I’ve already covered the essentials of SEO in a previous article and now we’ll move onto competitive analysis, a key step in creating a killer SEO strategy.
This can be a tricky area for beginners, but this article will show you how to get it right. In this section, you’ll learn:
- How to do competitive analysis and why it matters so much for successful SEO
- How to identify your competitors in SEO and their keywords
- How to analyse backlinks and social shares
- How to use popular tools to streamline your competitor analysis
And you’ll need a super useful tool called UberSuggest.
But first, let’s start with the basics…
What is competitive analysis and why do you need to do it?
Competitive keyword analysis reveals which valuable keywords your competitors rank for. They’re likely to be terms and phrases which you either rank poorly for — or don’t rank for at all.
At least, not yet…
Essentially, it’s about learning from your rivals’ SEO campaign and identifying which of their keywords you could rank for too. In fact, you could even rank higher than them if you get your SEO strategy right.
With competitive keyword analysis, you can skip all those early stages, shot-in-the-dark content ideas. Instead, you benefit from the time and energy your competitors have already spent defining their SEO approach — leaving you feeling confident that your keyword list will work.
Step 1: How to uncover who your SEO competitors are
You probably know which companies offer consumers similar products or services to your own — but it’s likely you’ve missed a few.
You need to spend a bit of time researching SEO competitors beyond the ones you already know about. Here’s how:
- Google a key phrase that your ideal customer would use when looking for a product or service like yours — let’s say you run a painting and decorating business, your potential customers may search for “professional painters” or “plastering services”
- Scroll through the results and add 5 to 10 competitor names and their website into a spreadsheet (Excel, Google Sheets, wherever) — we’ll use these in the next step!
Pro tip: Focus your attention on businesses with a similar core offering to you. The closer their product or service is to yours, the more you can learn from their SEO.
Now that you have a list of 5-10 SEO competitors, it’s time to find out what keywords they rank highly for — and get yourself in a better position.
Step 2: How to do a competitor keyword analysis
Up next: competitor keyword analysis.
Let’s continue with our painter/decorator example, and take this process step by step.
Pro tip: repeat this process for each of your 5-10 closest SEO competitors, to learn as much as you can.
- Open UberSuggest and type in one of your newly-identified SEO rivals. By way of example, let’s select www.capitalpainter.co.uk from the results list above
- Make sure you set the search for your language and location (we’ll do English/United Kingdom)
- Hit search, and you’ll gain access to the business’s traffic overview and a comprehensive list of this business’s keywords — neat, huh?
- Scroll down until you see the business’s ‘SEO keywords’ — these are the words and phrases that this competitor’s content ranks highly for. With UberSuggest, you’ll also see:
- Volume – the rough number of searches this term gets each month
- Position – how highly this competitor’s page ranks in Google’s SERP (1 being the best)
- Estimated visits – an idea of how much traffic the competitor gets from Google, for this particular search term
- Now you need to consider which of these keywords and phrases are most relevant to your business — after all, we want to cherry-pick the terms with the most SEO potential for you. Select the ones that are highly relevant, then Copy & Paste the term and its volume into your spreadsheet (these are the keywords you’ll build content around, a little later on)
Okay, let’s just pause here to talk through two slightly more advanced bits of terminology that we didn’t touch upon in Topic 1: long-tail keywords and keyword clusters.
Long-tail keywords are search terms that are longer and more specific than (you guessed it!) short-tail keywords.
Example: In the UberSuggest results above, “exterior door painters” is a great long-tail keyword. This is a more niche SEO term versus “painters” or “door painters” — only people looking to get their outside doors painted would search for it. But as a result, will probably have a higher conversion value — it speaks directly to that potential customer, and what they need. You’re also much more likely to rank for these terms as they are less competitive than more generic terms.
Take a moment now to review your spreadsheet: how many long-tail keywords have you taken from your competitors so far?
Okay, let’s move on to our next terminology lesson…
Keyword clusters, or keyword groupings, are formed of several keywords that relate to each other.
Example: Let’s say our painter/decorator friend has decided that “exterior door painting” is a term they’d really like to rank highly for. Their best bet? Forming a cluster of keywords and phrases that relate to it:
- How to find an exterior door painter in London
- What exterior door paint do I need?
- How long does it take to paint outside doors?
- Best exterior door painters in England
- Book a handyman to paint my front door
- Front door paint colours
In an ideal world, this cluster becomes the jumping-off point for your content strategy. Get a blog post, or landing page, on your website that answers each of these questions or search terms, and you’ll really be making waves.
Again, hop over to your spreadsheet and review the competitor keywords you’ve collected there — which do you really want to rank highly for? Use 2-3 terms to make 2-3 keyword clusters, and then we’ll move on…
Step 3: Discover your competitors’ ‘Content to Beat’
UberSuggest isn’t just a great tool for discovering competitor keywords. It also helps you to analyse your competitors’ highest-ranking content and give it a run for its money.
Let’s imagine a competitor publishes a piece of content that’s well-written, well-presented, and hits readers with all the information they need on one or more topics — and it wins a place at the top of Google’s SERP as a result.
But it features the exact keywords and phrases you intend to use in your content.
Do you feel cheated? Well, don’t.
The competitor has shown you what to focus on. Now, you just have to do it better.
- Open UberSuggest (this tool is going to help us identify which keywords link to high performing content, earning the highest number of backlinks and social shares within your niche)
- Type a keyword (e.g. “interior painters”, as that’s a phrase our example rival ranks highly for) into the UberSuggest search bar
- Click on the ‘Content ideas’ button in the toolbar (on the left of your screen) UberSuggest will show you the top-performing content, with the number of visits and backlinks
- Focus in on the details: look at how the best-ranking pieces of content use the keywords in their headlines, in terms of their language, tone, numbers, punctuation, etc. You’ll see from the UberSuggest results above that the top-performing page has a pretty emotive title: ‘How Some Interior Painters Cheat’ — now that’s going to get people’s attention! And that’s what we want to go on and do ourselves, albeit it maybe not in exactly the same way.
- Importantly, assess what type of content competitors are publishing as well. If your competitors are all posting ‘how-to’ guides, then this gives you an indication of what you should do, too. If there are a handful of blog posts, but a YouTube video way out-performs them all, then you’d better get a camera and a tripod!
So, now you’ve got a world of content-building opportunities laid out in front of you. It’s time to capture some of these ideas in your spreadsheet. For each keyword you’ve listed, add in 2 or 3 content ideas — not just a title, but what type of content it is as well.
A quick note on content-type:
SEO content can take many, many forms. Here are some of the most common:
Synonymous with SEO content, a blog post is an engaging piece of writing that brings together genuinely useful and/or entertaining content, with a keyword strategy.
While we often use the ‘blog post’ and ‘article’ interchangeably, there’s actually a subtle difference between the two. Articles are more akin to a news story, interview or special feature. They tend to be more time-specific (focusing on industry trends or developments), where blogs are more evergreen.
Us humans are suckers for a list — seriously, we love them. ’10 ways to…’, ‘5 things you didn’t know about…’, the clickability of “listicles” is out of this world. But a list is also a really effective way of deploying a keyword strategy, without it feeling forced: “3 questions you’ve always wanted to ask an interior decorator”, for example.
Guides tend to fall into two camps: ‘how to’s and long-form ebooks or PDFs. The former is a great way of educating your reader on your product (or how it solves their problem), while the latter is ideal for thought leadership and lead generation.
Your landing page is the first thing a visitor sees when they “land” on your website. Harness the right keywords in your headings and body copy, and you’ll see your traffic and SERP soar as a result.
Often, a video helps explain and engage your audience faster and more effectively than written copy. But how does that fit into SEO, you ask? Well, never overlook the search power of a video platform like YouTube. YouTube’s search volume is only surpassed by Google and is greater than Bing, Yahoo, AOL and Ask.com combined.
You’ve probably heard at least one SEO person say, “Google isn’t a search engine, it’s an answers engine” — and this is true. Online glossaries tap into this user behaviour, offering readers a fast answer to their questions, e.g. “What is paint primer?”.
Finding the right type of content for your potential buyer and your highest potential keyword cluster is something we’ll focus on a lot more, as we move further through this guide.
Let’s wrap things up…
So, by now, you should have a spreadsheet containing:
- 5-10 SEO competitors and their highest-performing keywords (stored in a spreadsheet)
- A list of competitor keywords you think you can rank for, too — or outrank your rivals on
- At least 2 or 3 keyword clusters (groups of semantically similar search terms and phrases)
- A record of content types most used by your competitors plus an idea of the content you could go on to write (and why).
Not bad for a few hour’s graft, eh?
This is all fantastic groundwork, which — when combined with your own keyword research — will make your SEO efforts so much more effective.