SEO is all about self-improvement. If you’ve ever delved into the world of self-improvement, then you know that the only person that can help or hurt you is yourself.
That same principal applies to SEO, as you (site/business owner) are ultimately in charge of your own success and failure. You can choose to take action and better your site’s SEO, or you can choose to ignore it and miss huge opportunities.
But as much as SEO is about you stepping up to the plate, you do have to take your competition into account. This doesn’t mean you should figure out what they’re doing so you can directly copy their strategy; it means you do your research so you can better understand what works and what doesn’t.
The more information you have at your disposal, the better strategy decisions you can make in order to get the best results. That’s our philosophy behind competitor audits, and in this post we’ll share exactly how you can get an inside look at your competitors’ SEO in just 30 minutes or less.
Use Screaming Frog for an Overview of Content and Keyword Targets
Screaming Frog is an SEO auditing tool that gives you a technical overview of any site with the click of button. It allows you to view data on metadata, H tags, images, links, and much more.
For the purpose of competitive auditing, we just want to get a sense of the type of content our competitors are creating, the keywords they’re targeting, and how they optimize it for SEO. And while there are plenty of ways to go in-depth with Screaming Frog, we simply want a quick peek at one of our competitor’s site.
Note: Information below uses the Mac version of Screaming Frog.
To do this, use Spider Mode and enter your competitor’s URL in the field at the top of the app and click start. Screaming Frog then crawls the site in its entirety to find all URLs and information about those URLs. Once it’s finished, click “Site Structure” tab on the right side of the app. This should bring up a list of top URLs found on your competitor’s site based on the number of links internally.
Browsing through this content, you can get a really good sense for how your competitors are using content, as well as which pages they value most.
For our quick Screaming Frog audit, the final step is to head back to the left side column to browse through data about each URL. I like to start with page titles, looking for keyword usage patterns that the competitor has implemented. From there, I’ll read through meta descriptions and H1/H2 tags to see if optimization is consistent.
The biggest thing you can do with this data is figure out which keywords your competitors are NOT targeting and take advantage. You’re likely already after the same high-volume keywords, so that opens up an opportunity for your site/business.
Digging into Backlink Profiles
Links are a huge part of SEO. Despite hearing about the death of linkbuilding, it’s still an extremely effective way to boost rankings and traffic.
To analyze your competitors’ backlinks, you can use a number of tools: Moz’s Open Site Explorer, Magestic, Raven Tools, Ahrefs, etc. Which tool you use isn’t important. What is important is how you use them and think about links from your competitors.
Note: For this exercise, use one of the tools listed above and generate a list of your own site’s backlinks handy before continuing.
Once you’ve got your tool ready and you’ve allowed it to analyze your competitor’s backlinks, you’ll probably be looking at a large list of links and wondering what to make of it all. First thing I like to do is look at the links pointing directly at the homepage.
As the most important page on your website, most sites typically point their most valuable links to their homepage. Once you’ve got this list ready, sort it by Domain Authority, Citation Flow, or your tool’s equivalent. This allows you to quickly see the most valuable links pointing to your competitor’s homepage.
How do these links compare to yours? What does the anchor text look like? Do you have any links in common?
Answering these questions will give you a better sense of what you need to accomplish with your own linkbuilding efforts. It should also give you ideas for new sources of links that you do want to have in common with your competitors.
Discovering How Their Content Ranks
Individual keyword rankings are an outdated method for determining content effectiveness for your own site, but we don’t have the option of analyzing our competitors’ traffic. This unfortunately leaves rankings as the most effective way of determining content success.
One of the best tools for keeping up with individual keyword rankings, along with those of your competitors, is Positionly. Using your website and a list of keywords of your choosing, Positionly goes to work, allowing you to see where your site stands compared to your competition.
When taking a deep look at your competitor’s data, you’re going to want more than just high-volume keyword data. To get a better sense of how my competitor’s content ranks, I’ll use the Adwords Keyword Planner to gather a list of keywords related to the specific topic. If the topic is “used car buying tips,” I’ll use that to get ideas for related keywords Google users are searching.
I’ll export that list and upload it to Positionly in order for it to show me how well my competitor is ranking for keywords related to the topic. You can do this for any topic, using it to see where your competitors are strong and where they’re weak.
Using this information, you can choose to go after the most highly competitive topics or the low hanging fruit topics your competitors haven’t tackled.
Ultimately, competitor audits are a great way of discovering strengths and weaknesses. If they’re outperforming you in certain areas, it allows you to see why it’s happening and gives you the opportunity to compare your data side-by-side. Monitor it consistently and you’ll find plenty of ways you can improve your SEO to grow and outdo your competition.