How to identify, analyse and benchmark against your competitors
So, you're looking to outshine the competition but you're a little stumped on where to start with assessing their efforts.
From spotting what's worked - or hasn't - for competitors, to identifying gaps in the market; a comprehensive analysis helps shape a robust strategy that could set you miles above the rest.
It can seem a daunting, lengthy and complicated task (we thought so anyway); which is why we're here to help.
Our step-by-step guide walks you through competitor identification, site analysis and how to scrutinise the campaigns and social channels of your competition.
We'll equip you with the information, resources and tools you need to complete a thorough analysis from start to finish; or you can easily navigate chapters to focus on the bits most important to you. Let the analysis commence!
Onsite analysis reveals your competitor's strengths and weaknesses; allowing you to determine what to incorporate - and avoid - in your own strategy.
The graphic below - the content of which has been influenced by research and findings from Backlinko's on-page SEO infographic - outlines 12 questions to ask when scrutinising a competitor's site.
A Moz study found pages beginning titles with a keyword ranked above those with a keyword at the middle or end.
These are, affectively, short and 'pretty;' avoiding sporadic combinations of letters and numbers for IDs and parameters (e.g. accuranker.com/243-pa?) and following a practical structure.
Including a keyword within the first half of an article reiterates the content's focus, helping with rankings.
Modifiers, like '2015,' 'guide,' or 'review,' help brands rank for long tail target keywords; are your competitors using them?
H1’s are headline tags. While some platforms, like Wordpress, add these automatically, others override this setting.
To check if your competitor’s have labelled titles correctly, hit Ctrl+U on a PC, or Option+Command+U on a Mac, to access the site’s source code. Then, see if their page titles are wrapped in H1 tags.
Text can only go so far in aiding SEO; visitors need to be engaged with images, videos and graphics to reduce bounce rate and increase time on page - both of which are ranking factors for Google.
SERPIQ.com's industry study determined longer content ranked much higher in Google.
Clearly, length is relative to the topic covered, so when analysing scan the content to see how informative and relevant it is to the page’s topic.
A page's quality is partly determined by bounce rate and the average visit time - so it must be engaging.
Are your competitors writing engaging copy and using a clear site design? Is their site optimised for mobile? These features all help improve time on page.
Google have said site speed is an important ranking signal.
MunchWeb's study showed 75% of user's wouldn't revisit a site with a load time of longer than four seconds.
These are keywords related to the core keyword the page is optimised for.
Free tool, lsigraph, suggests related keywords for a phrase. Type in the competitor’s core keyword, check out the suggested phrases and see if they are featuring throughout the content.
Internal links (to relevant pages) help crawlers find relevant pages and pass 'link juice' through your site, helping pages to rank.
Search engine algorithms are increasingly incorporating social signals.
BrightEdge found clear share buttons increased sharing by up to 700%, ultimately improving a page’s rankings.
Ready to tackle an onsite competitor analysis? Download our free template here to get started.
Scrutinising competitor content is beneficial for a whole host of reasons, including:
When analysing their content, ensure you include pieces of all levels; from large scale interactive campaigns, to blog posts.
The hero, hub and hygiene concept - coined by YouTube within their playbook - applies nicely to content and provides a useful definition of the types.
Large scale content pieces, used to raise brand awareness and bring in new leads, including Infographics or interactive pieces targeted at a wider audience.
Regularly pushed, but slightly larger, content pieces aimed to educate or entertain your demographic, like guides or 'how-tos.'
Day-to-day content produced to appeal to your target audience and keep them engaged, e.g. blog posts.
The thought of manually trawling blog posts, infographics, guides, etc. to identify your rivals' strongest - and weakest - content is exhausting. Fortunately, these tools will help shave valuable hours off the process.
Buzzsumo allows you to identify the most shared content across social, locate influencers and receive content alerts.
Additionally, by inputting your competitor’s URL, you can identify their most socially shared articles, ordered by popularity.
Ahrefs not only helps you find newest links to any piece of content, but also recently launched a Content Explorer which allows you to find most shared content across multiple networks.
We find it complements BuzzSumo very well in research stages.
Now that you have a list of the most shared and linked to pieces of hygiene, hub and hero content, you need to note strengths and weaknesses.
When analysing a competitor's best performing pieces in more depth, consider the following questions:
Download our checklist of the above to help structure your competitor content analysis.
As you start creating content of your own, you can begin building a prospect list using the information gleaned above, and scrutinising their backlinks.
This tool allows you to analyse backlinks of a specific URL (i.e. piece of content).
Once you’ve built up a list of target sites, you can study their social following.
By entering your competitor's URL, you can locate the most influential Twitter users sharing your competitor's content.
This tool can be used to identify followers that are actively engaged with your competitors on Twitter.
Combine these findings to create a target list for paid social activity, as well as potential prospects to outreach to when promoting your content.
So, you've completed an extensive analysis of your competitor's sites and should now have a clear idea of where they're shining and where they're failing.
You should also have an increasing list of content ideas of your own.
The good news? The time consuming part is over; however, competitor monitoring doesn't end here.
To remain ahead, keeping a regular eye - even if it's just the one - on your competitors' behaviour is paramount.
Don't despair; this process doesn't have to take over your life, especially with the help of these tools.
Google Alerts monitor changes in content based around selected queries.
If new content pops up related to the term, you'll receive a notification; either as it happens, weekly or daily, depending on your preference.
By monitoring competitor brand terms, as well as topics you are competing against them for, you'll always be on top of their activity.
AccuRanker allows you to keep an eye on rankings for selected keywords.
By monitoring your competitors, you can track their progress and delve into their strategy and tactics, should their ratings fluctuate.
Use this to pull together a list of organic and AdWords keywords your competitors are targeting.
Checking this regularly will allow you to identify any key changes in their PPC and SEO campaigns.
As mentioned in the chapter two, SEMrush allows you to track online visibility against your competition.
By inputting your own URL, and up to three competitors', the results graph will give you a clear indication of organic and paid visibility against rivals.
Use this to subscribe to multiple blog RSS feeds; it's a great way to monitor content posted on competitors' blogs.
Building lists on social channels, like Facebook and Twitter, is a simple and free way to track what your competitors are posting, without relying on content appearing in your feed or having to visit their pages directly.
Create lists on Facebook and Twitter, then set aside regular time to check out posts.
The above can seem daunting, but once it becomes part of your routine you'll find regular analysis a breeze.
Download our calendar schedule to help effortlessly incorporate monitoring into your working week.
When monitoring your competitors' progress, it's important to make a note of statistical comparison to allow yourself to benchmark against them.
As discussed, much of your analysis will be qualitative; identifying strengths, weaknesses and gaps in the industry. However, if you're looking to catch up with or overtake the competition, keeping an eye on their figures is important.
A few things we suggest you monitor are:
Sign up for a free trial to get started, then follow these steps to start benchmarking against your competitors.
With AccuRanker’s brand new dashboard, comparing competitors is even easier than before, thanks to an updated layout dedicating more space to each competitor. The clear image of their logo and homepage means viewing key insights is effortless.
The top level statistics visibly highlight your competitor’s progress against your own and are a clear improvement to the previous dashboard. Before, the only metrics available to users on this dashboard were competitor rankings against specified keywords. This was presented is an extensive table, with no functionality to click through for more information.
Now, data is showcased by competitor, as opposed to ordered by keyword, and users can click through for additional information. A whole host of new insights are available to you now, including the number of keywords your competitors have ranking in the top 10 and social engagement figures.
Trial AccuRanker for free now to see the new dashboard for yourself.
So, you've completed an in-depth, cross-channel competitor analysis, incorporated a regular monitoring schedule into your routine and are well on your way to outshining the competition.
From onsite analysis to scrutinising content and social channels; our resources should help make the process less gruelling, allowing you to create a structured method.
The resources are available to download again here:
The tools we have suggested are just a handful of what's available, but the graphic below will work as a reminder on those we have suggested and at what stage of the analysis process they will be needed.
When benchmarking, ensure you're clear on your reasons for doing so, and define a structure. Ask yourself, what is it you're looking to improve and what areas are you most focused on?
Keeping an active eye on competitors is crucial; if your time is limited, focus on the channels you're most keen to overtake.
And, most importantly, don't become so focused on your competitors that you lose sight of your own goals.
Their strengths and weaknesses should be used to build upon your strategy and guide your ideas; but don't be afraid to try something new before assessing your efforts post-campaign.