Conducting an Effective SEO Competitor Analysis

seo competitor analysis

SEO competitor analysis involves researching your competition to understand their target keywords, content strategy and backlinks, and applying the most successful elements of these tactics into your own SEO strategy. This article will discuss SEO competitor analysis, from identifying who your real competitors are to leveraging their successes (and failures) to bolster your own SEO campaigns.

Understanding the Basics of SEO Competitor Analysis

SEO competitor analysis is a multi-faceted approach that examines the SEO strategies of your competition, including keywords, content, backlinks, and site structure. Employing tools like Semrush, Ahrefs, or Moz can offer a quantitative look at your competitors’ online presence.


Domain Analytics: Semrush provides an overview of a competitor’s domain, showcasing data like traffic analysis, organic search performance, and paid search performance. It also gives insight into the main organic competitors and positions changes in SERPs.

Keyword Research: The Keyword Magic Tool and Keyword Overview provide extensive data on keyword volume, trend, difficulty, and the SERP features triggered by them. This helps to assess which keywords are worth targeting.

Backlink Analysis: Semrush’s Backlink Analytics tool enables you to examine the backlink profile of any domain, understand the authority of linking domains, and analyze the types of backlinks (text, image, form, etc.).

Traffic Analytics: It gives an estimation of a website’s traffic and user behavior, including sources of traffic, geographic distribution, and user engagement metrics.

Market Explorer: This feature provides a broader view of your industry landscape, identifying market players, audience demographics, and behavioral characteristics.


Site Explorer: Ahrefs’ Site Explorer combines three powerful SEO tools in one interface: Organic traffic research (to see which keywords competitors are ranking for), Backlink checker (to study a competitor’s backlink profile), and Paid traffic research (to analyze if competitors are running paid ads and their strategies).

Content Explorer: This tool allows you to see which pages on a competitor’s website are most popular and what topics they cover. It helps in identifying content gaps and popular industry topics.

Keyword Explorer: It offers detailed reports on keyword metrics, including search volume, keyword difficulty, and the click distribution between paid and organic search.

Rank Tracker: Track your own and your competitors’ rankings for a custom set of target keywords. It provides updates on rankings and visibility over time.

Alerts: Set up alerts for new and lost backlinks, web mentions, and keyword rankings, which helps keep tabs on competitors’ activities almost in real-time.


Link Explorer: Moz’s Link Explorer provides an analysis of a domain’s backlink profile, measuring metrics like Domain Authority and Page Authority, which are proprietary Moz metrics estimating a domain’s or page’s ranking potential.

Keyword Explorer: Offers keyword suggestions, SERP analysis, and organic CTR data. This helps in understanding which keywords competitors are targeting and the performance of these keywords.

Rank Tracker: You can monitor your competitors’ rankings on the SERPs for certain keywords, which gives an insight into their SEO strategies’ effectiveness.

MozBar: A Chrome Extension that gives immediate access to key SEO metrics while viewing any page or SERP, allowing a quick glance at a competitor’s page-level SEO.

Moz Local: For businesses with local SEO needs, Moz Local helps you see how your competitors are ranking in local search results and the actions they’re taking to maintain those rankings.

How They Work

Data Collection: These tools use bots (similar to search engine crawlers) to collect data from web pages. They crawl billions of web pages, process the data, and store it in massive databases.

Data Analysis: The raw data is then analyzed to calculate various metrics, such as domain authority, backlink count, organic search rankings, and many others.

User Interface: The processed data is made accessible to users through a user-friendly interface where they can input a domain or keyword and receive comprehensive reports.

Regular Updates: The databases are regularly updated to reflect changes in the web and in competitors’ strategies.

Integrations: They often allow integration with other tools or platforms (like Google Analytics, Search Console, etc.) for a more complete view of SEO performance.

By leveraging these tools, SEO professionals can dissect their competitors’ strategies and gain insights into what’s working for them. This information is invaluable when formulating or adjusting one’s own SEO strategy. Each of these tools has a slightly different focus and set of features, so the best choice will depend on specific needs, budget, and personal preference.

Identifying Your True SEO Competitors

Surprisingly, your direct business competitors may not be your only, or even your main, SEO competitors. It’s those who occupy the search results for your target keywords that are your true rivals in SEO. Tools such as Google’s own SERP analysis or Ahrefs’ Competing Domains feature can help pinpoint these players.

SEO Competitor Analysis: Keyword Strategies

Understanding which keywords your competitors are targeting, and ranking for, can provide a roadmap for your own keyword strategy. Tools like Google Keyword Planner and Ahrefs provide insight into keyword relevance, search volume, and difficulty. Identifying gaps where your competitors have a low presence gives you areas where you can potentially dominate.

SEO Competitor Analysis: Content Strategies

Content is king in SEO, and scrutinizing your competitors’ content can teach you about industry standards and audience expectations. Look at the quality, relevance, and engagement of their content. Consider tools like BuzzSumo to gauge the social traction of competitor content.

Inspecting Competitor Backlink Profiles

Backlinks are akin to votes of confidence in the eyes of search engines. Using tools like Majestic SEO, you can analyze where these votes are coming from for your competitors. Aim to understand not just the quantity but the quality of these backlinks, which can help you target similar sources.

Assessing Website Structure and User Experience (UX)

A well-structured website with a positive user experience can significantly impact SEO rankings. Evaluate your competitors’ site architecture, mobile responsiveness, and on-page SEO tactics. Google’s PageSpeed Insights and Mobile-Friendly Test can assist in these assessments.

Monitoring Competitor Social Media Presence

Social media doesn’t directly impact SEO, but it influences online presence and authority. By studying your competitors’ social media usage, you can infer which platforms are most effective for your industry and what type of content gets the most engagement.

Learning from Competitor PPC Campaigns

While Pay-Per-Click (PPC) is not SEO, it can provide insights. Look at your competitors’ ad copies, keywords, and targeting strategies using tools like SpyFu. It can be a shortcut to understanding valuable keywords and market segments.

Crafting Your SEO Strategy Based on Competitor Analysis

The final goal of SEO competitor analysis is to improve your own SEO strategy. Take the insights gleaned and use them to refine your keyword targets, content plans, and backlink strategy. Establish clear SEO goals and determine your unique value proposition to differentiate your brand.

Competitor analysis isn’t a one-and-done task. It should be a regular part of your SEO activities. Stay agile and ready to pivot your strategies in response to not only competitor movements but also industry changes.

SEO competitor analysis is an essential component of a successful SEO strategy. It requires diligence, attention to detail, and an understanding of both your industry’s landscape and the broader trends in digital marketing. Start with this guide, but continue to learn and adapt as you go, because the only constant in SEO is change.

For assistance with SEO competitor analysis and a wide variety of SEO challenges like voice search SEO, local SEO strategies, and ecommerce SEO, reach out to the experienced and enthusiastic New Target team. We’ll get you seen and heard!

A global team of digerati with offices in Washington, D.C. and Southern California, we provide digital marketing, web design, and creative for brands you know and nonprofits you love.

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