You want to beat your competition that are outranking you in SERPs.
Where do you start?
Enter the local SEO competitive analysis.
The purpose of a competitive analysis is to find competitors that are outranking you or your client, identify what they’re doing well, and help inform you of a strategy to beat them.
This chapter has 2 different sections. Section 1 is a walkthrough using a real-world example. Section 2 is the documentation we use at RicketyRoo.
IDENTIFYING THE COMPETITION
Our “client” is Kip Superior Service (kipsuperiorservice.com).
They want to rank for AC repair Bend & Heating repair Bend.
Current rankings are:
#27 for AC repair Bend OR
#21 for Heating repair Bend OR
We need to figure out who the top 5 local competitors are for these 2 topic terms.
It’s not as simple as going to Google and performing some searches. We need to replicate what a person living in Bend Oregon is going to see.
There are a few tools you can use but I prefer to use BrightLocal’s local results checker.
Here are the top 5 competitors that are ranking on page 1 for both queries:
- Bend Heating
- Mt. View Heating
- CO Heating
- Home Heating Bend
- Diversified Heating (bottom of page 1 for AC repair)
There is nothing wrong with doing this topic by topic if you see a lot of different companies ranking for different topics.
This will increase your workload but could also lead to more insights.
Grab a copy of the sheet template we use for our competitive analysis.
Input your client or your domain along with the competitor’s information.
There are links in the header columns for Site Speed. It links to GTMetrix.
Here’s our example sheet built out:
ANALYZING A COMPETITOR’S SITE ARCHITECTURE & CONTENT
Go to sheet 2, called C1 Site Architecture & Content.
This sheet’s purpose is to identify top ranking pages, different structured data types on those pages, internal linking, readability, wordcount, and our observations of the website.
FINDING KEY PAGES
Ahrefs makes identifying key pages a breeze. Their top pages report is great and highlights pages on your competitor’s site that receive the most organic traffic.
Here’s what we get for our first competitor, Bend Heating:
5 pages for Bend Heating account for 95% of their organic traffic, according to ahrefs.
To get the URL rating for each page, you’ll need to go to Pages v, Best by links in ahrefs or install their Chrome Extension.
FINISHING THE REST OF THE SHEET
Structured Data Types: The Structured Data Testing tool is deprecated and won’t be live much longer.
We’ve been enjoying Sitebulb to crawl and find structured data, give it a whirl.
Sitebulb can also help you determine internal linking or you can start perusing the website.
Readability & Word count: Use webfx.com to assess the reading level of each page. It will also give you an accurate number of words used on the page.
Observations on Content & Copy, CTAs: This is where notes get added about your observations of the site.
Social Media: Self explanatory. Does the competitor have AND use any social media platforms?
Utilizing Google My Business Posts: Find the live GMB listing for the competitor and see if they have any Google Posts active. In this case, they are.
Here’s how Sheet 2 looks when it’s filled out:
ANALYZING A COMPETITOR’S BACKLINK PROFILE
You can use whatever third-party tool you prefer but I’ll be using ahrefs again.
ahrefs does have a Link Intersect that will show you links that your competitors have that you don’t. I’ts ok but I prefer going site by site. The biggest reason is the Link Intersect report only shows you the referring domain, not the actual links.
Here’s the overview of Bend Heating’s website:
They have 924 backlinks from 144 referring domains. Click on referring domains to start diving in.
ahrefs default sorting is the number of links to the target. Click on DR to sort referring domains.
Now, this part is a preference. My team likes to export the referring domains report, add them all to the sheet (C1 Backlink Analysis), then go from there.
I like going domain by domain, then only adding opportunities that are good for the client.
In normal circumstances, I would look through every referring domain but for this example, I only went through the first 50 referring domains.
Here are the opportunities I found:
The notes section’s purpose is to add generic notes and contact information.
When we’re working with a client, we’ll send them the full report and highlight a lot of the opportunities found.
SOME NOTES ON BACKLINK OPPORTUNITIES:
- Just because a competitor has a link from an “SEO-optimized” directory, doesn’t mean you need to, too.
- Local listings are easy to get and aren’t going to move the needle much.
- In this opportunity, I mention Yext a few times. Just because this website is using Yext doesn’t mean you need to, too, to be competitive. I’m actually against paying ongoing fees for listing management.
We’ve finished the first competitor, now it’s time to repeat the process for each competitor.
When finished, you will have a good understanding of:
- The types of links that are helping these businesses rank
- How well these sites are structured and their site-speed
- Low hanging fruit link building opportunities
Once you’ve finished the entire sheet, not only will you have some good opportunities for your or your client’s business, but you’ll have a simple gameplan of things to get done.
WHAT ABOUT GOOGLE MY BUSINESS?
You can’t do a local SEO competitive analysis without looking at Google My Business.
There will be another chapter coming out soon that will cover this exact topic.
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If you want to just take a copy of our entire process, here it is:
STEP 1: First, we must choose competitors to analyze.
- Make a copy of the Competitive Analysis Template.
- Complete the top row of the Competitor Research sheet, filling in the client’s information as a baseline
- Refer to the client’s on-boarding questionnaire for the competitors they most admire, adding their name, URL of the homepage, and including metrics gleaned from the tools hyperlinked in each column heading – Domain Authority links to Ahrefs, Site Speed to GT Metrix, etc.
- With Ahrefs, find and add more competitors with the named Competing Domains link on the left navigation, completing their information as well
- If you’ve identified 3-5 solid, relevant competitors, move on to STEP 2
STEP 2: Identify a competitor’s strengths and weaknesses
- Focus on the competitor with the best at-a-glance presence online, taking into account the domain authority gleaned from Ahrefs
- Depending on the row in which that competitor is listed in the first tab, rename the C1 Site Architecture & Content sheet appropriately – C1 = competitor 1, C2 = competitor 2 and so on. Shorten sheet titles as necessary, but make sure there’s enough context for the client to follow along should they choose to do so
- Complete the sheet by entering the following:
- Competitor name
- Key Pages: What are the most prominent pages on the site?
- URL rating (Ahrefs): Which pages have the highest URL rating, and why? Are those topics/products/services present on the client’s site?
- Structured Data Types: What kinds of structured data are they using, and where?
- Internal Linking: Are they linking to and from other relevant pages?
- Readability (Webpage FX tool): Is their content digestible? Is it a good fit for their target demographic?
- Wordcount: How much content does the average page on a given topic have? Is it benefitting the competitor?
- Observations: What do you think of the copy? Are there clear calls-to-action? Are there any obvious tactics they’re employing to give you an idea of their content strategy?
- Social Media: Which platforms are they utilizing? Bold them in the document, hyperlinking to their profiles on platforms for easy access.
- Google Posts: Is the competitor boosting their presence in the Knowledge Graph with Google Posts? If so, how? Add notes where applicable.
Now that we’ve looked at the competition, we want to find link-building opportunities in legitimate, relevant sites they have a presence on. Categorize them, and take detailed notes so that when we circle back to build backlinks, we waste as little time as possible on further backlink analysis.
STEP 3: See if and how their content strategy has paid off with backlink analysis
- Go to/create an appropriately named Backlink Analysis sheet in the document
- Open Ahrefs, if it’s not already open, and enter the URL of the competitor in question
- Go to the Backlinks link on the left side, and export the first 1,000 rows, grouping similar links
- Reorganize and sort the links by URL and DR, using Ctrl/Command+Shift+V to paste links over 20 DR into the document while retaining the formatting of the sheet for consistency
- Work through every individual backlink, assessing the following:
- Quality: There is no column for this metric, but if you question the legitimacy of a site, refer to the history graph for the domain’s Ahref rank, present in the Overview section. If the site is trending down consistently, we’re probably not interested in associating our client with that site.
- Link type: Most fall under these categories: sponsorship, article, comment, directory, local listing, membership, guest post, paid listing. Feel free to use other descriptors if the domain doesn’t fall under one of these categories.
- Status: By default, each link opportunity should be color-coded and labeled as “not started,” continuing to “in progress,” “completed,” or “see notes,” depending on our progress in link-building later on.
- Notes: Assess the viability of acquiring a link for the client on the given site, noting how one would go about that process with contact information, links to contact forms, or additional observations on content strategy or the quality and relevance of the link. We’re trying to make the link-builder’s (your) job easier in the future, so don’t skimp out on the details.
- If a site lacks legitimacy and we don’t intend to pursue a link there, remove it from the document, along with any repeat mentions of the site typically occurring from this Ahrefs export
- If the backlink is a guest post, article, editorial or the like, find the contact information and social profiles of the author for outreach in the future.
STEP 4: Move on to the next competitor!
- See above