Competitive Analysis for SEO: How to Benchmark Your Performance Against Competitors

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Performing competitive analysis should be a key part of your SEO strategy. By analyzing your top competitors, you can gain valuable intel to shape your own optimization efforts and content creation.

In this post, we’ll explore how to conduct competitive SEO analysis and use those findings to improve your organic search performance.

Key Takeaways for Competitive SEO Analysis

Conducting a thorough competitive analysis should be an ongoing part of your SEO strategy. Here are the key points to remember:

  • Identify your top competitor sites targeting your niche, keywords, and customers.
  • Use tools like Ahrefs and Moz to analyze competitor backlink profiles and link-building strategies.
  • Compare your keyword rankings over time to competitors using SEMrush or Ahrefs.
  • Leverage tools like PageSpeed Insights to audit site speed and mobile optimization.
  • Perform an in-depth audit of on-page elements, including titles, content, alt text, and more.
  • Evaluate their content strategies across blogs, videos, social media, and other formats.
  • Continuously track competitors over time for changes to rankings, links, content, and traffic.
  • Turn insights directly into SEO wins by outperforming competitors in key areas like content, links, page speed, and keywords.
  • Maintain the benchmark analysis as an ongoing practice as the SEO landscape evolves.

Competitive analysis reveals both strengths to emulate and weaknesses to capitalize on. By applying these lessons, you can directly improve organic search visibility and traffic for your business.

Why Competitive SEO Analysis Matters

Analyzing competitor websites and SEO strategies allows you to:

  • Gauge their strengths to identify optimization opportunities for your own site
  • Learn their weaknesses to get ahead with the right strategies
  • Discover content gaps where you can fill a need before competitors
  • Track their rankings over time to see how your site compares
  • Gain insights on backlink profiles and link-building tactics that work
  • Deep dive into specifics like keyword targeting, site speed, optimizations for mobile, etc.

Without understanding the SEO strategies of competitors in your space, you’re missing out on an incredibly valuable benchmarking resource.

Step-by-Step Guide to Competitive SEO Analysis

Follow this process to extract powerful competitive intelligence you can act on:

1. Identify Your Core Competitors

Start by creating a list of your top 5-10 competitor websites. These should be sites in your niche who:

  • Directly compete for your target customers
  • Offer similar products, services and content
  • Generate traffic from shared keyword targets

Look at who consistently outranks you for your most valuable keywords to ensure they’re on the list.

2. Analyze Link Profiles and Backlink Sources

A site’s backlink profile offers great clues for link-building tactics that deliver results. Use a tool like Ahrefs to analyze competitors’ links:

  • Evaluate link quality and domain authority of referral sites
  • Discover opportunities to pursue high-quality links from the same domains
  • Identify any toxic links you’ll want to avoid
  • Uncover link-building strategies like guest posts, resource pages, etc., they’re using successfully

Make note of any major link acquisition opportunities you can replicate on your own site.

3. Compare Keyword Targeting and Rankings

See which keywords your competitors are targeting and how you stack up for rankings:

  • Use SEMrush, Ahrefs or Moz for keyword data
  • Identify their most valuable targets driving significant traffic
  • Discover keyword gaps where you can outrank competitors
  • Set targets for keywords where you can realistically compete

Use this intelligence to shape your organic keyword strategy.

4. Evaluate Site Speed and Mobile Optimization

Site speed and mobile optimization have become vital ranking factors. Use Google PageSpeed Insights and Think With Google TestMySite to:

  • Check competitor site load times on mobile and desktop
  • See if they use AMP and optimized mobile pages
  • Identify technical optimizations to match or exceed their speed

Faster site speed improves user experience and SEO performance, so use competitors as motivation.

5. Audit Site Architecture and On-Page Elements

Conduct an in-depth audit of competitors’ on-page SEO and site architecture:

  • Review site structure, internal linking, and URL formats
  • Analyze title tags, meta descriptions, header tags
  • Check image alt text, page content, schema markup
  • See if they offer unique content and assets

Look for on-page areas where you can optimize further to pull ahead.

6. Evaluate Their Content Strategies

Dive into competitors’ content approaches, including:

  • Blog post frequency, topics, and formats
  • Resources like ebooks, guides, and tools
  • Visual content like videos and webinars
  • Use of guest posting and external partnerships
  • Promotion tactics on social media

Identify content gaps and assets you can create to surpass their efforts.

7. Track Their Progress Over Time

The work doesn’t stop once your initial analysis is done. You need to monitor competitors over time:

  • Set up tracking for their keyword rankings in comparison to your own site
  • Check their site traffic trends using SimilarWeb
  • Be alerted when they acquire new links using Google Alerts and Ahrefs
  • Follow their new content creation and updates

This allows you to continually assess their SEO activities and respond accordingly.

Turn Insights into Actionable SEO Wins

The most crucial step is actually applying what you learn through competitive analysis to improve your own SEO and content.

Some potential ways to capitalize on competitors’ weaknesses include:

  • Creating content assets they lack, like videos, tools, or datasets
  • Pursuing quality link-building tactics they’re successfully using
  • Targeting keywords and topics they’ve yet to optimize for
  • Improving site speed and technical SEO beyond their site
  • Strengthening on-page elements and page content where they’re weaker

In the fast-moving SEO landscape, standing still essentially means falling behind. But with the right competitive analysis, you can seize optimization opportunities and ultimately pull ahead of rivals in the SERPs.

Frequently Asked Questions

What tools do you recommend for competitive analysis?

Some of the top tools are Ahrefs, SEMrush, Moz, BuzzSumo, and SimilarWeb. We recommend using a mix to gather well-rounded intel on competitors’ links, keywords, site traffic, and content strategy.

How often should I be conducting competitive analysis?

We suggest performing a thorough competitive analysis quarterly. Additionally, set up tracking for a monthly check-in on rankings and updates from key competitors.

How many competitors should I benchmark?

Include your top 5-10 competitor sites for the most relevant data. Any more can lead to analysis paralysis. Focus on competitors targeting your core keywords and customer base.

What if a competitor is vastly outperforming my website?

Don’t get discouraged! The goal is learning lessons from their success that you can apply to your own SEO and content efforts. With strategic optimizations, you can begin closing the gap over time.

Should I be worried about competitors analyzing my site?

Not at all! Competitive analysis is standard practice in the SEO industry. You should expect that top competitors are likely benchmarking your site as well to inform their strategy. View it as added motivation to continuously improve.

How can I apply competitor findings if I have a much smaller budget?

Focus on high-impact SEO tactics and content opportunities that competitors are leveraging successfully despite budget differences. For example, guest posting and keyword gaps don’t require a huge investment.

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