Competitor analysis helps to understand business topics and identify the requirements that search engines (and therefore users) place on the content of sites on a specific topic. This helps to make the right decisions on development and promotion, increase conversions and sales, and, therefore, increase profits.
In this article, we’ll look at simple SEO analysis techniques that will help determine the overall direction of your competitors’ search strategy.
These methods and stages of research are mainly focused on commercial sites that sell goods (online stores and product catalogues). For information sites, these methods will be ineffective, since such projects have a very wide range of topics and it is quite difficult for them to identify a specific niche in the search.
So, let’s outline the main stages of SEO-analysis of competitors.
Stage 1. Setting and understanding the goals of the analysis
Goals may depend on the stage of development of your project and the specific tasks of the business at the moment.
For some companies, this is a search for opportunities for traffic growth by improving an already working site. For others, this is an analysis of the competitive environment before launching a project, to create the correct site structure, etc. In any case, the data obtained through the analysis find their application in the search promotion strategy.
Examples of the most common tasks that can be identified and included in a promotion strategy after conducting a competitor analysis:
- creation of landing pages tailored for a specific group of requests;
- increasing the range of goods on the site;
- adding links and buttons to the company’s social networks;
- creation of a loyalty program for the client: installment plan, discount cards, free delivery.
Stage 2. Finding and identifying competitors
To analyze the main competitors in a particular topic, you can use the following methods:
a) Manual analysis of TOP-10 SERP sites
To do this, enter the desired query into the search box, for example, “interior doors in Moscow” and see which sites are in the first places in the search results. On this basis, you can determine how competitive your topic is.
b) Analyze your niche with the help of specialized services.
For example, you can use professional SEO services.
They allow you to evaluate not only the demand, but also get some data on the traffic of the leading sites of the subject.
Both methods of analysis allow you to get a list of sites that occupy the first 10 positions in the search engine results for queries of the topic of interest.
Here it is also worth considering the target audience and its intent, i.e. what people are looking for when entering a query. For example, when a person searches for “ceramic tiles inexpensively” by the query, most likely, he wants to buy goods of a low or, at most, average price segment (for example, Belarusian tiles), and you are selling the author’s Italian. In this case, the sites that are in the top for the query from the example will not be your competitors, you need to understand this well and avoid similar mistakes with other queries when analyzing competitors.
When you have a list of TOP sites of interest to you, you can proceed to the next stage of a detailed study of the resources themselves.
Stage 3. Detailed analysis of the resources of the niche leaders from the search
We analyze the collected sites:
- domain age;
- number of indexed pages;
- visibility of queries in the search;
- ease of navigation (structure);
- catalog assortment;
- order option (button);
- structure of feedback forms;
- the presence on the site of reviews, information about delivery, warranty, return of goods and other social evidence of the reliability of the company;
- the presence of links to social (company activity in them).
This information will help you compare the site with competitors, find key features and differences that you will need to add to your site during the promotion process.
Let’s take a closer look at the options from this list.
The period of time from the date of its last registration to the present day is taken as an indicator of the age of a domain name.
It is worth noting that for promotion in search engines, in addition to age, the time from the start of indexing pages by a search robot is important. The earlier the pages are in the index, the better.
Young sites that are less than a year old should not immediately count on high positions in the search results for highly competitive commercial queries. Here, preference is given to the age of the site. The earlier a domain is registered, the more chances it has to get into the TOP search.
If the site has less than 15-20 pages, then the landing page promoted for a specific query will not receive enough internal links. And competitors, most likely, will have many times more pages on the site and in the index. Therefore, you need to monitor indexing, send pages for re-bypass, and add new ones to the sitemap.
You need to try to constantly increase the number of pages and the amount of useful content for users on the site. Keep in mind one thing: if the site has 100 pages, and only 50 of them contain useful content, then the search engine will not add the rest of the pages to the index, considering them to be of poor quality.
Visibility of queries in search
This refers to the number that displays the number of impressions for specific keywords, taking into account the position of the site for these keywords.
To date, there are a sufficient number of different services and programs with which you can quickly check the visibility of the site.
Studying the structure of competitor sites
It is necessary to understand what main sections and pages are on the resources from the TOP in order to make the same structure on your site that search engines consider convenient and necessary to respond to user requests. To make the analysis as useful as possible, you should separately pay attention to the main page and catalogue.
On the main page, pay attention to the following elements:
- presence and amount of text;
- use of text markup (bulleted lists, headings H1, H2, H3, tables);
- the presence of images;
- the presence of a block with the advantages of the company;
- availability of reviews;
- contacts for communication.
In the directory:
- assortment of goods;
- price availability;
- the presence of sorting;
- availability of high-quality images, video instructions;
- order information;
- where and how the forms and feedback buttons are located;
- the presence of a basket;
- the presence of reviews;
- the presence of the function of comparing goods by parameters.
Technical analysis of niche competitor sites
Sites must meet minimum requirements to rank. Each search engine is about the same, but there are some peculiarities.
Page speed data
You can get this information from free services.
For example, take advantage of Google’s PageSpeed Insights or a more detailed report can be done at www.webpagetest.org
If your site’s loading speed is inferior to most competitors, then this problem needs to be prioritized!
This file is one of the most important elements of the site, since it is in it that the rules for indexing the site by search engines are prescribed. When crawling, the robot first reads information from this file and understands whether it is worth indexing the site at all.
Therefore, it is necessary to create robots.txt before opening the site and correctly register all the directives in it, without errors, otherwise further optimization may be difficult or useless.
In it, you need to specify all the pages that are on the site and that need to be indexed. In the site map, you can also set the priority of pages to be crawled by the robot and the frequency of crawling (day, week, month). If this file is missing in the root of the site, then some pages may appear in the index after a long time.
A normal working page of the site should give the code 200 for the search robot. If the page is no longer on the site, then you need to register a redirect to the existing page in the .htaccess file so that the robot does not leave the site when crawling, but continues scanning the resource. There is a temporary redirect (code 302) and permanent (code 301).
You also need to set up an error page that a visitor can get to if he suddenly enters the wrong address or the page is no longer on the site. It should give a 404 code and be framed in the site design.
Availability of a mobile (or adaptive) version
The presence of a mobile (adaptive) version has long been not some kind of fashionable chip, but simply a necessity in order to reach the audience of modern users. Today, 60% of traffic comes from mobile devices. After checking the availability of this feature, you will be able to better understand which competitors are getting customers from mobile devices, and which are missing out on this opportunity. Adapt your site, it’s not so expensive anymore.
SEO analysis is especially useful in two cases:
At the initial stage, before the start of the project. This will help to draw a conclusion about the resources needed for promotion, eliminate errors in the structure and promotion of the site.
When the project is already moving forward, but has “rested” against the ceiling, that is, there is some result, the site is in the index, but many queries are standing still and traffic from the search is not growing. In this case, SEO analysis of competitors will help you find growth points, reload the promotion, make changes to the content and add new useful features.