How does your website stack up to its competition? What are its strengths and weakness as compared to its competition? What is it that its competitors are doing right that you are doing wrong? How are its competitors going about their SEO? The answer to these and many other important questions is offered by competitively analyzing your website, based on various parameters.
Competitor Analysis is a work in progress. You cannot put it in motion and forget about it. You need to keep doing it. And you need to do it right. The right set of answers is a result of following the right strategy while analyzing your competitor websites.
A Basic Idea of Competitors Analysis
I am sure you know what a competitor’s analysis is and have an idea on what parameters a website is usually analyzed. But, for those who don’t, here’s some information that will have you thinking in the right direction. The primary objective of competitor analysis is surveying competitive link building tactics. By conducting competitive research, you will be identifying those strategies that help you differentiate your website from that of your competitors and help you beat your competition.
After your website is live in the online world, you will want it to rank for specific keywords. Let’s face it, without your website ranking at the top of SERPs, there is very little chance that it will succeed. Competitor analysis helps you identify all those strategies that will make your website more visible on the World Wide Web.
Competitors Analysis – Before your Begin
There are plenty of tools available on the market, which help you conduct a competitive analysis of your website. But, before you begin you must draw up a series of questions that will help you define the way forward. You can’t just get hold of a few tools and start using them. You need to chart out a course for their use by first knowing what you want to find out. Here are a few questions that you must ask yourself before you begin analyzing your website and its competition:
- Why do I want to analyze my website?
- Who are my website’s competitors?
- What is their products and services portfolio?
- What is the market position of my competitors?
- How long have my website’s competitors been in business?
- Who is their target audience; what is their demographic and/or geographic segmentation?
- What are their evident strengths and weaknesses?
- At first glance, what do you think they are getting right?
- What is their reputation on the market?
- Who have my competitors partnered with to give them a competitive advantage?
- What is their Unique Value Proposition?
To answer these questions, all you need to do is go through your competitors’ websites. This will help you make first level improvements in your website, before you actually take the website through rigorous analysis. The idea is to make sure that your website is ready to be meticulously analyzed.
Now, you need to start thinking of conducting a rigorous examination of your competitor websites. But before you start identifying the tools that will help you do this, you must first zero in on the various items for dissection. These include, but are not limited to Home Page, Meta Data, Page Titles, Search Engine Results, Keywords, Link Profile, Link Popularity, Site Structure, Navigation, Links and Labels, Readability, Performance, Broken Links, Content, Page URL, Social Media Presence and Link Building Strategies.
Before you begin analyzing your own site looking at it through the prism of your competitor’s website/s, it’s important to underline ‘items of critical importance’ before anything else; this will help you begin your analysis in a surefooted manner with a clear sense of purpose. Otherwise there is all chance of your going wrong.
Critical Areas for Analysis
There are certain areas that are mission critical in terms of the quality of your SEO and whether it’s any good. After all, the biggest reason why you are conducting a competitor analysis is to improve your SEO, so knowing about these areas is important. Let’s take a look at them, through a series of questions that need to be answered:
- owHowHow many incoming links does your website and that of your nearest competitors have?
- What is the quality of your incoming links? Where are they coming from?
- Is the anchor text of your incoming links optimized for your target keywords?
- How many of your website pages have been indexed?
- How well have your Page Titles been optimized?
- Is your page content optimized enough?
- What is your onsite optimization score?
- How good is your website’s usability?
- Is there any duplicate content on your website?
By keeping these questions in mind, you will be able to make better use of the competitive analysis tools that you choose.
Now let’s get to the tools
Now, there are a number of tools that you can use to identify the parameters that need to be analyzed and then analyzing these parameters but for my money, there are two tools that stand out – Open Site Explorer and Majestic SEO. Let’s take a closer look at each one of them:
Open Site Explorer
The guys at SEOmoz, arguably know SEO better than anybody else, so it makes perfect sense to use a tool that they have come out with, that’s why Open Site Explorer . This tool helps you strip down your competitors’ link profile. Yes, if the parameter of comparing your website with that of your competitors is the ‘link profile’, then this tool is the best bet.
What does this do?
Well, firstly it has been designed to be used with ease. All you need to do is open the tool, and type in the name of the page that you want examined. It helps you analyze the links of all those pages that have been indexed by search engines. The amount of information that it offers on your competitor’s website is immense, but what is also great about this software is that it help you easily analyze this information.
Here is what it helps you do:
It helps evaluate your link strength
The strength of your website is determined by its links and link building practices. The use of this tool helps you uncover the hidden weakness of your link building efforts and improve upon them. Just a glance at the Open Site Explorer report and you will know where your website is going right and more importantly, where it’s going wrong.
Of course you want to know how your website compares to that of your competitors. That’s the whole point of a competitor analysis in the first place. So, this tool delivers comparison reports that tell you how each link profile compares against that of your competitors.
Identify link building opportunities
Sneak up on your competitors by identifying those opportunities that are paying rich dividends to your competitors and use the same sites to build links from. Everything’s fair in love and war.
It gives you an overall idea about actionable parameters like Page Authority, Linking Root Domains, Total Links, and Social Signals that have a huge role to play in improving your SEO performance.
Open Site Explorer and Social Media
Increasingly social signals are playing a big role in improving website awareness, credibility, and authority and are also impacting its rank on SERPs. So, you will need to use a tool that helps you analyze the social profile of your competitor’s site as well and this tool allows you to do that. This tool offers a collection of counts as to the number of Likes, Shares, G+1’s and Tweets received by your competitor’s domain.
Two things stand out here. The fact that the SEOmoz team has given importance to these social metrics means they do act as ranking factors. Secondly, although this is just a simple cumulative figure of all the Likes, shares etc. with respect to a particular domain, you get a clear idea of how your competitor’s social profile is shaping up and how your own site’s profile stacks up to it. Social media is having a huge impact on how your site is seen by its audience and also on its ranking. Your competitor analysis must keep this fact in mind.
When you first take a look at this tool by going to its site, phrases like ‘largest link intelligence database’, etc. might confuse you, but don’t get caught up in the world play. It really does the same job as Open Site Explorer and the operative word even for this tool is ‘links’. But, because it has been made by a different set of people, it does have a few distinguishing features of its own, for e.g. its backlink history section offers an amazing visual look into how a site went about its link building right from day one.
Also, it gives users top level back-link information. This helps you get a very good understanding of how backlinks of a website are spread across the web at the top level. You can also get a break up of the most useful domains that are linking to your competitor’s website. This and a lot of other link centric information helps you get the required clarity regarding your competition and their link building efforts. You can take action on this information to strategize a powerful link building campaign.
Like Open Site Explorer, even Majestic SEO gives importance to the impact that social media is having on a link building campaign and offers valuable social metrics based information about your competitors. The idea is to give you the most complete information regarding the online presence of your competitors.
Which one do I Use for Ensuring the Right Kind of Competitor Analysis?
Here’s my take on it; in order to get your analysis just right, and making sense of it, you will need to use the best tools in the business. Most popular tools like Open Site Explorer and Majestic SEO are really good at what they do and you can pick any one of them. But my suggestion is to go through the tools available for use and pick the one that you believe works best for you. If you think one of these two is a good choice, go ahead and pick from them; if you think some other tools is perfect for you, don’t worry, go ahead and choose that one.
You need to pick the tool that you will be comfortable with, and choose something that gives you comprehensive analysis and leaves no metric, parameter or factor out. And if you think using two tools is a good idea, go ahead and use two.
But, before you use the right tools, you must know what you want. Knowing what you want means you must answer the ‘Why’ of competitor analysis, meaning why you need it. The fact that you need it, is already a given; but do you, as a website owner, understand its importance and are you willing to take steps to put the information that you get to good use.
As a website owner, you might or might not have the required technical knowledge to use a competitor analysis tool and make sense of all the information provided. You can definitely read up on it and get an understanding on how to go about competitively analyzing your website but it’s best to leave this job in expert hands. Learn from experts and slowly and surely start taking an active part in the process of competitive analysis. Once you get the hang of it, you can always take the reins of the process in your hands.