Your SEO Competitor Analysis Checklist for 2021
How do you feel about your competitors?
You probably wish they never existed and dream about the world with no competition.
But what if we were to tell you that your competitors can actually help you improve your rankings? Yes, you read it right. Your rivals are a goldmine of useful information that you can use to sharpen your SEO strategies and increase your website’s visibility in organic search. All you have to do is fish that information out, and that’s what SEO competitor analysis can help you with.
Rival research will provide you with many opportunities
- Learn what SEO strategies work best in your industry.
- Find your competitors’ weak points and capitalize on them.
- Discover your content gaps and fill them.
- Find out your rivals’ top-performing keywords and optimize for them.
- Analyze your competitors’ backlink profiles and steal some backlinks from their broken pages.
So get your binoculars as we’re about to show you how to spy on your competitors. Here is a simple checklist to follow.
#1 Define your competitors
Step number one is to define your competitors, simple as that.
To find who you’re competing with, you will need a list of target keywords. The first thing you can do is google those keywords and discover websites ranking for them in search results.
Let’s suppose you own an online bike shop, bikesonline·com.
Just type one of your target keywords into the Google search box to find your competitors. Let it be ‘bicycle for sale.’
As you can see, your website is ranking seventh for that search term. Above and below are other bike sellers — your beloved competitors. You can add them to your list to visit their websites and investigate them afterward. But for now, you should repeat the same process with other targeted keywords to build a comprehensive rival list.
However, manually googling keywords for discovering competitors has two serious drawbacks. First, it takes too long for websites with big keyword lists. But most importantly, Google considers your preferences and browser information when providing search results. It gives them based on your location, language, browsing history, and various other factors, so you always get personalized results.
Fortunately, you can avoid that by using advanced SEO tools, like RankActive’s Top Analyzer. This tool enables you to find your competitors for any keyword, language, and location. Unlike Google, it always provides depersonalized results, so you can easily discover who your real competitors are.
Enter ‘bicycle for sale’ into the tool’s search field and select Google (USA) as your search engine.
As you can see, the results are slightly different. That’s because the tool doesn’t have any browsing history, preferences, or anything else that may impact SERP. That’s why you should leverage such SEO instruments to build a comprehensive list of your actual competitors.
If you don’t want to manually enter each keyword to find rivals for it, you can generate your competitors automatically. In Competitors Inspector’s settings section, you can generate competitors by either domain or keywords.
After that, you can select rival websites and add them to your list.
Once you’re done with it, the next step is to find out what keywords your competitors use.
#2 Discover your competitors’ keywords
Discovering your competitors’ keywords will give you two opportunities:
- First, you can compare your content to your competitors’. That will enable you to improve your content by implementing rivals’ best practices
- Second, you can fill your content gaps. Namely, you can find what keywords your competitors rank for, but you don’t. That will let you create content around such terms and start competing for them.
So how do you find what keywords your competitors use?
To do that automatically, you can use reverse rank tracking tools. They enable you to find all ranking keywords for any domain.
In Keyword Finder’s Ranked Keywords section, you can type a domain into the corresponding field and get keywords for it almost instantly.
We just did it with one of bikesonline·com’s competitors, bikeexhange·com, and found out this website is currently ranking for more than 200,000 keywords.
Now that we got our competitor’s keyword list, we can compare our content to rivals’, find our weak points and fix them.
#3 Learn from your competitor’s content
To compare your content to the competitor’s, add the terms you found in the Ranked Keywords section to the project. After that, you can use the Competitors Inspector’s Keywords section to compare rankings.
Here, you should look for keywords for which your rival ranks higher than you do. For instance, bikesonline·com ranks eighth for the ‘bike cycle for sale’ term, while bikeexhange·com is the second on the list.
Given that this keyword has a decent search volume, you should visit the competitor’s ranking page for that term and examine it thoroughly.
Pay attention to:
- Content length. According to numerous studies, longer content usually ranks higher. So if you spot that your competitor has 2,000 words article for a specific keyword while you have only 500 words of text, you should consider expanding your content. But don’t get us wrong. We don’t mean that Google rank websites based on their content length only. Longer content ranks higher not because it’s long but because it usually provides more valuable, meaningful, and useful information. If you manage to fit all crucial information in a shorter text, it’ll be totally fine. There is no need in writing walls of text nobody would read.
- Number and quality of backlinks. Before trying to outrank your competitor’s page, you should find out how many backlinks it has and whether they are coming from authoritative websites. Luckily, there are tons of tools that allow you to analyze your competitors’ backlink profiles, so feel free to use them. If you discover that your rival has more high-quality backlinks than you, you should do your best to attract more backlinks to your page. If the difference is huge, maybe it would be more productive to give up on a certain keyword and try to outrank your competitor for another term.
- Mobile-friendliness. By May 2021, Google will have included mobile page experience signals in its search ranking. That means mobile-friendly pages will rank above not mobile-optimized ones, even for desktop. So if you want to be ahead of your competition, you should start making your website mobile-friendly. Run a Lighthouse test for your competitor’s page and then do the same for your own. If yours has a lower score, follow Google’s advice in Lighthouse and improve it.
Do everything you can to make your page better than your competitor’s so that you can outrank it in search results. Once you improve your existing content, it’s time to create a new one.
#4 Fill content gaps
Using the Competitors Inspector tool, you can also discover what keywords your competitors rank for, but you don’t. So let us go back to its Keywords section and search for these terms.
It didn’t take us long to find a few.
As you can see, your website doesn’t rank for a bunch of keywords with pretty high search volumes. However, your competitor ranks for them. That’s because you don’t have any content for these search terms.
To fix this, you need to create good content, but before you should analyze your competitor’s one, paying attention to the details described above.
So let’s visit the competitor’s page ranking for the 20 inch mountain bike keyword.
On this page, our rival sells 20-inch bikes for kids. But what’s important, they also have text content about 20-inch bikes so that their visitors can get all the information they need before buying these bikes for their kids.
That way, bikeexhange·com kills two birds with one stone:
- They provide useful information for people who want to learn more about 20-inch bikes.
- They sell these bikes to those who just want to buy them.
If you want to start competing with bikeexhange·com for 20 inch mountain bike keyword, you should:
- Create content about 20-inch bikes. It may be some article (e.g., “how to choose 20-inch mountain bike for a kid”) or a product page with 20-inch bikes for sale. You may also follow your competitor’s example, providing information and selling products on the same page.
- Optimize that content. You should make the page mobile-friendly and ensure it loads fast enough. You should also find related and suggested keywords for the 20 inch mountain bike query and include them in your content to rank for more search terms.
- Gain a few backlinks. To outrank your competitor, you will need to gain more backlinks than they have on their page. As we already mentioned, the quality of backlinks matters, so make sure websites linking to your pages are authoritative. If they are not, just disavow links coming from them.
If you do everything right, you will outrank your competitor and increase your traffic dramatically.
After you finish filling your content gaps, you might create even more content by optimizing for competitors’ top-performing keywords. To find them, you have to get rivals’ traffic data.
#5 Get your competitors’ traffic insights
By analyzing competitors’ traffic data, you can discover their TOP-performing keywords and optimize your content for them.
There are several tools that can provide such insights, but one of the most popular is SimilarWeb. In its Website Performance section, you can find traffic data for the specified competitor.
As you can see, the tool gave you top-performing keyword information for two months. You can add some of these terms to your list and create content for them later. We said some because when searching for top-performing competitor keywords, you will encounter branded terms (bike24 in this case). There is no point optimizing for them because you just can’t outrank a brand for its branded keywords. However, you can run ads for such terms and steal some clicks from your rivals.
While SimilarWeb is a useful tool, it can provide traffic information only for a website that has at least 5000 monthly visitors. If it hasn’t, the tool will return no data.
So if you own a small business and compete against other small companies, SimilarWeb is of no use for you.
Luckily, we can offer an alternative solution.
In the Competitors Inspector’s Traffic section, you can discover traffic data for any competitor regardless of their number of monthly visitors.
Let’s find out the five top-performing keywords of bikeexhange.com.
As you can see, sale mountain bikes, mountain bikes on sale, mountain bike for sale, sale on mountain bikes, and sale mountain bike are the keywords that brought the competitor the most visits in January. There are no branded terms here, so you can feel free to optimize for them.
Once you create enough content, you should analyze competitors’ backlink profiles and steal backlinks from their broken pages. We’re going to show you how it’s done.
#6 Analyze competitors’ backlink profiles
As we already mentioned, analyzing competitors’ backlink profiles can help you understand your chances to outrank them for a specific keyword. But what’s more important, it can also help you improve your rankings.
There are a few easy steps you should take for this:
- Find broken pages on your competitors’ websites.
- Find what websites link to broken pages of your rivals.
- Ask website owners to link to your not broken pages instead.
Let’s discuss it in more detail.
Find broken pages on your competitors’ websites
Finding broken pages on your competitor’s website manually would take forever. That’s why you should use advanced SEO tools like RankActive’s Site Auditor. Using it, you can scan any website for on-page SEO issues, including 404 pages. All you have to do is add a competitor’s website to your project.
We just did it with bikeexhange.com and found out it has seven 404 pages.
Find what websites link to broken pages of your rivals
There are many advanced SEO tools that let you find backlinks for a website or even its particular page. Use them to find websites that link to your competitor’s broken pages and move on to the next step.
Ask website owners to link to your not broken pages instead
Many webmasters believe that linking to someone’s broken page is bad for their own rankings. We don’t know if it’s true, but you can definitely capitalize on it. Just contact webmasters who link to your competitor’s broken pages and politely ask them to replace those backlinks with links to your website pages. That will help you gain more backlinks and therefore improve your rankings.
You should surely find some time and perform SEO competitor analysis as it will give you so many opportunities. Your rivals are probably examining your website right now, so why not do the same? Just follow our simple six-step checklist and:
- Find out who your competitors are.
- Discover what keywords they use.
- Compare your content to the content of your competitors’. Learn from your rivals and implement their best practices to improve your content.
- Find your content gaps and fill them to increase your website visibility.
- Analyze your competitors’ traffic and optimize your website for their top-performing keywords.
- Find backlinks to competitors’ 404 pages and ask linking website owners to link to your pages instead.
To save yourself plenty of time and effort, perform competitor research with advanced SEO tools. They can help you automate your daily optimization routine. Sign up to RankActive right now to use our tools for 14 days for free.