Why Analyse the Competition?
Let’s start with the obvious – you should focus more on your own content, site, products and services than you should on your competitors. Make them chase you, don’t chase them. However, it can also be incredibly useful to analyze your competition and reverse engineer their SEO. If someone is ranked #1 for your main keyword and several related keywords, chances are high that whatever they are doing works and some level of emulation could help you.
Understand that you will never *surpass* your competition through emulation alone. If you are not leading your niche, driving innovation and getting involved where possible, copying will only get you so far. However, taking what others are doing right and applying it to your own site? That’s just smart.
Get the Tools
Let’s grab a few tools, first. These were made by far more technical minds than mine so we’re just going to link dutifully and give credit to great SEOs.
Open this Google Doc, click File > Make a Copy. Now you have your own to play on.
This is the Google Scraper v1.2 by Seer Interactive.
Next, grab the Competitor Discovery Array here and make a copy of that as well:
Finally, open WordPot in a new tab: http://www.wordpot.com/KeywordTool.aspx
The Process of Competitor Analysis
I am a big fan of combining tools. In fact, one of my big series of posts coming up will combine online tools to great effect. So here’s what we’re going to do.
1) Find your main competitors. Open the Google Scraper 1.2 from the first link above. Enter Results: 30, and type your #1 keyword into cell B1. Press enter. This will create a list of the top sites for your main keyword. Copy cells C2-C31. Right click in cell E1 and use “Paste Special” and then “Paste Values Only.” This is an important step! Then press copy again.
2) Put them in the Discovery Array. Drop these competitors into cell B3 of the second link (Competitor Discovery Array) from above.
3) Add keywords. If you already know your keywords, enter them on the Competitor Discovery Array from cell A3 on. If you do not know all of your keywords yet, open Wordpot (third link above.) Enter the “basic” form of your keyword (no location). If your keyword was Melbourne SEO, simply enter SEO. If you run fishing tours in Charleston, just use “fishing tours.” Copy the list of keywords into a notepad or Word document and remove the location keywords you don’t care about (ie. Alaska fishing tours). Use a few of your top keywords if necessary to create a list of 20-40 main keywords.
Once your list is created, copy and paste it into cell A3 of the Competitor Discovery Array.
4) Skim the cream. Look in Column C – Occurrences in the Top 20. Which sites have the highest number? These are the sites that regularly show up in the top 20 for your top keywords. Sometimes a site has optimized very well for one keyword and doesn’t show up on much variety. This method of competitor discovery will separate those who are #1 for one keyword but fail on everything else from your true competitors – those who are top 20 for the majority of your keywords.
Find Your Competitor’s Onsite SEO
This one’s a download – very safe as far as I know. Go get a free copy of Screaming Frog’s SEO Spider.
Install and open the program. At the top you will see “Enter a URL to Spider” – enter the competitor with the most Occurrences in the Top 20. Press Enter.
As the program runs you will start to discover some valuable information. Screaming Frog has 12 tabs starting with Internal. Look at the Title, Description, headings, Word Count (far right), In and Out links (very far right). What information can you get from this? What are they doing right? Is there a lot of variety in their page titles? Longer pages than yours? What is different and why may Google value that more than they value you?
Use this tool on a few of your top competitors and then on yourself. What differences can you see between them and your own site? Patterns should be easy to spot. If their pages are *all* larger than yours and they vary page titles more, consider doing that on a few new pages. Do they have many more inlinks per page than you? Anything you can glean from their results will help you. Play Sesame Street. ”One of these things is not like the other.” If your site is being ranked lower than these competitors on average, the things they are doing right will help you decide what changes to make.
Analyse Your Competitor’s Offsite SEO
If you are a full time SEO or working for an agency, you likely have an SEOMoz subscription andOpenSiteExplorer. That makes off-site analysis simple. Let’s pretend you don’t have that so we can work with the free tools everyone can use.
Go to Google and search your first competitor using this search:
This will find links to your competitor that do not include their own internal links. For instance, one of the top SEO companies in Melbourne is ROI.com.au
I see 165,000 results – FAR more than our own. Now consider this: Google is applying their *same* algorithm to this type of search that they do most organic results. That means that the top links here are the “most related” to your competitor’s domain. Google finds them relevant, influential and valuable. You should too.
Analyze the results for your competitor. What sites are they getting links from? Is the link in the description or the page’s URL itself? (The number one result for ROI as it in the domain, the #2 is in the description.)
If your business is not on the domains you see, you clearly need to be. On our test ROI search, that means LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and the usual suspects. Let’s see what isn’t “usual.”
The 5th result is http://www.localbusinessguide.com.au/find/online-marketing/ – click that link and see the “Add your link” in the top menu? This is the *exact* type of website you need to be listed on. It’s a highly ranked competitor site with loads of value for your competition.
That should give you a start as you analyze your competition in Google. Grab all the tools and dig in!
Did I miss anything? How do you analyze your competitors? Let us know in the comments!