Having a well-optimized site is great, but it won’t remain that way forever. You have to work continuously to stay on top. But that can seem impossible if you don’t know what your competitors are doing to try to outrank you on SERPs. Trust me: they are keeping an eye on you, so you need to do the same.
How can you analyze your competition?
Identify them. A great place to start is to review who you are competing with for organic and referral traffic. 'Organic competitors' are pretty easy to spot: you can see them in the SERPs by googling your target keywords. Of course, you can’t just google every keyword, especially if you have a lot of them. It can seem even more complicated with referral traffic, because who knows where to look for competitors’ backlinks?
Luckily for you, SEMrush is here to help! Let’s look at how to do online competitor analysis using the SEMrush toolkit. The post consists of two major parts:
Competitive Keyword Analysis
Even though you know most of your keyword competitors, there is a chance that you could have missed a dark horse and may be surprised when thrown from the high organic positions.
Catch ‘em all!
Before analyzing your competitors you need to know what is competitive analysis and who all your competitors actually are. The SEMrush Keyword Competitors report will compile a full inventory for you: all the unexpected figures and still-not-too-well-known startups are all here.
To indicate how closely a domain competes with another one, we use a parameter called Competition level.
You'll find high and low-competition keywords with your site’s Competition Level depends on two things: how many ranked keywords your competitor has, and what percentage of them are your common keywords. For example, if you are a travel blog, Wikipedia won’t be your competitor because in addition to all of the possible places and travel tips you have written about, it also ranks for billions of other keywords. On the contrary, another travel blog will be competing with you.
Pay special attention to those competitors whose sites are competing with yours the most in terms of traffic and total keyword numbers.
After you have made a list of rivals it is time to look closer at them. Here are a few tips that can help you beat your competitors with keywords.
Check How They Are Doing
Let’s start with analyzing a potential weak point for your competitor, their new and lost keywords. Their new keywords may show you a potential new niche. Their lost keywords might show you that they were penalized and lost their positions, so there could be some free space for you and your site.
You can find all this information in the Position changes report. Spikes on the graph will let you know about sudden changes in your competitors’ actions. By clicking on a spike and sorting the results e.g., by position, or using a filter, you will learn what keywords have undergone the most changes.
Hijack Their High-Volume Keywords
The next step after you know how your competitors are doing is to look closely at the difference between both of your keywords. For example, you can take a look at the keywords that are unique to your competitor. You may have missed them when writing your content so SEMrush and their competitor analysis tools can help you identify them.
The Keyword Gap report shows you keywords that only your competitor has.
After you have your list, you can apply a few advanced filters. Look for where they are ranking in low positions in the SERPs for relevant keywords and aim to beat those rankings with your content. If they are stuck on the 2nd page you can always aim for the 1st and gain more visibility in the SERPs.
Research Your Most Common Keywords
Now, by applying advanced filters, find the keywords that your competitor ranks higher than you and make a list of those. These are keywords that need your attention right now.
Move Your Keywords to Keyword Manager
Now you can select as many keywords as you need to Keyword Manager for further work on your keyword masterlist. Create a thematic keyword list without leaving the table.
Export Your Keywords
It is important to follow the positions of the keywords you choose. To do that, you can add as many of the picked words to the Export Manager as you want. Later on, upload the exported .csv or .xls document to the Position Tracking tool to track how their positions are changing.
Use Keyword Research to Improve Your Content
In order to learn what types of content prove most successful in organic results and gain a better understanding of your future content strategy, go to the Pages report. It will show you the percentage of traffic that a specific competitors URL gets and the number of keywords on the page.
If you really love keyword research, you can dive deeper into the data to improve your content. Learn shortcuts for conducting keyword research in our article on how to do it using the SEMrush Keyword Magic Tool.
Competitive Backlink Analysis
Studying your competitors’ backlinks helps you gather new ideas for your own link building strategy. Take a careful look at your competitors’ profiles and make a list of domains on which they have already placed their high-quality backlinks.
Find Your Backlink Competitors
Just like with keywords, you have to make a list of your competitors before analyzing each of them. The SEMrush backlink Competitors report shows you all of your rival domains, along with their Сompetition level. The higher their percentage of common backlinks, the higher your Сompetition level will be. This report also shows you their total number of backlinks and referring domains.
Obviously, the higher a rival’s competition level is, the more relevant they are for further analysis. But don’t only focus on this number. Another important characteristic is the backlink/domain ratio. It can show you whether your competitor makes an emphasis on building high-quality organic links, or if they resort to gray methods.
Identify High-Quality Referring Domains
In the long run, you have to follow what your competitors are doing in order to get new ideas for your own link-building strategy.
It’s important to not only get as many links as possible but also to make sure their sources are diverse. Choose one from your competitor's list then go to the Referring Domains report and get a list of domains that link to this specific competitor.
By sorting these domains out by Authority Score, you can make a list of domains you’d most want to contact in order to improve your backlink profile. Just make sure they are relevant to your sphere.
It’s also important to make sure that all these backlinks don’t come from the same domain as you would not want to get penalized by Google.
Analyze Drastic Changes
To avoid missing any shifts in your competitor’s backlink positions check out the Backlinks report. It will show you all recent changes in their backlink profiles. If you see a “New” spike, check it out. One possibility for the spike is that your competitor got a new partnership, uploaded new content that went viral or just bought a bunch of links.
By checking “Lost” spikes you can find a whole list of domains to contact and place your links on.
The Indexed Pages report will show you which URLs on a competing domain are most popular for linking. Studying the URLs with the most backlinks and linking domains can help you understand how to make your content attractive to external sources. For example, has your competitor found a new popular content format? Do they know what type of content is often referred to in their niche? Find out!
Fill In the Gaps
There are always be some domains that have a lot of backlinks to your competitor but not to you. To create a full list, use the Backlink Gap tool. Besides the domain comparison, it provides the comparison by specific URLs in case you need to compare pages with similar content.
The tool allows you to spot the backlink opportunities that you’re missing (the referring domains that your competitors have links from but your domain does not). Select your domain in the drop down above the table and you will then find all the domains that link to your competition, but not your website:
Sort the referring domains by their Authority Score (AS) to get a list of trusted sites on which your links could be placed safely: these websites could be your next link building targets!
Learn more about building your backlink profile with SEMrush in this post.
With so many tools in hand, you have no excuse but to start analyzing your competition right now! Your journey will take time, careful guidance which we are happy to provide you with, and finally your determination to succeed.
Be sure to let us know how you get on in the comments below! Have any tips for competitive analysis? Please feel free to share!