SEO Competitor Analysis Checklist: 5 Steps To Improve Your Strategy
Some say that spying on competitors SEO can be a distraction. I’m focused on own business, why should I watch my competitors? Well, it makes sense. At the same time, this distraction can pay off big.
Analyzing your competitors, you can find a lot of opportunities to improve your own strategy. It allows you to assess their mistakes, to find their strong points, and always be up-to-date within your niche. Let’s find out what we can learn from an SEO analysis!
Find your competitors
Sure, you probably know a lot about your competition as you might have done a little research before launching your website. If you haven’t done so already (or just don’t have a full list of your direct competitors), the following part of the article is for you.
Note: You may know your competitors in real life, but it doesn’t mean that it will be the same people on the Internet.
First and foremost, run your primary keywords through the google search. This way you can find websites that are bidding on the same keywords that you are. If you run a commercial website, then use the commercial queries (like “buy shoes”).
After that, glance through the SERP paying attention to the sites of your focus. If you run an online store, choose other stores for the further analysis. If you’re a blog owner — analyze other blogs.
Another way to do this research is to use SEO tools that are offering competitive analysis feature. I’ll go with Serpstat:
Insert your domain into the search box
Insert your domain into the search box and go to Website analysis > Domain Analysis > SEO Research > Competitors. Here you’ll find your direct competitors based on common keywords.
Pay attention to the Common keywords and All keywords columns. They numbers there should be as close as possible to each other. If the difference is huge, it means that this website isn’t focused on the only one issue (amazon, bestbuy, etc) so it’s not your main competitors.
Another possible reason for it — your site isn’t optimized good enough. You’re selling the same products, but your competitors use more keywords.
Even on this stage, you can find something valuable for your site. Missing keyword column shows unique keywords of your competitors that you might want to rank for.
Choose 10 main competitors and gather them in the spreadsheet. Here is an example:
Parameters in the spreadsheet can differ depending on your aims, I’m going to describe the necessary ones.
Now let’s go through the process step by step and complete this spreadsheet!
Step #1 Keyword research
First of all, you should find out what keywords they’re ranking for. You can compare your website with others and find gaps in your optimization as well. Moreover, it can give you the ideas for content, assortment, and keywords.
You can use any SEO tool you like and run your competitor’s domain through it to find what keywords he’s bidding on. Some of such tools give you an opportunity to compare your websites automatically. For instance, Serpstat offers you to compare 3 websites to find common and missing keywords.
Go to the Website Analysis > URL Analysis > URL vs. URL, insert your competitors’ URLs and compare:
What do we get?
Exploring competitors’ keywords, you can learn how full your own keyword list is and find issues they forgot to take into account. After the analysis of your competitor, you’ll have a lot of new ideas. Imagine how many ideas you’ll have after analysis of 10 competitors.
Gather all appropriate keywords your competitors use and think if you can use them throughout your website too.
Step #2 Backlinks
We all know that backlinks are a core SEO factor. Here you can use the same tool. Just go to the Backlink analysis > Backlinks and see all pages that refer to your competitor’s website.
Assess how authoritative, relevant and appropriate these referring pages are. Pay attention to anchors they use and a general number of backlinks.
What do we get?
By doing this, you can understand their backlink strategy. Do they buy links? What kind of links are they trying to get? (banners, articles, forums) It also can give you an idea as to your strategy. For instance, if you don’t use Quora to get links and promote your product, and this works well for few of your competitors, then maybe you may want to try this channel too.
Also, if they use relevant websites to publish information about their products, you can grab these websites as well.
If they use trucky tactics, you can find a way to turn it around on them.
Step #3 Social Media
What are the most popular pages of your competitors? How do they attract customers and readers? Do they make promotion through the social media channels?
All these questions matter if you want to be ahead of your competition.
I use BuzzSumo tool to check this issue. Drop in a competitor website and see their top shared posts on any social network for any date range:
What do we get?
It can help you to learn what social media channels work well for your competitors and decide if you need pay more attention to it.
Also, on this stage, you can estimate their most shared content. Even it’s an online store, they have a blog that brings them a lot of traffic. If you see that most of your competitors run a blog along with the website, think about launching it too.
Step #4 Traffic
Now learn everything about their traffic. I use SimilarWeb plugin for this purpose:
Here you can see the number of estimated visits of each competitor and countries where most traffic comes from.
Another important thing here is the traffic sources:
The tool shows which sources bring them most traffic.
What do we get?
It’s time to find patterns and analyze! Check traffic sources of 10 sites to know what sources work better within your niche. Also, if you don’t use some of these sources, but your competitors do, maybe you shouldn’t miss this opportunity too.
Step #5 Technical optimization
SEO-layout: Meta description, Title tags and H1
One of the core elements of ranking is the correct filling of meta-tags and headings. See, Google bots don’t understand what your content is about. These elements help Google to decide if your page is relevant to the user’s query.
To check your competitors’ tags, use Ctrl+Shift+I and explore the code of the page.
Another way is to use some tool or plugins. I know that seo meta in 1 click plugin is capable of it:
It also shows if this tags meet Google’s requirements and puts mistakes in the red text.
You can also use Woorank to compare on-page SEO elements with your competitors. This will allow you to have better on-page optimization, one of the Google algorithms ranking factors, than your rivals and outrank them!
There are a lot of other technical aspects you can check:
- How many pages are in the search engine index (Google operator — site:happysocks.com);
- Interlinking (do they adjust connection between pages?)
- Image optimization (alt and title attributes) — you can check it using Ctrl+Shift+I too.
- Text optimization (relevance, volume);
- Uniqueness of texts;
- Presence of viruses;
- The age of the domain (Whois is handy in this purpose)
- Duplicate pages;
- Speed of the page loading (PageSpeedInsights)
- Mobile adaptation.
- And more.
Some this things you can check manually, some with the help of special tools. In case you have some SEO tool subscription, just run your site through the site audit feature — it will find most of these issues in few clicks.
What do we get?
As with other steps, we can find their mistakes and fix your own as well. Also, you’ll find aspects where you can surpass them. For example, it they don’t optimize their meta tags and alt-attributes properly, you can know for sure how to make your site rank higher. Knowing the weak spots of your competitor is a must when creating your marketing strategy.
SEO Competitor Analysis Checklist: Final Thoughts
There are a lot of things we can learn from competitor analysis, and every aspect of it deserves a separate article. I tried to describe the crucial ones, which every site owner should check from time to time. It’s important to analyze your work, and the best way to analyze is to compare. Analysis of 10 competitors may help you to understand patterns and trends within your niche.
This way you’ll have endless opportunities for improvement, can assess your progress along with competitor’s one, and know where direction to choose if you want to be ahead of the competition.