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Understand Your Competition: Conducting SEO Competitor Analysis Is Easier Than You Think

Last updated on February 12, 2021
11 minute read
Key Takeaways

  • How to identify your main SEO competitors (hint: they may not always be who you think!).
  • Using SEO tools to uncover keyword and content gaps on your website.
  • Using findings to drive your SEO strategy.

Skill Level

All Skill Levels

No matter what kind of tours or activities you provide, it’s essential to know who your competitors are and to be able to identify what makes your business stand out from the competition. Knowing these things not only allows you to better understand your industry, but also helps you to identify areas for improvement and illuminates ways to showcase your unique business. 

Competitor analysis entails identifying your major competitors, researching their keyword and content strategies, and finding opportunities for your own business to improve rankings. You might have a general idea of who your competitors are based on your knowledge of your location and industry, but SEO competitor analysis digs deeper by using data to understand your online competition and how you can optimize your online presence to ensure your business rises to the top of the SERP. 

This guide dives into the importance of competitor analysis, the different types, and how to use your findings to optimize your website. Don’t worry — it’s easier than you might think!

Why Is Competitor Analysis Important?

Business decisions shouldn’t be made in the dark and you’ll always feel more confident when decisions are driven by data. Whether you’re looking to embark on a website redesign or want to start an SEO-boosting project like putting together a content calendar, conducting a competitor analysis allows you to gather the data you need to get started. 

The landscape of your industry niche is constantly changing and evolving, which is why competitor analysis should be an ongoing process. Aim to conduct this research at least twice a year.

Pro tip: Follow your competitors on social media, both to build relationships with similar businesses and to get inspiration from their campaigns and strategies.

Remember, competitor analysis is not about copying what others are doing, but rather growing your understanding of your market and what resonates with your target audience. 

How to Conduct Competitor Analysis

Getting Started

When performing SEO competitor analysis, you’ll need to use an SEO tool such as Moz, Ahrefs, or SEMRush. While your specific needs will depend on the type of analysis you want to focus on (more on those in a moment), you’ll need a tool that can give you keyword data like SERP rankings and monthly search volume. 

Next, it’s important to identify who your top competitors are. SEO tools will be helpful here as well, but you can also start with a simple Google search!

  • Search for terms related to what your business offers, such as “Denver Food Tours” or “Boat Tours Miami“, and see what businesses show up in the results. This will give you an idea of which competitors are ranking well for your main keywords. 
  • From there drill down into long-tail keywords — longer, more specific search terms — they often reveal top competitors for more specialized offerings, such as “Vegetarian Food Tours in Denver” or “Sunset Catamaran Tours in Miami.” 

Types of Competitor Analysis

There are different types of competitor analysis you could focus on, or if you’re going for a holistic view, you can conduct each type and combine the data to drive your strategy. 

Keyword Gap Analysis

One important area to focus on are keywords for which your website is ranking lower than your competitors.

  • Zero in on keywords where you’re only within a few ranking positions from the top, known as “striking distance keywords.”
  • Conduct research on keywords that your competitors are ranking for but you’re not. To help understand why you’re not ranking try to answer questions like:
    • Are your competitors providing more in-depth content?
    • Are they meeting the search intent better than your pages are?
    • Do they have a lot of backlinks to those pages?

Reviewing these will help you decide how to optimize your pages to improve your rankings. 

Content Gap Analysis

If you’re comfortable with your rankings for main keywords but want to improve on your long-tail keyword performance, a content gap analysis is a good place to start. This analysis is focused on blog posts, informational pages, videos, and other content that can bring new visitors to your business.

For example, a competitor might be getting a lot of traffic to their blog, where they regularly post how-to guides and interesting infographics. Consider whether you can produce similar content and – importantly – what knowledge and expertise you can bring to improve on what your competitors offer. Just be sure you’re producing content that not only resonates with your target audience but also aligns well with what your business has to offer.

Site Structure Analysis

This type of analysis is especially useful if you’re building a new website or if you’re still not ranking well even after your initial efforts at optimizing for keywords and search intent and following other content best practices.

shapeSite structure analysis focuses on how your high-ranking competitors use things like:

  • Headings
  • URL structure
  • Internal linking
  • Title tags
  • Meta descriptions
  • Other technical ranking factors

When conducting a site structure analysis you can also explore how their pages are structured, whether they’re optimized for mobile, and other aspects of user experience.

Does all of this sound a little confusing? Don’t worry – we’ve got you covered with our website UX Checklist! 

Put Your Findings to Good Use

Once you’ve decided which type of competitor analysis you want to focus on, it’s time to dive into the data and use it to drive your SEO and content decisions. A great place to start is SEMRush’s Organic Research Competitors Report. To use this report, enter your domain, then the tool will populate a list of domains that rank for the same organic keywords as you. SEMRush ranks the domains by competition level, taking into account the number of common keywords between domains. This report will give you a better idea of who your online competition is, and you can start digging into their rankings and content to identify gaps on your own website.

screenshot of semrush competitor analysis

For keyword analysis, you can use a tool like SEMRush’s domain comparison tool to find areas where you and your competition overlap and gaps you can fill. To do this, enter your own domain as well as those of your competitors — use the competitors you identified earlier as well as the ones you discovered in the Organic Research Competitors Report. The tool will provide data that you can use to quickly identify keywords you’re not showing up for.

screenshoot of semrush keyword gap analysis

Once you’ve selected a few keywords you want to focus on, it’s time to decide on your optimization strategy. What do we mean by optimization? Keyword optimization includes things like:

  • Incorporating new keywords into your existing copy.
  • Updating page content to ensure it meets shifting search intent.
  • Refining title tags and meta descriptions.

Implement Your Optimizations

You want to make sure you start with just a few optimizations, such as updating a single page or creating a robust thorough blog post and monitoring it closely to see how it’s performing. If you make a lot of changes at once and then see improvement, it’ll be harder to determine which one of the changes you made worked the best or was the cause of the improvement.

Pro tip: Use a tool like Google Analytics to keep an eye on traffic and traffic sources to your updated pages.

Give It Time

Remember that it can take a while for new pages or content to rank, so have a bit of patience. It could take anywhere from a couple of weeks to a couple of months to see changes in your rankings, depending on what optimizations you made. However, if you’re intentional and persistent with your SEO competitor strategy, it will pay off! 

For more SEO insights, read our guide on writing for search intent or our guide to common Google Analytics mistakes and how to fix them

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