By Ryan Stewart
I get asked all the time – “Ryan, what is XYZ.com doing that we aren’t? Tell me why they’re ranking 1st for this keyword and we are not!!!”.
There’s so many algorithmic factors that we can’t see (or know about), it’s literally impossible to answer that question.
While we need to understand our competitors, it’s important not to obsess over them. Their website is different than yours and they have different resources than you – you can literally drive yourself crazy trying to reverse engineer their success.
With that being said, we still need to analyze them. I believe Google’s algorithm understands quality down the the keyword level. You should have a picture of Google believes is a “quality” result for each of the keywords you want to rank for.
1. How to find your competition
You probably know who your competition is off the top of your head – that doesn’t always mean they’re an SEO competitor.
We need to find your competitors at the keyword level – aka the ones you’re competing against for organic exposure in Google.
a. Use Google Search + MozBar
A simple search for your keywords will turn up websites the algorithm believes are the best. We can also layer on the MozBar, a free browser plugin, to layer on SEO metrics to each search result (download here https://moz.com/products/pro/seo-toolbar).
Google Search with Mozbar
As you can see, the Mozbar gives you additional information that will help you understand your competition at a quick glance:
- The PA (or Page Authority) of the result. PA is a metric that Moz developed to tell you how authoritative a page is. The higher the PA, the harder it is to outrank it.
- The DA (or Domain Authority) of the result. PA looks at the specific page result – DA looks at the entire domain. DA is a solid metric to understand the overall ranking power of an entire website. You should be comparing your DA / PA to the top results to see how you measure up.
- Number of links and referring domains to that particular page. Generally speaking, the more the links the harder that result will be to outrank.
Start by searching for terms ones have high conversion intent to see what Google turns up. You can scrape the top results to start to understand who your competitors are at the keyword level.
b. Use SEMRush to find common keywords
SEMRush is a paid tool, but is great competitive analysis (NOTE: you can use Ahrefs as well).
Simply entering your domain into the tool will pull back competitors based on the keywords you have in common.
Not only do you have a list of your competition, you also can determine the monthly traffic and the number of keywords they are ranking for in Google’s top 100 ranks.
SEMRush will also tell you, among other things, the top ranking keywords for your competition.
In the initial phase, let’s stick to analyzing 3 competing domains – we will dive deeper later in the campaign.