In business, SEO consultants need to keep their client’s allies close but their keyword competitors even closer through website ranking analysis.
An important task of SEO consultants is competitor analysis – keeping one eye on their client’s rankings and another on their keyword rivals. Competitor analysis is key as part of an overall SEO package and should not be a simple copy and paste of your competitor’s efforts. Use these tips to discover whether there are opportunities to strengthen your on and off-page optimization and enhance your campaign.
How to carry out competitor analysis
Work out who your competitors are
Before you can analyze your rivals, you need to know exactly who they are. In the context of Search Engine Optimization, we call these ‘keyword competitors’ which may be different from the competitors you have in offline marketing campaigns. They may not even be in the same industry as you if a keyword(s) is quite generic or has another meaning. To identify competitors, you can use the following techniques:
- do a keyword search to find who is ranking for targeted keywords
- ask clients to put together a list of competitors
- survey of customers and clients
- research industry associations and networks
SEO consultant’s tip: For purchases that may not be a snap decision like technical merchandise, business-to-business products or commercial applications, focus on keyword competitors needed at every stage of the buying cycle from initial research to inquiring or purchasing.
Age of domain
Your competitor’s domain age is the date that a web page was first available for index, and it is a trust factor for search engines. Ideally, a website would have accumulated quality backlinks, more web pages and so on over that period of time (see below). With all other things equal, such as on and off-page optimization, a website with an older domain will most likely rank better than a site that has just launched.
SEO consultant’s tip: To check the age of a domain you can visit the Whois Database which will give you free information about the age of the website and who the registrant is.
Keyword analysis (on-page optimization)
Researching your SEO rival’s keyword strategy is an important part of competitor analysis. You want to examine how and what keywords are being optimized on their website in relation to the URLs, title tags, headings, meta descriptions, alt tags and copy as well as anchor text for links.
To do a complete keyword breakdown, you need to find out the following:
- what keywords they are targeting
- what keywords they think are a priority for their business
- how well they are ranking for those selected keywords
- what is the placement of the keywords within the body text and across the site
SEO consultant’s tip: Keyword analysis highlights gaps in your keyword coverage and identifies areas in which your website may not be as strong. Use this information to optimize your website for long tail keywords or niche keywords that you may not have thought of.
Content (on-page optimization)
Search engines appear to have a preference for websites that have a lot of pages, are constantly adding new pages to their website and are featuring fresh, original and interesting content for visitors. When researching your competitor’s sites, you want to find out how they use content across their site and how they are optimizing pages. An easy way to find out what content exists is to look at their site map.
SEO Consultants tip: Find out what content opportunities exist across your competitor’s websites and whether you can implement similar pages on your website. This may be a company blog, a news, and events page, a media release page, a local attractions page and so forth.
Number of backlinks (off-page optimization)
A website’s link profile is an important signal in influencing search engine rankings. When everything else is equal, a website with the largest number of quality, trustworthy, credible and relevant backlinks will be ranked highest. A competitor’s website that has been in existence for longer would have been more likely to have built up a strong link portfolio in that time.
You want to find out the following:
- what domains the links are coming from
- what is the number of unique domains
- what is the number of backlinks
- what percentage are images/no-follow
- what anchor text is being used in the links
- what pages of the site the websites are linking to
- what internal link-building strategies are in place
- what link-building activities they are doing such as blogging, commenting on forums, engaging in social media
SEO consultant’s tip: Check what websites are linking back to your competitor’s websites and, if there are quality sites, try to organize having a link pointing back to your website.
Google My Business Page
If you have a product or service and are targeting a particular region, such as a hotel property, then local search analysis may also be important. Typically, when you search for a product or service followed by a suburb or city or vice versa, local results will appear merged with organic search listings on Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs). You can look at how your competitors have optimized their Google My Business page to help improve your ranking:
- what categories they have used to describe their business
- what is the number of links and where they are linking to e.g. directory listings
- what is the number of citations
- what is the number of reviews and whether they are positive/negative
SEO consultant’s tip: Like websites, Google prefers Google My Business Pages that are updated regularly with fresh content. Look at your competitor’s sites and look at what content they are putting on their site and whether this can be replicated on your GMB. This may include images, videos, brochures, seasonal offers and so forth.
There is no room for complacency in SEO when you have a business operating in a very competitive and highly saturated market where rankings change daily. Contact one of our SEO consultants to find out more about how we can increase your search visibility and conversion rate through competitor analysis.