There comes a time when you sit back and wonder why your competitor is doing better than you or gaining on you. This is also right around the time where you realize how important competitive research for SEO is.
While competitive research for SEO is something we recommend at the start of any new project, it’s also something you should implement as soon as possible if you haven’t already. The online landscape changes so frequently for most markets that it’s important to do this research several times a year. Depending on the business type, findings may change your outlook, algorithms may change, terminology shifts, and new competitors appear daily.
Why Competitive Research for SEO is Important:
SEO is an important aspect to any business. You’ve probably figured that out by now and it’s the reason you’re on our website. However, not a lot of love is given to competitive research. It’s a big part of traditional marketing, but it’s often over looked in the online marketing realm. That’s a big problem.
Competitive research is not just about online competitors though. You’re going to have to analyze both traditional and online competition when you’re performing your research. We’ve mentioned it a number of times, and it’s worth mentioning again, the people you compete with in real life may not be the same people you’re competing with digitally. Not all of your traditional competitors are good at SEO and online marketing, so it only makes sense that new competitors are in this space.Your online competitors can create havoc on your efforts without you even realizing it. Click To Tweet
While competitive research can be quite enlightening when it comes to pointing out direct competition, it’s not the only takeaway. You’ll be using tools (suggestions below) to find out a whole slew of information on your own site and your competitors.
10 Things Competitive Research for SEO Offers:
- Discover your top online competitors
- Find out what keywords your competition is trying to rank for
- Discover your competitors’ top ranking keywords
- Find out their top ranking content
- Explore their backlinks and referral traffic
- Discover your competitors’ social media activity
- Discover keywords for your own future content
- Find out how often you need to write content and how long it needs to be
- Learn if your competitors’ SEO is converting to real-world usage
- Identify your competitions’ SEO weaknesses
Tools for Competitive Research:
Once you begin to actually research your competitors, you’ll probably notice you can’t do it manually. You might be able to get away with looking at your competitor’s source code, but that’s tedious. You need software to help dig through data and present that data to you in digestible information. The following are tools that we have used on a number of occasions or are industry recognized in their ability to help competitive research for SEO.
We mention Moz a lot on our blog. They have amazing tools and we’ve been using them for a long while. They’re also great in the sense that you pay one fee and you have a host of tools at your disposal. If you don’t want to use Moz, but want similar versatility, you have to use multiple tools and therefore pay multiple fees. We’ve also listed some competitors who offer similar services below.
- MozBar – The MozBar is a browser extension that allows users to see key data such as H1 headers, meta titles, meta descriptions, meta keywords, and bolded text for a competitor’s pages, posts, products, or virtually any piece of content on their website. It’s also free, so that is a major plus.
- Moz Open Site Explorer – This tool, perhaps more so than the others, provides you with a really in-depth look at link metrics. You’ll discover where your competition’s inbound links originate, the anchor text, their top pages by link count, and their link opportunities*.
- Moz Keyword Explorer – Want to know who is attempting to rank for the same keywords as you, this tool will provide you with that information. Gaining insight on who your online competitors are can be extremely valuable.
- Dyno Mapper – While we haven’t used this tool, this software will crawl a competitor’s website and provides a full list of URLs it discovers that can be viewed in multiple formats and exported to Excel or PDF files.
- SEMrush – Similar to MozBar and Open Site Explorer, this tool reports a competitor’s top pages and keywords.
- Ahrefs – This software focuses on backlinks and link profiles.
*Learning about your competitions link building opportunities may not necessarily seem like it can help you, but here’s the caveat: if outside sources are looking for resourceful content to link to, why not offer them your own content. Ever go to a website that is linking to a 404 page? These are the types of opportunities you are after. Simply send them an email that suggests you have content that may interest them. If they like the content you are providing, they may change that link and send it in your direction.
Analyzing SWOT:I'm using SWOT to ensure my business succeeds in SEO. Click To Tweet
When you first use keyword explorer (or the equivalent), you may be surprised to find out who’s in competition with you. In most cases, it won’t be your traditional competitors or even anyone in your industry. When your competition is outside of your niche, they may have just stumbled into it and gained traffic for that specific keyword you want to rank for.
Competitive research allows you to dig more into what some people call SWOT: strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.
Although the website in the scenario above may not be a threat in the traditional sense, they’ll still be hard to overcome using traditional SEO. Using SWOT allows you to identify these hard-to-beat competitors and local SEO allows you to launch your bid for that keyword.
This research isn’t just limited to your competitors. You should also take a long look at your own SWOT analysis. This way you can get a good idea as to what your own strengths and weaknesses are as well as long-term and short-term improvements you need to make.
Local SEO Competitive Analysis:
We briefly mentioned using local SEO to rank for keywords that globally you may be struggling with. Before you begin implementing local SEO, you should also analyze your competitors here too. While tools like Moz’s “local search” make things easier on you, there are ways to do this manually. Check all of the usual spots to see where your competitors are listed:
- Local chamber of commerce
- YP (yellow pages)
- Social media (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.)
While the above is certainly not exhaustive, it should give you a good sense of how much work you have to do in order to compete locally – which is extremely important for small businesses.
Remember for local SEO, you’ll be targeting location specific searches (city, state, town, etc.) instead of broader industry specific searches. An example of this would be “city niche insurance,” or “insurance agent town.”
In a fresh browser, try searching for similar terms and find out what comes back. If you are on the first page, then you know you are doing something well. If the whole first page is filled with competitors, you now know who your direct local competition is and where you need to begin work.
All in all, competition analysis, like most things SEO, can be a little daunting. This is especially true if you find out you rank nowhere near the top of your field. Just stick with your SEO campaign and keep in mind that it doesn’t happen overnight. It may be months – perhaps years – before you climb Google’s pages. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by it all, reach out to us and we can offer your business the proper assistance it needs.