How To Do A [Perfect] SEO Competitive Audit

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Marc Sparenberg

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How To Do A [Perfect] SEO Competitive Audit

Clients often ask us why a competitor is outranking them for a specific keyword. 

The answer is that there is no answer.

Or rather said: 

If there was the answer and we had it, we probably wouldn’t be here still creating blog content for our website. 

So to clarify one thing: 

Yes the competitor analysis is important – but it is even more important to not obsess it. 

One thing which is very important is to understand what the Google Algorithm deems as a good result for your target keywords.

1. Finding Out Who Your Competitors Are

Even though you would say you know your competitors straight from the top of your head that doesn’t mean they are also a competitor from the SEO perspective. 

To cover this with ease and also very fast we recommend these 2 steps: 

1.1 Using SEMRush To Discover Competitors Based On Keywords In Common

For the following step you need the tool SEMRush. 

You can test it by signing up and running it with a free trial. 

After doing so you can drop your websites URL into the SEMRush Competitor Report. 

It will display you website’s ranking for the same keywords that your website ranks for. From a SEO perspective those websites are very interesting for the ongoing process. 

Screenshot of a table with a graph next to it. It is a screenshot of semrush.

The displayed chart gives you a detailed list of the competitors and how much SERP real estate they occupy. Here you should differentiate between competitors who are within your striking distance vs. competitors who are a long term SEO play. 

So don’t panic if Nike is shown as one of your competitors. Realistically thought it will take you years to compete with Nike at eye level. So focus on the competitors who are in your striking distance first. 

The next advantage of this chart is that you can figure out keywords that you could target for your campaign.

Collect a few of them and follow us along…

1.2 Using Google Search And MozBar In Addition

Finding competitors from a SEO perspective is very easy. 

Listen:

As we mentioned before SEMRush does give you sites that rank for your traget keyword as well. That’s pretty cool and a bit impressive too. 

But thinking the other way around: 

Why don’t you just type your target keyword into the Google Search Bar? Logically you should now be able to see other pages that rank for this keyword and who is doing the best. 

In addition to that Google always shows the result at first place which it thinks provides the most value to the user.

From here you can look up what the competitor is doing and why he is ranking so well. 

We can also use the MozBar

Screenshot of a Google search result which is about the top digital agencies in Munich.

Let me explain the tool bar: 

  • The PA is Page Authority. It is a metric which Moz developed to measure how authoritative a page is. The higher the PA is the harder it is to outrank it. 
  • The DA is Domain Authority. While PA is only looking at that specific page which is shown in the result the DA looks at the entire domain. So if the number is high then the  website has a high ranking power in general. 
  • Number of links and referring domains to that particular page. To make it easy for this one: In general the more links a page has the harder it is to outrank. 

2. Found Your Competitors? What's Next?

So let’s take the example further on and take 3 competitors out of the list above. 

  • snack-up.com
  • feinsnack.de
  • snackandhelp.de

With these competitors we are now going through a 9 step process to analyze them. 

2.1 Using Site Crawls To Understand A Competitors Site

For us DeepCrawl works the best. But you can also use Screaming Frog and SiteBulb. The site crawl we do is giving us a lot of information about the competitors site:

  • An overview of their website’s architecture and setup
  • Full view of all the pages on their site
  • Title tags, meta tags and other on page elements

For the beginners among us: 

A site crawl is more effective when you are looking for a deeper insight. Basically it helps solving technical issues a website has. 

2.2 Find Out The Number Of Indexed Pages

It is very simple to figure out how many pages your competitor has indexed in the Google SERPs. 

For that you go into the Google Search and type in: 

site:[Domain of your competitor]

Screenshot of the Google search bar where "site:snack-up-com" is typed in.

As seen here we typed in site:snack-up.com and pressed enter. 

Google finds 12 results which belong to the domain snack-up.com. 

Let’s do this for the other to competitors. 

Screenshot of the Google search bar where "site:feinsnack.de" is typed in.

So for the domain feinsnack.de Google discovers 11 results being indexed in the search engine. 

Screenshot of the Google search bar where "site:snackandhelp.de" is typed in.

Last we checked the snackandhelp.de website. They have 9 results indexed in Google. 

In general those numbers tell you more than just the number of indexed pages: 

  1. How much/content they have on their site. 
  2. A high level overview of how Google is indexing their website (in comparison to yours)
  3. A high level overview of the authority and indexation power that site has
  4. The size of their website in comparison to yours. This can give you an idea of the depth you need to build out on your site. 

In our examples the sites depth wasn’t high at all. So these pages would be very easy to outrank in every way. 

Thinking ahead you could transfer some metrics to other meanings. For example when you are doing an ecommerce shop you could deduce to the number of products they have in their shops. 

2.3 Analyze Their Ranking Keywords

Main goal should be to drive the most traffic to your site out of all the shown Google results. 

For this it is super important to reverse engineer the keywords your competitors are using. 

For this you can use Ahrefs or SEMRush they do an awesome jobs on giving you a websites top keyword by search volume.

And the best thing is:

While spying on the competitors keywords you can discover new keywords that would work for your website as well. Furthermore you can discover improvement opportunities for existing pages. 

2.4 Analyze Their Top Performing Organic Pages In Detail

SEMRush and Ahrefs will also tell you the top pages of your competitors page. The ranking is sorted by the number of keywords ranking. This gives you unbelievable insights into a few things: 

  • Finding additional keywords for pages
  • Finding keywords for content creation 
  • Visiting those pages manually and deconstructing their on page elements to understand how they are ranking for so many keywords

By looking at these points you are able to break down the value of the pages. 

There you have a major opportunity to steal that value from the page, create something similar on your own and publish it. If done right you can portray a serious competitor in ranking out the competitor you were “stealing” from. 

From here on you have a great starting place for a keyword gap analysis, to understand where your website falls short in comparison to competitors. 

2.5 Discover Which Content Drives The Most Traffic To The Site

By looking at your competitors pages you can understand the type of content they are putting out to their audience and also why they are getting so much traffic. 

So why don’t give it a try to imitate what they are doing. When it is working for them why shouldn’t it work for you? 

In general there are the following content types: 

  • Blog posts 
  • Resource guides
  • Product/service pages 

By understanding the page type you also understand the value of their traffic. 

Let me give you an example: 

If your competitor is getting tons of traffic to a site with low purchase intent they aren’t getting much value from that traffic.

Goal should be to analyze websites with both great content and sales pages to understand the full scope of pages you need on your site.   

2.6 Analyze The Quality Of The Content/ On Page Optimization

After using all the tools we have given you by now it is now time to visit some pages manually. 

When visiting the pages you should check the following points: 

  • How many words are on the page? 
  • Are they using images?Videos?
  • How good is the content they are creating? (i.e. well written, informative, in depth, etc.)
  • How are they optimizing their page titles? Subheadings?
  • Is the site / page visually appealing?
  • What type of call to actions are they using on their pages?
  • Are they using internal links?
  • Are they using external links?

Even with all these advanced tools these days it is absolutely necessary to do some manual work. 

Because in the end we are responsible for our own results .

Not any program which doesn’t have a feeling for certain situations. They just work by algorithms. 

 

2.7 Rate The Power Of Their Backlink Profile

Let’s move on with the backlink profile of a site. 

We use Ahrefs for this. Ahrefs is a paid tool (even the 7 day trial is 7$) and it works absolutely fine. We would only recommend buying for serious SEOs. 

When having the backlink report opened use the following filters. 

Filter for “One Link Per Domain” and “DOFOLLOW” only. So Ahrefs doesn’t count site wide links more than one time and also only counts dofollow links which pass link juice. 

From there, you can do quick analysis: 

  • What types of links are these pages getting? This tells you a lot about the types of links you need to target for your pages. 
  • How often are these pages getting links? It is important to create a natural pattern of building links. And the best way to find out what’s natural is to look at your best performing competitor because it’s more than logical that Google considers this pattern as the most natural one otherwise they wouldn’t be at the top. 
  • Are there opportunities for you to steal the links? If you invest a little bit more time you can find out if it is possible for you to get a link from the site or even hijack the link from the competitors website. 
To conclude it:
 
These steps help you to understand how competitive the industry is. As we move on, this information will become valuable when we begin the link acquisition phase of your campaign.

2.8 Dissect Their Branded Search Profile

At this point for some of you may appear the question what branded search is. 

Here is a definition: 

Basically the branded search is the number of times users search for your company’s name or product. 

And here is the twist: 

This is a HUGE indicator of quality for Google. And most of the SEO professionals overlook that. 

This is where the branded searches come from: 

  • General market awareness and reach
  • Offline advertisements (TV, radio, print, etc)
  • Online advertisements (influencers, video views, social ads, etc)
For us Ahrefs Keyword Explorer works the best to uncover the data. 
 
It not only gives you an accurate search volume for the brand’s main keywords, but other semantic ones as well. 
 
This helps you complete the picture for the popularity of a brand overall and their specific products.

3. Competitor Analysis Done. What To Do With It?

We made it. 

Let’s conclude. 

These days it is not enough to have the data. 

You need to understand it because the money is made in the analysis. 

To translate this into a few examples: 

  • Understanding how much content you should create
  • Understanding how many links you’ll need to acquire
  • Understanding if you should alter pricing, play with coupons, free giveaways, etc
  • Understanding how long you’ll need to invest in solid SEO to overtake competitors (THIS IS KEY)
Indeed it is difficult to read spreadsheets if you are not working with a client or internal leadership team.  For this case the information is better suited in a slide deck with visualizations to aid your findings. 
 
Detailed analysis should be pushed into the execution phase of your campaign. Our team does so by keeping a simple matrix in Google Sheets that has all of our findings, ready to be added to a client’s project plan. 

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