How to perform SEO Competitor Analysis

SEO Competitor AnalysisUnderstanding your competition in search results is extremely important.

In this article we outline how to perform SEO Competitor Analysis so you find out how to beat your competitor in getting your posts to appear higher in search results than your competitor.

You’re not out to pick a fight with your competitor but you are out to beat them!

1. Check the ranking of a site and sites that link to it

Opensite Explorer is a SEO tool provided by an SEO product company called Moz. You can enter a website address and Opensite Explorer will display some very useful information.

One piece of information is the domain and page rank. This is a proprietary algorithm developed by Moz which ranks websites and pages on websites out of 100. The higher the score the more authority the website/page has.

The page rank for your home page is generally going to be higher than the rank for your domain because more websites will generally link to your home page than any other page.

The following shows the rank of the home page and domain and the number of individual websites that link to the site. It will also break this down and show you the actual domains that link to it.

Open Site Explorer

Perform an analysis on your competitors

In the image above you can see:

Domain Authority is 74 – This is a highly ranked domain. If you want to compete on the same search terms as your competitor and your domain rank is much lower then you are going to have difficulty. If you want to increase your domain rank you need to start building links to your content. Read our article about Blog Promotion Tactics.

Page Authority is 74 -  The home page is ranked is very high. This is because they have some really good links back from many sites.

Linking Root Domains is 1,082 – This is the amount of unique domains that link back to this site. Google likes to see that many websites link back to you as opposed to a low number of websites linking to you many times.

Also highlighted above is the most important links that this website has. This is really valuable information. You can see that the first link is from Forbes which has a domain rank of 98 and a page authority of 87. If you manage to get a link from the same source this will be hugely valuable to you and it will help increase your ranking (this is assuming that this site is similar to your site in terms of content).

If you select the top pages section this will show you a selection of the pages with the most links to it. This can be great to assess which posts perform the best and can be a great source of ideas.

Opensite Explorer Top Pages

View the most important pages on the website

Note: Page Rank was a numeric value from 0 to 10 produced by Google to rate web pages. This used to be very important but not so much anymore. Google used to update this every 3 months but it’s August now and Google haven’t updated since February.

2. Analyse Competition for keywords

If you are researching to see if you could rank on particular keywords it’s very useful to see the domain and page authority in search results. Moz provides an add on for Firefox and Chrome which displays these alongside the search results.

Moz Toolbar

View the page and domain authority directly within search results

In the image above I have highlight the page ‘title’ of the post and the area which indicates the page authority (PA) and domain authority (DA). If you have an exact match of your keywords in your title (preferably at the start) and your competitor also has then you can still rank higher if your domain and/or page authority is higher. If other competitors don’t have an exact match then it’s easier to rank higher even if your page/domain authority is lower (as long as it’s not much lower).

3. Analyse Optimization of Competitor Pages

Screaming Frog is a free tool that goes through the pages of your website and gives you a view of what page titles you have for each page, descriptions, tags in images and much more.

This is very useful to compare your site against your competitors. The page titles are very important for SEO purposes and these should all be unique and most should target in on keywords that your customers/readers search for.

Screaming Frog

Get a detailed analysis of the page titles, descriptions etc.

Is your site better optimized for keywords or your competitors? Is your competitor targeting in on very useful keywords that you are not targeting in on? Have you noticed problems that you can correct?

4. Review keywords sending traffic to your competitors

SEMRush provides lot of useful data about your competitors related to links and traffic. Here are a couple of really useful charts it provides.

Estimated traffic for top performing keywords

SEMRush shows the top 10 performing keywords (for free) on a competitors site. This gives you an idea of any potential keywords that you should also target.


SEMRush displays the top 10 performing keywords for free

Ranking over time

This shows if the competitor is improving in terms of more pages appearing in search results or less. And if they appear in search results is it in the top 5 result placing or lower?

SEMRush Organic Keyword

A graph of how a competitor is performing in search results over time

5. Identify new keywords by monitoring keyword mentions

New competitors may enter your space at any stage so it’s important to try and keep an eye on this. Identify your most important keywords and track if any new content on the web mentions these keywords. This is also useful for new content. If you always monitor the keywords for the latest blog posts you write you can find out who else is competing for these keywords.

Here are some options for monitoring the keywords:

a).  Google Alerts

Google alerts recently announced that you can’t set up alerts as an RSS feed which means you can’t get them delivered to an RSS reader (application which lets you read blog posts from many providers in one place) but you can still set up e-mail alerts.

b). Talkwalker Alerts

Talkwalker is a new product which is competing against Google Alerts and it’s also free.

Neither application is perfect and they don’t pick up everything but they’ll certainly help tracking a lot of keyword mentions.

TalkWalkerr Alerts

email notification when the mention happens!

c). Mention is a very comprehensive monitoring application that has a free and a paid version.  The free version allows you to monitor up to 250 mentions of any keywords per month.  Once you go over this you have to pay.  This tracks much more than Google alerts or Talkwalker as it tracks mentions on Facebook, Twitter and other platforms.


6. Analyze your competitors with Raven Tools.

Raven Tools is a powerful set of SEO tools all included in one platform. You can perform detailed competitor analysis on any competitors you add to the platform.

For example, in the following I’m looking at some of the pages with the highest page authority on Social Media Examiner site. It’s useful to know the highest ranked pages. You can do a link analysis also to see what links come in from each of the pages.

Raven Tools

Detailed detailed link analysis on competitors

 Raven tools is a super powerful tool and well worth signing up for a free trial.

7. Spy on your competitors advertising

When your competitors advertise on Google it’s obviously for keywords that are important to them and if they advertise for a long period then it’s likely these are converting keywords.

Spyfu allows you to spy in on your competitor to see how much they spend on advertisements and what are the keywords they target. You get a limited version within the free component which is still useful and then you can pay for a more comprehensive view.

In the following you see the advertisement spend for Expedia the travel booking company.

Spyfu Ad Budget

View the overall ad spend

When I drill down into the ads I see that their most profitable keywords are Hotels, Motels and Travel and I can even look at their best performing ads.

Spyfu Best Performing Ads

View the actual ads that are running that perform the best

8.  Check Link Distribution

Google doesn’t like it if people always link to one page on your website (e.g. your home page).  So it’s much better to get links to a variety of pages. That’s one of the reasons why a blog with great content will help your ranking as you will get links to your content.

Ahrefs provides some really useful information about competitor links but one area that is worth looking at is their chart for link distribution.

In the following example this shows how your link distribution should look like. The spread of color across each graph indicates there are links on many pages and it’s not all to the home page.

Dofollow distribution – This is links that pass link juice.  This means they are valuable from a domain/page ranking point of view

Nofollow distribution – These are links to your content that are tagged with a ‘nofollow’ tag which means they are not useful from a domain/page ranking point of view.  Site wide distribution is a combination of both.


A representation of links on your website



It’s really essential to review your competitors to see what works for them, what doesn’t work, what keywords they are targeting and much more. By regularly reviewing this will help you come up with a list of changes that are essential to make to your site.

Do you use any of the tools above? How do you research your competitors?

I would really love to hear from you!

photo credit: sidknee23 via photopin cc

  • Liakat Hossain

    Many thanks.
    I’ve used Opensite Explorer, ahref, Screaming Frog & SEM Rush, they are fantastic. But here you mention some tools which is totally new for me, I’m excited to use those.

    • Ian Cleary

      Great, glad it was helpful! Ian

      • Syed Irfan Ajmal

        Ian, there are a good few paid tools out there some of which are mentioned by our friend Liakat above. I am currently considering to use at least one paid tool (for seo). I wonder if it would be possible for you to provide advice on which one should one get started with? Thanks

  • alexander zagoumenov

    Ian, it’s a great post. Thanks a lot for featuring some of the best tools on the market! I would also add a point or two on competitor content audit. You talk about Titles (and other meta on competitor pages) but knowing what type and quality of content is produced (if any) by your competitor can also bring in a few insights you can use for your clients’ campaigns. Thanks again!

    • Ian Cleary

      Hey Alexander, yes you are right. I look at competitors content and then try to produce something better. It’s not always better but I try!! I want to have the best piece of content for the area I write about. Thank you so much for your feedback, I love to get the comments!!! If you have any more great tips please share! Thanks, Ian

      • Alex Zagoumenov

        Thank you, Ian! Will do!

  • Titanium Rank

    Very helpful read, looking to setup an SEO/SEM firm and will definitely put these tools to good use! Great article as always

    • Ian Cleary

      Thank you so much!

      • Titanium Rank

        Do you know any good tools for sharing content quickly to Facebook pages? I have feedly but I’m not sure about it. If I share with Facebook through any of these apps, how does it know to share the content on my FB page and not my main profile?

        • Ian Cleary

          Hi, I used postplanner, that’s the best tool for sharing content to Facebook. What Feedly shares to depends on what you specified on set up (note: I never use Feedly to share to Facebook).

          • Titanium Rank

            Ah okay I’ll need to check that out! By any chance do you have a preference for any mobile apps to manage ur social media acconts? For example I love being able to use feedly to share content on twitter quickly while from my phone…u know of any good tools like that for a FB page and or google plus and linkedin? Thanks for all the help

          • Ian Cleary

            Hi, I just use tweetbot for twitter but don’t have a good tool for Facebook pages!

  • Lori Eldridge

    I’ve used several of the tools mentioned above buy prefer the paid version of Cognitive SEO for backlink analysis. They also have the ability to check competitor’s links and keyword ranking.

    • Ian Cleary

      Thanks Lori, I’ll go back and check this out again. Ian

  • guptaabhijit318

    Thanks for sharing the informative post on competitive analysis. I was really searching to make some knowledge about competitor analysis; I really need more posts like this one! It’s helped me lot, thanks.

    • Ian Cleary

      You’re welcome

  • Syed Irfan Ajmal

    Great piece indeed. Thanks Ian.
    Just one question: Could you please share reasons for why alexa is still relevant in today’s world? Thanks

    • Ian Cleary

      Hey Syed, thanks for your feedback. I don’t think Alexa is hugely relevant but in combination with another few factors it helps assess the value of a website. Ian

      • Syed Irfan Ajmal

        Thanks Ian. Would you agree that Alexa is useful when one’s target audience is techies, geeks and/or internet marketers? B’coz these are the people who are more prone to have installed Alexa toolbar.

        • Ian Cleary


  • guptaabhijit318

    Thanks for sharing the
    informative post on competitive analysis. SEO analysis is a great tool to
    estimate your website traffic. You can also make out your website errors via
    SEO analysis or competitors.

  • matthew22929

    this is a gay blogpost.

  • Cakephp Expert

    Hats off to you Ian Cleary..

    Your post made my day. Competitor analysis isn’t new for me but some of the points i never checked before like advertising and alexa rank comparison. Thanks for this detailed article….

    • Ian Cleary

      You are very welcome, sorry for the delay I missed your comment!

  • Gracious Store

    Thanks for this post! You have enlightened me on how to use tools though I have heard of them but do not know who to use them

    • Ian Cleary

      Great, delighted to help.

  • Dean Dighe

    This is the most comprehensive list I’ve found so far. Thanks!

    • Ian Cleary

      Thanks Dean.

  • james bond

    how to get our competitors back links to our site?? some time open site explorer show less backlinks and while backlink watch show more then open site explorer

  • koyal

    Very informative article.

  • Vikram

    Very helpful read, looking to setup an SEO/SEM firm and will definitely put these tools to good use! Great article as always

  • kishor

    thank u for u r valuable information

  • clearflotechnologies

    Your services is very innovative and nice services..

  • jignesh

    thank you so much for helping me .
    really helpful that “seo competitor analysis ” ………….
    my name jignesh bhalu
    i am (fresher) jr. seo executive in it company

  • Kapil Yadav

    Thanks Ian for share,

    About how to perform SEO Competitor Analysis. it’s very useful for us.

  • simransmarty007

    Thanks For sharing this information for all.

  • Michael Rhodes

    Very useful post with lots of good information. These tools are really best i have ever used.

    • Ian Cleary

      Thanks Michael.

  • Dan Strayer

    Great post Ian. These tools have been influential in helping determine our marketing position in p3m competence. Many thanks for sharing.

    • Ian Cleary

      Thanks Dan!

  • Sjon Avens

    Great post, thank you Ian.
    Sites like and are of great use too and should not be missing in my opinion.