Brian Larson

SES Toronto: Competitive SEO Analysis

Brian Larson     Search Engine Strategies, SEO

Competitive Analysis Panel at SES TorontoReally, truly understanding the competitive landscape can help pave the way for a successful search engine marketing program.

Chris Boggs led a panel discussion at SES Toronto on Competitive Analysis – What tips and tools can get you the vital competitive information that every SEO needs. According to Boggs, “Competitive analysis is one of the most exciting and important tactics (SEOs) can do.

The session was segmented into 3 areas of focus: on site research,off site research and PPC research.

On Site Research

Marios Alexandrou, Rosetta

When conducting on site (i.e. within your competitor’s site) competitive analysis, start by:

1) Asking yourself, “what companies should I look at?” can come in handy here.  Enter a handful of competitors and look for companies with high traffic. These are the companies that will likely have characteristics that will help inform your SEO approach.

2) Assessing your competitors site.  Be sure to divide on site components into 3 categories: Content, Technical and Internal Links.  By segmenting, you can more easily identify their strengths, as well as their areas of weakness.

3) Crawling competitor sites by leveraging crawler tools like Xemu.  This will help determine:

  • size of site
  • links to internal pages
  • popular search term pages
  • Google Index

Once you have conducted your research, create a matrix to get a full picture of the competitive landscape. Do this by listing your competitors within excel on the y-axis and cross reference them against criteria (x-axis) like: Targets Long Tail, Optimized Title Tags, Internal Linking, Image Content, etc.

Off Site Research

Ross Dunn, StepForth Web Marketing

One of the most important elements to consider when performing off site research (i.e. looking at factors outside your competitor’s website) is quantity and quality of their external links.

Like on site research, off site analysis by identifying the competitors.  One way to determine your competition is to enter core phrases like “mountain bikes” as well as long tail phrases like “brand x mountain bike parts”. Survey the search engine results page (SERP) for top ranking businesses.  Be sure to weed out wikipedia and other non-competitive sites.

Now that you understand the different players, follow Ross’s tips for off site analysis.

1) Create Advanced Reports within Majestic SEO for each competitor and export the list to excel

2) Manually review top 50 links for each competitor and ask yourself:

  • is their anchor text relevant?
  • is their relevant on page content?
  • do they have quality on page content?

3) Find and highlight shared links among 3 competitors (hub links). These links are likely attainable and have value for your search results.

4) Look for biased links (i.e. hundreds of supposed different all linking to the same page with the exact same anchor text should raise some flags)

Don’t recreate the wheel.  Learn from your competition’s link efforts to elevate your online strategy.

PPC Research

Matt Van Wagner, FindMeFaster

Start your PPC research with the mindset that to succeed you need to go beyond obvious questions like “what keywords are my competitors buying?” to ask questions like “where is the biggest area of opportunity?” Both questions are important, but the latter will help you look past competitive data to focus on the opportunities that can be gleaned from your research.

Quality PPC research tools are plenty, but before you start your research, arm yourself with questions that will help you hone in on key aspects of PPC.

How many ads are they running? How many different messages/offers do they present? Are they using best practices (i.e. do relevant keywords appear in ad titles)? How often do they present new ads? Do they react to bid changes?

With these types of question in mind, here’s a list of some of Van Wagner’s favorite tools for competitive PPC research:

  • AdGooroo
  • Compete
  • Keyword Competitor
  • Keyword Spy
  • Comscore

Walking into this session, I have to admit that I was looking for the silver-bullet.  The one tool that does EVERYTHING.  The truth, as we all know, is that although there are powerful competitive research programs, your approach to competitive analysis is truly your most powerful tool. Learn from competitors by researching their efforts with a laser-like focus.

To borrow a line from Alexanderou, “copying your competitors doesn’t make you better than them.  It makes you the same.” Determine their strengths.  Determine their weaknesses.  Incorporate these lessons to take your program to another level.

You can learn more about different competitive intelligence tools by reading the “Competitive Intelligence – Search Insider Summit” post.

Stay tuned for more posts from SES Toronto. Follow @TopRank and #sesto on Twitter for real time updates.

PoorSo SoOKGoodAwesome (1 votes, average: 4.00 out of 5)


  1. Avatar abdulla-al-amin says

    GREAT POST! thanks for your good FeedbacK. i really enjoy it.

  2. great information.  competitor research is so important with seo, and knowing techniques like these really helps

  3. Avatar Lionel Bachmann says

    I like how the research is broken down into the 3 major sections with action points to follow for each one.  Using Excel for the on/off page analysis is a great idea.  It gives you a way of putting everything in one place so you can see the general overview.  That way it’s easier to find areas of weakness in your competition.

  4. Avatar Ozio Media says

    This post is full of great information. I like the list of helpful tools and websites you included. I also liked the emphasis you put on studying your competitors. Not only is it important to study what marketing strategies have been successful or weak for them, it’s also important to study why. This way when devising your own marketing strategy you can improve upon your competitor’s strategy and make it work for you.