Understanding Your Competitors Online

Online competitor analysis

All business owners need to understand their competitors and for us to perform a great service we need to really understand your competitors. So how to we go about that and how can you go about understanding your competitor’s online presence if you choose not to avail of our services. 

Competitive Analysis of Search Appearance

So understanding what a business looks like to people on the internet is essential to understanding how to increase sales and revenue and developing  your own strategy when it comes to online business.

To begin with it’s important to analyse the list of keywords that your competitors are ranking for online. If you have read the guide we created to keyword analysis  you might have created a list of keywords that you want to rank for and then tried to determine the competitiveness of your keywords.

This obviously helps to understand and measure the likelihood of whether or not you can rank one the first page for these key terms. If you haven’t done this yet don’t worry, you can continue to follow along with this article and learn as you go.

A paid tool that can help you gather key information about what keywords your competitors are ranking for and what you might want to try and rank for. We use the paid tool SEMRush for this as we think it’s an amazing online tool for marketing and you can sign up for a free 7 day trial here

The quality of the data you get from a paid tool is (very nearly) always superior to free tools but if you don’t want to pay for a tool and want the best free alternative then Neil Patel’s Ubersuggest.io is the way to go. 

Analysis of How Competitive a Keyword Is

When we are analysing your competitors we want to know how competitive a keyword is. With a paid tool like SEMrush this is pretty easy. You just type in a term like ‘Pink Dresses’ into the keyword magic tool and you get a report that gives a huge amount of information.

Keyword Competitive Analysis SEMrush

This will populate information about that specific keyword, such as the search volume (within the UK for this the image above) and a calculated % of how competitive that keyword actually is (KD % is Keyword Difficulty measured as a percentage).

There is additional helpful information like the CPC or cost per click for that keyword. That is a measurement of how much it would cost per one user click to advertise on Google for that keyword. This gives us an idea of the value of that keyword. 

Another tool that helps us understand your competitors is the domain analysis tool. A search for the company Boo Hoo, which ranks very well for pink dresses, looks like this:

 

Domain Competition Analysis

This tool also provides the number of linking domains (other websites) for the domain that was searched for, for that specific search term. In this example the website has 5.4 million backlinks (links from other websites pointing at this one) and more than 18k referring domains, which essentially means that there are over 18 thousand different websites linking multiple times to the website.

Now these numbers are huge for a website. Your competitors will most probably have much much lower numbers than these but looking at these metrics to understand the position of your website versus your competitors is very helpful in understanding the competitive environment. 

We compare those metrics with your site’s metrics and ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is your domain authority/score and page authority/score comparable?
  • Do you have enough linking root domains linking back to your site?
  • Most importantly, will it be possible for your site to receive similar metrics in the near future?

It’s also important to emphasize that building links should be a slow and consistent process. Otherwise, you might be flagged for manipulative link building by Google, which can result in a manual review.

After looking at all of these metrics and comparing them to your own website, we decide (or you can if you’re performing this analysis yourself) if you can compete for a particular keyword. If the answer is no, then you should spend time targeting less competitive keywords until you have built up more domain and page strength.

Based on a variety of studies , sites that do not rank on the first page of Google receive significantly less click-throughs (when people see your links on a Google search results page) than sites ranked among the first 10 results (the first page of the results).

It’s also important to actually type in your targeted keywords in search engines and test to see what type of results populate (make sure personalisation is turned off). With recent search engine updates, particularly from Google, testing different keywords and different variations is just as valuable if not more so, than relying on tools.

Important questions to bear in mind include:

  • Do you notice your competitors competing for the same terms?  
  • Are any big brands ranking for these keywords?
  • Do you see a variation of results when you set the geo-location in Google to a different location? Variations could include:
  • Sites that rank on the first page
  • Local places results
  • Video and image results
  • Product listings
  • News results
  • PPC

This type of information could provide you with additional information on the type of marketing budget your competitors are working with. It can also help you gain additional insight into other ways you could optimize your site besides traditional search. If you have a brick-and-mortar store or have retailers that distribute your product, you should be implementing a Google Places strategy. If you’re an e-commerce store, definitely prioritize compiling a product feed.

Likewise, even if the keyword you want to target is incredibly competitive and you don’t think your site can rank in the top 10 of the search results, think about alternative ways you could be targeting for this keyword using different search engine entities. For instance, Google also has Google News, Google Images, Google Places, Google Store, Youtube, etc…

 

How we Analyse Your Competitor’s Website and Business

It’s important when performing competitor research that we go through a thorough analysis of your competitors’ actual business and website. It’s important to gain an intricate knowledge of the products that your competitors offer and an understanding of how they market their business online.

It is important at this point to focus on different areas of your competitors’ websites and ask yourself:

What do you want to learn?

There are five core areas to pay attention to when evaluating a competitor’s website:

  1. User experience (how easy or hard is it to use the website and get what you need as a customer)
  2. Link building (where are they getting their links from and what quality are they)
  3. Social media (what kind of posts are working, what size is their audience, do they get interaction)
  4. Content strategy (what kind of article, guides etc. are they posting, what keywords are they targeting)
  5. Onsite/technical SEO (are there major errors or problems on their site)

How We Analyse The User Experience of a Website

We like to look at a competitor website with the mindset of a customer and see how the website performs. You can try this yourself and browse a competitor website as if you were a normal customer and make notes as you go.

Even better, ask a friend or family member to use the website and tell you what they think is good and what problems they encounter. You can really find out a lot of important information by doing this. 

We ask ourselves these questions as we analyse your competitors’ websites:

  • How do they convert visitors into customers?
  • What is their shopping cart process like?
  • What signals of trust are there?
  • How visually engaging is the website?
  • How easy it is to find your way to product/service pages?
  • Are they running any special promotions or deals?

All of these questions will provide valuable information on what can be done on your website to improve it, and there’s always a lot that can be done to improve a website.

How We Analyse Social Media Accounts

Next we take a look at how your competitors are posting and engaging with users through their social media profile accounts. It’s possible to learn a lot from competitor social accounts but replicating their success can be very difficult and a lot of thought is required to get it right.

Answering questions and putting a lot of effort into making good relationships with users and customers is difficult and requires quite a bit of work.  So we try to learn as much as possible, gain insights and make recommendations.

Social media is all about engaging with customers

It’s important to think about these questions when looking at competitor social accounts:

  • Are they actively speaking to their users on these platforms? What are they saying? How are they handling negative feedback?
  • What content do they promote on their social platforms? Is it just their own or other websites as well?
  • Is their content being shared socially? 

Make notes on all of these things as you go and make sure you note down what actions you can take as a result of doing this analysis.

How We Analyse Content Strategy

Analysing a competitors content strategy is a great way to learn how much money and resources your competitors are putting into their online presence by looking at the quantity and quality of the content they produce.

Really high quality content has the potential to power hundreds or thousands of users to your website and to attract backlinks and traffic to your site; and it can also help increase the amount of time people stay on your website.

We analyse your competitor’s website and think of these questions:

  • Does the site have user-generated content, such as from product reviews?
  • Does the site have a blog? If so, what type of content is on the blog?
  • Does it have an active community engaging with the blog? On average, how many social shares or comments does the blog generate and what type of content was the most popular?
  • What type of content/resources does the site have on the page? Types of resources include:

Understanding exactly what your competitor is doing provides extremely beneficial insights into what you should be doing or how to best use the resources you have in order to get the best results for your efforts.

How We Analyse the Technical SEO of a Website

In a perfect world a website should be completely free of technical SEO errors, in reality that very rarely happens as there are new issues appearing all the time and some of the issues are very important and worth our (or your) time fixing as this time can be better spend on other aspects of SEO. 

It is very important though to be aware of exactly what your competitor’s sites problems and errors are in order that you don’t run into them yourself anytime soon.  And on some rare occasions your competitor might be doing something that you are not that may be very beneficial and in this case it’s a great idea to copy and improve on that idea. 

Some questions we ask ourselves when performing a technical analysis analysis:

  • What does the site architecture look like? Are they clearly targeting any keywords within their architecture?
  • How are they targeting specific keywords on their site?
  • Are they using the keyword in their anchor text?

From there, we can analyze that site’s current rankings for those keywords. If it is ranked highly, we can then take a deeper look at the landing page, onsite optimization, and backlink profile of the site.

To really get in deep on the website information we use a popular SEO tool called Screaming Frog. There is a free version of the tool available and it provides and absolute wealth of information about a website that we can use to find out what’s happening and how to replicate similar tactics on your site. 

Conclusion

By using powerful industry tools and business knowledge we can finely analyse what your competitors are doing to form a strategy that will suit your business and provide return on investment for your money. Or you can follow this guide and give it a go yourself, or even use our free site audit PDF tool to analyse your own website!

 

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