As a business owner or SEO for your client, one of your main points of focus should be what the competition is doing. By identifying your competitors’ SEO organic strategies, you can find helpful methods to improve your own/client’s strategy. If your competitors are outperforming you online, distinguishing their strategies and turning them around can greatly improve your competitive chances.
Below is a list of tips to help you do just that:
The way a website is structured and its information architecture has a bearing on the performance of said site in organic searches. There are several aspects to be considered:
- Are you operating according to technical best practices?
- Are you providing a good user experience?
- What is your internal linking strategy like?
- How deep, content-wise, is each page?
Examine the way information has been structured in competitors’ websites compared with your current setup. This will help you understand how customers interact with their sites, and identify features that contribute uniquely to the creation of a good user experience.
For more comprehensive understanding, use ScreamingFrog to run a crawl through the site. Make sure you enable the “Tree” view, which will show the design of their information architecture. You can identify how link juice is transmitted from the landing pages down to other pages within the site.
Here are key things you’re interested in:
- Content/page depth of pages which rank for similar major keywords in comparison with yours
- The size of their IA – smaller means better link juice spread
- Interaction between URLs and IA – are URLs more closely linked to page content than your own?
Page Depth Spread
Using Screaming Frog, analyze your competitors’ Site structure tab, which gives you a picture of the way pages are arranged in the site. You’ll be interested to know how many pages more or less than you, they have at each level. It also provides better understanding of the IA. ScreamingFrog presents a visual chart which makes comparison much easier.
The metric of interest is the “Number of URL” for every level of depth, which gives your insight into differences between the two sites. For instance, a higher number of URLs at depth seven compared to the competitor could indicate that you content is placed too deep for Google and hence users to access.
Internal Linking Structure
The best way to review your internal linking strategy is using the internal linking report from Google Webmaster Tools (GWT). You cannot do the same to your competitor since you have no access to their GWT account. However, you can crawl the site using ScreamingFrog and export their internal links in bulk – there’s an option on the menu.
By applying simple filters, you can replicate what their GWT internal linking report looks like and then directly compare it to the report you have for your site.
Analysis of Page levels
You must know your site’s user experience at page level, especially concerning its readability. There are numerous tools to assess this for you as well as the competition – Flesch Kincaid Reading Ease Score, Flesch Kincaid Grade Level, Dale-Chall, Smog Index and Gunning Fog among others.
You should also assess page-load speeds for desktop as well as mobile sites. With the recent launch of the mobile algorithm update, mobile page speeds are altogether important for every website. Page speed directly contributes to user experience, making it an important ranking signal for Google and other search engines.
SEO services providers can help make your site faster by applying various techniques, making it more accessible for search engines and users. You can use URL Profiler which examines different metrics related to technical aspects, quality of content, on-page content depth, keywords on pages etc. These give you a picture of the most important aspects of your competitors’ sites.
Using “site: domain.com”
Knowing the average size of a site provides a glimpse into the amount of content a competitor has, pages/products indexed on search engines among others. Use the above string in the Google omnibox to generate a complete list of pages crawled by Google for that site. Compare this number to your own.
Organic and mobile search visibility provide a great way to assess competitor performance on organic search. You can use tools like SISTRIX, SEMrush, and SearchMetrics among others. Search visibility is assessed according to:
- the number of keywords for which a page ranks
- click-through rates attributable to their position on SERPs
- volume of keywords in pages from the first point
SearchMetrics additionally provides a metric to assess mobile visibility. This can highlight existing discrepancies between a site’s organic search desktop and mobile visibility. For instance, higher visibility on desktop than mobile indicates presence of non-mobile friendly features on the site.
SearchMetrics also helps you to run direct comparisons between two websites. The difference between desktop and mobile visibility is indicated as a percentage difference.
Keyword rankings in organic search
While it’s good to know how a competitor performs overall, it’s better to get down to the specifics: identify what they actually rank for. Tools like SEMrush allow you to export organic rankings for competitor’s website. In SEMrush, this is found under Organic Research>>Organic Positions.
This generates a report that gives the rankings within the twenty highest search results on organic SERPS. It includes a separate column titled “Traffic%” which pinpoints how important each organic keyword is to the competitor.
In addition, you can directly compare your performance to a competitor’s in SEMrush. This is found in Tools>> “Domain vs. Domain”. You can identify how many and which keywords you have in common.
To download the list of common keywords, switch to the keywords tab and add the following formula:
This gives a visual representation showing who ranks better for which keyword.
Using this information, you can thoroughly understand your competitor’s strategy and use it to your advantage.
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