One of the most important steps when beginning a search or SEO campaign is competitive analysis. It’s key for increasing your site’s online visibility, especially if your website is new. Here are some simple steps to get you started.
Using tools such as SEM Rush or Moz’s Link Explorer, you can quickly check which backlinks your competition have. Make sure to check out the DA and PA of those links as a low authority site won’t help you. Also, if you’re a DA of 30 obtaining backlink from DA 25 won’t help you. Instead, focus on sites which have significant higher domain authority than yours. And remember: it’s quality not quantity, and spread out links so it’s natural and not spammy.
If you aren’t sure who you’re competing against in paid and organic search, build a keyword list of 10 to 20 keywords and run some searches to see who ranks and is advertising. Some of the tools I mentioned can do this for you.
Three Backlink Categories
Backlinks can be put into three categories when performing a competitive analysis:
1) Obtainable: These are links that can be easily obtained, usually for a fee or barter, from a blogger. Note that purchasing links is “frowned upon” by Google. That being said, sites do occasionally link to third party sites when blogging. But if the post is an advertorial, it’s important that the author makes that clear.
2) Not Obtainable: These are links that you most likely can’t acquire, mainly because they are earned media from high quality news sites or blogs (think HuffPost or Engadget), or they are due to the efforts of a PR agency.
3) Somewhat Obtainable: These are links that might take time to acquire, multiple pitches to the site, etc., but that could ultimately be acquired.
As mentioned previously, you’ll want to put together a keyword list to see which competitors rank for them. But unlike the backlink analysis you used them for, now you’ll want to review the content of the pages that rank for specific keywords. In other words, if you want your website to rank for “digital marketing services in Miami”, you can run a Google search, see which site ranks number one in the SERP’s for it, and then evaluate the page in two ways:
1) Page content: What content does the page have? What’s the keyword density like? Are there H tags? How long is the page (number of words)? How’s the meta data?
2) Backlinks: Which backlinks does the page have? Can you acquire any of them? How’s the DA/PA of the pages?
Based on the above, you can determine what if anything you can do to improve the content of your page and it’s backlinks.
Using tools such as SpyFu, you can get an idea of which keywords a competitor is running for their AdWords campaign. After that, you can review the landing pages they use.
If it’s an ecommerce site, do they link to landing pages for product categories or a single item? If it’s a service, do they use videos and/or contact forms for lead generation. The goal is to examine what is being done and determine if it’s beneficial to you.
Take a look at Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other networks and see what sort of posts your competition is posting. Analyze the engagement of their posts and their following. This will give you an idea of what you might post and the frequency. Check hashtags to see how they’re being utilized. A good tool is HashAtIt.
Referral traffic from social channels can be highly valuable and generate online sales and leads.
Take it All with a Grain of Salt
Knowing and understanding your competition is very important for success. After all, you’re competing with these other businesses. But that being said, not everything they’re doing is right and/or works. As a result, be cognizant of that, and use your best judgment.