SEO tricks: 16 ways to outrank your competitors

(Image credit: Future)

A competitive analysis is a critical part of any businesses marketing plan. A well-reasoned competitor analysis will structure your whole marketing strategy and position your business for future success. Having a better understanding of the competitive landscape, an insight into what your competitors are doing well, and how you compare, will ultimately help you capitalise on it.

Whether you are upscaling your existing website environment (here are the latest web design tools to help you out), developing a new marketing campaign, or launching a new product or service, you need to know how your competition is performing in the same field. And remember, a good web hosting provider will provide analytics to help with SEO. For more ideas, see our pick of the must-know SEO tools.

This tutorial will explain how to gain insight into your competitors’ positioning, efficiency, traffic sources and how they got there. This includes their keyword targeting, social media presence, content marketing efforts, PPC targeting, position in SERP’s, backlink profile, reviews, differentiators, Call To Actions (CTA’s) and page traffic.

By identifying your competitor’s strengths and weaknesses, benchmarked against your own, you can effectively capitalise on new opportunities for growth. Striving to do one better than the competition, standing out and increasing meaningful engaged traffic to your website domain.

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01. Identify and qualify your competitors

It’s important that you understand who your competitors are, not only from an industry perspective, but also online. Start by Googling your product or service, and review who appears within your competitive space.

02. Investigate online presence

Detail how the competition appears online; are they in the local pack, do they pay for advertising (PPC), do they take advantage of rich answers, do they use schema data, do they have multiple landing pages, who are their referrals. Identify strong and weak points in your competitor’s marketing.

03. Analyse reputation and reviews

SEO: reputation and reviews

Analyse customer opinions of your competitors (Image credit: Google)

Analyse customer opinions of your competitors, from online reviews such as ‘Google Reviews’, product reviews, social reviews and comments left on blogs. Read both the positive and negative comments, learn what your shared audiences find positive and negative, then capitalise on it. And be sure to save any reports you create in secure cloud storage.

04. Track mentions of your competitors

SEO: Track competitors

Track your competitors (Image credit: Google)

Track and monitor online mentions of your competitors, as well as your own business, with a Google Alert. You can also monitor the web for new content created around your products, services or anything else.

05. Analyse your competitors’ PPC efforts

Gain insights into what keyword terms your competition believe are worth bidding on. Utilise both primary and secondary keywords within the search engines. You can also use third party tools to save time – it will break down which ads are image, HTML or text. Analyse the pages that the ads lead to.

06. Find out competitor keyword positioning

SEO: Ahrefs

Review what keywords your competition appears for in the top 100 results with ‘ahrefs’ (Image credit: Ahrefs)

Having an insight into what keyword terms your competition is ranking for can give you a huge advantage. Review what keywords your competition appears for in the top 100 results with ‘ahrefs’.

07. Compare Keyword gaps

SEO: Google

A Keyword Gap Tool will take you one step further (Image credit: Google)

Go one step further, with the help of a Keyword Gap Tool. Perform a side-by-side comparison of all the similarities and differences between your keyword (organic, paid, or product listing Ad) portfolios and that of your competitors.

Save time by studying your competitor’s backlink profile, and try to win some of their links for your own website. Look at the referral relationships that give backlinks to your competition, and draw conclusions on the quality of those relationships and their suitability with your own website.

09. Evaluate content

Evaluate what content your competitors cover, and the opportunity to do it better. Scan the competition for all types of content, (onsite and offsite) landing page copy, blogs, news, events, whitepapers, FAQs, case studies, infographics, e-books, videos, webinars, podcasts etc.

10. Snoop on social media

Determine which social platforms your competitors are using, what type of content they post and its regularity, who they engage with, their audience size and the tone of voice they use. You will also get a good idea of how customers feel, what does and doesn’t work well for engagement.

11. Engage with the competition

SEO: engage

Review your competitors (Image credit: Boohoo)

Having an insight into what your competitors are doing can detail what is working well for them and how you can capitalise on it. Behave like one of their customers and add yourself to their email newsletters, blog and social platforms. Review their interactions and their content, as well as their Call To Actions and engagement.

12. Analyse SEO

SEO: Google tools

Review the SEO implementation across your competitors  (Image credit: Google)

Review the SEO implementation across your competitors. Viewing the source code will highlight on-page meta priority, header hierarchy, og metas, schema data, url structures, image alts, and so on. Utilise Google tools to also review mobile friendliness and speed.

13. Review user experience

Put your mindset in that of a user, and navigate across your competitor’s website pages. Look out for where the Calls To Actions are placed, what they say, how they are represented (text/imagery/video), how they push you down the sales funnel, how they incentivise data capture and contact.

14. Categorise your competitors

Tailor your efforts and focus – group your competitors into those which are direct competitors (those targeting the same audience or have a similar product) and doing it well, and secondary competitors, those which are targeting similar products/services, but the audience is diluted.

15. Benchmark yourself against them

SEO: Benchmark yourself

Understand how you fair against your competitors (Image credit: Google)

Now it’s time to compare your competitor’s key metrics to your own. From your observations and insights, you will understand how you fair against your competitors within the shared marketplace, and steps are needed to position yourself against them to stand out.

16. Implement positive change

Take what you have learned, and start to implement positive change. Start with the quick and easy wins (strike at their weakest channels) and move onto the more competitive actions. Competitor analysis is ‘always on’ – monitor and report on your actions, and split test appropriately.

This article was originally published in issue 289 of creative web design magazine Web Designer. Buy issue 289 or subscribe to Web Designer.

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Web Designer staff

Web Designer is the premier magazine for aspiring online creatives and industry professionals. The monthly title offers cutting-edge practical projects spanning XHTML, CSS, Flash and WordPress as well as hosting features and interviews with the web community’s most influential people. Each issue also has a dedicated Industry section covering news and views from the trade, website showcases featuring the finest design talent and a free CD of valuable resources.