The concept of conquest campaigns is popular in paid search. Such efforts target competitors’ keywords in an attempt to outrank them in paid results. This same concept can be applied to SEO. By conducting an SEO competitive analysis, you can uncover which keywords are part of your competitors’ strategies, begin targeting them and attempt to climb organic search results.
What is SEO Competitive Analysis?
SEO competitive analysis is the research or study of how your competitors rank for given keywords. The end goal of such an analysis is to uncover opportunities for you to increase traffic, climb rankings and potentially boost conversions in relation to your competitors.
This analysis is focused around your competitors’ content and keyword strategies. Ultimately, you want to understand what your competitors are writing about and which keywords they are targeting so you can either avoid them or target them yourself.
SEO competitive analysis can also inform the areas in which you need to fill gaps to strengthen your conversion funnel and the areas where you need to double down by writing more content on a topic, further leveraging an existing advantage.
Whatever the case, your SEO and content efforts need to work in tandem to successfully complete an SEO conquest campaign. In this way, SEO competitive analysis is as much a content marketing play as a true SEO play.
Why Should You Conduct an SEO Competitive Analysis?
Operating independently of your competition is not wise because you could miss obvious opportunities to capitalize on their shortcomings, or, even worse, you could miss obvious threats to your existing position within the market. Instead, the moves your competitors are making should inform your strategy.
Ideally, you want to position your company to leverage your strengths and exploit your competitors’ weaknesses. But, in the SEO space, you can’t determine your competitors’ strengths or weaknesses without evaluating their keyword strategy and overall SEO efforts.
By tracking what types of content your competitors are producing, the topics they are writing about and the keywords they are ranking for, you can piece together the pillars of their digital strategy. From there, you can develop a plan for what you want to do moving forward.
Your strategy given the results of your competitive research could vary based on the size of your company and your position within the market. If you are a small, newly launched company trying to gain a slice of market share, it might make sense for you to find a niche within your space, avoiding direct competition with the big players in your industry.
For example, if you were a new company entering the wealth management space, it might not make sense for you to target the term “wealth management” which, according to SEMrush, has 18,100 monthly searches and a competition rate of 0.66. On the other hand, a term like “investment management” has fewer searches with 6,600 per month but also has a smaller competition rate at 0.36 — potentially making it more attractive.
Alternatively, if you are well established, it could make more sense for you to go toe-to-toe with the biggest competitors, attempting to gain ground by targeting their best keywords.
In this scenario, targeting “wealth management” might make the most sense for your company.
Whatever the case, knowledge of your competitors will help you better reach your potential customers. You’ll be able to avoid directly overlapping your content with your competition’s messaging, while better defining your unique value proposition and differentiating your company over time.
In this way, you can solidify your market share or start pulling customers away from your competition.
How Do You Conduct an SEO Competitive Analysis?
Before conducting an SEO competitive analysis, you should ask yourself the following questions about your company:
- How do you connect what you do to what people are searching for?
- Is the way you make this connection logical?
- What terms do you already rank well for?
- Which terms are you planning on targeting?
From there, as with any competitive analysis, you should identify your competitors. This part of the process may not be as straightforward as it seems. While you’re performing this exercise, ensure you account for any of your product or service’s substitutes beyond just your direct competitors. It might also be prudent to keep track of unrelated products or industries if there is a keyword that could have multiple meanings depending on context.
For example, if you do a Google search for “TAM” an acronym which we would quickly define in the marketing space as “total addressable market,” you might see results for LATAM Airlines. LATAM targets the term because the company absorbed TAM Airlines in 2012.
Understanding and identifying competition from unrelated industries is crucial so your strategy isn’t derailed by these unforeseen competitors.
Next, you should ask questions about your competitors.
- How do they connect what they do to what people are searching for?
- Is this connection logical?
- What terms do they rank well for?
- What terms are they beginning to target?
Whenever we begin to think about competitive analysis here at New Breed, performing a SWOT analysis comes to mind. It’s vital to understand your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats as well as those of your competitors to prepare yourself for success.
Of course, the questions listed above can be difficult to answer. While you probably already know much of the information you need to about yourself, your competitors aren’t exactly giving away their keyword strategy and their approach to targeting customers.
You need resources to help extract this information and make informed decisions for your company. There are a few different tools we recommend.
First, Neil Patel developed a tool called Ubersuggest that allows users to search certain domains or keywords to see what the results are surrounding those queries. For instance, if you search a domain it can show you the top-ranking pages for that site. If you search a keyword, it can show you related terms and generate content ideas for you.
In this way, you can uncover which keywords your competitors are targeting and ranking best for. You can also reveal related terms you should consider adding to your keyword repertoire.
Another tool, Alexa, helps you see how your site compares to others. When you search a website domain, the platform shows you which sites have the highest “overlap score,” which is defined as, “A relative level of audience overlap between [the site you search] and similar sites. Audience overlap score is calculated from an analysis of common visitors and/or search keywords.”
Besides identifying your competitors based on their overlap with your company’s audience, you can also find keyword gaps and opportunities. For example, if you analyze your domain on the tool, Alexa finds, “Keywords driving traffic to competitors, but not to [your] site,” pinpointing potential holes in your content strategy.
Additionally, the platform collects a list of keywords that your domain could easily rank for, providing opportunities for you to target moving forward.
If you search for a competitor’s site, you can also find their top gaps and opportunities. By accessing this information, you acquire their biggest keyword threats. From there, you can use this information to inform your opportunities.
Alexa has many other useful metrics and tools that may prove invaluable to your SEO competitive analysis. A couple of other platforms to keep on your radar include Moz, SEMrush and Google Keyword Planner.
Moz has a host of tools and resources. Probably their biggest strength is their affiliation with domain authority, a score they developed to predict how well a given website will rank on results pages. Moz provides a link explorer that allows users to analyze URLs and includes information about authority.
SEMrush allows you to keep track of how your site is ranking, delve into individual keywords to see what kind of competition they have associated with them and perform many other useful tasks related to competitive analysis.
Google Keyword Planner has fewer features but still lets you look into different keywords to see related terms, historical performance and the level of competition related to each one.
Overall, by using these tools you can answer many of the questions an SEO competitive analysis demands you ask and complete SWOT analyses for yourself and your competitors. Using the results of your SWOT analyses, you can construct your keyword and content strategies for the future.
While performing a competitive analysis and considering your strategy moving forward, ensure you take into account when to attack and when to concede ground. While cutting into your competitor’s impressions and potentially stealing market share is attractive, consider the fact that it might not always be worthwhile. Sometimes your competition will have such a stronghold on a term that it isn’t worth your effort. At other times, the terms they are ranking might differ enough from your offering that they wouldn’t provide any value — even if you ranked for them.
Overall, your goal should be to develop the best picture of your SEO competitive landscape as possible and then use your judgment to best position your company from there.
Isaac is an Inbound Specialist at New Breed. His passion for the inbound philosophy of giving value to customers before extracting it brought him to New Breed. In his free time, he's an avid outdoorsman.