General SEO

How to Do an SEO Competitor Analysis

Si Quan Ong
Marketing @ Ahrefs. Completing 'Do 100' projects. I also summarise books on my personal blog.
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    Your competitors are a goldmine of information you can use to improve your SEO strategy.

    In this post, you’ll learn how to find that information with an SEO competitor analysis.

    An SEO competitor analysis is where you dig into the SEO strategies of your competitors. The aim is to find their strengths and weaknesses so you can outrank them.

    Performing an SEO competitor analysis allows you to:

    • Learn what works and what doesn’t in your industry and avoid mistakes.
    • Capitalize on your competitors’ weaknesses.
    • Replicate your competitors’ strengths.
    • Understand what SEO tasks to prioritize going forward.
    • Understand how difficult outperforming competitors is likely to be.

    You should perform an SEO competitor analysis when:

    • You have a new website.
    • You’re planning your SEO strategy.
    • Competitors are outranking you or when your rankings have dropped.

    For this process, let’s pretend we’re a new infographic design tool. This is how your hypothetical SEO competitor analysis will look like:

    1. Identify your SEO competitors

    Your SEO competitors are the websites competing for your desired keywords in organic search. These may not be the same as your direct business competitors.

    For example, HubSpot ranks for “how to make infographics” even though it’s not a direct business competitor of any infographic design tool:

    HubSpot ranks for "how to make infographics"

    Here’s how you can identify SEO competitors fast:

    1. Go to Ahrefs’ Site Explorer
    2. Enter your domain
    3. Go to the Organic competitors report
    See SEO competitors fast with Ahrefs' Organic competitors report

    This report shows you competing websites that rank in the top 10 for the same keywords as your website. 

    These are likely your SEO competitors.

    If your site is new, this may not give you great results. So here’s what you can do instead:

    1. Go to Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer
    2. Enter some keywords potential customers may use to search for your product or service
    3. Go to Traffic share by domain
    Use Ahrefs' Traffic Share by Domain report to see who your organic competitors are

    For this example, we can see that our potential top five competitors are sites like Canva, Visme, Venngage, Piktochart, and Adobe.

    Pro Tip
    Companies like Adobe and Canva are well-known brands that typically have high Domain Rating (DR). This is an Ahrefs metric that you can use to estimate a website’s authority. This gives them a competitive advantage, so you may want to rule them out. 

    You can check a site’s DR by plugging each competing domain into Site Explorer individually or pasting all of them into our Batch Analysis tool:

    How to check multiple websites' Domain Rating with Ahrefs' Batch Analysis tool

    So if you’re a DR 50 site, you probably can compete with sites like Visme, Venngage, and Piktochart, as opposed to Adobe and Canva.

    2. Investigate how they’re getting traffic

    You can look at your competitor’s website architecture to understand where most of their search traffic is going. 

    Here’s how to see your competitor’s website structure:

    1. Go to Ahrefs’ Site Explorer
    2. Enter your competitor’s domain
    3. Go to the Site structure report
    Ahrefs' Site structure report shows how a website is structured

    For example, we can see that Venngage gets 260,000 estimated monthly search visits to its template subfolder, which is 9.9% of its total organic traffic.

    If we click one level deeper, we can see the types of templates that send it the most traffic.

    Venngage's templates subfolder contains multiple categories for different types of templates

    From this, it looks like creating brochure and infographic templates is a perfect SEO opportunity for a competing tool. 

    3. Find and cover content gaps

    Content gaps are keywords that your competitors rank for, but you don’t. 

    Here’s how to find content gaps for your site:

    1. Go to Ahrefs’ Competitive Analysis tool
    2. Enter your domain in the Target section
    3. Enter your competitors’ domains in the Competitors section
    4. Hit “Compare”
    5. Click the Content Gap report
    Ahrefs' Competitive Analysis tool

    Hit the Main positions only toggle to exclude your competitors’ rankings in SERP features like “Top stories” and “Image packs.”

    Toggling the "Main positions only" feature

    Look through the report and identify keywords that are relevant for your site.

    More than 60,000 potential keyword opportunities via Ahrefs' Content Gap report

    For example, “infographic examples” looks like a good keyword to target:

    The keyword "infographic examples"
    Pro Tip
    If there are too many keywords to look through or they look mostly irrelevant, click the Competitors’ positions dropdown and check all competitors. This will show you the keywords that all your competitors are ranking for in the top 10.
    Check all your competitors in Content Gap to see the most relevant keywords

    4. Spy on your competitors’ featured snippets

    Featured snippets are quick answers in search results that Google pulls from a page ranking in the top 10. 

    Example of a featured snippet

    If you can find featured snippets your competitors own where you rank in the top 10, you can potentially “steal” these featured snippets. 

    Here’s how you can see these opportunities:

    1. Go to Ahrefs’ Competitive Analysis tool
    2. Enter a competitor’s domain in the Target section
    3. Enter your domain in the Competitors section
    4. Hit “Compare”
    5. Click the Content Gap report
    6. Set the SERP features filter to “Where target ranks” and check “Featured snippet”
    7. Set Target’s position from “No” to “Any”
    How to find featured snippet opportunities to "steal" with Ahrefs' Competitive Analysis tool

    Look through the report to see if there are any keywords where you could optimize an existing page to grab the featured snippet.

    For example, Venngage owns the featured snippet for “how to make posters,” which is a list of steps:

    Featured snippet for "how to make posters"

    If you’re targeting this keyword, you’ll want to re-optimize your page and add clear steps in H3s.

    5. See where your competitors’ traffic is coming from

    Knowing which countries your competitors get the bulk of their organic traffic from helps you understand whether you can get more traffic by translating or creating your content in other languages.

    Here’s how to see this:

    1. Go to Ahrefs’ Site Explorer
    2. Enter your competitor’s domain
    3. Look at the Traffic by country section
    Traffic by country breakdown for Venngage

    We can see that the U.S. is where Venngage gets the bulk of its traffic. So as a competitor, you’ll naturally want to focus on English-language content. 

    However, there are opportunities for countries like Mexico, Philippines, Brazil, and India too. You could potentially translate your homepage and landing pages into Spanish, Portuguese, Tagalog, and Hindi. You could even launch a multilingual blog to maximize traffic from these countries.

    In fact, Venngage has done that for a number of languages, like Spanish:

    Venngage's homepage in Spanish
    Venngage's blog in Spanish

    6. Find backlink gaps

    Links are an important Google ranking factor. Generally speaking, the more links you have, the higher you’ll likely rank on Google.

    Backlinks help pages rank higher in search results

    If you can figure out how your competitors have been acquiring links, you can potentially replicate the same strategies.

    Here’s how to do it:

    1. Go to Ahrefs’ Site Explorer
    2. Enter your domain
    3. Go to the Link Intersect report
    4. Enter your competitors’ domains in the top section
    5. Enter your domain in the bottom section
    6. Hit “Show link opportunities”
    Link Intersect report, via Ahrefs' Site Explorer

    This report will show you the websites that are linking to your competitors, but not you. 

    Results from Link Intersect report, via Ahrefs' Site Explorer

    You’d want to look for easily replicable links that might have value for you. 

    For example, clicking on the number for cnet.com reveals that your competitors are listed as to-try tools:

    Venngage is listed on CNET's page
    Visme is listed on CNET's page

    If you’re competing with these sites, you’ll want to be added to CNET too.

    7. Spot link bait opportunities

    Links are important if you want to rank higher on Google. But it can be difficult to get people to link to your “money pages,” as they provide no value. 

    You can solve this by creating link bait and then redistributing the “authority” your link bait attracts to your most important pages. This can help boost their rankings.

    Use smart internal linking to help your boring pages rank

    To find great link bait ideas, you can piggyback off what’s working for your competitors. 

    Here’s how to find them:

    1. Go to Ahrefs’ Site Explorer
    2. Enter your competitor’s domain
    3. Go to the Best by links report
    Best by links report, via Ahrefs' Site Explorer

    This report shows you the pages that have the most backlinks pointing at them. Eyeball the list to see what kind of formats and topics resonate with your niche.

    For example, we can see that statistics posts work well for Venngage:

    Venngage's post on content marketing statistics has nearly 4,000 links

    8. Find your competitors’ broken pages

    If our competitors have broken pages with backlinks, we can:

    • Publish working replacements.
    • Ask everyone linking to the dead pages to link to us instead.

    Here’s how to find these broken pages:

    1. Go to Ahrefs’ Site Explorer
    2. Enter your competitor’s domain
    3. Go to the Best by links report
    4. Set the HTTP code filter to 404 not found
    How to find broken pages with the Best by links report, via Ahrefs' Site Explorer

    This will show you all the broken pages with links on your competitor’s site. Go through the report and see if there are any relevant pages you can potentially replicate. 

    For example, this post on Gestalt design principles seems decent and has 33 sites linking to it:

    Dead blog post on Visme's blog that could potentially be replicated

    Click on the caret and click on View on Archive.org. 

    "View on Archive.org" feature

    This will open up the page in Wayback Machine so you can check how it looked in the past.

    How Visme's blog post looked before it was broken

    You can potentially improve it and get people to link to you instead. Follow the guide below to learn how to do this.

    9. Check your competitors’ Core Web Vitals

    Core Web Vitals are part of Google’s Page Experience signals used to measure user experience. They’re Google ranking factors

    So you’d want to see their Core Web Vitals—alongside their overall technical health—and compare them to yours.

    You can do this analysis by entering your competitor’s pages one by one into PageSpeed Insights.

    Core Web Vitals for Venngage

    Doing that can be tiresome. So a better way is to run a crawl of your competitor’s domain using Ahrefs’ Site Audit, connect PageSpeed Insights’ API, and see your competitor’s Core Web Vitals together with other technical SEO issues.

    Core Web Vitals in Ahrefs' Site Audit

    10. See what keywords your competitors are bidding on in paid search

    If your competitors are bidding on certain keywords, then it’s likely those keywords are profitable.

    Here’s how to see the keywords they’re bidding on:

    1. Go to Ahrefs’ Site Explorer
    2. Enter your competitor’s domain
    3. Go to the Paid keywords report
    4. In the Keywords filter, add “Doesn’t include [brand]” to filter out branded keywords
    Keywords Venngage is bidding on, with branded keywords excluded

    Looking through this report can help unearth low-volume, high-converting keywords that you may have missed during keyword research.

    For example, this seems like a good keyword to target:

    "Pamphlet maker," which is a potential keyword to target

    11. Learn from your competitors’ PPC ads

    Google rewards more relevant ads with a lower cost per click (CPC). So it’s in your competitors’ interest to make sure their ads win the click.

    Typically, that means better headlines and descriptions. We can use them as inspiration to write title tags and meta descriptions that increase click-throughs.

    Here’s how to see your competitors’ ad copy:

    1. Go to Ahrefs’ Site Explorer
    2. Enter your competitor’s domain
    3. Go to the Paid keywords report
    4. Hover over the magnifying glass icon beside the keyword you wish to target
    The ad copy Venngage is using to bid on the keyword "infographic design"

    This is the current ad Venngage is using to target the keyword “infographic design.” Looks like it’s using words like “customizable,” “few clicks,” and “design wiz” to attract clicks. 

    They could be useful additions to our own title tags or meta descriptions.

    Final thoughts

    When it comes to competitor analysis for SEO, everything above is merely the tip of the iceberg. There’s more you can do, but it’s good enough for you to get started. 

    Our advice is to run through the process above and start applying the insights to your SEO strategy. Execution is important, after all.

    Any questions or comments? Let me know on Twitter or Threads.

    • Monthly traffic 5,077
    • Linking websites 325
    Data from Content Explorer