If you don’t analyze your SEO competition, there’s no chance that you’ll be able to beat them in the SERPs. You need to prey on their weaknesses, understand and work around their strengths, and even take a few leaves from their book if you really want to succeed in search engine optimization.
Here’s the ultimate guide on how to analyze your SEO competition in any niche in a few hours.
Find Out Who They Are
It’s common sense to know who your competition is if you’re gonna beat ’em. Find out who the big names in the niche. If you’re in a rather popular niche, you might even find a ready-made list of them. Simply search Google for keywords like “best <your niche> websites” or “best <your niche> blogs”, or even “list of <your niche> blogs”.
Since creating a list of popular blogs in your niche is an excellent traffic strategy, chances are that a fellow blogger has already done all the hard work for you to find your competition.
Additionally, you can take a look at SitesLike – a free website that shows you similar sites. For example, visit their site homepage and and type the URL of one of the biggest sites in your niche in the provided search bar. You’ll be presented with a list of relevant websites (usually some of the bigger names in the industry). Alternatively, you can search by keywords and categories. Sites Likes is quite a valuable resource when finding your SEO competition.
Compile a list of 20-50 (more if you’re in a high competition niche) of established blogs and websites in your niche in Micrsoft Excel. Usually, marketers are hesitant to do any sort of real, hands-on tracking of their competition. You need to write it down!
Find The Biggies In The SERPs
Search Google for the highest traffic and most searched keywords related to your niche and track which websites constantly appear close to the top. In a new column in the excel sheet, note how often each of the websites appears on the first page – very often, often, sometimes, rarely, and none.
The very often ones, as you might expect, are the ones you’ll want to concentrate on overtaking – the ones that you’ll be examining in very close detail.
List Their PR (Page Rank)
Page rank is determined by the quality and sheer number of backlinks pointing a certain blog. Anything with a PR above 3 usually means serious business.
As a new site, you will start out with a PR of zero, and you’ll have to work your way upwards. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t see results in the first month or two – page rank usually takes a few months to update, and achieving a PR of 2 in half a year or more is usually considered to be quite an accomplishment.
Use PR Checker to check the Google Page Rank of any site. List it another column next to each website. The lesser the PR of each, the better. Ideally, the top competitor wouldn’t have a PR above 2.
Find Out Their Domain Age
One of the often overlooked, yet vitally important, aspects of any site’s ranking in the SERPs is the age of their domain name. As you could probably guess, the older a domain name is, the better favor it has in Google’s eyes.
Once your domain has been established for a good amount of time, Google’s crawlers give it prior over newer sites since you’ve been around for a while. You have a reputation with the crawlers to regularly update with decent content, and your domain name is trusted. You can see the result of that in your search engine rankings.
Use this free tool from WebConfs to check the domain age of any site. The cool thing about this tool is that you can calculate the age of multiple domains at one time. Copy/paste the list of domains into the search bar (one per line), and the domain name of each will show up in a few seconds. Record the data in a new column in your Excel sheet.
Use Moz To Find Their Domain Authority
Rand Fishkin and his team over at Moz.com have a great repertoire of SEO tools, both free and paid, available to marketers. One of their most popular free tools is the domain authority calculator, which calculates the domain authority of any site using a unique algorithm they came up with it.
Although there is no proof that Moz’s domain authority has a role in Google’s algorithms, but you’ll find that most of your top competition will have a higher authority (100 is best, 0 is worst) than the websites that figure lower in the SERPs.
You can check out Moz and their tools here. Record the data in a new column in the spreadsheet.
Record Their Alexa Rank
Alexa rank doesn’t make much of an impact in SEO at all, but having a higher Alexa rank gives you more brag points, in a sense. More popular sites have a higher Alexa rank, and lesser popular sites have a lower rank.
You can either find it by going directly to the Alexa homepage and searching the domain name, or you can install their free toolbar which automatically shows the rank & the backlinks of a site without having to visit the Alexa website.
Check Their Backlinks
As you probably know, backlinks and backlink quality are probably one of the most important metrics in a site’s SEO. (tip – use SEOServiceGroup’s affordable backlink packages to get ahead of your competition). Read a full report on backlinks and how they work here.
If they have less than 100 backlinks to their site, you’re in business. Anything over 500 will be a little tough, while 1,000+ backlinks will require some serious SEO.
Use Alexa’s backlink counting as an easy way to find out the number of backlinks pointing towards any site.
A Few Things To Keep In Mind…
If forums, .blogspot or .wordpress sites, or abandoned blogs/websites entries are the ones that rank highest for your niche search terms, you’re in luck. That niche is obviously untapped and the organic traffic is yours for the taking. There’s few things easier in SEO than outranking forum threads and freely hosted sites.
Probably one of the best things you could ever do to get organic traffic is to target long-tail keywords. No matter what niche you’re in, there will almost always be enough long-tail keywords (search queries that are more than 3 words in length, get relatively low searches and have relatively low competition) you can write on to profit. In fact, you’ll probably find that ranking #2 for 35 long tail keywords will bring you in boatloads more free, organic traffic than ranking #1 for 1 high competition, high traffic keyword.
Long tail keywords are really where there is zero competition. Nobody else has written about it yet, or whoever has written on the keyword didn’t do a good job of it, and/or their site is unpopular, not SEO-friendly, and does not have many inbound links. The best kind of competition is no competition.
Remember – analyzing your competition is one of the most important proactive steps you can take as a new site in a new niche to begin ranking in the search engines right from the get-go.
Although you might be able to track a few of the competition metrics yourself, it’s important to hire a professional service from the long-term SEO experts who know what they’re doing if you REALLY want to make an impact in the SERPs.