The 7-Step Process to Run a Thorough SEO Competitor Analysis

Last Updated: January 13, 2022

One of the most important things for businesses is being competitive in their market. 46% of ecommerce decision-makers saw “very tough” competition in their industry

A great way to make your business more competitive is to understand what your competition is up to. Knowing how your competitors market their products will help you to shape your own strategy to fit your market. 

SEO is a big part of this. Once you’ve got a handle on how your SEO strategy should look, you can start automating processes for some of your basic SEO. This makes a competitor analysis very handy. 

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What is SEO Competitive Analysis?

SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. It’s a way of ranking your website higher on Search Engine Result Pages (SERPs).

For example, a startup wanting to improve their communications might search for “phone systems for small business”. You want to use SEO techniques to make sure that your business offering these services ranks high up in the search engine results. 

Every business in any industry wants to be the highest-ranked page. Obviously, only one can achieve this. This is exactly why it’s a good idea to conduct a thorough competitor analysis for SEO. 

This means that you look at what other businesses similar to yours are doing in terms of SEO and marketing. Using their techniques in your own strategy will help to boost your ranking in search engine results. 

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Why Do SEO Competitive Analysis?

Competitive Analysis is ultimately about making your business able to compete with other businesses within a market. 

Becoming more competitive in your SEO strategy will mean that you can be found more easily through search engines by customers. This will lead to you being more visible to consumers. 

Improved visibility can lead you to more sales, more revenue, and higher profit for the business. It will also help to establish you as an industry thought leader. 

The 7-Step Process

Here are the essential seven steps you should be taking to perform a thorough SEO competitor analysis. 

  1. Identify competitors
  2. Conduct a SWOT analysis
  3. Identify website weaknesses (and strengths)
  4. Analyze target keywords
  5. Analyze user experience
  6. Make use of backlinks
  7. Leverage social media

#1 Identify Competitors

This is the most vital step of SEO competitor analysis. 

You need to identify whose SEO strategy you’re going to be analyzing. These should be businesses that are in direct competition with you. 

To find out which businesses you should be targeting, you can simply use a search engine, such as Google. 

There are a few things that you’ll need to consider when doing this: 

  • Market size – in a small market, you might need to widen your idea of what constitutes a “competitor”
  • Your USP – there may be something about your product that means another business is no longer a relevant competitor
  • Your audience – are there multiple applications for similar products? If so, which application is yours meant for?

Let’s go into a bit more detail about defining your audience in a useful way. 

Consider a business offering augmented reality technology for training purposes. You could find competitors for this business by only searching “augmented reality”, but this might not relate directly enough to your audience. 

You might want to try searching for your original term plus “for training” or “for team building”. This will make your search more relevant to your audience. For certain businesses, search by location as well as industry. 

You should try to pick out only the most relevant competitors for analysis. This usually means no more than five or six other businesses. Any more, and you won’t have time to go into enough detail. Be specific when scoping out your competitors. 

However, if you’re in a very small niche, then you might need to look for ‘soft’ competitors. These are businesses that don’t directly compete with you, but there is significant overlap. To find these, you can use your wider search terms. 

#2 Conduct a SWOT Analysis

This is the first step where you’ll need to bring in an SEO tool. There are plenty of these out there at varying prices, so choose the one that is right for your business, and budget. 

Choosing the right SEO tool can be difficult, but you’ll want one that can pull backlink data and analyze keywords. 

You also might want to learn more about using Google Analytics and Google Ads before you begin. 

Using analytics to drive sales is the key goal here. Look at sales leaders in your industry and their website, keywords, and backlinks.

Create a database with all of the following for every competitor: 

  • Strengths
  • Weaknesses
  • Opportunities
  • Threats

“Opportunities” is the most important category here. Are your competitors missing something vital from their SEO strategy? Have they identified a rising star in your industry and obtained a lot of backlinks from them? 

Knowing the strengths and weaknesses of your competitors will help you to avoid mistakes in your strategy. You can also adapt their strategy to your own needs. 

#3 Identify Website Weaknesses (and Strengths)

If you’re running an analysis of an industry leader, take a look at their website as well as their behind-the-scenes SEO techniques. A good website is still a part of quality SEO. 

What works on your competitors’ websites? Do they have a useful tool for attracting customers or people in your industry? Are their blog posts insightful and helpful? 

Asking yourself these questions will help you to optimize your website for SEO. You can strategize all you want, but an un-optimized website will perform poorly when it comes to rankings. 

You should also think about the user lifetime at this point. If your typical customer visits the website once, makes a simple purchase, and doesn’t return, then your sales page needs to be really strong. 

If, however, your customers typically need a lot of post-purchase support, your FAQs and customer service numbers need to be prominently displayed. 

Finally, think about the content. Search engines like sites that are useful to consumers and regularly updated. Those that answer hot-topic questions in their industry are likely to be shown to customers near the top of the rankings. 

If you don’t have a blog, consider adding one. If you have one already, have a look at your competitors’ sites. What are they missing? Adding something unique to your blog can attract traffic and improve your SEO results. 

#4 Analyze Target Keywords

This is going to be instrumental to your SEO competitive analysis. Keywords are the major drivers of organic reach on search engines, so you’ll want to be using the right ones. 

Your SEO tool will come in handy here again. You can use this to find out how strong your competitors’ domains are, as well as how much authority they hold and the traffic they receive. 

Have a look at their site. What keywords do they use? How often do they use them? Make a list of their top keywords related to your product or industry. 

Google Keywords Planner is a superb analytical tool. 

If your service is, for example, ecommerce automation, their keywords might include “ecommerce small businesses”, “ecommerce solutions” and “small business ecommerce automation”.

Google Keyword Planner will tell you the following:

  • Keyword competition – how hard it will be to rank highly for this keyword in general
  • Industry keyword competition – how hard it will be to rank highly for this keyword in your industry
  • Cost for PPC – Google Ads will tell you how much a pay-per-click ad will cost you, based on keyword competition

Discard the ones that are too competitive. Discard the ones that are too vague. Make sure to use specific, reasonably accessible keywords that you can confidently include in your site. 

#5 Analyze User Experience

SEO favours sites that are easy to use. You’ll need to evaluate digital customer experience in order to have a competitive SEO strategy. 

Try using a competitor’s website. What is it like? Is it easy to use?

Go into this in the mind of a consumer. You could even get someone else from another team to help so that your perspective is fresh. Go through the website as a customer would in a few different scenarios. These could include: 

  • To make a purchase
  • To look for information
  • To get help with a product

Note down what works and what doesn’t about your competitors’ sites. Note also the amount of time that you spend on the website before deciding to leave. 

You’ll also need to look into UX for mobile if this is something that you think will affect your business. 

Mobile testing is a way of testing the functionality of websites and other content on mobile devices. Have a look at your competitors’ mobile websites or apps. 

Do they work the same as the desktop version? Are there significant functionality issues? 

If you find that there are issues that could be off-putting to consumers, make sure to avoid them on your own site. 

#6 Make Use of Backlinks

Backlinks are crucial to SEO. 

Backlinks are links to your website on another site. Sites that have a lot of backlinks are considered trustworthy by Google’s algorithm and so are likely to move up the rankings. 

This is very tricky to do without an SEO tool. So, as with keyword research, you’ll need to turn to your keyword tool for this step. 

Take each of your competitors in turn and find out where they’re getting backlinks and on what particular topics. Your SEO tool will show you the source of the URL and how it’s being used. You should also look at sites that your competitors are linking to. 

If they are trustworthy, you may want to link to them as well. 

You may also want to dive into some research – do they have pre-existing partnerships with these backlinked sites? 

So, why are backlinks important to SEO?

Imagine a potential customer who is looking for help managing remote employees. They search for this in a search engine and a competitor company comes up first because of their great build-up of backlinks. 

Your product might be better suited to this person. 

Project management communication tools might be the answer to their problem. This could be your speciality, while your competitor might only work with project management, without the communication element. You might have exactly what they’re looking for. But a lack of backlinks will mark your site as less trustworthy than a more frequently linked competitor. 

#7 Leverage Social Media

SEO looks at the entirety of your online presence. So, it’s best to keep your social media up-to-date and consistent with your brand message. 

It’s also worth conducting a competitor analysis of other businesses in your industry to see how they are leveraging social media. These platforms are huge players in the sales funnel, so you may be losing out on visibility and sales if you’re not optimizing your social media. 

A good way to do this is to find the following data:

  • Follower count (you’ll need this to work out ratios)
  • Average number of interactions (likes, RTs, shares)
  • Average percentage of interactions
  • Top ten most used tags
  • Posting frequency
  • Average follower increase (you’ll need to revisit this week on week to collect enough data)

Social media can also help you more directly with SEO. Creating predictive audiences in Google Analytics can help you to understand who to target with your SEO strategy. 

Although Google will do most of the work for you, using social media will help you to understand who is viewing your website. It will also show you which demographics click on your links and make a purchase or enquiry through social media. 

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Next Steps

You’re doing an SEO analysis to improve your own strategy. Before you do this, you need to understand what your SEO goals are. 

Try to identify exactly how they will help to grow the business, and why this growth is beneficial. 

You should also have realistic expectations of this process. Have an in-depth, face-to-face discussion with your team, either in person or via telepresence or video call. A small business with little to no marketing budget will not be able to outspend a large business with a lot of revenue. 

Don’t be put off by this. You’ll still be improving your search engine ranking and this will pay off in the long run. 

Guest Author Bio


Jessica Day – Senior Director, Marketing Strategy, Dialpad

Jessica Day is the Senior Director for Marketing Strategy at Dialpad, a modern business communications platform with cloud PBX solutions that takes every kind of conversation to the next level—turning conversations into opportunities. Jessica is an expert in collaborating with multifunctional teams to execute and optimize marketing efforts, for both company and client campaigns. Here is her LinkedIn.

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