How to Use a SEO Competitive Analysis to Uncover Opportunities

In this post, we will explain how to collect data on your competitors and how that information can help you construct a reliable SEO strategy.

Though there are plenty of FREE and paid options available, I will be focusing on a tool that does an impressive job at competitor analysis: SEMrush!

Here is what we will cover:

1. What is SEO competitive analysis, and why is it important?

2. The benefits of using an SEO competitive analysis tool.

3. How to use SEMrush for SEO competitive analysis.

4. How to apply the findings from your competitor’s analysis.

Let’s dig in!

What is SEO competitive analysis, and why is it important?

To put it simply, SEO competitive analysis is studying your competition to learn what strategies they use to earn higher rankings and better results. This process involves investigating their keywords, understanding the type of backlinks they have, observing their content calendar, and more.

By analyzing all this data, you can develop an improved SEO strategy that will help you achieve great results too. The analysis will provide answers, trails of success, proof of concept, and other things that will give you direction.

Let me show you how we do that for our clients and why.

For example, many of our clients are startups or small businesses that may not know where to begin, or have already begun but are heading in the wrong direction.

Our job as an agency is to put them on a trajectory that guarantees results.

In most cases, results mean more leads for B2B business or more product selling if it’s B2C.

Before taking a client on board, the first step is to do a web assessment — a comprehensive audit covering every detail.

This comes with a 6-12 month content plan and a comprehensive strategy based on actionable insights. That strategy is based on the client’s historical data (the assessment’s finding), our experience in the field, and what we have learned from the client’s competitors.

Today, we will talk about the SEO competitors analysis that we rely on during the research stage prior to building up the assessment.

Btw, we do offer a free version of that assessment (simpler form) for any business who requests it — if you want to find out more about that, check this article: free web assessment, everything you need to know!

The benefits of using an SEO competitive analysis 

There are a number of benefits to using SEO competitive analysis when trying to improve your website’s ranking. The first is that it can help you to uncover opportunities that you may not otherwise have known about.

For example, if you see that your competitor is ranking well for a particular keyword, you may be able to find a way to rank for that exact keyword yourself.

Another benefit of a competitive analysis is that it can help you to identify a competitor’s weaknesses. If you can find a way to exploit these weaknesses, you may be able to outperform them in the search engine results pages (SERPs).

Finally, a competitive analysis can also help you to understand your competitor’s SEO strategy better. This can allow you to adapt your own strategy accordingly and stay ahead of the competition.

How to use SEMrush for SEO competitive analysis

Before we get started, let’s explore the types of insights we can glean from using SEMrush to analyze a competitor’s website. These include:

  • Finding the competitor’s page 1 keywords (the keywords that bring most of the traffic to their site)
  • Finding the competitor’s top blog posts (the content that drives most of the traffic)
  • Finding the competitor’s best backlinks
  • Finding the competitor’s keywords with the highest CPC value
  • Analyzing the competitor’s ads (copy, creatives)
  • Analyzing the competitor’s reviews (what their customers are saying about them)

All that can be extracted by using SEMrush. There are other tools that can extract even more data, like Spyfu, and Simimlarweb, but you won’t need any of that.

Let’s start with the first one.

Finding the competitors’ page 1 keyword

Before we do that, let’s talk about the why.

Why do we need that data, and what can we do with it?

Visibility depends on a page 1 ranking because users never go to pages 2 or 3 for answers.

When was the last time you looked for something in Google, and you couldn’t find an answer on page 1? Very rarely, I’m sure — and if you can’t find anything, you will be more likely to try a different keyword, right?

Traffic visibility often drops by 50% halfway through the first page — by the time you reach page 2 or 3, visibility is very low.

If your keyword’s average ranking is on page 6, your organic traffic will be limited to branded (users who know your brand name), and you will be missing opportunities.

If you look at your competitor’s page 1 keywords, you will know what keywords are driving most of their traffic, and that is what we will do.

We will use SEMrush as an example, by simply looking at their own data (you can follow the example with any URL). 

Head over to SEMrush, and it’s straightforward.

Go to Domain overview > key in the competitor domain.

SEMrush will analyze the site and give an overview of all the metrics.

SEMrush domain overview showing metrics

From there, look for the “top organic keywords” report > view details.

It will take you to the keywords report section.

Use the filters and filter out the top 10 positions.

Go to advanced filters, and exclude the branded terms (your competitor company name); exclude keywords containing “SEMrush” and include keywords with CPC greater than $5 and a word count >3 (to get to the long tail keywords). 

SEMrush organic research dashboard showing keywords ranking using advance filters

SEMrush will extract all their page 1 keywords, and from there, you can filter more (dig into the intent of the keyword) or export it out in Excel.

In our example, we found 1.7k keywords on page 1, generating ~ 8.6k monthly traffic with a traffic cost of $104.8k.

Traffic cost estimates how much that site’s organic traffic is worth, assuming you were paying for that same traffic with PPC.

The numbers are approximate and not accurate figures, based on the volume and click-through of the keyword rate.

How accurate are those numbers?

Pretty accurate. From my experience working with hundreds of accounts, I would say it’s 70% accurate (consistently below the actual figure).

If it says 2.3k, reality can be close to 3 – 3.5k through analytics.

Accuracy is not necessary here — the goal is to gain insights into what keywords help generate traffic for them, what type of keywords, and why.

Traffic cost is the CPC value of the keywords. A high number means that most of their keywords have a high CPC value. And the CPC value is an indicator that the quality of keywords is either good or bad.

For example, if the traffic is 10k, but the traffic cost is below 1k, they get a lot of traffic but not quality traffic. It can be top-of-funnel traffic from keywords that no one is bidding on.

Finding the competitor’s top blog posts

Now let’s dig into the content.

But first, why do we need that info?

SEO is about optimizing content — if there is no content, there is no SEO.

It is called “search engine optimization” for a reason. It means that you’re optimizing your content to increase its visibility through search.

Content can be in any form —a sales copy, a solution/product page, or a blog in the form of articles like this one.

Every company that does SEO correctly will have a solid content plan for at least six months and actively produce content targeting specific keywords.

We will look through SEMrush, hunting for the competitor’s best blog posts in this task.

Select “Pages” instead of “Positions” using the same report. This will switch you over to the top pages report.

From there, you can use filters. For example, if you want to look through their top blog posts, filter by URL containing “/blog.”

You can also filter by intent. There are four intent filters

  • Informational (the user wants to find an answer to a specific question)
  • Navigational (the user wants to find a specific page or site)
  • Commercial (the user wants to investigate a brand or a service)
  • Transactional (the user wants to complete an action)
SEMrush organic research dashboard showing top pages report with advanced filters

I prefer to avoid those intent filters because it is less accurate. You can know the intent by examining the keyword from a user perspective, and it’s much more accurate.

SEMrush top blog posts are primarily informative, top-of-the-funnel type of content in our example. As a result, that content will bring traffic but a low conversion rate.

To go on the level in, click the keywords to see what keywords this page is ranking for and what the CPC value of those keywords is to gain a better understanding of the page value.

In this example, I will look at one of their top pages /most-visite-websites/ a long-form listicle article that generating almost 62.4k traffic and ranks for 3.6k keywords, that is a gold mine! 

SEMrush dashboard deep analysis of a page inside a page looking for keywords ranking on page 1

I used the same filters like before, only page 1 keywords, CPC>$1 (at least some companies are bidding on these keywords), and long tail (>3 words). 

A good content strategy targets your top-of-the-funnel audience and leads them through a conversion path with offers, nurture campaigns, and re-targeting ads.

From such analysis, you can dig deep into what content worked for them, and why. 

Finding the competitors’ best backlinks

Okay, now we know the best keywords and pages, let’s look at the backlinks.

SEO consists of 4 pillars

  • Technical
  • Content
  • User experience
  • Backlink

A backlink is one of the prime pillars, and no matter how good your content is, or how perfect your site is, your SEO won’t work without backlinks.

So… why do we need to know the competitor’s backlinks?

If you have ever attempted to do SEO, you will know that backlinks are one of SEO’s most challenging and tedious tasks.

Running outreach campaigns takes hours and hours of research, prospecting, and negotiating.

By looking at your competitor’s backlinks, you can cut that time in half.

From the backlink report, you can know the best links to target, the anchor texts, and how they got that link in the first place.

When we launch outreach campaigns, one of our strategies is to extract all our competitors’ links and add them to the prospecting list — we segment them and then launch personalized campaigns.

To analyze the backlinks, go to the domain overview, and click on the backlinks report.

SEMrush backlinks analysis dashboard showing quality links coming to the page

Use the filters to dig out the good ones.

Active, Do-follow, Link per ref. domain 1, type: text

Export that list out into Excel and manually look through the links to understand why they linked to that page and how you can replicate that. 

Study the anchor text — is it branded or descriptive? The majority of links are branded, empty, and sometimes descriptive. You would want to look for those with optimized anchor texts (descriptive keywords) from the body content. 

Backlink Gap Report. SEMrush

Finding the competitor’s keywords with the highest CPC value

Now it’s time to look through the competitor’s paid ads.

A good strategy covers all channels, not just SEO and content.

From this task, we want to discover two things”

  • What keywords are they bidding on, and why
  • What copy do they use, and why

You can filter by CPC value (high to low).

SEMrush paid search trends showing the keywords with the highest bidding CPC value

Some of their highest biddings are at CPC $202.92, if they are willing to pay that much or such a keyword, it must be good. 

In our example, they’re bidding on 551k keywords, with an estimated traffic cost of $362k. 

From that list, you can see what they are bidding on. So, for example, if a known company does cutting-edge marketing, you will find them bidding on the best keywords.

Export out that list and add it to your own keywords list —analyze the list to learn why they are bidding on those keywords.

I’m sure they spend a fortune in A/B testing their keyword targeting.

They bid on one keyword more than the rest, especially if the ads are the same over a long period. Those keywords are money keywords (highest conversion rate).

Analyzing competitors’ ads copies 

SEMrush has a unique advantage over the other tools, primarily because of its paid ads report. You can’t find that in Ahref or Moz.

Go to the advertisement section > domain overview to access the advertisement report. It will show you all the data related to the advertisement.

Scroll down until you find the display ads (bottom of the page) and the sample text ads. Then, click on “view detail” to access the full report.

SEMrush advertising research dashboard showing a bunch of ads copies

You can access all their search ads with all the details from the screenshot above. I love how they visualize it all on one screen so that you can easily detect a pattern.

You can even see the display ads, audience interest, gender, and creatives.

With all that data, you can build a strategy that guarantees results — if you know how to utilize that data.

Analyzing competitors’ reviews

Now the last part of this competitive analysis, the reviews!

I like reviews, and I spend a lot of time reading my competitors’ reviews.

Why?

Angry customers can say many things, and they often share a lot of insights when they post reviews.

Some might be biased, some might be too harsh (emotional). But you will get insights that can be extremely helpful.

There are many ways to extract competitors’ reviews.

If you are in SaaS, like SEMrush, G2 is the best place.

If you have a business in the B2B space, clutch.co is the best place.

SEMrush review on Clutch.co

Competitors’ customer reviews are a gold mine.

Some of the things to look for

  • Are they complaining about a feature? Cost?
  • Is there a pattern of dislikes (something everyone hates)?
  • Do they like a specific feature or something?
  • What were they trying to solve? Did they solve that?

G2 asks only two questions: What do you like? What do you dislike?

But…

Clutch asks a lot of questions.

So many questions covering background, challenge, solution, results, and rating.

Filter out those 4-5 star sweet reviews. About 50% are fake (watch out for those) and can be easily spotted or verified.

How to apply the findings from your competitor’s analysis

SEO competitive analysis is an ongoing process that helps you keep track of your competition and uncover new opportunities. By looking at your competitor’s SEO strategy, you can learn which keywords they are targeting, the ads they are bidding on, and any other techniques they are using to get ahead of you.

Once you have this information, you can apply it to your own SEO strategy to help you get better ranking and faster results. Here are a few tips on how to do that:

1) Target the same keywords as your competition.

If your competitor is targeting a particular keyword, there is a good chance that it is profitable for them. So, target the same keyword yourself and rank higher than them.

2) Learn from their best content ideas and re-do them but much better.

If your competitor is doing something that is helping them rank higher, steal their ideas and use them in your own SEO strategy. This could include using the same keywords, targeting the same audiences, or running the same ads.

3) Go after the same backlinks with a reverse backlink strategy.

One of the best ways to figure out how to beat your competition is to research their backlinks. This will give you an idea of the websites linking to them and how they are getting those links. You can then try to get links from similar websites yourself.

4) Listen to their customer’s frustrations and dislikes.

Your content should have a goal beyond just ranking for keywords. By understanding what your competitors are missing, you can fill the gaps in their coverage and address the needs they are neglecting. This will make your blog more comprehensive and improve your chances of ranking higher in search results.

Conclusion

If you’re planning your marketing strategy and feel lost, it’s okay. We all feel lost sometimes.

When it comes to competitive analysis, there is a lot of information to be gleaned from your competitor’s reviews. By reading and analyzing customer reviews, you can learn about what they like, what they don’t like, and any other insights that might give you an edge in the market.

Applying this information to your own SEO strategy can help you get better rankings and faster results. So, take some time to read through your competitor’s data and see what you can learn!

Question everything about your current strategy, and don’t settle for less.

Look at your competitors — who do you want to beat in the next six months and who do you inspire to be in the next 24 months?

It takes lots of work, and sometimes business owners have zero time to spend on such activities — so why not let us help you?

I will give you a free competitive analysis report better than this one, no questions asked, totally FREE, and packed with value. Just send me your website URL and some basic info, and we can take it from there.

Book a time with us today.

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