SEO COMPETITOR LINK ANALYSIS

Matthew Carter
Hello friends, my name is Matthew Carter. I’m a professional link builder for a large SEO agency in New York City.

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PORTFOLIO

You might have a local business around the corner that competes for foot traffic into your shops, but online they might not have any presence at all. Depending on your goals & position, you may want to include a range of sites of from both groups in your analysis.

How do you leverage the strengths and weaknesses? Typically, you want to put effort into the area that will make the biggest improvement. More often than not this means improving the areas where your site is weakest relative to your competitors.

What are your site’s weaknesses and how do they compare to those of your competitors?

Analysis.

We have covered this in a lot of depth already, you can read about what this process is and how it works if you are unfamiliar with the concept in our guide to distribution analysis. Given that you are familiar with this technique, the best way to explain how it works in this context is to show you an example:

Once we start looking at a range of competitor link profiles, we can start to fill in the numbers on the scale to see where our site sits.

This article takes a deeper look into analysing competitor link profiles, we expand on the principles and concepts described in our guide to backlink analysis.

Remember you only need one piece of evidence that disproves a hypothesis to remove it from the running. This technique helps you to focus your attention on data (evidence) that has the power to guide your decision making.

Looking at the growth rate of your competitor link profiles can help to provide a good idea of the upper limits you should be careful to avoid exceeding when building links. If everyone in your space is averaging 30 new links a month, you would be ill advised to start knocking out 300. What is natural is kind of defined by what everyone is doing (to a point), what might be natural for a local electrician business is not the same for a national energy provider.

You will also notice that one hypothesis is supported by all pieces of evidence, this doesn’t mean that it is proven, just that it’s the best answer so far.

Hypothesis Testing.

The referring domains in ‘category e’ (linking domains from five competitors) will be the most valuable, as these are domains that link to all of your competitors but not you. This is typically a list of relatively easy wins for link building. If you add in the domain authority / page authority metrics you can prioritise within each category very easily.

All hypothesis need to be a simple proposition and all evidence should have the power to disprove the hypothesis.

These are the key metrics that you would look at in this type analysis:

In the example above, we have plotted the distribution of backlinks to internal pages… This shows the ‘number of pages’ that fall into each bracket of ‘number of backlinks’ for the principle site and the competitors. What this data indicates is where our site’s distribution falls in the range, in this specific example we can see that we are in the bottom end of the spectrum.

Opportunities.

Understanding the competitive landscape is always an important component of any online strategy… The most valuable component that a competitor backlink analysis delivers, is to provide context to your own link profile analysis data.

In the example below, we can see that our site falls well outside of the typical range:

There are some problems or opportunities that can be identified within a link profile analysed in isolation, but most components really need wider context. If we assume we look at the link profile of a site, and it has one thousand backlinks… What does this mean? How do we use this information? In reality, this number tells us very little about what is a good or poor volume of links, because we are missing a scale.

You don’t have to use all of these metrics, but you would typically use a good number of them in any competitor link analysis. Conversely you may choose to include a whole load more and we have been non-specific when it comes to the specific proprietary metrics that you may use. Although some proprietary metrics are better than others, the processes that use them are exactly the same.

If you are analysing say 5 competitors as part of your analysis, you will want to:

Remember, when you focus on fulfilling the user’s search intent rather than focusing solely on search volumes for the keywords you’re targeting, you will drive more relevant traffic to your page, climb up the search rankings, and gain more qualified leads.

The “Backlinks” feature in Siteimprove SEO makes conducting your backlinks analysis much easier. Use it to discover which high-quality, relevant industry websites your competitors are receiving backlinks from and then develop a winning strategy for bridging that gap. It’s also important to note that not all links are considered equal. Bad backlinks can actually damage your SEO performance, so it’s essential that you minimize their presence.

Just because a keyword has a high search volume does not mean that ranking highly for it will bring about a large increase in search traffic. Instead, it’s recommended to focus on satisfying search intent – also known as user intent.

Focus on search intent instead of search volume.

Before you can begin beating the competition, you need to first know:

The fact is, you will struggle to gain visibility in the search results if your competitors are doing all these things – and doing them better than you. That’s where an SEO competitor analysis comes in.

The first thing you should know about your SEO competitors is that they are not necessarily the same players as your direct business competitors.

The idea is to discover your competitors’ most popular content – and then use it to improve your own. This saves time and effort, as you already know these pages are ranking in the SERPs and effectively driving traffic to their website. Mirroring – and then rivaling – their approach will help you to more closely match the user search intent and provide a better content experience for users who land on your web pages. In the long-term, this could see your content leapfrogging theirs in the SERPs.

Position yourself as a more authoritative, trustworthy source of information. If you’re an expert in your field, make sure your reader knows about it! Consider getting one of your subject matter experts to write a blog post full of tips that would be useful for your prospective customers.

However, with hundreds or even thousands of keywords to stay on top of, manual monitoring isn’t a good use of resources. Keep up-to-date with the latest search engine rankings by using an automated keyword monitoring tool instead. Regular, automated monitoring will enable you to spot and quickly react to fluctuations in website rankings before your search traffic takes a dive. At the same time, you’ll be able to measure the performance of your optimization efforts when it comes to keywords and easily demonstrate the success of your SEO strategy to management.

Not all keywords are worth putting equal effort into. Keywords that are relevant to your business, have a high search volume, and are not too difficult to rank for, are where you should focus your efforts.

Competitor backlink profile analysis.

Once you’ve worked out which content you’re competing with, there are two key methods you can use to outrank them.

Good ways to catch up with your competition and bolster your backlinks profile include:

Keywords, content, and technical SEO are the three core elements of any SEO competitor analysis process. Keywords and content have already been covered, so now it’s time to turn your attention to technical SEO auditing. Essentially, this means reviewing the technical details of your site compared to your competition and ensuring you plug any technical SEO gaps that could see your rankings slip.

Guesswork is not the right way to approach this initial step. You might think you know who your competitors are, but the most accurate method of uncovering your SEO competitors is by looking at the data. Because you might be analyzing thousands – or even tens of thousands – of web pages and keywords, you should consider using an enterprise SEO platform, like Siteimprove SEO, to automate this step.

Your SEO performance doesn’t work in a silo – it is always relative to your competition. Nor is it static. With search engine algorithm changes, new competitors launching, and the other side’s digital marketers tirelessly working to outperform you, you can’t take your foot off the gas when it comes to SEO. Regularly analyzing your competitors to understand where you stand (compared to them) will help you detect areas with room for improvement before they negatively impact your rankings.

What keywords should I consider in my competitor analysis?

Search intent is the main objective a user has in mind when they’re carrying out a search. This search might be informational, for example, “Opening hours Woodford Reserve distillery”, transactional, such as “purchase 1000-piece jigsaw puzzle”, or navigational, when a user might search for “Washington Post” rather than entering the URL into the navigation bar. Whichever type of search your user is conducting, your web pages need to meet their search intent with high-quality, optimized content that provides a valuable and relevant answer to their query.

Once you know who your actual SEO competition is, you can begin your analysis in earnest.

There are two ways of looking at your competitors – as a pain – or as a rich source of information. To tap into this treasure-trove of data, your organic search strategy needs to include SEO competitor analysis. When done correctly, it will help you create better, more targeted content, move up the search engine rankings, and attract more relevant traffic to your website.

While content remains a major ranking factor, gaining high-quality, credible backlinks is an integral part of any successful SEO strategy. Backlinks – also known as inbound links – are links on other websites that ‘point’ to your site. Search engines use backlinks to discern how trustworthy a site is; the more important and trusted your site, the higher your ranking in search results, and the more organic traffic it will typically receive. Despite their importance, studies show that 66% of web pages have no backlinks at all.

With two-thirds of all clicks going to the first five organic search results on Google, developing an SEO strategy, creating great content, and performing technical SEO audits still isn’t a guarantee that your content will get the attention it deserves. In fact, 90% of web pages get no search traffic from Google at all! But if you’re not getting that traffic, who is? Your SEO competitors.

Siteimprove SEO also helps you benchmark your website’s SEO performance compared to industry averages with a clear-cut SEO score for your website and individual pages. Coupled with detailed recommendations on how to make the most impactful changes to your site’s content and technical SEO, you can use Siteimprove SEO to assist with the following SEO competitor analysis tasks:

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