Your competitor in the real world may be very different from your competitor in the digital space. That’s because online, and in the SEO world, you are competing with sites who are ranking for the same keywords that you’re targeting for your business. So when it comes to doing competitive research, you’ll want to consider the sites ranking for your target keywords as the ones you need to research rather than focussing on those you think are your competitors.
If you’re new to SEO, and haven’t a clue of where to begin, then you should involve a data-driven SEO company to do this competitor research for you.
- direct (companies that sell the same product to the same customer group as you);
- indirect (such firms sell other goods or services with similar qualities, but at the same time their target audience is the same as yours).
Competitive SEO research is needed to identify key contenders. The main principle is to take into the study only those sites that are most similar to yours. If you are a small furniture store, feel free to remove aggregators, large stores (Hoff, Ikea), design sites, and portals from the list of opponents. Leave only the same small furniture stores as yours. If they are not in the search results for the selected queries, then you will probably have no chance to get into the TOP for these queries as well.
After defining your competitors, the next step is to analyze their sites, record observations, and compare them with your indicators. There are many parameters for comparison – which ones should be studied? In general, they must meet two criteria: affect the promotion of the site, and you should be able to influence this parameter with SEO instruments.
One of the important factors to consider is the number of backlinks your competitor has and the kinds of links they have. Backlinks help to improve the position in the search results and even get to the top of the overall ranking. It is convenient to use LinkMiner or SEMRush for this task. Studying the reference mass of rivals can be carried out by comparing the following data on different resources:
- how many referring pages were identified;
- what is the quality of domains, and where are the links come from;
- what does the anchor list look like;
- whether different regions are represented in the backlink strategy.
As a result of the research, you will see which sites are building links organically and which are using outdated spam methods.
To quickly find out the approximate amount of search traffic of your business opponents, use the Similar Web extension for Chrome. It allows you to determine:
- the estimated monthly site traffic volume;
- the average site visit time and bounce rate;
- traffic sources;
- top countries that generate traffic;
- top resources that most often link to the site and to which the site links;
- distribution of traffic on social networks.
Determine which of your rivals is leading in terms of traffic volume. Plus, it is useful to know the approximate maximum volume of traffic in your niche. Searching and studying the queries of competitors that bring traffic to the site will help you expand your semantics and find out what you missed. Or, on the contrary, choose other queries to promote your site to reduce the level of competition.
Comparative research of your site with competitors at the level of content strategy will also be useful. To do this, compare the material on separate pages of different sites and draw conclusions about the typical content of a particular category. Usually, SEO specialists pay attention to the following:
- Home page: the number of characters, the presence of markup, bulleted/numbered lists, images, keywords, and general readability;
- Secondary pages with product cards: volume, quality of the content, the presence of video reviews, etc.;
- Blog pages: volume, number of images, frequency of posts, subject of texts. Most often, there are two thematic areas: the publication of company news and useful tips for consumers.
Based on such an in-depth study of competitors’ pages, you can optimize the content strategy of your resource.
Understanding the site structure of your competitors, especially successful ones, will push you to develop ways to optimize your resource. It will be helpful to do the following:
- compare the site structure;
- check for which keywords separate pages are created, and whether medium- and low-frequency ones are promoted;
- see how your opponents are trying to expand the site structure. What is typically used for this purpose are tags, landing pages, or filters.
Finally, look at the number of pages with products (the breadth of the assortment is recognized as a ranking factor), product category pages (this is the “skeleton” of the site structure – the wider it is, the higher its weight in the search and the amount of low-frequency traffic collected) and other pages. Such a comprehensive study of competitors’ sites will reveal the potential for developing your resource.
When analyzing successful competitors, it is worth paying attention to the time and cost of getting their first 10 000 (or more) of traffic. Conversion is an important metric for a business, but a good conversion rate (CR) doesn’t always lead to more sales. The main value of CR is marketing insights that show what works and what needs to be tested, optimized, and improved. For expensive products, a CR of 5% per 240 visitors is a real win. But when it comes to a T-shirt store, the situation changes dramatically. Here, sales volume is much more significant.
Context matters for both traffic sources and customer experience. If you’re investing in Facebook ads, you need the right conversion rate to ensure your ROAS. If the traffic comes from search engines, a small CR would be more logical. Let’s say you generate 100,000 unique visitors per month with a 1.2% conversion rate. That’s 1,200 new customers. In this case, you can improve your performance in two ways:
- increase search traffic;
- increase search traffic CR.
But here we must not forget about the context. The increase in search or organic traffic is achieved by creating landing pages and new content. The question is what to choose. Ideally, whatever works best.
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