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Checking Out The Competition: How To Do An SEO Competitor Analysis

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So you took a great, original idea and turned it into an incredible product. Your startup or scaleup is starting to gain traction and attract customers – but you’re noticing there’s more competition out there than you thought. 

Maybe there’s a big conglomerate with a branch that sells a related product. Or you were at the forefront of a trend, but similar businesses are now popping up everywhere. Sounds like it’s time for you to do a competitor analysis. Here’s how.

What is a competitor analysis?

A competitor analysis is a process that involves looking at your competition’s marketing strategies, products, and services. It goes beyond a quick browse of your competitors’ websites and is a critical, thorough process that takes an in-depth look at every facet of their business.

Competitor analysis should be done quarterly, or more frequently if you’re new to the market. But this is just one tool in your toolbox. Always monitor your market and industry in general, and if you see a shift, it’s time to dive into a full competitor analysis. Make sure you’re gathering customer feedback as well – just because a competitor is doing something doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the right strategy. 

Why is a competitor analysis critical?

You probably already know you should be doing competitor analysis. But you may not realize the massive benefits it can bring your business.

  • Differentiate your product. You know you’re unique – but does your messaging and brand identity capture that? If your product looks the same and your marketing sounds the same, why will customers choose you? Competitor analysis allows you to refine your value proposition.
  • Stay relevant. Competitor analysis allows you to evaluate trends in your industry and determine how you can leverage them to grow your business and stay ahead of opportunities. You’ll also uncover your competitors’ strengths so you can learn how to replicate them.
  • Grow your website’s traffic. SEO analysis is a vital part of the puzzle. See what’s working for both the paid and organic strategies of your competitors, then do it better. 
  • Gain a competitive edge. Understanding your competitors’ tactics – and weaknesses – allows you to improve on them. You’ll also identify gaps in their marketing strategies and target audiences that will allow you to use new and different methods and get better results.

What tools do I need to perform a competitor analysis?

You could just jump on the computer, type in your competitors’ websites, and use your analytical eye to see what they’re doing. But you’ll get a lot more useful information when use some of these competitor analysis tools:

  • SEMrush uses comprehensive data to help you explore market and audience trends, do keyword gap analysis, and uncover competitors’ link-building strategies.
  • Ahrefs has similar tools to SEMrush to help you do SEO competitive analysis.
  • SimilarWeb provides accurate and thorough website analytics around traffic, demographics, engagement and more.
  • SpyOnWeb lets you see if a website is operated by a competitor. 
  • GoogleAlerts gives you updates on certain search terms and preferences you set, helping you track your competitor and industry.
  • Buzzsumo is a great tool for competitive content analysis. See what’s working, who’s sharing, and what’s trending for content. 

You don’t necessarily need paid tools to do a competitor analysis, but it really helps. Of course, you’ll also need the expertise to use them. That’s where a growth marketing agency like Tuff can really help.

How to do a competitor analysis

Before you can do a competitor analysis, you need to know who your competitors are. Check out our article on competitor research to learn how to identify your market competitors. Once you have that list, use the tools we talked about above – and your own critical thinking – to look at the following areas and ask yourself, “How can I do this better than them?”

Website Traffic

Analyzing the traffic going to your competitors’ pages tells you a lot about what’s working and what isn’t. Take a deeper dive into:

  • Traffic by channel: Are their visitors coming from display, paid search, organic search, social, or something else?
  • Traffic by device: Do they get the most traffic from desktop, phone, or tablet?
  • Traffic by geography: Does your competitor appeal to an audience from a specific part of the country or world?

Engagement

If your audience gets to the page and then bounces, were they ever really there? Traffic is important, but audience engagement tells you whether a competitor’s marketing strategy is actually working. Look at:

  • Bounce rate: This is the number of visitors that leave the site after only viewing one page. A low bounce rate indicates content marketing that’s doing its job well.  
  • Conversion rate: How many visitors complete a desired action, like making a purchase, downloading a piece of content, or submitting a form? Conversion is the ultimate goal of growth marketing.
  • Demographics: Who is your competitors’ most engaged audience? What is their age, gender, and income? What are they doing right to engage this audience?

Ad Strategy

The laser-focused targeting abilities and relatively low cost of PPC advertising mean that your competitors are likely using this channel. Ask yourself: 

  • Are they running ads? What are they bidding on? 
  • What CTAs are they using to push people to purchase?
  • What searches do they show up for?

User Experience

Analyzing user experience requires your own critical thinking skills more than the other categories. Browse your competitors’ websites, clicking on crosslinks, menus, CTAs and more. Check out:

  • Website layout: Does it move you easily through the discovery and purchasing phases? Was information easy to find? What are their CTAs? 
  • Aesthetics: What color scheme are they using? Is text easy to read and organized? What images do they use (lifestyle, product, stock images, etc.)?
  • Mobile optimization: Use the “Inspect” feature on Chrome to see if the website is mobile optimized. Right-click anywhere on the page and go to “Inspect.” In the top left of the sidebar, click the icon of the phone and computer screen to toggle on the mobile view. How does it look?

For each of the above categories, ask yourself: How can I make this better on my website? After all, competitor analysis is all about knowing what your competition is doing so you can do it better.

Your competition is giving you a lot of information. You just have to take time to understand it. Performing a competitor analysis will give you a solid foundation for your business growth and a way to plan future strategies. Yes, it’s that important – but you don’t have to do it alone. Contact Tuff to discover all the ways we can help you get ahead.

A "Google" sign on top of a building in front of a blue sky

A Two-Step Guide to Identifying Your Competitors

A "Google" sign on top of a building in front of a blue sky

So you’ve determined that a growth-focused content strategy has definitively moved up your priority list. We wholeheartedly approve. A holistic SEO content strategy really pulls its weight in the acquisition department. It’s a great compliment to a paid strategy, and although it doesn’t drive immediate wins like a Facebook or Google Ads campaign can, the power it has to be an integral pillar of real, sustainable growth makes it an important strategy for almost any company serious about growing over time.

Before you jump in both feet, though, it’s important to lay the groundwork. And a super important part of that is identifying the right competitors.

Here at Tuff when we’re creating a content strategy for one of our clients, we’ll think of competitors in two different ways. 

  1. An organization that directly competes with you; your customer or clients might consistently pitch you against them. 
  2. The competitor that ranks high on the search terms we’d like to rank for. 

Step One: Define Your Market Competitors

A market competitor is an organization that directly competes with you in your market or industry; your customer or clients might consistently pitch you against them.

If you’ve been in business for any amount of time, you should be familiar with your market competitors. You likely performed competitive research about your market and industry before you even started your business and incorporated it into your business plan. 

Why is it so essential to research your market competitors? There are tons of reasons, including:

  • Differentiating yourself from the competition
  • Replicating their strengths
  • Leveraging their weaknesses to your advantage
  • Honing in the market your product or service
  • Staying ahead of trends in your industry

It’s also important for us at Tuff to know. It’s a foundational part of our onboarding process and helps guide our strategic recommendations. We’ll lean on you to bring us juicy information here – so if you haven’t identified these organizations yet, here’s how to get started.

Interview customers and clients

Competitive research can seem overwhelming – where do you even start? Reaching out to your clients and customers is a great first step. Interview both new and long-time customers to determine not only what brought them to your company, but what keeps them coming back

Phone calls and email are reliable ways to gather this type of information. You can also incorporate social media by asking your followers to fill out a survey. Both qualitative (descriptive) and quantitative (numerical) information will be useful to inform your business and marketing strategies

Talk to your sales and customer service teams 

You need more than external data to create a well-rounded competitive analysis. Don’t ignore your internal teams – they have a wealth of information about your competitors that you won’t be able to get anywhere else. You especially need to talk to your sales and customer service teams. 

Your sales team will have great insights from pitches and discovery calls, where they’re sure to hear a lot about what’s great and not-so-great about your competitors. And your customer service team has probably gotten an earful about what your competitors do better than you. Make sure you create an environment of trust and confidentiality so they feel comfortable being honest.

Find the right tools

There’s never a shortage of tools in the marketing industry, and that’s true of competitive research, too. Which one (or more) is right for you?

  • Klue: Research and track your competitors through a combination of news tracking and internal data, then track them so you know when they change their website, update their products or get new customer reviews. 
  • Crayon: Capture data from hundreds of millions of sources and use AI to filter it down into key insights. Identify and follow market trends to stay ahead of the competition. 
  • FirstRain: Get high-quality and relevant information that’s categorized, prioritized and ready to be put into action. Stay up-to-date on current information like management changes, M&A and industry trends.
  • Kompyte: Differentiate your product or service with information about your competition’s features, pricing and messaging, learn what works for them and discover how it all fits into a high-level view of your market.

A screenshot from Klue, a market research company, showcasing how their software works

Enlist help from the pros 

Don’t have the time to perform competitive research yourself? We’re not afraid to tell you that this isn’t necessarily our expertise. But there are companies out there that focus specifically on digging into this type of information – and hiring one can be a smart move for enterprise-level businesses.

If you have the resources to spend, getting help from the pros can actually be more efficient than doing it yourself. Just make sure the company you choose is fluent in your industry and check their references.

Step Two: Hone in On Your SEO Competitors

An SEO competitor is an organization that ranks highly on the search terms we’d like to rank for. 

Your SEO competitors are the businesses you’ll be directly competing with in order to rank higher on search engine results pages (SERPs). While SEO competitors sometimes overlap with market competitors this list will likely shorter than the first. It could also be composed of businesses that aren’t direct competitors, for example one that is within your industry but has a different product or service than you. 

Once you identify your competitors, you can create a plan of attack to understand what content is generating their strong results, and how you can do better. 

This all starts with focused competitive research. And the benefits of doing so go far beyond the satisfaction of unseating your competitor from the number one spot.

What are the benefits of SEO competitive research? There are tons of reasons, including:

  • Increasing organic website traffic
  • Driving high-quality traffic to your site
  • Improving conversions by providing value to potential customers
  • Earning more revenue and grow your business

This is Tuff’s wheelhouse; our bread and butter. We’ll perform and leverage SEO competitive research to create content strategies that outrank your competitors and win on critical keywords. Here’s how we identify your SEO competitors. 

Identify your keywords 

Your SEO competitors are only your competitors because they have keywords you want. To identify competitors through keywords, you must know what keywords you want! What are the keywords that your best customer is most likely to use to find your service? What are related keywords and longtail keywords?

Now narrow down your list using the following criteria:

  • Relevance. Will this keyword bring you the type of traffic you want? Is it highly relevant to your business goals?
  • Business strength. Is your business strong in this area or topic? Will a search engine believe that you’re an expert?
  • Current rankings. Are you currently ranking on page two or three for a keyword? That will make it easier for you to reach page one. 
  • Volume. Monthly volume isn’t the end-all, be-all (in fact, sometimes you may want to choose lower volume keywords). But it does give you an idea of what people are searching for. 

A graphic showcasing what keyword research looks like in Semrush.

Find your competitors

Now you can identify your competitors for your chosen keywords. You can choose the free way: manually searching Google by typing in each keyword and taking note of the businesses that show up on page one – but that can be time-consuming. It’s much more efficient to use a tool like Semrush to see who is ranking for each keyword.

The best way is to have someone do it for you. Tuff will conduct a full on-page SEO analysis, including choosing the keywords that are right for you, identifying your competitors and building you a strategy that can beat them!

Think you’re ready to fire up your content engine with Tuff? Let’s talk!

What Does a Holistic SEO Content Strategy Look Like?

ceramic letters spelling out SEO

SEO is a fast-paced world. It seems like every day there’s an update, a new best practice or a new tool to learn. As soon as you get down the basics of technical SEO, you learn there’s a whole different side to it: content strategy. 

A holistic SEO strategy that includes technical SEO as well as on-page growth content is essential to increasing organic traffic – and helping to improve lead generation, acquisition, and revenue. It’s also highly personalized to your business and involves a lot of moving pieces. Here’s how to ensure your SEO content strategy is effective and efficient.

What is growth content?

Growth content includes landing pages, blogs, product pages, and so on that are designed to rank in Google. When you appear at the top of the SERPs (search engine results pages), people who are searching for the particular topics you are targeting will discover your brand, click through to your website, and – if your growth content strategy does its job – stay there and make a purchase.

So how do you make a successful growth content strategy? At Tuff, we use site traffic analysis, competitive review, and keyword gap analysis to create a strategy for building content that’s always helpful, engaging, informative, and that gives you a timeline and projections that put the future in focus. 

Do I need a growth content strategy?

Got your eye on long-term growth? Chances are you need a content strategy. True, paid ads drive quick wins, but real staying power and long-term revenue growth comes from a content strategy designed to drive (and keep!) stronger, more engaged traffic over time. 

Some content strategies work more quickly than others – for example, refreshing existing content and filling gaps in your buyer funnel are both “low-hanging fruit.” But overall, a holistic SEO content strategy isn’t meant to be a quick fix. It’s a series of actions and content pieces that build up your credibility over time until you’re outranking your competition and bringing more customers to your site.

Step 1: Do your research

Before you dive in, take a step back and do your research. A truly holistic strategy includes elements of content analysis, audience research, and SEO analysis. 

  • Who are my competitors? You can’t outrank your competitors without identifying them first. We think of competitors in two different ways. One type of competitor is an organization that directly competes with you; agents or sellers might consistently pitch you against them. The other is the competitor that ranks high on the search terms we’d like to rank for. 
  • What are my competitors doing? In addition to performing an SEO competitive analysis, we also take a deep dive into our competitors’ existing content. What does their content look like? How regularly are they publishing? You’ll want to stand out just enough in terms of tone of voice and imagery, while also following established best practices.
  • Who is my target audience? Defining your target audience helps you choose your content topics and build a strategy that answers their questions. That’s why we work so hard to define and understand a target audience for your growth content strategy.
  • What tools do I use? There are many SEO tools out there. We use SEMRush to perform a keyword gap analysis to glean important takeaways.

screen cap of visibility and keyword ranking in semrush

Step 2: Define your strategy

All that research you did in step 1 will reveal the content strategy that will benefit you the most – but you must know where to look. Research will reveal different gaps and goals for everyone, so there’s no real blueprint here. This is where it’s super helpful to have the guidance of an expert that can spot opportunities and overlay a strategy designed to be efficient, effective, and keep goals in sight. 

We have tons of examples of growth marketing strategies we can share with you. Here’s one we compiled for a client with a relatively new business and a site that didn’t have much content:

  • Create content to capture searches that are at the top of the funnel. This means focusing on long-term keywords to grab impressions and clicks at the beginning of the customer journey.
  • Ensure all pieces of content are rich with keywords and, more importantly, that those keywords are followed by useful information for SMEs.
  • Target high-traffic keywords and create content that will capture traffic. We want to go after industry-specific terms that the customers you want are searching for.
  • Ensure your landing pages are working for you. We’ll test your landing pages to ensure they’re answering audience questions and helping to initiate action.
  • Creating guides, how-tos, and informational content for your blog. This will help us construct pillars that we can back link to creating a content web.

Step 3: Determine your focus keywords

No SEO strategy is complete without keywords. As part of on-page SEO, they’re vital to ensuring that whatever is produced is targeted and strategic. Google is clear on how to get your content to rank: Answer your audience’s questions in a concise, authoritative way. But what should your keywords be?

After you perform a keyword gap analysis among your competitors look for opportunities in the 10,000+ keywords where the competition is lower (<75) – lower competition means you’ll have a better chance to rank. Then whittle those down to a more manageable number.

Next hone in on projections. If you start with a pillar piece, you can estimate that if you get on page 1 you can get a piece of the total keyword traffic volume. Do this by taking the total volume of keywords for that piece of content and estimating around 15% of that total.

Sound complicated? It’s just another day on the job for our SEO experts.  

Step 4: Set traffic targets

Growth marketing always comes back to one thing: your goals. And when it comes to SEO content strategy, one of the most important growth marketing metrics is traffic: 60% of marketers say that inbound – which includes SEO and blog content – is their highest quality source of leads. When your traffic goes up, your leads and revenue should follow.

In most cases, you’ll want to see key indicators of growth such as higher search rankings and new traffic within 60–90 days of publishing. Then, within four to five months you’ll want to see significant traction toward your client acquisition goals

Based on your existing organic growth and your growth content plan, benchmark what your organic traffic is like now and set a goal for how much you want it to increase. Then, take the CVR of your current organic traffic and use it to make a projection about how many new customers/clients your new strategy will drive. 

a graph showing different kinds of site traffic in semrush

Step 5: Execute and report

It’s go time. Content is most effective when it’s published consistently over time, so put together your content calendar and get writing. If you’re overwhelmed by the sheer amount of content, enlist help. You can find freelance writers on Upwork, LinkedIn, Fiverr, and more. 

Provide them with an outline of the topic and keywords, plus guidelines on your brand identity and style. Even though this is performance content designed to generate traffic, it will also serve as an introduction to your brand for many people, so make sure your tone of voice is consistent and on point. 

Creating and managing a holistic SEO content strategy is pretty involved. Use a project management software to stay organized (we use Trello). You’ll also want to keep a simple spreadsheet that showcases performance and helps you understand what’s generating the most traction over time. SEO content strategy is an ongoing process that is always being updated, refined, and improved to get the best results.