Competition research in SEO is a process of discovering your most relevant competitors and analyzing their strengths and weaknesses. This knowledge can give you a competitive edge and will help you decide whether entering the competition is worth it.
Based on the analysis of your competitors’ strategies, you can improve your own ones.
For example, you may want to borrow the best methods they implement, reconsider your topics, writing style, link building practices.
However, you can also learn about their drawbacks and build upon them. If your competitors aren’t flawless, your chances to outrank them become real.
In this article, we’ll talk about how to discover online competitors, see whether you can outrank them, and how you actually do it.
Find your competitors
Your most important competitors aren’t necessarily those brands with which you compete for the market share trying to outsell them. To win better online visibility for your website, you will have to deal with those websites that rank at the top of the SERP for the same keywords you target.
So, instead of keeping up with the most popular brands, search for your closest competitors by your target keywords. Google your main product keywords and see what websites rank on the first page.
And to make your competition research more informative, we suggest using automated competitor analysis, for example, Rank Tracker. It allows you to find your domain competitors and your topic competitors in a matter of seconds.
Go to Competitor Research > Domain Competitors, enter your website URL, and begin your search for competitors that rank in Google for your target keywords.
Pay attention to the percentage of intersecting keywords, showing those competitors with which you have the bigger number of shared keywords. This way, you can find the websites you have a lot in common with and who probably target the same audience.
Then, take a look at the number of their unique keywords. If there are plenty, you should consider borrowing some for your website as well. View the competitor’s unique keywords by clicking the loupe icon and choose the most relevant ones.
See whether these websites rank higher than you, and how much organic traffic they receive. This can help you draw up a list of the most effective keywords to consider.
If you opt for Topic Competitors in the same module, you need to enter your topic keywords to find your niche competitors.
The percentage of intersecting keywords will show your closest topic competitors. Correlate these results with their InLink Rank, the number of websites linking to your competitors’ pages, and the Organic Traffic they get.
Go to the Competitor Total KWs column, hover over any competitor, and click on the loupe icon appearing over the result. Rank Tracker will check the keywords your topic competitor ranks for and their key metrics.
Find what keywords your competitors use
Knowing what keywords your competitors use helps you reconsider your topics’ relevance and efficiency.
Using competitors’ keywords, you can boost your rankings and compete with your peer brands on the SERP more successfully.
Similarly, we suggest that you find them with the help of a specific keyword tool. The software will detect the keywords a website uses and provide you with all the needed metrics, so you could pick the most suitable keywords for your content.
For example, Rank Tracker gives you a nice chance to peek at the list of keywords your competitors use.
Go to the Keyword Research module and click Keyword Gap. Here, you’ll have to fill in your competitor’s URL. It can be a competitor that you’ve found via the Topic Competitors module.
The tool will discover the keywords this competitor ranks for and you don’t. Also, there are six options to choose from for adjusting the precision of the results.
Finding the keywords you don’t rank for yet provides you with the basis for future pages that will help you get additional traffic.
Besides checking the keywords metrics, you can see how high your competitor’s page ranks for each keyword. Besides, the tool will let you see all the highest ranked pages optimized for this keyword and in which SERP features they appear.
Discover those keywords that both you and your competitor use. Study your competitor’s pages, analyze their style of content delivery and navigation through the key topics.
TF-IDF is another useful metric which can guide you through the most meaningful and frequently used keywords of your top-ranking competitors.
To understand which keywords are the most important for the topic you entered to analyze, look at the TF-IDF column. The higher the score is, the more crucial the keyword is within the topic.
Analyze competitors by their top-ranked pages
One of the best ways to learn from your closest competitors is to look at their top-performing pages.
Try to find as much information on them as possible. You can look through the topics these pages cover, and what type of content they give. You can also check which queries Google responds to on the SERP with these pages, and how many backlinks these pages receive.
It may take a while to check such web pages manually and search for the keywords they target or how many websites link to them. Instead, use a tool to do it quicker and more efficiently.
I suggest that you pay attention to the Top Pages module of Rank Tracker which is tailored to such needs.
Go to Competitor Research > Top Pages and enter your competitor’s URL.
Here you’ll find out which pages bring the biggest share of organic traffic to a website. The algo gathers all organic keywords a website ranks for to reveal its top-performing pages.
The tool implements this search within a target region and lets you find some keywords that help your competitors rank organically.
Conduct a competitive SERP analysis
SERP analysis will show you the highest ranking pages for a certain keyword and reveal what makes them get their SERP positions.
Take any competitor’s top keyword for a top-ranking webpage and enter it into the Google search bar. See in which SERP features this page gets highlighted. You can repeat this with other competitors’ pages and see which features they occupy most often. Study the way your competitors appear on the SERP and see what works for you.
As you may have guessed, there’s a tool that can serve you as your free SERP analysis.
It will allow you to analyze the SERP for your keyword. See the keyword competition as well as discover which metrics played a bigger role in higher ranking of a page optimized for this keyword.
You can reveal the correlation between pages’ SERP distribution and factors that help them rank.
For example, if a page ranks for the analyzed keyword high on SERP thanks to a specific factor, you’ll know that you should put more effort into this factor to help your page rank high for this keyword.
Besides, you can also get an idea of which content to create using this keyword to attempt to rank as high.
Plus, for more details, you can analyze Google SERP features. See in which SERP features your content appears, and which features are occupied by your competitors’ content.
You can target those SERP features (PPA, Featured Snippets, Popular Products, video carousel, image pack, etc.) that you find most suitable for your keyword and try to occupy them by better optimizing your web pages.
Decide which competition to enter
When evaluating the competition of the niche in which you’re trying to rank higher, you can also evaluate your competitor’s technical advantage.
Before immersing into the hard work of optimization for a specific keyword, find out first whether this keyword is worth it. Discovering how perfect or poorly managed your competitors’ websites are may help you to establish how difficult it would be to rank for this keyword.
For example, you can scan any website that ranks for your keyword to see whom you’ll have to compete with. If it possesses the needed level of security, has no indexing issues, passes the Core Web Vitals assessment, and seems to treat all of its content with a great deal of attention, you realize that you have some serious competition out there.
Mobile-friendliness is also important when assessing your visibility chances, as 58% of total visits were made via mobile phones in 2021. If a competing website is not optimized for mobile devices, you may get some of its potential traffic for yourself if your site is mobile-friendly.
In case a website is out of tune and seems to have ranked high for your keyword accidentally, you have good chances of outranking it, provided you run a technically clean and well-optimized website.
You can have a quick check of both your website and the competing website in WebSite Auditor. Go to Site Structure > Site Audit and get all the key factors analyzed and see alerts in case of an issue.
There’s another way to determine whether a website is a true competitor and not just a random source that appeared on the SERP because Google didn’t find content relevant enough to respond to a query.
To do this, you can check whether the content was actually optimized for the keyword. WebSite Auditor offers Page Audit for such a task. Tap on the Content Audit module and enter a page’s URL.
You’ll see whether the page meets the suggested number of keywords in its title, meta tags, the body of the text, image alt texts if applicable, and how well each element is optimized.
Again, if the page appears to be well-optimized for your keyword, you get to deal with a strong competitor. And if the page appeared on SERP for the query almost by mistake, your ranking chances for the keyword are all in your hands. Optimize your content, fix any possible technical issues, and grab the opportunity to rank high within the topic.
Assess your competitor’s website user experience
Research on your competitor’s design and site architecture can hint at what you do wrong or right on your website. There are various site structure models as they can fit different purposes depending on the type of your product or service.
So, have a journey through a competitor’s website, see whether there are navigation weaknesses, a lack of sections, or important topics hidden deep inside a website.
A good website doesn’t take you too long to get what you’re looking for. If you find yourself quitting pages and taking no further actions, you can imagine how high the bounce rate of this website might be.
Besides, analyzing your competitor’s internal linking, you get an idea of how the key topics can be interrelated.
Once you find poorly linked pages, you will want to improve your own topic clusters. Better linked pages seem to be more relevant to search queries and even help site links to appear in the search results. Which means your page will be better visible than a competitor’s.
A clear website navigation and quick and logical access to your conversion pages can be a tie-breaker when it comes to outranking your competitors.
Study competitors’ link building
Generally, it is difficult to deal with competitors that have a strong backlink profile. Although, you can analyze their link-building tactics and borrow a few techniques.
Discover which backlinks your competitors’ top-rated pages have. Since there can be hundreds or even thousands of backlinks, you’d better get help from an automated backlink checker tool, such as SEO SpyGlass. This comprehensive backlink research software allows you to scan any website’s backlinks and analyze their quality.
So, start SEO SpyGlass, create a project for a competitor’s website, and go to the Backlink Profile module > Backlinks.
Here you can check all backlink pages, the pages they link to, whether the links are dofollow or nofollow, the InLink Rank of a backlink page, and Domain InLink Rank of the backlink resource. This way you will discover which ones bring more value to the linked pages.
Find out whether some of those links are broken. If you see a 4xx or 5xx Linked Page Status Code but the backlink is still dofollow, try to contact the webmasters of these linking sites. Tell them they are linking to a broken page and suggest they could link to your page instead. This technique is widely-known as broken link building.
Plus, you can study the pages that link to your competitors’ content. If some of them are listicles featuring a number of products similar to yours or reviews with top solutions you could also fit in, contact the source and ask them to strike up a link partnership.
Before contacting these resources, assess their quality and relevance. Pay attention to their InLink Rank, and the number of Referral Sessions.
Also, you can see which pages of your competitors get linked to most often. This will give you an idea about which topics are more popular among backlink resources.
Go to Backlink Profile > Anchor Texts to analyze competitors’ anchor texts. See which anchors are the most popular. Click the hamburger icon in the Backlinks column and see which pages have this or that anchor, and which backlinks lead to them. You can also correlate these anchors with the pages’ titles and content to see if they are suitable for your web pages as well.
Learn your competitors’ content type
Learning which types of content your competitors rely on the most will provide you with some good examples to follow.
Study their preferred or most shareable content. Maybe, some of your competitors even became recognizable thanks to great guides, how-to articles, case studies, tips, or top lists. And analyze the success of different content formats, such as stats, infographics, videos, or something else.
Think which content type could be your forte and let you add more information uniqueness than any other type.
The way competitors distribute their content on the website can also say a lot about their strategy. See whether they have a separate blog, products news section, or section for downloadable guides and case studies. There is a reason they have all these sections on their website, for example, they can bring them good visibility on the SERP.
Going deeper in detail, scan their blog to see how frequently they post, whether it’s a piece of news a few times a day, or a new topic each time full of details. You will understand whether they choose to create long reads or keep it short and entertaining.
Learning from their call-to-action techniques can also be helpful. Look through their pages: where do they place buttons, forms for a newsletter, PDF download, and product order? Take note of the most interesting solutions and think about how this can contribute to better conversions.
To sum up
If you are serious about joining the online competition, research it thoroughly.
First, find your competitors and see which keywords they rank for and you don’t. Discover their top pages and check them for keywords, traffic value, and other essential metrics. Analyze your competitors’ backlink profiles and try to contact the same backlink sources. Remember to check your competitors’ content from time to time as well as their websites’ navigation in case there were changes made to their sites’ structure.
And last but not least: you shouldn’t blindly follow in the footsteps of your competitors. Analyze what makes a difference between you and your competitors. Find what real value you can offer to your users.