SEO Competitive Analysis [Guide for business owners]

Joe Edgley - Director at Amplified Marketing
Joe Edgley

I’m the director and chief strategist at Amplified Marketing and I love helping Allied Health Practices grow with simple, effective digital marketing.

Have you tried SEO in the past and not seen the results you had hoped for? Does it seem like your competitors are outperforming you in organic search? Keep reading, because a competition analysis might be the ingredient you’re missing.

Being able to evaluate your competition accurately in terms of SEO is crucial when determining where to spend your marketing budget. Allocating money to the wrong areas will most definitely cost you money.

Competitive analysis also plays a huge role in determining the success of your overall campaign.

In some cases, the insights you are able to glean from a solid competitive analysis may be enough to drive a strategy on their own. They can also be used to set benchmarks. 
In this article, we’re going to take a look at some key points you’ll need to be able to evaluate in order to get a gauge of what your competition is doing. 

Why competitive analysis?

SEO competitive analysis is important for a few reasons. It gives you a view of who you are realistically able to beat in SERP’s. (Search Engine Results Pages). How likely it is you’ll be able to outperform the sites that already there.

It allows to see what these sites are doing well, it helps you to identify opportunities and advantages and it uncovers potential sources of external links. 
You can learn what is and isn’t working, find their weaknesses. All of these are critically important elements to overall success. 

Keys to successful competitive analysis

Before You Can Begin, You Must Know Who Your Competitors Are

It seems so obvious on the surface, but we need to mention it because it’s so often overlooked and quite frankly misunderstood. 

The popular thought is that compiling a list of competitors is the “easiest” part of the analysis. Anyone can run through a list of big players and local businesses in their industry.

But are companies in your industry the same as your competitors in SEO?

It’s important to remember that when we talk about competitors in SEO, we’re specifically referring to businesses or sites that rank in the top 10 for the keywords you want to rank for. These aren’t always the same as the businesses you compete with on a daily basis.

Many different types of businesses can compete for different keywords for a variety of different reasons. You can even sometimes find businesses in completely different industries ranking for some of the keywords you are ranking for.

A lot of business owners will try to shrug that off and say they don’t matter, but the reality is that they do. And adding researching these additional businesses into the mix of our daily tasks is something a lot of us simply don’t have time for.

But to gain market share in the digital space, it has to be done. You have to contend with every site in the SERP. You have to convince Google that your business is more helpful to their (Google’s) users and therefore more worthy to occupy that space on the front page of their results.

Knowing who you are competing with is the first step towards your success. What you need to do here is to find the sites ranking for the keywords you want to rank for.

You can always manually comb through Google, but this is where SEO tools are particularly helpful. 

Pro Tip: Remember as you check through the results to take a look at each top 10 as a whole. Do you notice featured snippets that stand out? An image carousel? Videos? It’s always a good idea to feed Google the content/ or medium it seems to favor in each different result. In other words, if videos are ranking… make a video!

Know Where Your Competitors Are Active

Look at sites you view as true competitors as well as SEO competitors and find out how they are spending their time and where they are focusing more of their efforts.

Initially, you are assuming that if they aren’t active on a particular platform there is a reason. It’s certainly possible they just aren’t capitalising and you’ve found an opportunity.

If you see they are getting a ton of engagement on their content and are showing up everywhere for the keywords you want to target you might want to focus on organic search first. Be sure to get a full picture. Look at their social media, if there are active forums in your space. 

Pro Tip: While looking where your competitors are active, take notice of things you see them do that you both like and don’t like. The idea is to use the stuff that they do that you like as a base. You aren’t going to want to copy them, that will come off as obvious. You can use some of the things you saw them do you didn’t like to help your business stand out. It’s likely there’s a portion of the audience those things didn’t resonate with either. 

Know What Your Competitors Are Spending

This is really important. If you see that your competitor came seemingly out of nowhere and is currently completely crushing it in organic search… it’s likely that’s no accident. To rank in Google takes a lot of work, and oftentimes that means investment.

This doesn’t mean that you have to figure out their exact dollar amount, go outspend them and call it a day. But if your competitors are engaged in a, expensive campaign, you likely aren’t going to beat them if come in with a lesser effort.

It’s important to consider it an investment as opposed to a spend. And when done right, whatever you put in will pay dividends for years to come. This is one advantage working with a search partner to dominate the search results. We’re in a unique position to drive quantifiable results.

We’re constantly learning and growing because we do this full time and get try all types of different techniques with a variety of clients. You can be sure your marketing dollars are going where they’ll get the best return. 

Get Fresh Content Ideas

You can’t have great search results without content. It’s not possible. Content is, in a way, the “food” a search engine needs to survive. And coming up with creative and engaging topics can be a real drain.

Competitor research is truly essential to content marketing. If you know what’s working for the competition you’re able to make informed decisions about things like format/medium and topics. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel. You just have to do it better.

You can see what types of topics they are writing about week after week. What resonates with your audience. What is most commented on.  And you have the benefit of hindsight here. With subscription tools you can see how many sites have linked to different types of content as well as how many shares, comments and likes said content gets on social media.

Pro Tip: As you come across topics that are heavily linked and/or shared look at the keywords they are targeting. Search for those in Google and look through the various articles in the top 10. Figure out what you can add that would make this article even more useful and make your version even better.

Discover Backlink Opportunities

Links are still extremely relevant to success in SEO. They are going to continue to be for the foreseeable future. If doing a thorough competitive analysis yielded nothing else besides a list of great possible link partners, it would be well worth it for that alone!

With the help of SEO tools, you’re able to find out exactly who has linked to your top competitors. You’re able to then go through all of those links and attempt to get those sites to link to you. This really helps move the SEO needle.

Remember that you don’t have to necessarily stick to just the links they have either. If you notice they seem to acquire a lot of a specific type of link, you can go for more of those as well.

Links to your SEO competitors will help you move up the ranks of the search results. Links that are super relevant to your industry or local can even help to send you more qualified traffic and generate more leads!

Pro Tip: Just because a competitor has a link from a site it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a good site to get a link from. The SEO experience our team brings to the table is extremely useful in these technical portions of the analysis. You really have to be sure that the link source isn’t toxic. There are fake sites some SEO’s use for links that aren’t looked at favorably by Google. You want to make sure you are able to identify these from the genuine opportunities out there. 

Wrap up

It’s hard to say if doing a proper competitor analysis or keyword research is more important to the success of your overall campaign. They really go hand in hand. As you are evaluating keywords you need to be looking at the overall competition to make those decisions.

Whether you decide to try and take it up on your own or you decide to work with a company like ours to implement your strategy, be sure that you take the time to understand what your competition is doing well and what they’re doing that you can improve upon.

Keeping up to date on what the competition is up to will bring results you’re going to love!

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