SEO is an incredibly competitive industry. New websites and businesses are popping up every day, and the first five organic search results on Google receive two-thirds of all clicks.
Top-notch content, a solid SEO strategy, and technical SEO won’t guarantee your website will get the attention it deserves. The sad truth is that over 90% of web pages get no search traffic from Google at all. The competition is tough.
So, what’s going on here? Who’s getting the traffic you’re not and why? Well, your competitors, obviously. No matter your industry, you have competition; and chances are, they’re doing the same thing you are. Perhaps they’re doing it better, or they’ve been at it longer, or they’re doing something new and unexpected.
This is where competitive analysis comes in. Here’s everything you need to know.
Competitive analysis is a fairly simple concept. When it comes to SEO, you want to know what techniques your competitors are using, what keywords are they ranking for, what’s their backlink profile, and what’s working and what’s not.
So competitive analysis is just that. You’re using your competitors as sources of information to better understand the most successful elements of their strategies and how you can incorporate them into your own.
You don’t have to learn from your mistakes; you can learn from them. The process can save you a lot of time and resources, allowing you to build on their existing work and research. Of course, you can expect that your competitors are doing the same to you, iterating on your SEO strategy. This allows you both to look at the existing data with fresh eyes and to continue improving.
When Should You Conduct an SEO Competitor Analysis?
Your SEO performance can’t be looked at in isolation. It’s both a part of your digital marketing strategy and it’s affected by competitor behavior, search engine algorithm changes, and a myriad of other factors. That’s why it’s important to regularly analyze your competition and see how you compare. Regular SEO competitor analysis will help you figure out where you can improve and if there are any weaknesses in your competition’s strategy that you can capitalize on.
Here are some important events that should trigger doing an SEO competitor analysis.
When planning content: You can check what your competitors are doing well and then implement it in your unique way. That’s a great way to gain search engine visibility. You can figure out how much effort you’d need to put in to outrank competitors for specific keywords and topics and plan accordingly.
After posting content: Checking how your new content is doing will help you figure out if you’re on the right track.
If the search engine results have changed: If you noticed that another website is ranking better than yours, you should perform an SEO competitive analysis to discover why and then emulate their methods.
After a sudden drop in rankings: If your site has dropped suddenly and without an apparent reason, a competitive analysis can help you discover that reason.
After a period of stagnation: If your page has been stagnating for a while despite your best efforts, it might be worth it to use competitive analysis in order to discover optimization gaps.
PRO TIP: How to Analyze Your Best Pages for SEO Performance
To optimize your website for organic search, you probably use Google Search Console to learn which pages receive the most impressions and clicks, and which queries are driving them. Now you can quickly assess your SEO performance in a single dashboard that monitors fundamental metrics, including:
Which search queries drive traffic to my website?
Which of my website pages generate the most impressions and clicks in search engines?
What’s the average click-through rate (CTR) for our website pages in search?
What’s the average position our website pages show up in search results?
How many clicks have our website pages generated in search results this month?
Now you can benefit from the experience of our Google Search Console experts, who have put together a great Databox template showing the most important KPIs for monitoring organic search performance. It’s simple to implement and start using as a standalone dashboard or in marketing reports, and best of all, it’s free!
You can easily set it up in just a few clicks – no coding required.
Competitor analysis is a broad term that encompasses many subprocesses and methods. Undergoing a full, comprehensive analysis too frequently can be time-consuming. It’s a resource-intensive process that’s best reserved for select times when you’re (re)designing the whole campaign.
Content, keywords, and technical SEO are the three basic types of competitive analysis, and we’ll cover them in more detail:
Content is probably the most visible part of any website. You want to discover your competitors’ most popular web pages and use them to mine ideas for improving your own. Since you know how the pages rank high and drive traffic to their website, you know they’re doing something right. This will save you time and effort as you’ll be able to mirror and rival their approach. Of course, you need to fine-tune your content to match the search intent of your target audience and provide the visitors with a better user experience. This should help you leapfrog the competition in the long term.
Once you’ve identified the content you’re competing with, you can use one of two methods to outrank your competitors.
Fill content gaps: This method involves identifying weaknesses in your competitors’ content and then exploiting them. If they’re not covering popular topics, you can step into that gap and provide the searchers with what they’re looking for. Alternatively, you may introduce a more popular format that’s more engaging or user-friendly.
The Skyscraper: This method may sound simple, but it requires a lot of effort. It involves taking your competitors’ content and creating a superior version of it. After that, you need to contact sites linking to a competitor’s content and ask them to update their links by pointing to your better content.
Here’s what you should pay attention to when optimizing content to outrank a competitor:
Use of supporting media files like images and video
Backlinks have been an important ranking factor since the early days of search engines and, while they somewhat dropped in importance, they still have a huge impact on SERPs. The best way to think of it is as referrals from other big names in the industry. If your content wasn’t worthwhile, they wouldn’t be linking to it. Despite this, roughly two-thirds of web pages have no backlinks at all.
Since backlinks are so important, you need to know how your competitors are getting them, and shoring up your backlink profile needs to be a high priority. Fortunately, you can shorten the research process and improve your backlinking strategy by examining your competitors’ backlinks.
However, not all backlinks are created equal. Backlinks from poorly rated or fraudulent websites can actually lower your SERP score and damage your performance.
Here are some good ways to catch up with your competitors and improve your backlink profile:
Ensure new backlinks to your website link to the most relevant content.
Use the Skyscraper technique (see above) to build high-quality links to your website by reaching out to bloggers and pitching your superior content. Pay special attention to high-ranking domains linking to multiple competitors — they can be an easy way to get authoritative backlinks.
Look for unlinked mentions of your brand and reach out to site managers to insert a link to your website.
Monitor your competitors for ongoing, large-scale link-building activity. This will allow you to match their approach and develop similar but better content.
Technical SEO competitor analysis
Technical SEO auditing is the final component of an SEO competitive analysis. Put simply, it involves reviewing technical details of your site, comparing the results with the competition, and plugging any technical SEO gaps that could negatively affect your rankings.
Here are key technical SEO elements that you need to analyze:
Internal linking:Internal links improve the user-friendliness of a site and help search engines find, index, and map the pages on a site. Using distinguishable and descriptive anchor text for internal links is considered a good practice. A comprehensive internal link structure helps both users and search engines navigate your site. In addition, linking important pages you want to rank for on your site can give them additional link authority.
Website structure:Website structure helps both users and search engines navigate the site. It’s a good idea to keep the site structure simple and clean for the best user experience and crawler rating. Page depth is an important factor, and ideally, no page should be more than four clicks away from the homepage.
Page speed:Site speed was always an important ranking factor but it’s becoming even more important with time. Users want a frictionless experience, and your pages shouldn’t take more than three seconds to load.
SSL certifications: Make sure the website is HTTPS protected. Getting a ‘Not secure’ label attached to your website won’t just turn away visitors, but it will reduce search engine ranking. Search engines strongly favor secure sites with SSL certification, making it an important ranking factor.
Mobile-friendliness: Is the website optimized for mobile browsing? With the growth of mobile users globally, Google has introduced a mobile-first indexing approach. Any business aiming for a serious online presence needs to ensure its content is mobile-friendly.
How to Do Competitive Analysis for SEO in 5 Steps
Let’s get into the nitty-gritty details. Here are direct steps on how to perform competitive analysis for SEO:
The first step is to identify who your SEO competitors are. While this may sound straightforward, it’s important to keep in mind that your biggest market competitor might not be your biggest SEO competitor. Smaller companies can have excellent SEO and punch way above their weight class in the digital world.
This process doesn’t leave much for guesswork. If you try to rely on your ‘gut feeling’ to tell you who your competition is, then you’re likely to have the same blind spots. Big companies tend to focus on big money keywords and often ignore long-tail keywords that allow smaller ones to dominate some market segments. Cast a wide net by performing SEO comparison and research of a variety of keywords and pay attention to the top 10 or even 20 websites that consistently rank for all of them.
PRO TIP: Don’t try to take on everyone at the same time. SEO budgets are not infinite, and there are only so many hours in a day. Sometimes it’s simply not worth it to take on sites that are competing for slightly overlapping niches or that are technically above you in SERPS but aren’t actually competition.
Conduct page analysis
The second step is to take a look at competing websites and their top-performing pages. Pay attention to the content and the keywords and how they’ve been made to work together.
Another name for this is keyword gap analysis. You want to find the keywords your competitors are ranking for, and you are not. Then, you can formulate a plan that will allow you to rank better than your competition.
Once you have a list of relevant keywords that are relevant to your business, you can create pages that will be focused on ranking for them. You can also update some of the old pages by including new keywords but be cautious not to dilute their focus.
You can also check your competitors’ backlinks by performing competitor backlink profile analysis. Take a look at the number of backlinks, domain authority of linking sites, and relevance of linked content.
Once you know which sites are linking back to their content and how that’s affecting their ranking, domain rating, and authority, you’ll have valuable insight into how a similar strategy might work for your website.
Focus on keywords with high ROI
The number of keywords you can rank for depends on your competition and your budget. It’s usually more cost-efficient to focus on a smaller number of keywords and really knock it out of the park rather than dilute your efforts.
It’s recommended to direct your efforts towards ranking for keywords that will get you the best ROI, i.e., those that will make you the most profit or revenue. Low-cost products and services usually aren’t worth expending too much effort on unless you’re dealing with exceptionally large volumes.
It’s best to focus on high-profile items and try to rank for keywords that will bring in more leads for them or adjacent products/services. Alternatively, you can attempt to create content that’s especially high quality and relevant to your target audience that your competitors have missed out on.
The success of an SEO competitor analysis depends on finding a niche that your competitors haven’t thought to exploit. Even low competition keywords can be an excellent jumping-off point that will allow you to expand into other market segments.
Create and execute a content plan
After you’ve collected the relevant data, you can use it to create a competitor analysis report. The next step is to develop the SEO content strategy based on this report.
First, create a list of content ideas and/or keywords and save it. After that, you need to start implementing the content strategy and outreach external sites if necessary.
Track your progress
After your content plan has been executed and you’ve published new content and optimized the old one, you need to know if your strategy is bearing any fruit. Perform regular keyword audits and generate SEO competitor analysis reports with tools like Databox. You can track whatever metrics you think are relevant, but traffic share by pages, page rank by keyword, and similar are good starting points.
How to Do Competitive Analysis for SEO: Tips and Best Practices
By now, you should know the basics of SEO competitive analysis but there are some details that can make the process more effective and ensure you get quality actionable data.
Since link popularity is an incredibly important SEO ranking factor, you need to learn as much as you can about how your competitors get backlinks.
First, check the rate at which they’re getting new referring domains — this should give you a rough target for your own link-building efforts. Check how many referring domains they have today and compare them to the number from one year ago. Divide that number by 12, and you’ll get their average monthly growth.
While you’re analyzing these numbers, pay attention to anomalous spikes or drops in growth as they might be indicative of a particularly good or bad piece of content, link-building strategy, or something else. It’s worth it to analyze these events in more detail and figure out what went right/wrong.
Spy on competitors’ organic keywords
It’s generally a good idea to check which keywords are driving organic traffic to your competitors’ sites. Identify high-traffic keywords ignoring the branded ones, and sort them depending on what they’re useful for. Some might be great for a landing page or a home page, while others would work better for blog posts.
Another thing to pay attention to is keyword difficulty. If you’re interested in short-term goals and/or have a limited budget, you want to exclude high-difficulty keywords as it can take a lot of time and resources to rank well for them.
Spy on competitors’ featured snippets
Featured snippets, or position zero, are very important for your overall ranking and authority within a niche. If your competitors rank for many featured snippets, you might be able to do the same. This is easier than it sounds since a majority of snippets actually don’t come from the top spot in the ranking; as long as you can break into the top five, there’s a decent chance you’ll manage to own a featured snippet.
Study traffic breakdown by country
This can help you identify opportunities in your niche. Check the top five countries, compare their traffic percentages, and prioritize the ones with the bulk of search demand. This isn’t rocket science but a lot of marketers focus on their business’ native country and ignore the rest of the world. There might be untapped potential in other countries that share the language or you might even benefit from translating parts of your site to a different language if your brand is popular in some foreign country.
However, there’s another variable that needs to be considered. Not all traffic is equally valuable. So you can get an equal amount of traffic from different countries, but the value of that traffic can vary by order of magnitude.
Find broken pages
Here, you want to find competitors’ pages that have backlinks but no longer exist or are non-functional for some reason. If you can figure out what content was located on the dead page, you can publish something similar. After that, simply contact everyone who linked to the said page and ask them to replace the link to a dead page with a link to your fresh piece of content.
Superfans are people who have linked to a brand multiple times. It makes sense to build relationships with them because they regularly link and share information about websites they like. If they like your competitors’ products, you can pitch yours to them, build rapport and get their valuable support.
Find content gaps
Content gaps are keywords your competitors rank for but you don’t. Ideally, that gap should be as narrow as possible. You can pick any number of competitors for this; if you find that there are no keywords all of them rank for, you can reduce that number.
Ideally, you want keywords that they rank for in the top 10 SERP spots. Again, if there aren’t any, you might want to broaden your search.
Search intent is quickly moving up in importance, sometimes even supplanting keywords.
It’s even possible for one page to rank for hundreds (or thousands) long-tail keywords. If you take a look at your competitors’ highest-ranking pages, you can identify which are ranking for a lot of keywords and are pulling in a large volume of traffic.
This allows you to create content about those topics and scoop some long-tail traffic headed towards your competitors.
It’s important to filter out the noise from the signal. It’s likely that the pages on various sites with the most organic traffic have a lot of referring domains. Since backlinks are such a strong ranking factor, it can easily interfere with your goal, which is to find content that is actually popular. So you need to find high-traffic pages that don’t have many referring domains. They’re easier to rank for and can be mined for content ideas.
Find competitors’ most linked content
Since links are referrals of the search engines, they bring a lot of traffic and improve SEO ranking. This is a relatively straightforward step; you just need to find competitors’ content with a large number of backlinks.
After that step is done, you need to identify the type of content and topics that are being linked and where they’re getting links from. This allows you to do two things:
Copy the type of content and/or the topics they’re using.
Use the skyscraper technique to create a better version of the content and ask the referring domains to replace the links to your competitor’s content with your superior content.
Find competitors’ PPC keywords
This can provide some great insight into the planning of an SEO strategy. If your competitors are paying for traffic for a specific keyword, it’s very likely that that keyword is profitable.
Finding competitors’ PPC keywords allows you to discover high-converting, low-volume keywords that are easy to overlook when conducting regular keyword research. However, keep in mind that your competitor may simply be wrong about this, so it’s a good idea to test these keywords yourself before trying to rank for them.
Focus on search intent instead of search volume
High volume doesn’t necessarily mean that a keyword brings in traffic or conversion. Instead of blindly following search volume, it’s worth paying attention to search intent.
If you can provide the users with what they’re looking for, keywords don’t really matter. Search engines prioritize websites that provide relevant content and a good user experience, so you want to answer the users’ search intent better than the competitors. A high number of visits, paired with a high bounce rate is worthless and can even damage your SEO.
Focus on the following:
Improve on competitors’ existing content — whether it’s more detailed or expansive articles or just clearer and more targeted experience.
Create valuable content that answers search intent rather than just using high-volume keywords.
Add more content formats like videos, infographics, step-by-step guides, etc.
Explore long-tail keywords opportunities
If your competition is larger or better established than your business, you’re facing an uphill battle. It’s a good idea to switch your focus from highly competitive keywords to long-tail keywords that are easier to rank for. In fact, 70% of all web searches are long-tail.
This task can be daunting because there’s a theoretically infinite number of long-tail keywords. However, doing a thorough competitor analysis and using the right SEO tool, can make it significantly easier.
Calculate your SEO share of voice
The team at SmartBug Media has a unique competitor analysis technique, as Paul Schmidt explains: “Calculate your SEO share of voice to understand how much organic search market share you currently own compared to your competitors for a fixed group of keywords.”
“Standard competitive analysis will provide insight on how your direct competitors are faring within Google. SEO share of voice analysis, on the other hand, highlights the types of websites that you compete against even if you aren’t direct competitors.”
Schmidt adds: “It’s important to understand your SEO competitors so that you can understand the user intent and topical relevance, that Google’s algorithm values for your high priority keyword targets.”
“By understanding the user intent of each of your high-priority keywords, you can then align your website layout, content, and optimizations with your prospects’ buying behavior and information needs.”
Nail the triple lock
“I am a great believer in the triple lock method, whereby you find three justifications/examples of content ideas before progressing an idea,” Dan Rice says.
“By doing this you aren’t just relying on one dataset, you are combining the strengths of multiple platforms and tools.”
“For example, we’d look at keyword research from keyword revealer as a starting point, then compare this against findings from Quora/Reddit posts, amazon book reviews, and a review of social sharing and backlinks.”
Rice adds: “Ensuring you have multiple justifications and content examples to surpass means you understand what you are up against properly.”
Know why you’re comparing the websites
According to Carolyn Thomson of Wealth Grow Wisdom, “the one tip for running an effective SEO competitive analysis report is to outline your overall objective.”
“Having an objective for the analysis will enable you to determine how broad you should go in your analysis (direct competitors only or larger competition). It will also enable you to look into the areas that most interest you.”
Thomson explains: “For instance, if the objective for the competitive analysis is to determine the communications axis of each competitor in order to come up with positioning for a brand, we will look at their organic content, visuals, copy, etc. If the objective is to check if our product/service pricing is right, we will look at the competition’s pricing.”
“It seems like a no-brainer but it is sometimes overlooked, leading to broad analyses which are not very insightful.”
Directive‘s Brendan Hufford agrees: “One thing that almost nobody talks about (and few think about) is asking yourself a core question before getting started, “What do I want to get out of this information?”
“Sometimes, we look at competitor data to benchmark against them, but why are we SPECIFICALLY looking? It could be a specific product line, or their blog is taking off, of link-building tactics they’re using, etc.”
“The key here is to have a GOAL when doing a competitive analysis report versus overwhelming yourself with a ton of non-actionable information.”
Look for topics instead of keywords
Not all of our experts advise looking at keywords in an SEO competitor analysis.
“When running SEO competition analysis I often see people being to focused/zoomed in on a few keywords instead of grasping the topic and all surrounding phrases that are included,” says Igor Buyseech.
“Studies have shown that an average 1st place ranking in the SERPs is ranking for 1000+ keywords, which doesn’t happen by accident. The content itself is of course not filled with 1000 instances of that keyword, but if the main variations are placed in the correct places (metadata, h-tags, img alts etc.) it will cover the broader aspect.”
“I therefore always check the top ranking sites for my main variations and reverse engineer their rankings via tools like Ahrefs to see what their specific sites/URLs actually rank for.”
Buyseech explains: “Once I established what they rank for and get a list of keywords I can check the power and continue with a more detailed analysis of the pages that are ranking for the most keywords, preferably with the least backlinks and authority. Why? Because those pages are doing a lot of things correctly on the on-page/content side of things and are ranking because of it.”
“So my main advice is to always check the broader picture of what the competitors ranking above you are ranking for, and not to get caught up in 1 or 2 main keywords and stuffing them across the board.”
This can impact your entire keyword research strategy, as Digimark‘s Steven Jaenke explains: “One of the things that I’ve found over the years is that if my team and I run a competitive analysis before we do keyword research, the competitive analysis corrupts our objectivity.”
“Now we do keyword research first, then the competitive analysis and add any keywords from the analysis to our keyword research spreadsheet.”
Check their traffic sources
“One thing that never goes out of style is site traffic,” Beekeeper‘s Alexandra Zamolo says. “It’s always essential to check the site traffic for certain topics that you’re hoping will rank, backed by a good SEO strategy. By checking competitor’s site traffic on the same topics or pages through Ahrefs, you can see how you measure up.”
Aleksi Halsas of Trustmary recommends to “check competitor websites on what content they are getting the most traffic from [because] focusing too much on different metrics just takes away focus.”
Lance Beaudry of Avalanche Creative explains: “Once you’ve identified your competition, filter their traffic by traffic percentage. Find the pages that are driving the most valuable traffic that are non-branded. Look at the content, see if you can compete.”
Figure how to improve on your competitor’s results
Toni JV of JVT Media says that when you’re conducting an SEO competitive analysis, “the one question you have to ask yourself is: “Can I add something better and/or different to these search results?”
“Even if your domain authority is lower (within reason, of course), if you can add something that’s 5-10 times better than the top ranking page, or even better, something that’s different from that article, you can compete for it.”
JV puts that into action: “Maybe the top ranking blog is 5 years old and you could come in with a freshly updated article? Maybe it’s got a viewpoint that you highly disagree with, and you can create a blog about the opposing viewpoint, and thus be polarizing and stand out? Maybe the top ranking blog is only 1000 words long, and you can create a 5000-word article with quality information that adds 10 times the value to the end-user?”
“Remember, Google simply wants to give searchers the best result for their query. If you can satisfy this better than anyone else, you’re well on your way.”
That’s why Jeremy Lopatin of Climb Marketing says: “Keep up on the competitions’ rankings for specific keywords, but remain aware of your overall “footprint” of your organic visibility, and how it compares to that of the completion.”
…But don’t copy their strategy
You’ll likely feel the temptation to copy your competitor’s SEO strategy if you uncover a hidden gem.
But Best Company‘s Alice Stevens warns: “Be careful with how much you let your competitor analysis inform your strategy. You want to be different and stand out from your competitors, so focus on your goals and priorities first.”
“In fact, your competitors may be taking short-cuts that will not be beneficial in the long-run. If your strategy is too dependent on your competitors, you’ll probably fall into the same traps.”
Analyze more than one competitor website
“One is just not enough,” says Rishikesh Fulari of Hashtag Technologies. “Go through as many competitor sites as possible. In the process, you will discover a lot more opportunities that you didn’t notice before.”
Austin Shong of Blip Billboards adds: “Of course, it’s important to keep an eye on your direct competitors, but don’t forget about indirect competitors.”
“Periodically, I like to do a broader analysis and check in on potential substitutes that we don’t directly compete with. This is good for keeping a thumb on what direction they’re headed and can potentially give good ideas on what keywords to go after next.”
That’s also why SEO Locale‘s Nick Quirke recommends to “analyze 10 competitors and leverage the data you pull for an on-page and off-page strategy. SEO isn’t just one strategy for every client. We tweak our strategy every week for all of our clients in different industries.”
You might have different competitors for each feature, product, or service you provide.
For this reason, Software Pundit‘s Bruce Hogan says: “When running the analysis, separate your competitors into established leaders and newer, fast-growing websites.”
“The keywords that the newer, fast-growing website is capturing are both relevant to your website, and easier to capture. You have a better chance of competing with websites with lower domain authority, than an established player that is many years ahead of your website.”
Joshua Ballard of Paradox Marketing explains: “You should be placing domains into one of three camps:
Competing for the same search queries, but not competing for the same customer base
Competing for the same customer base, but not the same queries
Not competing for the same queries or customer base (aka, do not go into depth on this one)
“This step is important as it is really allowing you to filter between what will end up being your competitors, and what could actually end up becoming your collaborators.
“Other companies who are writing for the same audience as you, but do not have a competing service or product offering are actually far more useful for you to identify than direct competitors,” Ballard adds.
Free Ready-to-Use SEO Dashboard Templates
Here are some ready-to-use SEO dashboard templates that will make performing an SEO competitive analysis and reporting much easier.
Google Analytics Landing Page SEO Dashboard Template
This Google Analytics SEO template allows you to track the performance of your on-page SEO. It shows you which pages and queries drive the most organic clicks, sessions, and more.
It will make it easier for you to learn:
Which landing pages generate the most organic traffic and signups?
Which landing pages need to be updated or optimized?
How many organic sessions does your website generate?
Which search queries generate clicks to your website?
Which pages generate the most clicks from search engines?
Thanks to its deep integration with Google Analytics, you’ll be able to pull almost any type of data and combine them into clear and easy-to-understand dashboards.
SEO Campaign Performance Dashboard Template
This SEO Campaign Performance template allows you to measure your SEO Campaign’s performance. You’ll be able to track clicks, users, channel sessions, devices, and more.
It will help you track:
SERP position of your web pages
How many visitors are converting?
Number of visitors during the previous month
Which channel generates the most traffic?
What devices do most of the clicks come from?
The template also allows you to track even more metrics thanks to its deep integration with Google Analytics and Google Search Console. You should have no trouble building comprehensive dashboards that will help you track your SEO campaign performance.
SEO Overview Dashboard Template
This SEO template allows you to track keyword rankings, clicks by search queries, inbound links, your ranking distribution, and much more.
It will make it easier to understand:
Your website’s spam score
How many websites are linking to your website?
Are you generating high-authority backlinks?
What’s your website’s domain authority?
Which keywords rank best in search results?
Is your website SEO friendly?
What’s your website’s average search position?
Which search queries generate the most clicks back to your website?
What’s your CTR?
The template allows for one-click integration with Google Analytics, Google Search Console, Semrush, and Moz, enabling you to track a large number of metrics and gain a better understanding of your SEO efforts.
Best SEO Competitive Analysis Tools (and How to Use Them)
We asked 47 experts to share their favorite SEO competitive analysis tools. We’ve listed them below, alongside each tools’ different use cases.
“My best tool for competitive analysis is Ahrefs because it gives you the ability to research your competitors by accessing their backlinks, how much organic traffic they receive, which are their top pages for links, or most engaging content,” says Brosix‘s Nikola Baldikov.
“You can also check their DR, UR, and Ahrefs ratings. The tool helps you find content gaps between you and your competitors. You can even receive information about their PPC campaigns, their paid keywords, and landing pages.
Using Ahrefs for competitor analysis:
Daniel Wittler of Stodzy Internet Marketing agrees: “Ahrefs does a fantastic job of showing me my competitors traffic value and organic research as well as what referring domains they have so that I can use it as a strategy to build links myself”
Topic‘s Ryo Chiba adds: “One method that never fails is to use a tool like Ahrefs to look at a competitor’s top organic keywords, excluding branded keywords.”
“This quickly gives you an understanding of which content has resonated with their audience and can serve as inspiration for how to produce content for yourself or your client.”
Paul Bromen of Helpful Habitat summarizes: “It is my one-stop shop to check out where my sites rank and how the competition is doing. For rival sites, I can see what links they are getting, what articles they are putting up, and roughly where their traffic is coming from.”
Using Ahrefs for content gap analysis:
“The Content Gap tool from Ahrefs is extremely effective at finding what keywords/topics competitors are using that your site or a client’s site is not,” says Kyle Kasharian of 9Sail.
“It’s a great way to find additional language to use on service pages, and also can be a source of blog topics to create content using low difficulty keywords that competitors are currently ranking for.”
Brooklin Nash explains: “Start by identifying your top 3 content competitors (domains ranking on page 1 for your top keywords by traffic). Use the Content Gap tool to identify all of the keywords these competitors are ranking for that you aren’t covering at all. Narrow the list down by search traffic and relevance, and you should be left with a few hundred new keywords to fold into new content ideas.”
Looka‘s Christine Glossop adds: “Once you know what content your competitors are performing well for, you have an idea of 1) what your potential customers are interested in and 2) where you’ve been failing to deliver.”
Using this feature, 2ndKitchen‘s Levi Olmstead says their team “can look at my competitors to see what they are ranking for and what are the big traffic drivers for them.
“I can then attempt to build better content and can take that traffic from them – and prioritize it based off of the keywords that have the lowest keyword difficulties.”
Dan Reeves of Dandy Marketing also uses this tool by “specifically look[ing] at the competitor’s blog.
“Enter www.competitordomain.com/blog or blog.competitordomain.com. This will allow you to see what content is driving them traffic and give you an insight into the type of content that works.”
“You can then use this to inform your own content strategy and hopefully steal some of your competitor’s traffic.”
“Another benefit of this is that if you find a specific piece that also has a lot of links you can recreate this better or provide an alternative angle and use this new piece of content to go after their backlinks as well,” Reeves continues.
Using Ahrefs for exploring top-ranking pages:
The Top Pages report in Ahrefs is another well-loved feature, as Hey Marketers‘ Corey Haines says: “I like to keep it simple and go straight to the Top Pages feature in Ahrefs for each competitor.”
Haines adds that this report allows them “to see which pages are ranking for keywords and get an estimate for how much traffic they get, how many backlinks they have for that page, and the keyword difficulty for the top keywords that page ranks for.”
Using the Ahrefs Keyword Explorer:
CVOnline‘s Pitart Casanova adds that the Keyword Explorer feature “unfolds an insane amount of data and opportunities to tackle through on-page and off-page optimization.
“Through the Keyword Explorer, we discover related relevant search terms, that we weren’t using in our domain yet, as well as the sites are ranking for it.”
Using Ahrefs link gap analysis tool:
Ahrefs also has another feature called the Link Gap Analysis report.
Evergreen PR‘s Leigh Greenwood explains: “It’s a great idea to use Ahrefs to conduct a link gap analysis every quarter in order to understand where your competitors are gaining links and therefore the potential earned media opportunities that might be open to you.”
The Advisor Coach‘s James Pollard adds: “This helps me understand where I can and cannot compete.”
“For example, if a site is ranking in the top 10 for a particular keyword with only two backlinks, I know I can compete. If it has 300+ backlinks, I probably don’t stand a chance. Ahrefs’ Site Explorer helps me pick my battles.”
“For link-building, we use Ahrefs’ backlink profile for analyzing how our competitors naturally acquire links and figuring out what their SEO strategy is, if they have one,” writes Shine Colcol of SafetyCulture.
“We put their domain in Site Explorer, go to their Backlinks, and use the right data only. This saves us a lot of time looking at details we don’t need to know.”
Colcol adds that they find the “right” data using filters inside this report:
“One link per domain
Link type (Dofollow)
Include/exclude word or phrase and arranging them by Referring domains”
By applying these filters, Colcol says: “We’re able to see what type of content our competitors get the most number of links from, what kind of websites link to that type of content, etc. Eventually, we can apply relevant SEO tactics in our context.”
Brendan Hufford from SEO for the Rest of Us adds: “I also look at the competitions Best by Links in Ahrefs to see if they have any content that has gone “link viral” that we can create something 10X better around.”
Using Ahrefs’s rank tracker:
According to Ana Cosmatos, the team at Page 1 Solutions think “the rank tracker tool in Ahrefs is one of the most helpful competitive analysis SEO tools.”
“Rank tracker compares the positions of a site on Google’s search results for specific keywords. The competitor report is shown as a side by side URL comparison for all sites, displaying exactly what location on the Google search results page each site ranked for separated by keyword and highlighting the top-ranking pages.”
“The displayed report allows you to sort as well – I like to sort by volume to show how a site and its competitors rank among the most heavily searched keywords with the most traffic volume.”
Cosmatos concludes: “With this tool, we can also track how a site is improving or declining over time in the rankings.”
“With Semrush you can easily see what keywords your competitors are successfully using. You can also discover your competitors’ website traffic, audience, lead generation sources, advertising strategies, and more,” Blog Tyrant‘s Allison Hott says.
Ratynski Digital‘s Alex Ratynski adds: “Semrush just has such a large number of features (many of which people don’t even know about) and they contain a wealth of information that’s extremely useful for competitive analysis.
“They even have a number of reporting tools built specifically for competitor analysis. For example, SEMrush lists a live update of your “main organic competitors.” They base this off of the types of KWs that your website is ranking for/targeting and other websites that are targeting the same or similar KWs.”
Using Semrush for content gap analysis:
Jordan Terry of TorHoerman Law says the Gap Analytics tool inside SEMrush “is the one invaluable tool I use to conduct SEO competitive research.”
“It allows me to compare competitive keyword gaps, backlinks gaps, and bulk gap analytics with competitors of my choosing. The ability to compare multiple analytics at once allows the user to have a more comprehensive understanding of market trends and competitive shifts, especially if the tool is used frequently.”
This feature is so well-loved that Max Falb of Fueled adds: “The most useful tool for competitor analysis is the keyword gap analysis from SEMrush.”
“We always like to use this tool when we notice a competitor that is beating us in certain SERPs and we use it to see which keywords specifically they are outranking us.”
“From there, we take the keywords they are beating us in and take a deep dive on their site, anchor text, backlinks, high performing pages, etc (which all can also be found through SEMrush) to really understand what they are doing better than us.”
Using the organic pages report:
According to Toni Mastri of MARION Marketing Agency, “the SEMrush Organic Research – Pages report is invaluable while doing a competitive analysis for SEO.”
Mastri continues to add the three-step process they have for this tool:
“Do a Google Search for your target phrase
Plug the domains of the top results into this SEMrush tool
See your competitors’ top pages”
“For example, if you’re an industrial pump manufacturer, you’d do a search for “industrial pump manufacturers,” then plug in the domain names of the top results. This report tells you which topics your competitors are writing about, and how well each topic performs.”
“This type of SEO competitive analysis will help you build a winning content marketing strategy and dominate the search results,” Mastri adds.
Luke Wester of Miva, Inc also recommends to “identify your competitor’s best content then use the Domain Overview tool in SEMRush to find out what keywords they are ranking for. This allows you to reverse engineer content that can outperform your competition.”
“Page Optimizer Pro allows you to plug in your website and your direct competitors for a certain keyword. It will then tell you where your page is lacking in comparison to those competitors who outrank you for that specific keyword. It covers both on-page copy, metadata, and some technical stuff too.”
Baise adds that it’s his favorite SEO comparison tool for two main reasons:
“Given that the ranking factors vary from keyword to keyword, it’s nice to get data based on each specific keyword. This means that you arent wasting your time on alleged “ranking factors” that may not apply to the keyword you are targeting.
Page Optimizer Pro only measures factors that have been scientifically proven to affect ranking, based on single variant tests. This is a revolution in SEO where best practices are traditionally based on first hand experience, rather than rigorous scientific study.”
“Information is plentiful and it offers value at ease. The Alexa Traffic Rank tool is easily integrated into your Google Chrome Browser offering you powerful information at the click of a button.”
Acoca explains: “The Alexa Traffic Rank tool is a cross between Google Analytics, a detailed keyword analyzer, among other features that are available for a monthly subscription.”
“However, I use this tool to analyze my own website and others to confirm specific flaws in web development, SEO, and even to see if the website is claiming to be more popular than it really is something you’ll notice often when checking website analytics with this tool.”
Bimbo Lawal of CONVO digital adds: “Alexa’s traffic report help sees where competitors get most of their traffic and how they’re getting it.”
Bobby Reed of Capitol Tech Solutions thinks: “For a specific search term, the most valuable tool is Google itself.”
“We search for the term, and see what comes up number 1 for that term. We then analyze the content on that specific page, and determine what elements are good, and what we can emulate on our own pages.”
Reed says they do this by asking a few key questions:
“How does our Title, Description, H1, and supporting content compare?
What content sections do they have that we don’t? What is one unique thing we can add that the current #1 site does not have?
How many words are on the current #1, and how can we have more on our page?
What sites are linking back to the current #1, and can we get the same or better backlinks to our site?
It’s a tool (and tactic) also used by Shufti Pro‘s Martin Damien: “For a comprehensive SEO competitive analysis, I start by researching top industry keywords, and carry out a google search against top 10 results.”
“For about 5 of the top posts on a SERP, I analyze content in-depth and check for keyword density. Design of the blog post and UI/UX details are major indicators that help with a competitor analysis.”
Elementive‘s Matthew Edgar summarizes: “When evaluating the competition, be sure to review the SERPs you want to rank in so that you can see not just the other sites like yours fighting for the top spots but also to see the features Google has included (and remember to check from different devices and different regions).”
“Given the features, your strategy on how to earn those rankings will need to change so that you have the best chance of standing out.”
But it’s not just Google search results that can help, as Anand Iyer adds: “Google Page Speed Insights is a fantastic tool to conduct page speed analysis of your competitors.”
“Google’s algorithm favors websites that provide a better user experience and load fast. By conducting page speed insights analysis, you can build a fast loading page and increase your chances of ranking better than your competitors.”
Structured Data Test
Plus, Ryan Watson of Marketer Abroad says: “An under-appreciated factor that always gets overlooked but IS a ranking factor is schema.”
“Take 3-5 of your competitors’ pages that are ranking well. Run their pages through Google’s structured data testing tool. See what schema they’re using on these pages and take what you are missing and add it to your own competing pages.”
SpyFu has a range of SEO competitor analysis features inside their tool, as Jennifer Noto of Carolinas IT explains: “Spyfu allows you to view the SEO performance of any company and ranks your keywords in comparison to your competitors.”
“It’s a really easy way to find out your competitors’ top-performing keywords and discover their PPC ad spend.”
However, Vizion Interactive‘s Kritien Matelski argues that one feature of their software is more important than the others: “SpyFu’s Kombat feature is one of the most critical.”
“In addition to showing the overlap between our client’s site and that of a competitor, we can easily use this data to understand what gaps there are that we can optimize for advantageously, or, where we need to do more work to ensure that our clients receive their fair share of traffic in cases where competitors are more successful.”
“The most important step is auditing the site and pages to identify gaps with competitors,” says Vishal Srivastava of Trainedge Consulting.
“I use Surfer SEO for the audit because it has very specific recommendations for the page you are auditing. All SEO tools show you what’s wrong with meta tags and who is linking to your competitors.”
“But Surfer goes beyond that and compares your content to those ranking in the top ten. It tells you whether to add more or remove content, where to add or remove exact and similar keywords, and a list of sites that link to more than one of the pages in top ten.”
Srivastava summarizes: “I find their recommendations very action-oriented and generally lead to a bump in rankings.”
Georgie Kemp of Impression thinks the best way to do SEO competitor analysis is “on Searchmetrics, using the organic competitor visibility function in alignment with the Google updates function.”
“This can help to understand whether how heavy competitors were impacted from an algorithm update, and how we can learn from what competitors are doing well within a client’s own strategy,” Kemp adds.
“The most valuable tool I have found is Majestic SEO, which is a company that can track the backlinks you and your competitors receive, which of course are one of the main factors in high Google rankings,” writes Dylan Gallagher of White Wolf Private Tours.
“Why is it important to know who is linking to your competition? Because oftentimes, those same companies will link to you, as well, pushing your rankings higher. And Majestic SEO is the tool for you to see those.”
Gallagher adds: “They do offer a free version, although the analysis is limited and not as good as the real deal paid version.”
Alex Cascio says the team at Vibrant Media Productions is also using Majestic because it “helps us properly analyze backlinks and to see what is most effective compared to our competition.”
“It allows us the properly see what is working and how we can increase our overall trust score which has proven to be highly important in our SEO efforts.”
“This tool tells me the page and domain authority for my competitors, so I can make an informed decision about how hard or difficult it will be to increase ranking for that specific keyword.”
Sparxoo‘s Andrew Bernstein agrees: “Moz Link Explorer is our most invaluable tool for conducting SEO competitive research. With it, you input a link to your competitors’ site, and it gives you data on their DA, Linking Domains, Inbound Links, and the number of keywords ranking in the top 50.”
“It’s free for up to 10 sites per month, so it’s the best free tool, but the paid tool has even more features for competitor keyword analysis making it the best-paid tool as well,” Bernstein says.
Levity Digital‘s Stuart Cooke adds that Moz’s Keyword Explorer feature “allows you to identify your competitors based on the keywords you are targeting. It will show you the competition level of a particular keyword (based on the strength of the websites ranking on page 1 of Google for it) and it will show you what sites are on page 1.”
“This is invaluable as you can compare their metrics and link profiles use other tools to back this up then put together an SEO strategy to outrank them.”
“Digital Authority analyzes the top ten pages for any keyword and gives you a comprehensive report on how each of these results fare for various parameters influencing search rankings,” says Anand Srinivasan of Hubbion.
“I try beat my competitors quickly with as few effective steps as possible,” says Logodate‘s Indigo Malik.
“Firstly I conduct my research on content and the keywords in the content, by typing the link into Ubersuggest. I find a great way to kickstart my blog and links is to choose topics similar to your biggest competitors, make your blog substantially better.”
“Then all you have to do is outreach to the people who linked to their post, and tell them why yours is so much better. You can also find all the websites linking to them by typing it into Ubersuggest.”
“The tool is fast and gives a quick overview of all the pages and their metadata. you can see which keyword do they focus on and what do they say in their metadata to make people click to their site.”
“Some sites don’t have good SEO and by analyzing their metadata with Screaming Frog you can get a quick picture of how well the site is optimized for SEO,” Silobod adds.
It’s an SEO competitive analysis tool also used by BrandExtract, as Chris Wilks explains: “It helps me get an overall view of the health of a competitor’s site.”
“It allows me to see what sort of technical issues the site might be having and allows me to review the quality of important on-page elements (titles, metas, H1s, etc.) and identify any missing elements; all in one place.”
Kompyte is a tool that lets you track every website change and other information sources of your competitors in real-time.
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About the author
Davor Štefanović Davor is an English literature graduate and an avid reader with a passion for languages. Working as a translator, editor, and writer has allowed him to learn about a wide range of topics — making him something of a jack-of-all-trades when it comes to content. In his spare time, he reads, plays video games and boardgames, and runs/plays tabletop RPGs.
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