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SEO Competitive Analysis – Know Your Competition

Published Date: June 28, 2011
SEO Competitive Analysis – Know Your Competition

“The ability to learn faster than your competitors may be the only sustainable competitive advantage.”
– Geus, Arie de
SEO is one of those traffic acquisition channels where it’s easy to get completely engrossed in the day to day activities and hence forget to ask yourself key questions around the larger strategy piece – what are the latest trends in the SEO space, what is the competition doing? It’s important to stop and smell the competition!Applying the theory of Causality (cause-effect relationship) – SEO competitive analysis can be broken down into 3 basic segments:

  • Cause – How do my competitors rank?
  • Effect – How much SEO traffic do my competitors drive?
  • Reason – Why are my competitors out ranking me?

How do my competitors rank?

It’s important to know where you rank versus your competitors. There are a number of different tools out that that can help you figure this out – my personal favorites are:

  • Advanced web ranking – The thing I like most about this tool is its flat pricing ($99-$599/year) and the control it gives you with reporting.
    Advanced Web Ranking Tool
  • SEOMoz Rank Tracker or Raven Tools – These are both great online rank tracking tools, they come bundled with other great value ads like – linkscape, link manager or social monitor. You can take this a step further by segmenting your ranking report in to different bucket – head, torso and tail keywords. This gives you an idea of where you’re doing better than the competition versus where you might need to improve. Example: Competitor A is much better in ranking for key head terms but your site does a much better job in ranking for torso/tail keywords.

How much SEO traffic do my competitors drive?

After we’ve figured out where we rank with respect to our competitors, the next logical step would be to try and find out the amount of traffic that these rankings might be helping drive. This analysis also helps answer other key questions – What’s the gap between you and your competitors? What’s the overall market opportunity here? Are you overlooking some crucial area of opportunity? There are several tools that help with this analysis –, and to name a few. All tools are paid, so this might require a little investment, comscore and Hitwise are a little more expensive compared to compete. Compete’s search referral report breaks up traffic by paid and unpaid (see image below)

You might also want to use Hitwise to validate these results –

This report might also help shed some light on what other channels the competition is using to drive traffic to their website – PPC, Affiliate, Facebook etc.

Why are my competitors out ranking me?

Probably one of the most asked questions in the field of SEO – why is my competition out ranking? Although, there are 1000+ signals that Google & Bing use to rank websites, the one that has the most weight are links – where content is king, links are God! The best ways to analyze the competitions backlinks are using SEOMoz’s OpenSiteExplorer Tool. OpenSiteExplorer gives you an in-depth look in to

  • External Links – Links from external websites point to: Sub-domain, Root Domain
  • Linking Domains – Pages and websites that link to a website, sorted by Domain authority[1]
  • Anchor text distribution – Distribution of the various anchor text links that are pointing to a website. This helps analyze and understand the competition’s link development strategy! (wink, wink).

The analysis of competitor ranks, traffic and links gives us a holistic view of the competitive landscape which in turn helps us to form informed decision on key SEO projects and prioritization. Lastly, I would recommend using Google insights & Blekko – Google insight keeps you in touch with the growing trends and seasonality the affects these trends. You can narrow by –

  • Web, Image, News or Product
  • Zone in by Geography
  • Filter by month or year is great to quickly analyze a number of metrics all in one go –

  • Inbound Links by state & country
  • Duplicate Content
  • Crawl stats

Understanding what the competition is doing is pivotal in the race for #1 – It’s important to figure the reasons behind the “cause-effect” to outperform the competition.

[1] Domain Authority: Predicts this domain’s ranking potential in the search engines based on an algorithmic combination of all link metrics.

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