How to perform a competitor analysis in organic search results?

21 April 2022

What is a competitor analysis and why is it important?

Competitor analysis in SEO is one of the key activities in website positioning. Its purpose is to learn about the activities of the competition in organic search results in order to be able to adapt your strategy, in such a way as to overtake them. Competition in organic search results is the key word here, because in the Google search engine, competition may turn out to be completely different than in the local market.

Competitor analysis can be an invaluable source of information useful for planning your SEO strategy. However, it is important to verify it at the later stages of the campaign and to summarise the achieved goals. A well-conducted analysis of the competition will also provide answers to the questions around what you are good at, and what still needs to be worked on.

To understand your competition, you first need to get to know them better, and thus learn about their activities on the website. Below are some tips on how to conduct a competitor analysis that deliver the required information.

SEO competitor analysis step by step

1. Perform keyword research

Before starting the competitor analysis, you should have a defined group of keywords important for your business. Depending on the number of subpages on your website, a group of the most important keywords should be selected. It can be 20, 40 or even 150 keywords. In order to know what queries are the most important for your business, it is necessary to conduct a keyword analysis, which aims to select the appropriate inquiries to which your website should respond through landing pages.

In order to extract the most crucial ones, you can be guided, for example, by the popularity of a given phrase. Highly popular phrases can be defined as queries for which the average monthly search value is over 1000. It is important to choose the most important keywords dedicated to specific subpages on the website.

It is also worth taking into account a few long-tail keywords because despite the fact that they have a lower popularity, they are often higher conversion generators on the website.

2. Find your competition

As mentioned before, your business competition can differ significantly from your competition in organic search results. This is because business competition, by definition, are other companies offering the same or similar product or service dedicated to the same or a close group of recipients. In the search results, on the other hand, the websites that appear in the first places for keywords that are important to us are the competition. Here, the competition is not only the websites of business competitors, but also guides and educational websites, price comparison websites, classified websites, and for e-commerce stores, they will be primarily the largest trading platforms. This is because the search engine is designed to provide the most relevant content to the user’s query. The websites mentioned above may have a high reputation, so they will appear in the top places in the search, and will be your competition.

For example, imagine that we are a company that offers smartphones. By searching the main keyword for this industry in the search engine, we can see from the first positions that we compete with Wikipedia and large trading platforms like Amazon. Other pages are Tech Advisor and TechRadar which provide the user with content about smartphones, comparisons and the top phones to buy.

Importantly, the place in search results for organic items is shrinking. In the example above, you can see that sponsored results, videos or graphics appear at the very top. A map also appears for many results – it shows companies offering a given service within a user’s location. In order to be displayed for these results, you must have an account on Google My Business. This decreasing amount of space creates more aggressive competition, so it is worth carefully analysing what results appear on the first page, because you will have to surpass them.

Therefore, when analysing the competition, it is worth taking a closer look at your direct business competitors, but also analysing other results that appear for the most important keywords for us.

To find out about the closest competition from organic results, you can look for it yourself in the search results by typing the keywords and browsing pages appearing in the first positions, or you can use tools such as Ahrefs or SEMrush.

The visibility chart, or rather the competitive position chart, helps in assessing your position against competitors. This visualisation provides information on the number of keywords for competitive websites and compares them with our results. Thanks to that we can determine how many websites are chasing us away in their visibility, and towards which companies we are ahead.

Below is an example for the paws.com pet store.

Source: semrush.com

In this case, the tool itself defines the closest competition and shows its positions in relation to the analysed page on the chart. Furthermore, after hovering over the competitive points, the tool shows how many keywords in total the given pages are visible, and the estimated organic traffic.

3. Conduct visibility comparison for each competitive website

Once you have found your competitors, it is worth starting the analysis by creating a table that will summarise their visibility and your website in terms of numbers.

Continuing with the example of paws.com, thanks to the SEMrush tool, we can easily retrieve such data and present it in the form of a table. The first provides a summary of overall visibility, and the second is broken down into visibility groups.

From looking at this data, we can already conclude that in relation to the competition, the paws.com website is in the penultimate place in terms of the popularity of TOP3 keywords in the overall pool of phrases for which it is visible. This situation will have an impact on worse traffic estimates that such a website can generate. The highest percentage for keywords in positions from 11 to 20 – 23% has the highest result among the competition. However, these are positions on the second search engine results page, that have a much lower conversion rate. The website therefore has to work on keywords in current positions from 4 to 20, so that they can reach higher positions.

4. What else should be analysed?

a) Get to know your competitor’s business

At the very beginning, it is worth analysing the competition’s business to understand better what you are dealing with. A few questions worth answering are:

  • Is it your direct business competitor?
  • Is it a large brand with high brand awareness?
  • How long has it been on the market?
  • What is our advantage over a competitor?

These few factors will influence the understanding of your competitor and their position in the search results. If we were a newly established online store with a limited number of products, the answers to these questions would help us plan our strategy for the future.

b) Content

Well-developed content on the website may be the answer to the question why some websites rank higher in the search results. A website with many subpages containing a lot of SEO-optimised content will be rewarded by the search engines with high positions. This is because a given website responds to many user inquiries and builds its authority on a given topic. Looking at how extensive the content of the competition is, you can deduce to which audience it is created, how it is created, whether it is optimised in terms of SEO principles, whether they are willing to comment, and most importantly – what should be done to gain an advantage over them.

It is worth paying attention to whether competing websites have a blog section where they publish SEO-optimised content, increasing the number of keywords on which the website is visible. In the case of blog content, to gain an advantage over a competitor, you should pay attention to niche topics and all that have not yet been answered by a competitor.

Other subpages worth paying attention to are the category and product pages. If those pages also have rich content, you know SEO is one of your competitor’s marketing strategies.

What to pay attention to when analysing the content of the competition? First of all, analyse elements such as:

  • High-order headers like H1, but also lower-order such as H2, H3 or H4
  • How the competition inserts keywords
  • What is the structure of URLs?
  • How long is the written content?
  • What the meta titles and descriptions look like (maybe the competition builds them in a better way, i.e. they have a better call-to-actions, or make better use of keywords)
  • How often are the articles published?

To find out more about how to optimise your content, read our article: 11 Tips on How You Should Optimise Your Blog Posts for SEO.

c) Backlinks

Backlinks from external sites can be compared to recommendations. If there are many external links flowing to a particular page, especially from high authority sites, a website will be characterised by greater trust from Google. In addition to creating content, this is another factor that influences building the authority of a website. To understand why your competitors rank so high in the search results, you should analyse the links leading to their website.

Thanks to tools such as ahref.com, you can easily track the number of incoming links and the websites that lead to it.

Source: ahrefs.com

What is worth paying attention to is whether the obtained links coincide with changes in visibility over time, whether they are obtained regularly, and what is the nature of the obtained links. Competition may sponsor many events, or be popular enough to be naturally linked many times from multiple sources. After such analysis, it can be known whether the competitor conducts special activities aimed at obtaining backlinks, or whether it happens spontaneously. Moreover, backlink analysis is a great way to discover new places to get links to your website.

d) Technology

It may be that your website has not yet been created and the competition analysis is aimed at researching the market. In this case it is worth looking at the technology in which competing websites are created. Do they choose traditional solutions or do they choose modern ones? Pay special attention to the architecture of the site. A good website architecture is one that allows you to find key information quickly and efficiently. Here you should pay attention to the arrangement of elements and their availability. The key element is also checking which of the website directories generates the highest share of traffic. You can also analyse this with the ahrefs.com tool.

Another important element is the page loading speed, which has been a hot topic for a long time. In the perspective of how the Google search engine presses strongly on the performance of the website, you should compare the results of the competition and yours. Another issue is adapting the website to mobile devices.

Below you can see the comparison for mobile page speed results for paws.com and their main competitor vetuk.co.uk. The results for both websites are not good and pages are considered as slow, however the results for vet.co.uk is better.

Source: PageSpeed Insights

It is also worth taking a look at the aforementioned content. If the competition has separate blog sections, it is also worth investing in a blog section on the emerging website and adapting your marketing strategy to its expansion and promotion from the very beginning. If this argument is not enough, read why you should optimise your blog posts for SEO.

Summary

Competitor analysis in organic search results is one of the key activities when planning and running an effective SEO marketing strategy. By tracking the key elements and comparing the competition’s results to ours, we are able to answer the question why other brands are more likely to rank higher in the search engines, and what we can do to stay ahead of them. Proper organisation of SEO activities can bring many benefits, including generating conversions, but also building brand image.

If you would like professional help from a multinational agency to create a SEO strategy with outstanding results, feel free to contact us at GA Agency, where our team of experts will be happy to help.

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