Other important areas to compare are search engine traffic, ad traffic cost, domain authority, and domain referrals. Also, make notes and highlight the areas that you want to improve on or areas your client has specified so that all of the disparities noted can be discussed before moving forward with a campaign.
Flush out some thoughts
Start noting down your thoughts and key points to focus on in an insight section. Here you can categorize your thoughts on the analysis and summarize all the important information in one place that is easy to find.
Conduct a deeper analysis or “crawl” search
Crawling is a discovery method where search engines deploy a team of robots that are also called spiders or crawlers. They are to seek out new content.
You do not have to conduct a full crawl on every competitor. It can take up time and resources. Only conduct a deeper analysis of competitors that you feel need it. You can use websites like DeepCrawl or SiteBulb.
(Source : https://www.deepcrawl.com/)
Remember that you are not conducting a deep search to view every technical component of these sites. You are attempting to understand how they have an advantage over yours.
You can note the number of pages they have, their page speed, the structure of their website, and anything else that might be of interest to you or your client.
After understanding the structure of the competitor website and how it is set up, you will understand how your site is different. You can then make an effort to incorporate some of the strategies that may be working for them.
If you are looking at a competitor that offers many services that might not be relevant to you or your client, you can look at the individual folders for information on that specific domain. After finding the folder you want, you can then look at each page linked to that project and review the analytics on each and compare them to yours.
Competitor keyword analysis
A competitor keyword analysis is the process of evaluating how the top rankings competitors fare when it comes to their use of keywords.
Doing this analysis you will understand which keywords work and do not work for your industry. You can find gaps and weaknesses in your competitors’ work and try to get an advantage on them, or look at what they’re doing right and use the same strategies. It will also allow you to prioritize SEO tasks to get started on.
You can then use a site like SEMRush or Ahrefs to conduct a Content gap analysis. This analysis shows you the keywords they are using that you or your client are not. These keywords are giving them a higher ranking.
You will have to input your competitors’ domains as well as yours or your clients. Then look at which of them come in the first ten rankings to identify gaps as well as opportunities to improve your place.
After identifying the keywords that will be needed by your business or client, you can send them over to your content and social media teams to let them start, including these in the new content.
Deeper backlinks analysis
Since search engines look at the number of links as a higher authority, you will want to do a backlinks analysis on your competitor sites. A backlink analysis shows you all of the websites that link to your competition, the way it is linked, and to what pages.
You can use SEMRush and Ahrefs to do backlink analysis.
(Source : Google Images)
First, look at the total amount of backlinks. A very high number of backlinks shows us that the website is quite competitive. The total number can be deceptive, though, as some websites can spam links by tactics such as sitewide links, article directories, blog comments, etc.
You then want to look at the number of unique links, which is a better indicator of link quality and of the hierarchy of your competition.
You should seek to keep around an even ratio between your external and unique backlinks, although your external backlinks will usually be higher.
You can then go through the top links of a company and check out the first few links to find out their content and how you might also employ the same techniques for your website. For example, if you find your competitors linked on a personal blog post, you can reach out to the owner of the blog and ask to be featured on it as well.
By reading up on these links, you will be able to notice whether they are links that have been paid for or if they are natural and use this information or provide it to your client.
3. Reporting The Next Steps
After analyzing your data and making your notes, you will want to compile all of your data in a report and have a plan outlining the next steps for you to follow or to send to your client.
Glean insights for your project plan
Start with providing your client with a summary of the most important information you have found while conducting the analysis.
Then, offer a conclusion or statement saying clearly why you think the competitor is ranking higher, has more visibility and reach, or whatever specific factor you were looking to analyze.
You can then start explaining your main points in detail. Use graphs and other visual representations if you can to make your insights easier to understand.
Explain your most important insights first. Explain the steps you took to arrive at your findings and what you found.
Make sure that you show the difference and disparity between your client and the competitor to let them know how much work they should expect, and the time it will take.
For example, if you are explaining your link analysis, you can show the best links the competitor has and why they are the best. You can provide explanations about how they might have gotten them. You will also need to include a summary of the data you found on the links like the total number of links, unique links, most linked pages, etc. You can also use charts or create a fusion table to allow yourself and your clients to visualize the information and see where they stand.
After you are done providing all of your information, add a conclusion at the end and the steps to take next.
Send report to appropriate parties
Send out this report to your client, higher-ups, or other concerned parties so they can see that you are putting in the time and work. This will help you and your client to understand their competitors and where they are lacking. It will also clearly show the next steps you or your client need to take.A competitive analysis report is not something you should spend all your time on but is a beneficial step to take so that you can chart a clear course forward.
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Competition Analysis for Dummies
Competition analysis forms an integral and important part of SEO. You need to look for your competitors’ weaknesses and strengths as much as your own, to be able to outrank them in the SERPs.
However, before we delve deeper into how to go about performing competitor analysis, you need to understand why the process is of paramount importance.
It helps us understand the potential of our keywords and topics based on the authority of other top ranking pages.
It also provides us with an insight into the gaps, if any, in these top ranking pages so that we can make use of that.
It helps us understand how we could optimise and enhance our website for it to make it to the top rank with our target keyword.
You can make use of this information to create content for your website that has better chances of ranking. With such superior quality of content and backlinks, Google will start ranking you in its search results for many other long-tail keywords even if you do not target them directly.
So now that we know why competitor analysis is essential, we shall now see how Ahrefs could be used to go about the process.
Check for Unbeatable Rankings:
You need to start the analysis by checking if the top ranking pages are government pages or those of big shot organisations. These pages are extremely difficult to outrank because they are most relevant pages for that specific search keyword. For instance, keywords like airforce and military have tremendous competition not just from the government pages, but also from several others. Therefore, maybe it is advisable to avoid these niches and move on to something that has a better chance of ranking.
Check for the Page Authority and Backlinks:
Since we have used Ahrefs as the working SEO tool to perform all the research, it is important that you understand what URL Rating (UR) and Domain Rating (DR) means. This helps illustrate the importance of domain names, too.
URL Rating (UR) gives us an understanding of how strong a specific URL is based on the number and quality of links pointing to it.
Domain Rating (DR) gives us an understanding of how strong a website is based on the number and quality of links pointing to it.
However, the only thing that you need to be bothered about as of this moment is the UR of the page for your target keyword. Therefore, what you have to do is place the URL of the top ranking pages one by one in Ahrefs and check for its UR. The other metric that you have to look for is “Referring Domains”. Take for instance the keyword vegan diet. Once you type the keyword on Google, you will get a number of results. Start the analysis by placing the URL of the top ranking sites in Ahrefs. You could also look for the details of backlinks on the right hand side of the screen on Ahrefs.
As can be seen, the first site has a UR of 43 and a solid figure of 307 for “Referring Domains”. Also if you check, out of 307 Referring Domains, 78% is DoFollow. Therefore, this site looks a tad difficult to outrank.
This is the thus, the first step to pick up the hint of competition by subjecting every top ranking site to the same process of analysis.
Check for On-Page
Analysing the On-Page Optimisation factors is essential if you need to outrank other pages in your niche in the SERPs. If you find that a certain page has made it to the top ranks of the SERPs without having a proper On-Page Optimisation, you need to seize the opportunity and optimise your page without further ado.
Here are the things that you need to look for while optimising your page-
Page Title, Target URL, Meta Description-
Your page title, as well as its URL must have your target keywords for the niche. It is also important to remember that the meta description strongly influences the Click-Through-Rate (CTR) and thus, needs to be paid attention to.
H1 and H2 Headlines-
Your H1 headline, that is, the main headline must contain your target keywords. Besides the H1 headline, at least one of the many H2 headlines must also contain the target keywords as they make for strong on-page ranking factors.
Your H2 headlines should have LSI keywords, which are nothing but keywords related to your target keywords. You can look up for LSI keywords generating tools on Google. Most of them are free which makes the process of scouring for these keywords easier.
The introductory paragraph sets the tune of the rest of the content which is why it is always an effective ranking strategy to have your target keywords placed somewhere within the first paragraph.
It is important to check for the number of times your competitor has used the target keywords in their content. It is definitely a metric that can be taken advantage of and used in improving the content of your page.
Alt-Tags in Images-
While using images to support your content, make sure that you use Alt-Tags with them. Most of the pages do not use them while publishing content with images. You can use this to turn the tables to your favour and outrank your competitors.
Internal Links and High Authority External Links-
Using internal links that sits well with your content can dramatically improve your website’s ranking. Also, using high authority external links make for an important criteria that Google checks while ranking your page.
If your competitors have a bunch of guest posts, for example, it’s worth reaching out to those same sites and seeing if you can collect some of the better ones for yourself. Our guest post service can help you get even better guest posts than your competitors.
Tweak Your Content:
Well-written and crisp content is crucial for your page to obtain backlinks from high authority pages. Therefore, while framing the content for your page, look into the following aspects-
Length and Format of the Content-
Google always prefers a thoroughly researched and extensive content when it comes to ranking. A well-framed content, with segregated headlines and paragraphs, has value for its reader and thus, is an essential factor for ranking.
Grammar of the Content-
Your target audience will leave the page if your content has poor sentence structure and grammatical errors. However, that does not mean that you need to use esoteric words and phrases. Make sure that your content conforms to the rubrics of grammar and has a good structure, lest the bounce rate shall shoot up.
It is great if you could support your content with relevant pictures or videos. Analyse your competitors’ pages and find out how many images or videos they are using, so that your content can outnumber and thus, outrank them. Be mindful of the filesizes if you’re adding a lot of images, because speed can have an impact, especially on mobile pages.
Analyse every aspect of your competitor’ page to find out where it lacks. Once you find out these gaps, it will be easier for you to fill in and thus, move up the SERPs.