Competitor Analysis: Advanced Research to Find Rivals & Opportunities
A competitive Landscape Analysis provides insights to drive strategic growth.
In a list of priorities, we agree that it’s more important to research and align with your audience’s needs. Yet, competitive analysis is a vital aspect of work every SEO needs to conduct, especially when beginning a new project or client portfolio. It also includes discovering how others may be meeting your audience’s needs better.
Comprehensive competitor analysis research is an art in itself and needs a skilled person at the helm; this lets you gain key insights for an effective SEO strategy! It is better than guessing and making assumptions. With clear competitor research data, you can know priority next steps to increase conversion rates.
Don’t copy your competitors; learn from them. This article can be your go-to guide when seeking to do an SEO competitor analysis yourself.
Table of Contents
- What Is a Competitor Analysis?
- Why is Competitive Analysis Important?
- How to Gain Competitive Analysis Insights
- Overall Knowledge of your Market Competition
- Learn your Audience’s Need for Products
- Discover Topics Preforming Well in your Industry
- Determine Which Competitors are Within Reach to Surpass
- Find what Value-added Proposition Sets You Above Competitors
- Gain New Product Market Knowledge Before Launch
- Discover market saturation
- Actions that Increase Competitive Advantage
- Create a Competitive Link Data Metrics Spreadsheet
- Aggressively Build Competitive Advantages
- Benchmark Progress Against your Competitive Landscape
- Use Competitive Data for Paid Search Comparisons
What Is a Competitor Analysis?
Competitor analysis is researching one or multiple of your competitors to analyze its products, content, sales, marketing strategies, share of voice, brand SERP, and backlink profile.
An important rule in competitive analysis: Use your customers, not your product, to recognize your real competition. This is accomplished through effective audience research.
The focus here is more on studying your competition over audience research, although they overlap. While this is about gaining competitive data insights, the end goal is to form on-going customer relationships.
Why is Competitive Analysis Important?
SEO competitive research is a vital component of every successful marketing strategy.
Market research and competitive analysis go hand in hand. While market research helps find customers for your business, competitive analysis helps you make your business unique and better. By combine them, a business of any size can uncover new competitive advantages to leverage.
It will help you identify how you can best enhance your own business strategy. Otherwise, you might be spending time, money, and energy in ways that will yield you less value.
It involves industry research. You need to really know the niche you are in.
How to Gain Competitive Analysis Insights
Focus on one area first and move to the following competitive discoveries:
- First-hand Knowledge of your Market Competition
- Learn your Audience’s Need for Products like Yours.
- Discover Topics Preforming well in your Industry.
- Determine Which Competitors are Within Reach to Surpass.
- Find what value-added proposition sets your business above competitors.
- Gain New Product Market Knowledge for a Launch.
- Discover market saturation
1. Overall Knowledge of your Market Competition
A deeper understanding of the competition in your market and industry niche. Showing how a competitor is performing better than is helpful to gain budget and stakeholder buy-in.
Uncover Competitors’ Domain Strengths & Weaknesses
This is easier to accomplish in bite sizes. There are several important views to take. Lets consider sectioning them out:
These section focuses on how the main domain works, what subdomains many exist, or which taxonomies preform best. Google’s Helpful Content Update is applied sitewide. Meaning, you also need a sitewide assessment of how well each close competitor’s domain is doing.
Does the site load faster than yours? Or are they bogged with plugins and excessive tracking scripts?
Here focus on specific pages and page type analysis. Separate informational from sales pages. Service from product landing pages. Assess the UX, ontology, design elements, and content of all page types. Identify what consumers prefer engaging with. Is it guides? Dynamic content? Blog content? Infographics? PDF Downloads?
An effective ontology can help by improving your content architecture.
Do they appear to use niche expert writers? How comprehensive is their content? Might they be relying heavily on AI generated content? To prove useful, these page comparisons need to match type to type. Meaning, metrics from one’s category pages shouldn’t be evaluated by your product pages.
Backlink Profile Analysis
To perform well for some search phrases, it is now necessary to have useful backlinks to those specific pages. Who is providing the inbound link matters. How the backlinks are gained is part of the assessment. Who is demonstrating trusted, steady gains?
Gathering initial competitor data identifies which of your competitors are doing better SEO. Analyze their overall approach. Your direct competitors are those that either rank for the same search query entities as your website, or those that pertain to your core services and evergreen sales funnel.
2. Learn your Audience’s Need for Products like Yours
Learn what your target audience is already asking about products like yours. You can learn much about the DNA footprint of your ideal customer from successful competitors.
In order for a product to reach sufficient sales volume to be profitable, you need to know your competition and collect as much data as possible. This data helps to establish a solid product that consumers will actually want to use, rather than a product we assume they want. Competitive analysis is one of the ways to get this critical data and to create a market-worthy product.
What the consumer doesn’t need to focus on is the effect of suppliers and customers on price. They may be price driven. But this marketing research is yours to conduct. Multiple industries may be competing to serve the same market you’re targeting. It’s an opportunity for the business entity that understand the audience the best to take the lead.
If you aren’t looking at your product owned assets, competitors who use relevant, high-quality, fast-loading, correctly-sized product imagery have an advantage.
3. Discover Topics Preforming Well in your Industry
Discover what topics are doing well in your industry. Maybe you haven’t written about them yet. Or need to do so more comprehensively. Google Trends is ideal for this. If you can find domains with high volitivity in these trending topics, that indicates an opening for you. Create better content and market it consistently to try take a top ranking placement.
One of the things that competitive analysis allows you to do is identify content gaps – especially unanswered questions. A lot of search queries are conducted by asking a question. Whether typed or spoken, your analysis can find question-answer content gaps to fill with fresh content. You may think that you’ve got the majority of demand already covered.
4. Determine Which Competitors are Within Reach to Surpass
Determine which of your competitors are you most likely to surpass given your personnel, time, and budgets. It can be discouraging to aim for the impossible given your existing resources. So, part of this is also taking a honest look at what you have the capacity to accomplish.
Identify where you can gain a potential ranking advantage for specific topics that you are the authority on. Given how important Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness or E-A-T is, you have to clearly demonstrate your expertise to surpass the current winning sites.
Determine if competitors have stronger topical authority. In SEO, competitor research is an essential strategic process you can so as a small business owner. Understanding where you stand compared to your competitors is foundational to lead generation campaigns.
5. Find what Value-added Proposition Sets You Above Competitors
A value proposition is not the same as a slogan, nor quite like a mission statement though similar. Your business’s value proposition is your chance to inform your target market about what makes you unique and better. It enables you to increase the quantity and quality of your prospective opportunities. It helps you gain market share in your targeted segments.
A competitive value proposition is a clear statement that: tells how your product solves consumers’ problems or improves issues they face and delivers specific benefits. It also informs your ideal customer why they should buy from you instead from another retailer or provider. We call this “unique differentiation” so you can stand out.
One differentiation in some crowded market niches is that there are so many strong companies competing for the same audience. Evan a basic understanding of the “toughness rating” of your market niche is helpful. For example, the financial and healthcare markets are more competitive. Clearly demonstrate your value.
6. Gain New Product Market Knowledge Before Launch
Competitor Analysis Research reveals how a product may fare in the existing market:
- Market share that each product currently commands.
- Anticipated remuneration of each product type.
- Consumption and demand (in terms of the value and growth rate) of each product type.
- Comparable product sale prices.
- Which keywords perform best on Product pages.
Is Competitor Keyword Analysis Important?
Yes. When it comes to competitive keyword analysis, you don’t merely want to gather the keywords your competition is ranking for, but rather to understand the value of individual search queries and intents. This means researching their top search query positions for relevance, CTR, and SERP featured snippets.
Targeting competitor keyword wins helps gain visibility on the same SERPs. It will also reveal your and their weaknesses. Valuable search phrases that they currently miss targeting, will help you not miss them. Armed with this data, you can set attainable expectations for your content creation teams.
The more content that you have indexed, the more opportunities you have to reach your shared audience. High-value content volume creates a significant advantage. Your competitor keyword research will shape your long-term marketing strategy.
7. Discover market saturation
How many similar options are already available to consumers? Are they ways you can pivot and meet a gap need? COVID, the pandemic, market downturns, etc. are teaching us that business need the ability to be agile and respond to emerging customer needs.
Conducting a thorough assessment of how many competitors perform well in a specific market helps you find opportunities where your market is underserved. If you find gaps between what others offer and what customers want, you can take a first-move action. Being customer-centric opens up a world where you can expand your own offerings to satisfy unmet customer needs.
Reducing existing barriers that may be hindering you as you enter the market for a new product may determine your success.
Actions that Increase Competitive Advantage
Compare your niche reach against your competitive landscape to discover untapped opportunities.
- Improve corporate culture to attracts and retains the best talent.
- Create topic clusters that are under-serviced by your competition.
- Well-structured content can provide a significant competitive advantage. The reality is that your competitors are also working hard to win that same advantage. Perform SERP Analysis Research as a quick way to outgrow your competitors.
- Core Web Vitals comparisons of how performance stacks ups against each competitor. You can discover ways of improving users’s page experience.
- Gain immediate SERP visibility by planning how to win and maintain Featured Snippet positions.
- Improve your owned media assets. It is hard to overstate how important images are in our sphere of advanced visual search.
Assess which product images work best
Images should represent that page well and be compelling. Product images may show up in Image Carousels, Product Carousels, Product Panels, and new ways to bypass competitive search engine results pages (SERPs). Product schema markup lets retailers specify their product images that can drive these search engine result pages as well as populate A Google Merchant feed.
Informational pages need the correct image formats, sizes, and resolution. These images can show up and represent your brand in People Also Ask Boxes, People Also Search For results, quick answer cards, your Google Knowledge Graph, Top Stories, and more. This applies beyond your product pages.
Images do bring potential consumer from Search to stores.
Create a Competitive Link Data Metrics Spreadsheet
Use your favorite competitor analysis tools, whether it is Majestic, Ahrefs, SEMrush, Inlinks, Screaming Frog, Spyfu, Google Trends, Moz, or a combination.
Each domain has a “history”. Additionally, there are many free competitive analysis templates to consider for capturing details of the marketing landscape in which your business exists.
Include the following basic columns for each competitor:
- Competitor’s URL
- Competitor’s Primary Keyword
- Their URL’s Current Rank
- How Much Traffic it Provides
- Your Corresponding URL
- Your Primary Keyword
- Your URL’s Current Rank
- How Much Traffic Your URL Provides
Here are key elements to compare:
Determine 1 – Each domain’s big picture Trust Flow and referring domains.
Determine 2 – Homepage Trust Flow and inbound domains for each domain assessed
Determine 3 – Average Trust Flow of URLs with ranking search phrases in positions 1-3 and the number of ranking search phrases within those positions. Your search landscape spreadsheet will assist in pulling through Trust Flow scores for individual URL. This facilitates viewing which ranking keywords in positions 1-3 competitor domains currently own.
Determine 4: The pace of monthly referring domain link acquisition and how well those gains are sustained.
Determine 5 – Assess correlations between link quality (not quantity) and top position rankings. Both the Python and the Google Trends API are valuable if you need to scale a large data set.
By extracting both qualitative and quantitative insights, you’ll have a more useful take on your competitive landscape. We’ve seen so many spreadsheets; they are as good as the skills of the person using them.
Contender Backlink Profile Analysis
Backlinks are still superheroes in search marketing. They can either help or hinder. You’ll want to know the strength of competitor sites from a backlink perspective. While not as much a factor as in prior days, they remain one way that Google’s ranking algorithms evaluate a domain.
What a competitive backlink assessment includes:
- An overview of domain’s link profile effectiveness.
- How well the Homepage is linked to.
- How link quality may be influencing specific page top-rankings.
- How you can partner to garner similar linking domains over time.
- If there are any black hat or spammy issues involved.
Successful Competitor Analysis Relies on a Skilled Analyzer
It requires a researcher who has the skills to:
- Identifies who are the most visible competitors are.
- Identify questions that a competitor analysis can answer.
- Provide context on the competitive landscape.
- Know what influences why competitors rank well.
- Convert insights into actions from what competitors doing that can produce an advantage.
- Differentiates between transactional and informational terms that others use.
- Sees between what others are doing that has worked and what will work given new algorithms.
- Understands whose brand awareness is on the upswing.
- Evaluate whether a threat (i.e. ranking loss) is surfacing.
Aggressively Build Competitive Advantages
Where you may need to invest after your analysis results are in:
- In brand-SERP building activities to become more recognizable and strengthen your visibility compared to your competitors.
- Helpful content publications both onsite and offsite. Prioritize content you own, meaning on your website.
- Internal linking can offer a tremendous advantage. Perhaps your content is poorly interlinked to. You can help people on one page take the next action step by making it easy for them. Links in body copy show immediate value to the topic. They let your site visitors take control of what they want to consume next. It assists readers by helping them navigate to additional answers that meet their needs. Hire an SEO specialist if you lack internal knowledge.
- External Linking is vital to demonstrate that you are widely recognized for your expertise. A trusted site with relevancy can be like an affirmative vote for you. This is where descriptive anchor text has an important role. It identifies what the page will be about if the link is clicked on. This creates a better user experience because they know what to expect.
Be prepared to do some manual digging with hours of running crawls and studying data to obtain powerful insights. Basically, we want to know how useful and engaging the user experience is on contender sites. Additionally:
- Include whether or not you accept guest posts in your backlink strategy.
- Note what your competitors offer via Google Business Profile offers.
- Identify what your who you competitors engage with the most on social media.
- Source ideas for new products and services by observing items you many not thought of yet that others provide.
- Stay alert what may be a top ranking factor or area you may seek.
Benchmark Progress Against your Competitive Landscape
Once you’ve completed your research and have identified your direct competitors, now what? You know where their products differ from yours, how yours are unique, and what audience searches for. But is that sufficient? The next step to maintaining success is an ongoing competitive benchmarking process.
Knowing when your competitors are conducting A/B tests can be invaluable. Using the iSpionage tool adds insights into your competitors’ campaigns and marketing strategies while proving you with alerts if they’re about to try something new. Competitive benchmarking is a vital component of a successful business strategy.
Four steps in competitive landscape benchmarking:
- Choose your KPIs and keep them in view.
- Identify the most important competitors.
- Identify what to measure and how to best measure it.
- Track progress and have someone onboard who knows how to implement the right insights.
Viewing your data in context is vital to unearth and evaluate your top opportunities, threats, strengths and weaknesses in your market niche. Pick 10 competitors to benchmark your progress with: select the key metrics to track (like: monthly/daily active users, downloads, featured snippets gained, direct SERP clicks, sessions per user, and page ranking score). Structure your data so it’s easily analyzed, collect more useful data: compare and refine your strategy. Share these outcomes with help who can use them to make future strategic decisions.
How to use Competitive Data for Paid Search Comparisons?
Leverage Google Data Studio and Google Analytics SEO Reports for paid search competitive analysis.
It is a means to measure “share of voice”. When sharing with CEOs, business owners, or other non-technical project leads, stick with chart reporting formats. They make data an easier walk through when explaining impression share trends over time.
There are several additional considerations beyond spend and ad position to evaluate when mulling over competitor data. For example, how a competitor writes their ad text can impact their CTR and Quality Score over time. Impression share losses may signal it’s time for a refresh in our campaign ad text. Or who is adding something new and click-worthy into the marketplace competitive arena.
The SBA provides the following federal business statistics to assist market research and competitive analysis:
|General business statistics||Segment the population for targeting customers.||U.S. Census Bureau, Bureau of Labor Statistics|
|Consumer statistics||Gain info on potential customers, consumer markets.||Consumer Credit Data, Consumer Product Safety|
|Demographics||Segment the population for targeting customers.||U.S. Census Bureau, Bureau of Labor Statistics|
|Economic indicators||Know unemployment rates, loans granted and more.||Consumer Price Index, Bureau of Economic Analysis|
|Employment statistics||Dig deeper into employment trends for your market.||Employment and Unemployment Statistics|
|Production and sales statistics||Understand demand, costs and consumer spending.||Consumer Spending, Gross Domestic Product (GDP)|
|Statistics of specific industries||Use a wealth of federal agency data on industries.||Statistics of U.S. Businesses|
|Trade statistics||Track indicators of sales and market performance.||Balance of Payments, USA Trade Online|
By investing in a professional Comparative Analysis you’ll gain a detailed review of existing experiences provided either by direct competitors, or by related agencies, or providers offering related services. Take a look at what our Whitehouse stated on July 09, 2021 after studying our competitive landscapes and assessing the need for healthy competition in our markets.
“Healthy market competition is fundamental to a well-functioning U.S. economy. Basic economic theory demonstrates that when firms have to compete for customers, it leads to lower prices, higher quality goods and services, greater variety, and more innovation.” – The Importance of Competition for the American Economy
Search marketing professionals rely on understanding the lay of the land. It’s useful to know who your business stacks up against. We always include the potential business impact if our recommended plan of action is adopted.
The insights gained from a competitor analysis makes your business plan, your content marketing, your SEO, and more much better. The right data is key to being informed. It points you to your best opportunities and action steps.