Competitive analysis is a crucial component of every SEO program. While we always use some level of competitive review when starting new programs, this analysis is incredibly valuable for ongoing work as well.
Competitive analysis helps our teams understand a market, target audiences, and uncover various SEO and online marketing tactics being executed. We learn a lot by assessing a competitor’s strengths and weaknesses in keyword strategy, site architecture, content marketing, link building and social media.
I wrote a Search Engine Land column a while back that detailed how to tackle competitive analysis in a typical client engagement.
The elements of competitive analysis in focus included:
- Competitive keyword visibility (keywords ranking, position, search volume, etc)
- Competitive brand visibility (inbound links, social shares, etc)
- Content marketing (content types, social media tactics, etc)
- Site architecture (SEO properties and best practices like tagging, URL’s, etc)
While much of what I wrote still remains true, the tools and resources continue to evolve and improve.
In this article, I’ll detail eight resources I find essential when tackling competitive analysis and uncovering opportunities to better aid our client’s SEO programs; particularly those in B2B markets.
SEMRush is a software platform that provides insight into organic and paid search keywords, link building, and display advertising. The commercial variation of the software also allows marketers to create projects, storing reports on keyword positioning in particular, and keeping track of ongoing performance.
Why SEMRush is essential
While SEMRush provides insight into almost every aspect of competitive analysis outlined above, the critical aspects I apply are in association to keyword research and discovery. The functionality in SEMRush to uncover keywords, organic and paid, that an organization ranks or advertising for, can be critical in refining SEO initiatives.
BuzzSumo provides insight into social media performance and content marketing tactics, across websites and domains. Marketers with the commercial license have more thorough access to social share data, in addition to analysis associated with an organization’s content marketing strategy, and third party backlink/influencer relationships.
Why Buzzsumo is essential
Buzzsumo provides three functions important to competitive analysis, specific to brand visibility and content marketing.
- Buzzsumo’s backlink report provides marketers with a view on inbound links acquired over defined periods of time.
- The content analysis report offers insight into the type of content marketing assets that are successful for any given organization or domain.
- Buzzsumo’s most shared report indicates the social sharing volume of an organization’s content marketing assets as well as insight what individuals and influencers contributed to this volume.
Ghostery is a free Chrome extension that provides insight into the tracking, advertising, and analytics programs a website deploys. Beyond marketing, Ghostery also provides the ability for users to restrict/block tracking and create an account to save settings and information.
Why Ghostery is essential:
Ghostery is the first of two free Chrome extensions I use for preliminary competitive research in site architecture. By uncovering the type of marketing technologies an organization uses, I can better understand a competitor’s direction as well as sophistication in online marketing overall.
Why Wapalyzer is essential:
Wapalyzer complements Ghostery by providing even greater visibility into a competitor’s website architecture. This can be critical in recognizing opportunities and weaknesses a competitor may face in building and improving their online presence over time.
Screaming Frog “crawls” websites and web addresses to identify important SEO-related tagging and associated information. Custom fields in the commercial software also allow marketers to audit web page code for tracking information and other coding elements.
Why Screaming Frog is essential:
Screaming Frog is essential for auditing the structure, page depth, and SEO-specific page elements of a competitor’s website. An export of a Screaming Frog report helps further assess keyword strategy, content marketing efforts, and whether or not an organization applies SEO best practices effectively.
Moz Keyword Explorer provides a view of individual keyword data, including search estimates, potential difficulty (IE, competitiveness), and the types of results in organic search. While the free version does provide limited insight, Moz’s commercial license generates hundreds (if not thousands) of results along with comprehensive organic search engine result information.
Why Moz Keyword Explorer is essential:
Once keyword strategy has been defined, Moz Keyword Explorer provides a comprehensive view on how to apply it. I use Moz Keyword Explorer for assessing the type of results that appear for a given keyword target as well as uncovering comparable keyword opportunities.
The free variation of SimilarWeb provides summary information on website/domain-specific online marketing initiatives. The commercial version provides even more insight and analysis, across specific acquisition channels, and in relation to competitor organizations.
Why SimilarWeb is essential:
I was hesitant to commit to a commercial version for SimilarWeb because the costs are more significant than any of the other tools referenced in this article. That said, I now use this tool almost every day when reviewing a range of performance metrics across competitors.
Elements of SimilarWeb I find essential include:
- The Marketing Mix report which reports on competitor traffic across acquisition channels.
- A competitor’s “Popular Pages” report, which outlines key web addresses SimilarWeb believes are more important for lead acquisition in particular.
- Cross-referencing reports such as keyword referrals, third party sites, and social media visibility with many of the other resources listed previously.
Google Search Tools
I would be remiss if we didn’t touch briefly upon Google’s array of search tools since the vast majority are free to access. Three specific Google search tools I find important for competitive analysis include:
Why Google Search Tools are essential:
Both mobile friendly and structured data testing tools provide rapid insight into the effectiveness of a competitor’s website architecture. Keyword planner provides another opportunity to uncover potential keyword opportunities and SEO-specific priorities of your competition.
Marketing technology continues to evolve and improve. While I find these resources invaluable for competitive analysis, I’m sure there are comparable tools; free and with commercial licenses.
More importantly, it is worth acknowledging that there is overlap among many of the tools referenced. It is also valuable to compare competitive metrics across platforms, especially those that uncover only a percentage of information potentially accessible.
The key is in how effective these resources are for uncovering critical components of a competitor’s online marketing strategy. In this case, we are focused on keywords, brand presence, content marketing, and site architecture in particular.
What resources do you find invaluable for competitive analysis?
I would love to read your thoughts and perspective via comments below.