You canʼt beat your competitors if you donʼt know their strengths and weaknesses. Which is precisely why competitor analysis is critical to your success.
Trust me, itʼs not as difficult or complicated as some marketers make it look like.
Our goal here is to create a high-authority site that generates consistent income for years. Iʼm not talking about short-term micro niche sites or quick money making methods that may or may not work.
I want you to think of this as a proper long-term business. So everything Iʼm sharing in this post, including competitor analysis, is based on this goal.
Why are we doing competitor analysis?
- To determine the ranking potential of our target topic and keywords based on the authority and the relevance of the top ranking pages.
- To find any weaknesses or gaps in the top ranking search results that we can take advantage of.
- To find out the exact improvements we need to make to our content to make it to the top search spot for our target keyword.
Once you have this information, you will use it to build an authority site around your target topic with MUCH better content than your competitors.
This will result in thousands of visitors from long-tail search traffic and will also help you rank for the head keywords of your topic in the longrun.
When Google starts considering you an authority on a topic, because of the superior quality of your content and backlinks, it ranks you for many other long-tail search keywords even if you donʼt directly target them.
2 things before we start competitor analysis.
- The success of your authority blog WONʼT be determined by yourrankings for these big keywords. We’re going to target them, but it’s not do or die. Your blog will get TONS of long-tail traffic before you even get into the top 5 rankings.
- Google is now all about authority. Any search you do today will bringback nothing but really high authority sites.
The biggest thing holding people back from entering niches and starting their blogs is competition. They see these high authority sites on the first page and decide it would be crazy to compete with them.
DON’T let this intimidate you.
We’re still going to analyze competition to make sure it’s not TOO competitive, but your criteria and metrics need to change to compensate for Google’s algorithm changes, and our goals with this site.
I can’t stress how important this is you understand these 2 points.
There’s a fundamental difference in how sites that make thousands of dollars per month are built. It might be completely different than how you’ve approached blog building in the past, and that’s a good thing.
Okay so now that we have that covered.
Let’s get started.
Performing competitor analysis
You only need a couple of tools to perform competitor analysis.
One of them is Google Search, which is free of course.
The other one is Ahrefs, the best SEO tool, with the most updated andaccurate data, in my experience.
Itʼs a complete research tool thatʼll help you analyze your competitors for a number of factors that impact search rankings.
Step 1: Analyze Google Search for Unbeatable Rankings
The first thing that I do is make sure that the rankings aren’t unbeatable.
What do I mean by unbeatable?
I mean a search results page with government pages, official company sites, and organizations. These are the pages that will NEVER be beaten.
They’re just the most relevant search for the keyword you chose. End of story.
Unfortunately, the Air Force and Military’s official pages will never be beaten no matter how many powerful links you build to your page. Longtail keywords are going to be dominated by these official sites as well.
Most keyword searches aren’t like this, and it takes a bit of common sense to spot these kind of results pages. But in the first stage of competition analysis, this is all we’re looking for.
If it does look unbeatable, then I would dump the keyword/niche.
If it’s not, then let’s move onto the next step.
Step 2: Check Page Authority and Backlink Profile
Page Authority (PA) and Domain Authority (DA) are metrics used in Moz Link Explorer tool and considered a standard indicator of a siteʼs strength.
Ahrefs, an even more advanced SEO tool, has introduced URL Rating (UR) and Domain Rating (DR) which are pretty similar to PA and DA.
But what exactly do they mean?
Domain Rating (DR) shows the overall strength of a website based on the number and the quality of links pointing to it.
URL Rating (UR) shows the strength of a specific URL based on the number and the quality of links pointing to it.
Thatʼs an important difference that you need to remember.
For competitor analysis, your primary concern is the UR of the page ranking for your target keyword.
For example, here are the top search results for the keyword “Bowling tips” (excluding videos and featured snippets)
If you consider this score alone, itʼs pretty hard to outrank this page.
But the UR score, the strength of the URL ranking for the top spot, is just
Plus, if you look towards the right side of the DR score, youʼll see the number of backlinks and referring domains to this page.
Again, donʼt get fooled by the number of backlinks. The count that matters is “Referring Domains” because multiple links from the same sites donʼt have the same value.
This means we have a top ranking page with a low URL Rating and only 26 referring domains.
On the right of your screen, Ahrefs shows you details of the types of backlinks pointing to the searched URL.
Another good sign for you.
If you scroll further down, Ahrefs shows you the strength of the backlinks pointing to the searched URL.
So basically all the links pointing to this URL are pretty weak.
It is mainly ranking on the top because of a strong and relevant domain (DR 84).
But with a better quality page thatʼs optimized for your target keyword and has more high quality links pointing to it, this page can be easily outranked.
The only metrics weʼve considered are UR, the number of Referring Domains, and the UR of the linking domains.
Do this for all the first page results to get a better understanding of the strength of your competitors.
These scores are strong indicators of whether a search result can be outranked easily or not.
But there are a few other things to consider as well.
Let me explain them one by one.
Step 3: Analyze On-Page Optimization Factors
On-Page SEO factors play a crucial role in determining the search rankings of a page.
A key part of competitor analysis is to see whether the top ranking pages are properly optimized for the target keyword or not.
If a page is ranking on the first page without proper On-Page SEO, itʼs an opportunity for you to create an optimized page to outrank it.
Here are the things you need to consider.
Target Keyword in Title, URL, and Meta Description
The Meta Description, however, doesnʼt have a direct impact on the search rankings but it does influence the click through rate of a result.
Keyword in H1 and H2 Headlines
See if the target keyword is used by the page in itʼs main headline and at least one sub-heading with an H2 tag. Itʼs another strong On-page ranking factor.
LSI Keywords in H2 Headline
LSI keywords are terminologies that are closely related to your main target keyword. Google considers the use of LSI keywords a strong OnPage SEO factor.
You can find hundreds of LSI keywords using LSIKeywords.com
If not, itʼs an improvement area you should note down.
Keyword in the Introductory Paragraph
Using the target keyword in the first 100 words of a page has a direct relationship with higher rankings.
See if your competitors have done that in their content.
Keyword Usage in Body Content
Pay close attention to how many times your competitors have used the target keyword in their content.
Keyword Density as a metric no longer matters, but if a page has used the target keyword sparingly, it gives you an opportunity to improve on it.
Optimized Alt-Tags in Images
Most websites publish blog posts and articles with images that do not have any Alternate Tags (Alt-Tags)
Alt Tags play the same role as keywords and have a direct impact on rankings.
See if your competitors have paid attention to them
Relevant Internal Links
Have the top ranking pages used any internal links in their content?
Good, because thatʼs another opportunity to make your page better than theirs
High Authority External Links
No external links to any relevant high authority sites?
Google considers external links as a relevance signal. Using them is a recommended On-Page SEO practice.
Once you analyze the top ranking pages for all these factors, see which ones are missing in their content.
If most of the top ranking pages are poorly optimized, itʼs another sign that youʼll easily outrank them by creating better optimized pages.
But before making a final judgement, thereʼs one last thing to consider.
Step 4: Look for Improvements in Content
How does the actual content of the top ranking pages read?
Is it high quality, well-researched, and in-depth?
Or is it spun or simply a collection of words that doesnʼt make sense?
Content quality is one of the biggest search ranking factors. Plus, it has a direct impact on backlinks acuqisiton.
Poor quality content rarely gets backlinks from other high authority sites.
If a top ranking page for your target keyword has poorly written content, it probably has a pretty low backlink count as well.
As a result, itʼs easy to outrank.
Here are the things to consider while analyzing the content quality of a page
Content Length/Word Count
In-depth and detailed content not only gives more value to the readers but also helps you rank for dozens of long-tail keywords. So keep a close eye on the average depth and length of content ranking on Googleʼs first page for your target keyword
Does the content have typos, grammatical mistakes, or improper sentence structures?
If yes, the page is likely to have a higher Bounce Rate since users quickly press the back button when they see poorly written content.
Visuals and Multimedia
How many images, videos, or animated GIFs is the page using? Note down the number for every page you analyze.
Is the content properly formatted for online readers with headlines, short paragraphs etc.?
Or is it simply a wall of text that makes you fall asleep?
These are all user experience factors that have a direct impact on the search rankings of a page.
If your target keyword has first page results with poor content, they can be easily outranked with better content.
Wrapping up competitor analysis
When you analyze your competitors based on the metrics Iʼve shared in this section, you will be able to gather detailed information about their strengths and weaknesses.
Now your job is simple.
Create a page/resource that is better than your competitors in terms of all the factors Iʼve discussed.
When you create such a resource, getting backlinks wonʼt be a problem.
And with better content and more backlinks, no one can stop you from dominating the search rankings.
How To Do Competition Analysis The Right Way
How to do competitor analysis which involves more than just the numbers some tool is showing you, so I think youʼll gain from going through it even though he is using a different tool than the one weʼve been using in the course so far.
In the last post, we learned about the metrics that we should be looking for when weʼre doing competition analysis.
To help you understand further, Iʼm going to go through the entire start to finish process of what I do when Iʼm analyzing the competition for a keyword.
So, let’s continue with our example niche from a few units ago: “Bowling tips”.
Searching for “bowling tips” brings back these results.
Who is Bowl?
At first glance, it seems that bowl.com is a pretty big player in the space. They’re ranking for the first 2 spots in the rankings.
I’ve never heard of bowl.com before so I opened up their site to get some more information on who they are.
Not a good sign.
I donʼt like seeing that because it says theyʼre the “national governing body of bowling.” Right off the bat, Iʼm assuming theyʼve probably got some crazy backlink profile.
If theyʼre a “national governing body” are they “unbeatable” like in my Air Force Training example?
No, not at all.
The keyword “bowling tips” is about bowling instruction. This is just a national membership organization. They’re not the prime authority for all things bowling tips.
If that sounds contradictory to my example with the air force, consider this:
“air force training” = There’s only one official authority on this: The Air Force. The only training you can really get is from The Air Force.
“bowling tips” = How to bowl. There is not one organization or company that is the official company for everything related to bowling instruction. Bowl.com is likely ranking #1 because of their high authority, but they are not unbeatable.
So now that thatʼs out of the way, letʼs dive into some analysis.
Let’s look at the pages that are ranking
Bowl.com is ranking for the top 2 positions on Google for this keyword.
But look at the pages that are ranking.
#1 RANKING PAGE FROM BOWL.COM – What is that like 50 words of content combined with a list of 10 internal links?
This is a really good sign for us if we’re going to pursue this niche. This content is terrible…
This is #1?!
We can easily blow their content out of the water with what we create with our Pillar Posts.
Letʼs check out their page in the #2 spot.
Just from looking at this, we know we have one major advantage: We can totally whip this site’s butt in terms of value provided with our site.
We can create something that knocks this page out of the water, which will make it easier for our site to get links.
And in general, this is a great sign early on.
If the #1 and #2 spot is filled with content like this, we can only assume that the rest of the comoming to be terrible as well. I could be wrong, but itʼs a safe assumption
The only thing that worries me at this point is their backlink profile.
Maybe theyʼre able to rank this type of content because theyʼve got some really strong links.
We’ll find out in a bit.
Checking Bowl.com’s links
Step 1: Checking the link profile for the entire BOWL.COM domain
Before checking the links to the individual ranking pages, I want to get an idea of this site’s overall link profile… Seeing how theyʼre ranking #1 and #2, they seem to be the current authority on bowling at the moment.
Before I even check the links to this site, I already know that it’s going to be super high authority. They’re the “official” organization for bowling in the U.S. so I’m guessing they’ll have a lot of links.
Let’s throw their site into Mangools.
Although their site is really high authority, remember that this is the profile of links going to the entire domain.
Let’s take a look at the link profile for the SPECIFIC PAGES that are ranking for “bowling tips.”
#1 Competitor analysis
- ZERO backlinks!
- A page authority of 28, which is very beatable.
- Only 5 social shares. Nobody’s sharing this page. This page is NOT a good search result for people who want bowling instruction. I can imagine their bounce rate to be really high.
#2 Competitor analysis
Thoughts about Bowl.com
At first glance, it would seem crazy to compete with a site like bowl.com.
But after analysis of quality of content, and the specific link profiles for the pages that are ranking, we can see that it’s going to be pretty easy actually.
Their content is horrible, it looks outdated, and it’s the prime example of what a high bounce-rate site should look like.
We can easily over-take this site as THE AUTHORITY in bowling tips and training.
There’s another good reason this keyword is wide open.
That site is ranking for the top 2 spots! There aren’t 2 high authority pages in the top 2 spots. Beating 1, means beating both with one punch.
Hereʼs something you might not have known: When 2 pages from the same domain are ranking on the first page (or any page on Google), they will always be grouped together.
The power of authority sites?
This is what I’ve been research stage. This is the kind of search results that are on the first page now.
No links to the page that’s ranking, but because Google sees that they’re an authority figure in the niche, they’re #1. That’s exactly what we’re going to do with our own sites, and start dominating for all the keywords available.
Let’s go through the rest of the sites that are ranking.
Before we decide this is an easy niche we can easily dominate, we need to analyze what the rest of the competition looks like.
#3 Competitor analysis: BowlingTechniques.net
The next result is BowlingTechniques.net. It’s just a blog roll with a bunch of posts about bowling tips.
What about the backlinks?
#4 Competitor analysis: Wikihow
Seeing a Wikihow page is another great sign.
Yup, I was right.
#5 Competitor analysis: YouTube Video
I don’t even have to check the links for this page. It’s going to be super weak.
Even today, there are people ranking YouTube videos by blasting thousands of links at it. It works because YouTube has such a high domain authority, that mass links donʼt signal a penalty.
Itʼs a form of Parasite SEO – latching onto strong websites like YouTube and using their domain authority to rank faster than a normal new website would.
If you blasted links to a new site, it would immediately destroy your rankings and your chances of any rankings in the future.
But by doing so on a site with a giant domain authority like YouTube.com, there are more positive effects than negative.
This is one of the ways weʼve achieved multiple rankings for clients when I was working at my old SEO agency.
We would rank their website #1 and then work on bringing a YouTube video #2 for the same keyword.
But for this one, I know it would be weak because of how few links that the first 4 pages in the results have.
Any YouTube video with hundreds of links easily has a chance just jump to #1.
#6 Competitor analysis: YouTube profile page
The #6 ranking site is a YouTube.
Okay, it looks like a guarantee that this is a wide-open niche by now. We can totally just overtake this keyword/niche.
I don’t even need to check the links for this.
A profile page is on the first page? Really? Thatʼs great for us.
#7 Competitor analysis: EpicBowling.com
Just a blogroll of posts related to “bowling tips.” And if you look at the latest blog posts, theyʼre not even optimized around this keyword.
In my opinion, category pages are some of the worst performing pages in the search engines.
Theyʼre not topic specific, they can end up with random blog posts like the one you see to the right.
Second, itʼs not rich in just a stream of snippets of text and random titles.
#8 Competitor analysis: HelpWithBowling.com
The links pointing to the site are absolute garbage. They’re not relevant, they’re on weird pages that have nothing to do with bowling. They’re weak, most of them are comment spam and directory links.
It’s a good sign that he’s ranking #8 with those links because the links we get will be SO MUCH MORE powerful than his. Weʼll learn just how to build these links in just a bit.
In fact, with the type of links weʼre going to learn how to build, I can even make a wild assumption that we can rank at the top of this search with less than 10 links.
#9 Competitor analysis: BowlingThisMonth.com
Let’s take a look at the links:
Thoughts after competitor analyzing Page 1 of results
There are only 9 results for this search because one of them is an image result.
So I just quickly went through all the sites on the first page. You were able to see exactly what I look for, and what makes a weak site weak.
If you noticed, competition analysis is not difficult at all.
And itʼs fun! You learn a lot through every page you analyze because youʼre able to assess what theyʼre doing wrong, what theyʼre doing right, and why theyʼre ranking.
The more of this you do, the sharper your SEO mind becomes.
After competitor analyzing page one, I’ll usually browse through pages 2 and 3. I don’t go through all of them like I did for the first page.
What I’m mainly looking for is just to check if there are other people doing SEO for that keyword. You can usually spot this by the domain name and the keyword-rich titles. They’ll usually be things like “bowlingtipshq.com” or something like that.
But that part isn’t as important.
The most important part is competitors analyzing the first page. And I think we can conclude that this is a pretty easy niche to target, AND ALSO… an easy niche we can totally dominate the rankings for.
great article 👍