So the title of the article got your attention. Excellent (wrote in a Mr. Burns-tone). You are exactly the person we are looking for, because if you are reading this you either have an innate drive to get ahead and a curiosity to get you there, or you’ve already tried SEO and have failed to set yourself apart from your competition. Either way, let’s get to it.
I won’t bother lecturing on the importance of competitive analysis; you already know that. So here we go:
How-To Perform Competitive Analysis
Step 1: Get Familiar with their Site Navigation and Content
Asses your competitor’(s) website. Look at how and where they store the content. Begin by looking at their sitemap and navigational menu. Branch out from there. Be sure to include all the links on the landing page and the top and bottom menus of subsequent pages. Pay particular attention to content-generating pages like News, Press Room and Blog. Note the type of content that is most prevalent, be it blog posts, whitepapers, ebooks, podcasts, photos, infographics, press releases, etc., because you might just find that their success comes from one specific content type. Oh, and in case this wasn’t self-evident: you should be doing this competitive analysis on your SUCCESSFUL competitors (you certainly don’t want to analyze and compete with the poor-performing ones). In addition to paying attention to content type, also check out their frequency, because you already know by now that with SEO quantity means a lot. If you are REALLY committed to this pain-in-the-ass process, compare the content type with the frequency.
Step 2: Assess the Quality of their Content
Now that you know the type of content your competitor is generating, where they are putting it and at what frequency, now you need to surmise the quality of the content they are posting. “But what if I don’t know what good content is?”…no worries, no one does because it is entirely subjective. While it subjective results don’t lie, if their site is doing well in SEO then they are doing something ‘write’ (a little blogging humor—OK, BAD blogging humor). Cross-reference their content with a multitude of reference points:
- Accuracy (most people double check info they find on the internet, accuracy goes a long way)
- Spelling and grammar (seems trivial but poor spelling and grammar scare-off users by decreasing credibility)
- In-depth-ness (how far into their topics does their content go?)
- Writing tone (are they happy? Informative? Insulting?)
- Length (is their average content 300+ words? 500+ words?)
- Keywords: long-tail vs. short-tail
- Structure and readability (do they break-up large blocks of text, do they use bullets/lists/numbering?)
- Contributors (how many people contribute? How well-known are their contributors and guest posters?)
Step 3: Understand their SEO
Now that you have a good grasp on their content strategy you need to understand how they optimize their content. SEO results are partially based on content and partially on how they optimize it. The combination is critical so use the knowledge you gained in the previous step and compare it to how they optimize the content in terms of:
- Page titles
- Their URL architecture
- H1 tags
- Keyword density
- Image alt text
- Internal linking
Step 4: Understand their Social Media/Content Strategy
It is critical to include social media marketing in your competitive analysis because it can affect the analysis outcome. If they are integrating their content into their social media profiles more than you are then you immediately have an action item, if they aren’t then you can exclude it from this analysis.
Use your Findings
By now you should have a good understanding of their content and SEO strategy. Applying this and creating action items is the easiest step of all. You need to look at where their strategy differs from yours then create a list of action items (then put it in your calendar to ensure that you follow-up on them on a regular basis). For example, if they are using extremely accurate whitepapers on a bi-monthly basis, consider following this strategy by publishing your own. If they are integrating their bi-daily blog posts on Facebook, consider integrating trice-daily blog posts on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+. Get the idea?
For more tips on how to outsmart your SEO competition, click here.