Introduction to Competitive Analysis


Whether you hire an internal SEO team or partner with an SEO company like us, you can’t develop an SEO strategy without understanding the basics. Since it’s the foundation of organic search, this post provides a quick introduction to competitive analysis.

Before we present clients with an enterprise SEO strategy, we familiarize ourselves with various competitors within their vertical. While some of those competitors may be obvious, others may not actually compete for the same customers. Instead, they compete for keyword visibility in the SERPs.

In this competitive analysis introduction, we’ll discuss how you can define, analyze and track your competitors.

Defining the Competitive Landscape

First, identify a broad set of keywords within your vertical that have high search volume, the potential for conversions and are poised for positive ranking movement.

Next, create buckets of keywords that align with your products, services, etc. Then, determine who stands in your way on the climb to the top of the Google SERPs.

To determine your strongest search competitors, search for your top keywords and record who consistently ranks on the first and second pages of results.

One thing to keep in mind is that these sites aren’t your run-of-the-mill brick and mortar competition. They rank for the queries your potential customers search for online. More often than not, your online competition will include some unfamiliar names, too.

Analyzing the Competition

Once you know who’s taking your organic traffic, it’s time to investigate why they’re ranking and how far behind you are.

To draw insight, you’ll need to gather some metrics. Look at the number of unique linking domains, backlink quality, anchor text distribution, quality of content, etc. Then, compare the results from the competitive set to your own target page(s).

Then you can set quantitative goals for your various campaigns to close the gap with your competition.

Off-page SEO isn’t the whole story, though. You must also review your competitors’ content and on-page strategy, including meta tags, internal links, IA and UX.

Since this is just an introduction to competitive analysis, I won’t go into detail on the specific strategies. Suffice it to say that you need to develop the most comprehensive picture possible about why your competitors outrank you in the SERPs.

Tracking the Competition

At this point, you’ve compiled a considerable amount of valuable information to build your search strategy. However, it’s just as important to keep it organized and up-to-date.

We use proprietary software designed to do the heavy lifting for a few of these tasks, but for some of our tracking purposes, the most elegant solution is often the simplest. Meaning, if you aren’t familiar with some sort of spreadsheet program, prepare to meet one of your new best friends.

One of the best things about using spreadsheets for competitive analysis tasks is their versatility. We use them to track and monitor everything from simple site metrics to complex data files used to analyze backlink profiles that exceed tens of thousands of links. With well-structured files at our disposal, we can crunch and manipulate data into digestible charts, tables and graphs.

Conquer Your Enemies

As you can tell by everything that I’ve laid out in this post, competitive analysis can be somewhat tedious and time-consuming (I suggest a good pair of headphones and creating a few ‘go-to’ Spotify playlists), but it’s a crucial component in the search strategy development process and everything that comes afterward. It also bears repeating that this process should not stop after your plan is put into place. If you aren’t frequently checking up on the competition, you can easily miss out on important opportunities, changes to the competitive landscape and even signals that it’s time to alter your strategy.