Since time immemorial, businesses have been keeping one eye on what their competitors are doing. It makes sense – you’re not the only business in the market, so you can’t operate as if you are in a vacuum. Competitor analysis requires you to hold yourselves up against those businesses you’re in direct competition with, and be honest about your strengths and weaknesses vs theirs. This is common practice from a commercial perspective – but where does SEO come into it?
Competitive analysis with SEO brings with it the same insight that general competitor analysis does – namely finding spots where you’re weak and your competitor is strong – and therefore finding opportunities you can piggyback on to.
Here’s why you should have your vision firmly trained on your competition when it comes to SEO.
Knowing which keywords to target
If you are at all familiar with the dark art of SEO – you’ll know it’s all about keywords. The keyword is what a person inputs into a search engine (usually Google) – in order to find the answer to some burning question they have (“How old is Jennifer Aniston?”) or to find a product or service they require (“anti-aging cream”). Each time someone searches for a keyword, the search engine trawls the web for relevant pages, and ranks them according to how relevant they are to the search (among other things). So getting the right traffic coming to your site really depends on what keywords you’re targeting. Looking at what your competitors are doing can be very useful here – some of them may already have done the legwork in terms of finding keywords with good search volumes that are relatively easy to rank for. And because you can hazard a good guess as to what they’re doing to rank for that keyword, you can nick their ideas – and make them better – to outrank them. Which brings us nicely to…
Content planning can be a bit of a grind. Each month or quarter you may feel like you’ve covered all the bases – milked your keyword research dry, with nothing new to say on the topic. Well if you’re stuck with a bit of writer’s (or content planner’s) block, you might want to take a look at what your competitors are doing. Have they released an article recently which you can cheekily take a slightly different view on? Or an opposite view if you’re feeling bold? You’re not nicking their content – you’re adding to the conversation about that topic. You need only look at some of the key players in the marketing automation industry, for example, to see that they’re all banging on about the same things. For example Google “what is marketing automation?” and you’ll see articles in the top 10 from HubSpot, Salesforce, and Marketo to name but a few. Each is bringing their own perspective to the topic, and consistently trying to outperform and outrank competitors by making their content shine brightest. We could go into the many reasons why HubSpot’s article is first, and Marketo’s is fourth below WikiPedia, but that’s probably one for another time. All you need to know is – there’s nothing wrong with taking inspiration for content from businesses similar to yours – as long as you take it and make it better.
To complete the SEO holy trinity, we must look to links. That’s keywords, content and links, in case you weren’t paying attention. Inbound links to your site from relevant, quality domains can be the difference between page 1 and page 12. And guess what? Your competitors have got ‘em. They’ve almost certainly got links from websites you haven’t. What are you going to do about it? Obviously, you’re going to try and get links from the same (or similar) websites. It might be a local directory you’ve not seen before, or an industry publication you think you could get a piece in with. Whatever it is, it’s worth exploring. Sometimes, if you’re feeling particularly cheeky, you can do an even more in depth piece of work to look at which of your competitors’ content is being linked to. Is it a bit out of date? Is there information missing? Write your own version, and contact the site owner or editor to let them know – hey, here’s a more up to date resource, with more detail. Sneaky, eh?
How do you do SEO competitor analysis?
While you can do some rudimentary Googling around keywords relevant to your industry and your business to find your competitors and sniff out what they’re ranking for and how they’re doing it – like with most things around SEO, some specialist knowledge and tools are required to really go in-depth and get the most value. Inflowing’s digital team have nearly a decade of experience traversing the complex search landscape with the best tools in the biz. Ready to outperform your competitors and leave them scratching their heads? Get in touch.