Competitors are not only а pain in the neck but also a great source of insights to improve your SEO strategies.
In this guide, I’m sharing the tools and tactics to help you better understand your competitors and develop a winning SEO strategy.
Competitor SEO Analysis PDF Cheat Sheet
If you need a Competitor SEO Analysis PDF cheat sheet to keep at hand, here it is.
Note: Yes, forming your own SEO strategy based on your competitors' research is a prudent approach. However, the goal is not to copy your competitors but to gain insights into what works well in your industry, identify areas for improvement, and tailor your strategy to outperform them.
Imagine entering a race without knowing who else is participating in it. It's like running blindfolded – tough to stay on track and plan your moves wisely. The same applies to SEO – you need to know your main search competitors to be sure you're doing everything right.
You can probably name a couple of your real-world competitors right off the bat. However, the problem is that very often, your search competitors aren't the same as your physical ones.
The best way to find your digital competitors is to use the Competitor Research module of Rank Tracker. This module helps you find competitors who rank for the same keywords as your site.
You'll see a table with a list of sites similar to yours. For each competitor, you’ll also get info on keyword intersection and organic traffic.
For you to have a visual representation of your competitive landscape, there is a graph on the top right. It shows the distribution of organic traffic and the total keywords across all found competitors.
Each of your competitors may target different audiences, employ distinct strategies, or excel in specific areas. By categorizing competitors based on relevance, size, or niche focus, you can tailor your SEO efforts more effectively.
There are many ways you can segment your competitors. For example, if your business operates in industries where geographical location plays a significant role, you may segment them local vs. global.
Imagine owning a global e-commerce store specializing in handmade jewelry. Your local competitors might include regional artisans catering to specific areas, while your global competitors could be famous international jewelry brands.
To compete with local brands, you may prioritize local SEO strategies such as optimizing your Google Business Profile, getting local backlinks, and using location-specific keywords like "handmade jewelry in London" to enhance local visibility.
Simultaneously, to outperform your global competitors, broaden your keyword optimization to capture a global audience with terms like "unique artisanal jewelry." Also, make sure you implement international SEO practices and leverage social media for a wider reach.
You may also segment your competitors by business size and market share. Consider this example: Your digital marketing agency competes with a big enterprise with a significant market share. At the same time, it also competes with a smaller agency that focuses on local SEO for small businesses.
To compete against the big enterprise, you can target long-tail keywords or niche areas where they are not dominant. You can also build a robust backlink profile by publishing authoritative content (to compete with a big enterprise's established online presence).
To compete against smaller agencies, you can target local SEO keywords for specific geographic areas ("near me" searches).
Identifying keyword gaps helps you discover terms that your competitors are ranking for, but you are not. The keywords from these gaps are your opportunities for content optimization.
It is super easy to run a keyword gap analysis in Rank Tracker.
Not all competitors' keywords should be employed in your own SEO strategy. Some keywords you come across won't be relevant or suitable for your site. So, it is critical that you carefully evaluate and choose the ones that align with your goals and objectives.
Make sure the keywords you found:
Besides, pay special attention to seasonality or the trending nature of the keywords you’ve found. Prioritize keywords that align with seasonal trends or current industry buzz – to capitalize on timely opportunities.
It’s crucial to understand where most of your targeted audience hangs out. And competition traffic research is an obvious shortcut here.
The first thing to pay attention to is the competitor’s source of the heaviest traffic.
For starters, you can track your competitor's traffic sources with Similarweb.
If you want to get insights into paid traffic, you can use SpyFu.
By the end of your research, you will be able to identify where most of your competitors get steady traffic from.
Well, there are no tricks here – the heaviest source of competitors' traffic will also point to where you should direct your efforts.
Say your competitors get the most of their traffic from social media. Go and check their accounts manually — maybe Instagram (X, Reddit, TikTok, or any other) is the key to success in your industry. Or vice versa, online platforms may bring your competitors little to no traffic. In this case, social media should not play a significant role in your marketing strategy.
Anyway, study all the sources to find any neglected opportunities – who knows, maybe you'll spot the goldmine.
Tracking competitors' SERP features helps you understand which content is being spotlighted in search results. And since featured snippets may bring even more traffic and enhance brand awareness in the meanwhile, getting one should become a goal.
By the end of your investigation, you'll get insights into how to optimize your content to win SERP features.
Here is what you need to do:
Optimize your content for SERP features based on successful patterns you just observed.
Let's say you're running an ecommerce website that sells athletic shoes. During your analysis of competitors' SERP features, you notice that one of your main competitors consistently secures featured snippets for queries like "best running shoes for beginners" and "how to choose the right running shoes." You analyzed the structure of the competitor's content and noticed that they use bullet points, concise answers, and clear headings.
Based on these insights, you may decide to develop detailed guides that cover topics like "Choosing the Perfect Running Shoes: A Beginner's Guide" and "Top 10 Running Shoes for Beginners in 2024." You may also optimize your own content by structuring it in a way similar to that of your competitor.
If your competitor's featured snippets include images or tables, consider incorporating similar rich media into your content.
By analyzing competitors' on-page SEO strategies, you discover their sites’ weaknesses and strengths and learn how to optimize your own site to compete with them. To do that, you need to analyze their:
You will have to check these factors page by page. Simultaneously, pinpoint what your competitors do better than you. Maybe, they put all their keywords at the very beginning of each title, and you don’t. Or maybe they use short and clear URL slugs while you put every particle and article in it like this” “how-to-do-an-seo-competitive-analysis”.
Read more about on-page SEO factors in our article On-Page SEO Factors (Guide & Optimization Checklist).
Analyze what you've learned and build your own strategy.
Suppose your competitor's product page excels due to a combination of perfectly optimized meta title and description. Your strategy could involve enhancing your product pages by investing your time and effort in the same SEO factors.
Running a competitor backlink profile analysis will help you understand how strong your competitors are and how hard you should work on gaining the needed domain strength. Plus, you'll be able to boost your link-building strategy by identifying backlink gaps.
Use SEO SpyGlass to analyze your competitors' backlinks:
To get a more detailed picture of competitors’ authority, you can also track their brand mentions and citations. You can use tools like Google Alerts or Awario to monitor your competitors' brand mentions on autopilot.
Everything is straightforward here. If your competitor has a strong backlink profile with a significant number of high-quality links from reputable websites, your strategy should involve:
Find competitors' broken pages for broken link building
You can make a great opportunity out of competitors' broken pages with backlinks.
When a competitor's page with valuable backlinks becomes broken or unavailable, it opens a door for you to swoop in and reclaim those lost link opportunities.
By identifying and reaching out to website owners linking to your competitor's broken pages, you can offer them an alternative – your own relevant and high-quality content.
This strategic approach not only helps you gain authoritative backlinks but also assists webmasters in maintaining a seamless user experience by replacing broken links with valuable and functional resources.
Read more about it in our guide, Ultimate Guide to Finding Broken Backlinks.
You may think that everybody does the same things for technical SEO, and there is not much to discover and learn from competitors. We all watch out for:
It's true. But still, analyzing competitors' technical SEO allows you to pinpoint specific elements affecting competitor website's performance. These insights will help you identify and rectify gaps or issues in your own technical SEO strategy.
You can study competitors' technical SEO in WebSite Auditor:
Tip: Want to audit the specific pages of your competitors? Try List Mode in WebSite Auditor. Read more about this new feature and how to use it in our guide List Mode: New Workflow in WebSite Auditor.
Consider a scenario where your main competitor shows a perfect technical SEO strategy:
Inspired by these correlations, your technical SEO strategy may involve a comprehensive audit of your own website, with a focus on areas where the competitor excels.
And if it happens that your competitors aren't good at technical SEO, do your best anyway - you will be rewarded with higher rankings.
Identifying content gaps helps spot topics that your competitors have already covered, but you haven't.
You can spot your missed content opportunities by taking the following steps:
These identified gaps are your new content ideas. However, remember: You shouldn't try to copy your competitors' content but show your unique expertise to provide value in areas where competitors may fall short.
Say, your competitors in the beauty industry consistently produce blog posts and videos on skincare routines but lack in-depth guides on ingredient analysis. Your strategy might involve creating comprehensive guides that analyze popular skincare ingredients, their benefits, and potential side effects.
Analyzing competitors' PPC campaigns helps you understand their paid advertising strategies, keywords targeted, and ad creatives.
With the info at hand, you can calculate if you should invest in advertising more or put all the stakes on SEO.
Here is how it's done:
Here, everything is easy as ABC. If there are traffic-bringing keywords you can afford — then you launch an advertising campaign. If there are no affordable keywords with traffic potential — you have to find other traffic sources. That is it.
For example, you are running an ecommerce business specializing in artisanal coffee products. You discovered that one of your key competitors is successfully running PPC campaigns targeting high-performing keywords like "craft coffee beans" and "artisanal coffee blends." The ad copies emphasize unique flavor profiles and sustainable sourcing, contributing to a high click-through rate.
Upon evaluating the CPC that your business can afford, based on an industry average revenue per client of $30 and a 10% conversion rate from paid ads, you calculate that a click must cost $3 or less for a profitable outcome. So, you may come to the conclusion that the actual click costs for relevant keywords in the coffee industry align with your affordability threshold. This way, you can get a lot of traffic without draining your budget.
Social media is important for SEO, believe it or not. Social signals, such as likes, shares, and comments on social media platforms, can impact a website's credibility and visibility in search results.
Tracking competitors' social media provides insights into effective SMM practices. With them under the belt, you can optimize your own social media strategy and maintain a competitive edge.
Here is what you need to do:
Obviously, you should focus your efforts on platforms where your competitors are present.
For example, your competitor in the tech industry consistently engages with its audience on Twitter (now X) and LinkedIn through a mix of industry insights, product updates, and engaging polls. Your strategy may include focusing on these platforms, too.
However, you still should be in constant search for new platforms and opportunities. Experiment with new social media and the types of content. This way, you may attract even more people.
When you embark on a new SEO journey for your website, it's wise to conduct a competitor analysis. Why reinvent the wheel when you can learn from those who have already succeeded?
By analyzing your competitors' strategies, you gain actionable insights for optimizing content, targeting the right keywords, securing valuable backlinks, and more. All of that will help you set a clear path to success in your industry.
Don’t forget to download a PDF file with all the competitor research steps for quick reference.
Now, how about having some fun and gossiping about our competitors (while sharing some tips on spying on them) in our private Facebook group?