In a world where there was only one shoemaker, only one type of laptop computer, and only one brand of coffee, getting people to your website would be easy. Unfortunately, the field of competition is always growing, and everybody wants a piece of the organic search pie.
So, as a part of a living, breathing SEO strategy, it’s important to execute a competitive content analysis to better understand the competitive landscape. By analyzing your competitors’ websites, content, and organic search performance, you’ll be able to take notice of the newest competitors in your field, gain insights into their SEO strategies, and identify opportunities for improvement in your own strategy.
Follow along to get a better understanding of how to perform a competitive analysis for SEO and what kind of insights you can gather from the process.
1. Identify Your Competitors
Start by creating a cluster of keywords based on the niche or industry in which your website operates. Websites that are very broad in their services should try to represent all of their most important verticals. To create your keyword list, you’ll want to include a mix of keywords that you already rank for and keywords that you’d like to rank higher for. As you begin to flesh out your keyword strategy, take note of the most relevant words with the highest search volume. Try to choose a dozen or so words and phrases that most resonate with your brand.
Once you’ve created your keyword list, open an incognito window to start searching each individual keyword and phrase. If you have access to Google Ads, you can also use their Ad Preview and Diagnosis Tool for this step to get a more accurate view of rankings by location and device type. This process will give you a glimpse into the current highest-ranked websites for each query. As you explore the results for some of these queries, jot down the names of the top three or four websites for each associated search term.
Now you’ll have a long list of websites that are ranking especially well for some of your most relevant keywords. Take note if any of these competitors appear alongside more than one term, as these sites should be a focal point of your competitive analysis.
2. Review the Competitors’ Websites
Now that you have a list of brands that are in direct competition with your own, you’ll need to begin evaluating their websites. Start by taking a look at their content and asking yourself a few questions as your scan each page:
- What types of content are they producing on a regular basis? Blogs? Case studies? Photos and videos?
- What are some of the topics they are covering? The latest products and offerings? Current events in your vertical?
- How would you describe the quality of their content? How in-depth is the information? About how many words of content do they have per page? Are they including a lot of keywords on each page?
- Are they implementing any schema markup for rich snippets, such as FAQs, recipes, and articles?
In addition to the written content throughout the website, also pay attention to other aspects of the site, like the site structure, navigation, page speed, and design.
- What types of pages are they linking to in their header navigation menu?
- How easy is it to navigate between collection pages and product pages?
- How long does it take for any given page to load?
- What types of visuals are they including on each page?
Some websites are exceedingly large and will have hundreds or even thousands of pages. Instead of combing through everything for hours on end, try to really dig into the most important pages. You can even use a backlink checker like the one found in Moz’s, Semrush’s, or Ahref’s toolsets to quickly determine which pages have the highest authority on the site. Look at a few collections and a few product pages, as well as a few of the more valuable long-form content pages, but don’t waste your time on every single one.
3. Create a Strategy to Improve Your Site
Now that you’ve taken a look at some of your top competitors’ websites, it’s time to start singling out any areas where they excel or fall short. This will help you identify opportunities to improve your own site and outperform the competition. While this may seem like a big ask, start by reviewing some of the questions in the previous step.
Identify gaps in their content strategy and think about areas where you can produce even better content. For example, you might find some of the following gaps in your content offering:
- Revise Short/Low-Value Content: Elongating your content with high-value text (not just adding fluffy words) is an easy way to better establish yourself as an authority while including relevant keywords on some of your highest-traffic pages.
- Add Headings: Make sure all of your content is accompanied by a keyword-rich heading and broken into useful subheadings that may also contain relevant keywords.
- Use Structured Data: Adding structured data can help[ you win rich snippets to draw the eye to your search result when you do rank.
- Go Big: For a more robust change to your website, consider starting a blog, creating buyer’s guides, or adding a section for case studies or other in-depth content.
In addition to content creation, you’ll also want to verify that the technical aspects of your website are all up to par. If your competitors have websites with faster load times and more intuitive navigation elements, it will be easier for them to rank well, and they’ll probably have lower bounce rates overall. User experience has an effect on how well your site will rank in the search results, so core web vitals like Largest Contentful Paint, First Input Delay, and Cumulative Layout Shift are also important to keep tabs on alongside your development team.
While a competitive content audit is a great stepping stone for new websites, they’re also important for brands that haven’t executed one recently. Try to scope out your organic search competitors once or twice a year, or more frequently if your industry moves quickly. If done properly, your competitive analysis will give you insight into keyword opportunities, target audience behaviors, industry trends, and new opportunities to optimize your website.