How To Do SEO Competitor Analysis

Feature image for the "How To Do SEO Competitor Analysis" blog post.

What is an SEO Competitor Analysis?

SEO competitor analysis is a process where you take a look at how your competitors are optimising their websites and their content for SEO.
It’s also a great way to identify who your competitors are for specific search terms, as well as new terms you could be ranking for or gaps in your competitors content that you can fill.

There’s a video version of this blog, and a podcast too. So no matter how you learn, we’ve got you covered!

How to Conduct an SEO Competitor Analysis

To help with this guide, we’ll use an e-commerce business as an example, but this method will work for any and all business types.

Natural pet products are becoming more and more popular, so let’s pretend we’re an e-commerce business focused on natural pet products.

We’ll be following 6 key steps today.

Step 1 – Identify Target Keywords
Step 2 – Benchmarking
Step 3 – Identify Your Competitors
Step 4 – Competitor Overview
Step 5 – Competitor Content Analysis
Step 6 – Backlinking and Internal Linking

How to Conduct a Competitor SEO Analysis - Infographic

Step 1 – Identify Target Keywords

You only really need one keyword to conduct competitor research.

Seriously, just one.

One of the results of conducting an SEO competitor analysis is that you’ll find more keywords and phrases to add to your keyword list as you go.

If you have more than one, that’s great! We suggest having at least 25-50 keywords for all your SEO activity but using your most important keyword for your SEO competitor analysis.

If you use too many keywords, you’re going to end up with a list of competitors that is way too long and will take you ages to get through.
If you want to get more in-depth with your keywords, we’ve written some truly awesome guides about keyword research (even if we do say so ourselves) and created videos to walk you through the whole process step by step.

Step 2 – Benchmarking

We’ll start by searching for “natural pet products” on Google and taking a look at the type of results that appear.

Google Search Result for "natural pet products"

Google Search Result for “natural pet products”

There’s a lot you can tell about the competitiveness of your niche when it comes to SEO just from a simple Google search.

There are not too many ads here, so it could be that this search term is not too competitive when it comes to PPC, or as there is a shopping carousel ad Google has limited the number of text-based search ads. This shows us that if we wanted to run PPC on this search term in the future, shopping ads would likely be our best choice in order to compete with other brands.

We can also see that there are several different brands ranking for this search term. If this search term had brought up a lot of informational results rather than brands, this would lead us to believe that this term is more of an informational search, rather than one that would lead to a purchase.

Let’s start by looking at some top-level info in Semrush*, to help us do some benchmarking.

For the sake of this article, we’ll pretend that we’re All Natural Pet.

Screenshot of the Semrush Domain Overview for All Natural Pet

Semrush Domain Overview for All Natural Pet

Semrush is estimating that this site is getting 1,000 visitors per month. It creates this estimate by looking at all the keywords the site is ranking for, where they are ranking in search and how much traffic they are likely to get based on their position.

Close up of some of the metrics in Semrush

Close up of some of the metrics in Semrush

In simple terms, it multiplies the average estimated click-through rate by the average estimated search volume for that search term. It’s not an exact number, but it gives you something to work from.

So a site with a page ranking at number 1 for a specific keyword will be getting a higher amount of traffic than a page ranking at number 8. Then Semrush looks at how many people are searching for that keyword and works out how many of those people are likely to click on the first result, the second result and so on.

Over 25% of searchers click the first result on a search engine, hence why we’re so obsessed with helping you reach the top of Google!

From this overview, we can see that All Natural Pet is not likely to be running paid ads, and has 375 backlinks from 70 different websites.

We can also see the top keywords and phrases they are ranking for, very useful for our keyword research!

Screenshot of semrush keywords

The top organic keywords for the All Natural Pet website

This includes info about how often these keywords are being searched for (volume) and how much the average click costs for ads running on these keywords (CPC).

Screenshot of several of All Natural Pet’s organic competitors

Several of All Natural Pet’s organic competitors

We can also see the site’s main organic competitors. These may be different to the competitors identified offline, or even the ones identified on search.

Screenshots of more insights from Semrush

More insights from Semrush

There’s also a whole host of information about backlinks, including the most used anchor text and the sites linking back (referring domains).
All this information we see is just the competitor view. If you own the website and log into Semrush* with additional details, you’ll be able to get even more information.

Now we’ve taken a look at “our” business, for example purposes, of course, we have a benchmark to work from when looking at our competitors.

With that benchmark in place, we can start conducting an SEO competitor analysis.

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Step 3 – Identify Your Competitors

As mentioned before, you will have business competitors, which are more like your “offline” competitors, and you will have online competitors.

Your business competitors are those selling the same things as you, so in this case, that would be anyone who is selling natural pet products.

You can find your online competitors by typing in one of your focus keywords and seeing who else appears for those results.

We’ll ignore the ads for now, but it’s good to see what kind of ads are being run for different searches.

Screenshot of Google search results for “natural pet products”

Google search results for “natural pet products”

Start by making a list of both your business and online competitors, using your industry knowledge and the Google search results for your most important keywords. We suggest choosing 2-5 of your strongest online and business competitors.

Step 4 – Competitor Overview

Now you have a list of competitors, let’s take a deeper look at their SEO.

For example purposes, we’ll use The Natural Pet Store for this SEO competitor analysis.

Screenshot of The Natural Pet's Homepage

The Natural Pet’s Homepage

We can see that our competitor is estimated to be getting 9,000 visitors a month. They have 1,300 backlinks from nearly 300 different websites.

As they don’t appear to be getting traffic from paid ads (according to Semrush they’ve had 5 visitors from ads, which is likely an error), we can assume that their 9,000 monthly visitors are coming from organic search and potentially social media.

Screenshot of The Natural Pet Store's domain overview

Screenshot of The Natural Pet Store’s domain overview

Let’s see which keywords and phrases are helping this competitor get search traffic.

Screenshot of organic keywords for The Natural Pet Store

Organic keywords for The Natural Pet Store

From this data, it’s estimated that the search term “natural dog treats“, is estimated to be responsible for 34.64% of The Natural Pet Store’s traffic. As discussed earlier, this is based on their number 1 position on Google for that keyword, as well as the number of searches for that term on Google.

We can see that they are ranking in position 11 for “pet store near me“. This is a search term that is estimated to get around 18k searches a month, but because The Natural Pet Store is ranking for the term on page two of Google, they are only getting about 9% of their traffic from this term, despite it having a high search volume.

This could also be because The Natural Pet Store doesn’t have physical stores, and anyone looking for a pet store near them likely won’t find what they are looking for on The Natural Pet Store’s website.

According to Semrush, this is their second-highest value keyword, despite the search intent not being quite right.

That means we can avoid making the same mistake, and focus on high-value keywords that have better search intent.

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Step 5 – Competitor Content Analysis

Semrush* also shows us which pages are ranking for each keyword. This is important as we want to know what type of content is helping them rank highly. This content will influence our own content strategy.

Screenshot of organic search positions in Semrush

Organic search positions in Semrush

The Natural Pet Store’s most lucrative keyword, “natural dog treats“, is a great fit for our brand as well. If we take a look at the page ranking for this term, we can see what Google deems to be a useful page for this keyword.

Google has decided to rank The Natural Pet Store’s category page for “Natural Dog Treats” for this search, which makes sense. The page title is identical to the search term, which helps Google identify what the page is about.

The “Natural Dog Treats” page is ranking top for the search "natural dog treats"

The “Natural Dog Treats” page is ranking top for the search “natural dog treats”

There is a lot of text on this page, which includes some educational content too about how to use the treats, what they are good for and the different options available. The subcategory pages are then listed below.

This page is ranking highly for a number of keywords, according to Semrush*, so they must be doing something right. We can now take a look at this page and make a list of the most important factors:

  • Page title matches the keyword closely
  • Descriptive useful text
  • Subcategory images

Just because a competitor’s page looks a certain way doesn’t mean yours needs to as well. You could add improvements such as:

  • Moving some of the text below the subcategory images so visitors don’t have to scroll to find the products
  • Using internal links to other website pages in the text
  • Using custom images rather than stock photos

Remember that writing for humans is just as, if not more important as writing for SEO. After all, real human beings are the ones who will be buying from you.

If you want to include a lot of text to help with SEO, make sure it’s not taking up the top half of the page.

This will be likely to give you the edge over your competitors, as they will want to spend longer on nicer looking pages, and will help bump you up those search results.

Step 6 – Backlinking and Internal Linking

Backlinking, and the often overlooked internal linking, are a key part of any SEO strategy, and you can learn a lot from your competitor’s backlink profile, as well as the type of internal links they are using in their content.

Let’s take a look at The Natural Pet Store’s backlink profile.

Screenshot of semrush competitor backlinks overview

We can see from this data that The Natural Pet Store has 1,300 links to its site from other websites. These links are coming from 299 different domains, meaning some websites have linked to them more than once.

There’s also a section that separates the types of backlinks based on if they are Follow, Nofollow, Sponsored or UGC.

What’s different about Follow, NoFollow, Sponsored and UGC links?

Follow links are links that have been added to a website with no changes made. It is often assumed that these links are added as the linking website trusts the domain they are linking to.

NoFollow links are tagged with the Nofollow tag and are used to tell Google to not consider the linked to domain as trusted by the linking website.

Sponsored Tags are used to tell Google when the link to an external domain has been paid for.

UGC Tags are used to tell Google that the content the link appears in has been produced by a user and not the webmaster.

Because of this, follow links usually have the most value when it comes to Google, but it’s more about how Google processes and understands the use of links while analysing the web. They’re not definitive for search engine ranking but it’s good to keep them in mind.

So what’s in it for you?

Looking at your competitor’s backlink profile and paying special attention to the “Follow” links, will give you an idea of the types of sites that could potentially link back to you too. If you create better content than your competitors, you can also pitch this to the site as a better alternative to the content they’re already linking to.

It’s also a great way to see the type of content that does well when it comes to getting backlinks, so take inspiration from your competitors’ highly-backlinked content whenever you can!

Key Steps

Here’s a reminder of the key steps, as well as some resources to help you with your own SEO competitor analysis!

Step 1 – Identify Target Keywords

You can start this process with just one keyword, but if you’d like to find more, here’s where you should start:

Step 2 – Benchmarking

Take a look at where your website stands in the industry currently to give you an idea of what improvement will look like for you. It will help you set goals and the next steps. If you’re getting a lot less traffic than the top performer, you will need a different strategy than if you have very similar traffic levels. Both have their own challenges.

Step 3 – Identify Your Competitors

You can identify your online competitors via a simple Google search of your top keyword, or through a tool like Semrush*. These may be different to your business competitors, the ones who sell similar or the same products to you.

Step 4 – Competitor Overview

By using a tool like Semrush, you can take a top-level look at your competitor’s analytics. This will give you an idea of the amount of traffic they are getting, as well as their top keywords, backlinks and top-performing pages.

Step 5 – Competitor Content Analysis

Take a deeper look at your competitor’s top-performing pages and see why this might be. Do they use media-rich content? Is their content genuinely useful? Which keywords are these pages ranking for? What do you think is unnecessary on these pages? Who are they getting backlinks from? What can you take inspiration from?

Step 6 – Backlinking and Internal Linking

By taking a look at the backlinks your competitors have received for certain types of content, you can aim to create better content and go after those same backlinks. Internal linking is always helpful, and something to do even if your competitors aren’t – just make sure you don’t overdo it by making your content unreadable due to all the hyperlinks!

*Some links within this article are affiliate links which Exposure Ninja receives a fee for promoting (these links are not sponsored). Exposure Ninja only promotes services we already use within our marketing stack.

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About the Author
Jess Percival
Jess is a Digital Marketer here at Exposure Ninja. She splits her time between social, video and blogging with some live streaming and gaming on...

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