The easy days of SEO are over and it’s now important to include SEO analysis into every SEO effort to identify opportunities and set priorities. Having said that, a lot of companies haven’t done competitive analysis. If you’re one of those, here are some quick tips to get you started.
First and foremost, you want to identify the benefits to you of doing a competitive analysis. Are you looking to secure a budget based on the level of effort needed to match competitors? Or are you looking to develop a project plan based on the compilation of tactics you’d like to implement? Determining the why up front will help ensure the proper direction of your analysis.
Competitive analysis is often done to support a new site or a redesign. Intuitively, this makes sense as you’d want to know what other sites are doing, lest you pour your heart into a new site only to discover the market you entered is already well-served by savvy site owners.However, there’s even more valuable information to be gleaned from a competitive analysis after a site has been live for some time. What you get from an analysis at this stage is a good comparison of your site’s actual performance compared to others (i.e., a look at the actual gap you have to close).
While traffic from organic search results isn’t in and of itself a success measure, it is a prerequisite. And of course, traffic from organic search is tied to the keywords people type and a site’s visibility in the results for those keywords. So at the core of every competitive analysis is a list of keywords that you deem are important.
If your site has multiple product or service categories, you should segment your keyword list into buckets of related terms. Then determine the competitors for each bucket. Doing so will identify the leaders in each area. Don’t assume that your offline competitors’ websites are doing well online. Instead, your SEO competitors are the sites that appear before yours in the SERPs for your keywords regardless of whether these sites have an offline presence or not.
Competitive analysis involves looking at a competitor’s site. You’ll want to do a crawl of all or part of the site looking at the site structure as it relates to SEO. In addition to looking at the site, you’ll want to look at offsite factors; namely links on other sites that point to your site. The onsite work is 1/3rd of the equation and offsite links back to your site is 2/3rd of the equation.
It doesn’t take an SEO analysis to see that a site is doing well for a given set of keywords. A bunch of number one rankings will make that clear. However, it absolutely does take an SEO analysis to answer what tactics may be contributing to a site’s performance. Competitive analysis, being a fixed effort, is actually a good candidate for being outsourced if you don’t have the in-house expertise.
In closing, I want to mention that if there aren’t any resources available to act on the analysis, then there’s little reason to do it. Beyond such cases I recommend making competitive analysis a component of your SEO effort and something that you conduct at least semi-annually. There just isn’t any other way to keep an eye on what Google and the other search engines consider to be valuable content and worthy of their users.