Many business owners approach SEO professionals armed with two things: a keyword, and a very limited budget. This leaves SEOs in the uniquely precarious position of explaining to a disgruntled potential client why a $500 budget cannot propel his business to the top ranks for the keyword ‘golf balls’.
In order to stand a chance at succeeding in SEO, a careful balance must be attained between gaining domain and brand authority, improving search volume/traffic and, of course, the all-limiting budgetary allocation. One helpful method to achieving this is comprehensive competitor analysis.
Competitor analysis can help a business create a concise, practical and solid strategy. All other faucets of SEO, from keyword research to link-building, stand to be improved by researching and analyzing competitors’ strategies.
Below is a breakdown of the process:
In keyword research, you must be realistic as a site owner. Say you opened a business selling furniture. Unless you have the same budget that IKEA has, you cannot realistically hope to rank anywhere near the first page. Small to medium businesses can ill-afford $5,000 monthly on SEO, where larger companies like P&G, Coca-Cola and IKEA spend hundreds of thousands on internet marketing annually.
A more useful approach is to narrow your field to a specific niche that is achievable for your business. This may be through narrowing your target location, or keyword concept. A great tool to help in this process is Mindmapping, which helps you organize keywords into concepts. You can create your keyword list using various tools:
Using your list of keywords above, search Google and note down which sites are ranking in the top 10. Usually, the same sites will appear for multiple keywords. Identify those which appear the most, and separate them as your top competitors.
Using SEMrush, type their domains to find out the number of keywords they rank for on organic search as well as their search traffic. Sites that have higher search volumes for major keywords have higher authority hence make stiffer competitors.
From this list, identify sites that present ‘true competition’ for you. For instance, if you have a small jewelry shop, Tiffany.com would not be considered your true competitor. Long-tail keywords/location-specific search can help you to identify this.
This is where the real work begins. The first step is to find out their general performance metric. For instance, use Juice Tool from LinkResearchTools which provides metrics like Domain Age, Link Velocity, Domain Authority, Social Shares, and Inbound Links, among others.
Next, download their backlink profile through Ahrefs. Sorting according to Domain Rank reveals link authority from the greatest to the least. Using the backlink tool from Majestic, analyse their trust-flow and identify the semantics of their link profile.
LinkResearchTools’s Competitive Landscape Analyzer can help you find out averages in your field to give you a starting point to work from.
Next, delve into your competitors’ social media and content marketing strategies. Key pointers include frequency of social media updates, engagement ratios, number of fans/followers, and nature of content shared. Look into their blog as well to determine how active you must be in content creation, sharing and follower acquisition. These provide useful starting points for you.
Having understood your competitors, it’s time to map out a strategy to beat the odds given the data you have collected. These include number and quality of links to raise, keywords to use and avoid, content to build and frequency of updating, social media strategies, among others.