How to Perform a Competitive SEO Analysis (Part 1 of 2)

Our 6 Steps Show You How to Spy on Your SEO Competitors

Have you ever had the urge to spy on your competitors’ online marketing tactics? It’s definitely tempting and a good way to compare your own activities to see how they stack up.

That said, some marketers get too involved with following their competitors’ digital marketing moves; sometimes the chase becomes a near obsession that clouds the real goal: to stay true to what makes one’s own business unique.

So what’s a good way to dig into your competitors’ SEO and apply what you learn to help boost your own positioning? In this two part series, we’ll show you how it’s done. Here in part one we’ll list how to do it and some handy tools, and in part two, we’ll provide a mini-tutorial to illustrate the process.

Set Up a Benchmark Report for Each Competitor

If you’ve never done SEO competitive research before, a great way to get started is to set up a spreadsheet benchmark report for each competitor (pick 4-6 competitors to review). You can set your reports up with tabs to show the data you collected for keyword analysis, website audit findings, backlink reports and more. What matters most is to create a standardized system, so that you analyze each competitor in the same way.

As you do your research, it’s easy to become preoccupied with the notion that your competitors may have some ‘secret’ way of getting great search results. Here’s how you can overcome that fear:

Remember what makes your company unique, then focus on finding content and experience delivery gaps that reinforce your value proposition.

In other words, in your search for competitive intelligence, don’t lose sight of what makes you great. Then see where your competitors may be falling short, and fill those gaps with your own content and online experiences.

You may find areas, too, in your competitors’ SEO campaigns, where they seem particularly strong. It’s easy to get discouraged by this, or to drop everything you are doing to shore up perceived weaknesses.

What makes the best sense is to create a systematic plan that will address all the key areas of SEO, and tweak it to add the best competitor methods. You’ll also want to add activities to exploit competitor weaknesses. It’s best to do this without losing sight of who you are and what makes you unique.

How to Do It – Create a Template Sheet & Follow These Steps

Here’s how to do your research: Create a template sheet with tabs for the items listed below, then copy your template for each competitor you’re analyzing. If you use Google Sheets, you can create a master sheet, with links to the individual competitor sheets. This works great for collaboration.

Let’s go through how to make your first report:

  • Keyword analysis: Now’s a great time to focus on long-tail keywords. Keeping in mind what makes your business unique, review your competitor’s keywords. Do you see gaps for products or services that they aren’t targeting, or seem to do poorly with? Are there long-tail variations you could exploit? Take advantage of these opportunities to build content around very specific keywords that signal buying intent.
  • Review the competitor’s website for helpful clues. Create a website audit checklist for your template; including HTML titles, meta descriptions, H tags, alt tags and more. You also want to review their landing pages [click on some of their high ranking search results and see where these are linked, on the website]. See how these pages are constructed and determine why Google likes these pages as the best answer for a user’s query. To score these items, keep these points in mind:
  1. HTML titles, meta descriptions, H tags and alt tags should be descriptive and unique for each page.
  2. Create a separate content audit tab on your template. Their pages rank well and provide a good experience due to one, or all of these reasons:

* They provide in-depth information
* They are tightly targeted to a primary key phrase
* They offer rich content that provides a great user experience (video,  images, audio).
* They provide compelling headlines and calls to action that lead the user to conversion.

  • Check out your competitor’s backlink profile 
  1. Create a tab on your template sheet for your competitor’s backlinks. See what sites link to them, and find out (using a link analysis tool) the authority of the domains. Authoritative sites linking to a site can help it rank in search engines. Your tool, such as Majestic SEO, can help you keep score – you’ll want to note links coming from a variety of quality domains, to help you build your own diversified link portfolio.
  2. Do you see links that you want for yourself? Highlight those and in our next blog we’ll tell you how to go after these link opportunities.
  • Review your competitor’s paid search keywords. This is a good idea, as these words show buying intent. A variety of tools exist to help you build this list, which can have its own tab on your template. SEMRush can help here, plus your own industry knowledge will tell you which keywords are the ones you need to go after. Since not all users click on paid ads, use these keywords in your organic (non-AdWords) content to attract searchers ready to buy. 
  • Pay close attention to your competitor’s local SEO presence. Before we get started here, we’ll pose a question to you: Do you have a Google My Business listing? If not, you’ll want to get yours set up as soon as possible. If you already have one, there are lots of elements to it that you can tweak, to help build your local authority and drive business to your website. Create a local SEO tab on your template sheet and enter in the info you see from your competitor’s Google My Business listing. Do they offer lots of pictures, posts, or reviews? Note these, and see where you can improve.
  • Check out what your competitor is doing on social media. You might wonder why we would check social media, since this analysis is about SEO. Google takes into account social media signals, so it’s a good idea to see what your competitor is posting. See if keywords are used, links back to the website (note if those are just to the home page, or to specific blogs or product pages), and note the quality of images and video. You can definitely learn a few things from a competitor that has an engaged audience. See what people are saying about your competitor and if they are sharing the posts. Enter these notes on a separate template tab.

While there are a host of other items you can check, the above will give you enough to go on for your comparison. A deep analysis is a time-consuming task, but it can really pay off when you divert traffic away from competitors to your website.

Next time we’ll put these steps into action and show you an example analysis. Until then, if you need some help getting your research done, Engine-ius Marketing can do it for you. We can also build a powerful SEO campaign that drives your audience to conversion. Contact us to get started today!


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