The Only Guide You’ll Need About Competitor Research for SEO

Like it or not, competition is a good thing. In online business, having competitors just means that there’s money to be made in your niche. If you’re not up against a similar business in your line of work, it’s probably because there is no profit to be made, which bodes terribly for you. At the […]

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Like it or not, competition is a good thing. In online business, having competitors just means that there’s money to be made in your niche. If you’re not up against a similar business in your line of work, it’s probably because there is no profit to be made, which bodes terribly for you.

At the same time, there will be winners and losers when you’re up against competitors. There will be those making more money and performing better than the rest. Obviously, you want to be that business, but more often than not, you’ll find yourself at the shorter end of the stick.

Therefore, you need to stack up against the competition if you want to emerge on the topic. This reason is why competitive analysis is in order.

In this post, I will share to you how important competitive analysis is to your online business and how to conduct proper research using different tools to help you gain the upper hand in your market.

Why should you conduct competitor analysis?

Competitor analysis is a task that all businesses, in general, must undertake. Below +are reasons why you must do competitor analysis first before doing anything else.

It helps you establish your baseline

To operate efficiently within your niche, you need to understand how similar businesses fare. Through competitor analysis, you can see why some of your competitors are at the top and why others are not performing as well. You also get a glimpse of your target audience’s habits and preferences, so you know what ticks them. All the data you will gather at this stage in building your strategy will help position your business in the best possible way against your competitors.

It allows you to determine your target keywords

Keyword research is the heart of an effective SEO campaign. However, you only can’t pull keywords out of the blue. You need hard data that will help support your choices of target keywords to optimize for your site.

Competitor analysis lets you see sites that are ranking for keywords you are interested in. From here, you can analyze which among the keywords related to your topic you should rank for your respective pages. This process mainly involves finding how difficult it is to rank for a particular keyword and what you need to do to outrank others.

It lets you find link building opportunities

Among the many SEO factors involved in ranking a page on organic search, link building perhaps plays the biggest role.

A backlink is an endorsement from another website. If a site links to one of your pages, it means that the author or site owner finds value to what you published. Moreover, the more authoritative and influential the site that linked to your page, the more weight it carries. As a result, your position can increase if you can acquire links from high-quality sites.

As part of your competitor research, you need to look at the backlinks of your competitors ranking on top of your keywords. Once you have collected them, your goal is to find a way to get those site to link to your pages as well. At the same time, you need to devise a way to organically attract fresh backlinks to your site. Doing both should help you level the playing field of organic search and ultimately rank ahead of all sites.

Related post: A Complete Guide To Building An Effective Back Link Profile For Your Site

It helps you produce better content

One way to attract natural backlinks to your site is by creating stellar content that your audience can’t ignore. Your competitors ranking on top of search rankings most likely have long-form content chock-full with value and information. This template for your content is something that you should also apply to your site or blog.

However, competitor analysis helps you with content creation by identifying topics that they were unable to tack on their ranking pages. You can collect all the information lacking in your competitor pages so you can compile them in your content and create a better version.

How to perform competitor analysis

To get a better view of your business’ current landscape, you can do a quick search on Google and look at the first ten results or the first page of search results.

If you want to rank globally, then you need to enter for the global search. If you want to rank locally, then you need to enter the domain extension of your country at the end of Google’s URL, i.e. for Australia.

It’s best to focus on the first ten results which will comprise your main competitors. While some of the pages may not be direct competitors of your business per se, the fact that they’re ranking for a keyword you’re interested in automatically makes them a competitor.

Keyword research

Keyword research is an integral part of not only your competitor analysis but also of your entire SEO strategy. For a more detailed account of how to perform keyword research the right, read this article I wrote.

When it comes to keyword research in relation to competitor analysis, it is best to find and target long tail keywords first. These keywords have at least four words and the least competition.

Measuring how difficult to rank for a keyword requires number crunching and hard data. Spencer Haws of Long Tail Pro publicly released how his tool calculated keyword difficulty. Of course, instead of computing it yourself, it is just much easier to use Long Tail Pro or similar tools so you can just focus on selecting the ones that are easy to rank for.

For instance, KWFinder by Mangools allows you to compute the keyword difficulty of the keyword you entered and phrases related to it.

kwfinder by mangools

Aside from the keyword difficulty, you will see pages that rank on the first page for that keyword on Google. The results also contain important metrics to help you understand how authoritative the ranking pages are.

For the sake of example, instead of searching “content marketing,” let’s search “best content marketing tools” on and check the results.

best content marketing tools kwfinder

KWFinder still considers this as a “hard” keyword to rank for. From here, you should have all the information you need to help you determine whether to pursue another keyword or push through with this one.

Simply put, using a keyword research tool gives you a bird’s eye view of the competition. By looking at keywords analytically, it helps position your business to rank for keywords with low competition so you can attract organic traffic.

Backlink profile analysis

Backlinks are arguably the most crucial SEO factor in any online business. The more backlinks you have from authoritative sites, the greater your position is on SERPs for your target keywords.

What makes link building tricky is that the process is never always cut and dry. Even if you observe the very best on-page SEO practices, you may still have a long way to go to get your content traction on organic search. For this, your creativity and outside-the-box thinking so you can conjure backlinks for your site.

Thankfully, you necessarily don’t have to start from scratch when it comes to finding effective link building strategies. For starters, read our posts about white-hat link building so you can develop a sustainable strategy of acquiring as many links as you want.

In relation to competitor analysis, you can easily check out the backlink of your competitors using an SEO tool. Preferably, you should go with Ahrefs, which is considered to have the most comprehensive link index in the market, which helps you find more links for your research.

You can start by typing your target keyword in your market to reveal posts with the most social shares and backlinks.

ahrefs content explorer

You can expand the data by clicking on the Details tab to check its backlinks, organic keywords, and more.

ahrefs chart

Click on the Backlinks button to show actual links pointing to the page in question.

ahrefs backlinks

Analyzing backlinks

From here, you should have a wealth of competitive backlinks that you can use to formulate your own link building campaign.

What you want to do now is analyze the backlinks and figure out how you can get on the same page where your competitors are linked to. Currently, there is no tool to help you determine the kind of backlinks that you competitor is featured in each of the pages. You will have to manually browse through each page and figure it out yourselves.

Below are some of the more common ways that websites earn a link from an authoritative website.

Guest posting

Your competitor could have written a guest post on a site. The link is normally found in the author bio, but there are cases when your competitor linked to the site within the content. Some site owners don’t allow linking out from the content, but others are okay with this especially when the author’s linked page from his or her site is relevant to the content topic.

You can build a sustainable link building campaign using this strategy – read my post for more information.

Editorial mention

Some of your competitors are lucky enough that their pages get picked up by authors from Forbes, Inc, Entrepreneur, and other high-quality sites without having to do anything. This is the power of 10x content at play. Assuming that your competitor’s page is loaded with information and value to its audience, it will eventually be found by influential writers and link to it in one of their pieces.

Blog comments

One of the oldest tricks in the book, blog commenting still works when done correctly. Usually, the anchor text used to link to your competitor site is the name. There are times, however, when the link is found within the comment. Similar to guest blogging, site owners usually strip the link from the comment unless it’s relevant and useful to its readers. Therefore, make sure that you craft your comments so it allows you to place your link within the content body as much as possible.

Resource page listings

Getting listed on resource pages related to your industry is a great way to build your backlinks, especially when the domain extension is a valuable one, such as .edu or .gov. From here, you can submit your page to the site owner for consideration to be included in the resource list.

Rank tracking

In order to determine the effectiveness of your competitor analysis, you need to track the page rankings for your target keywords. Doing so will allow you to determine what’s working and what isn’t in your SEO campaign.

A tool like SEMrush will help you track your keyword rankings and see how your site is faring against the competition.

semrush competitors

You can click on the Common Keywords link for each site to see the respective positions of each site for the keywords. The page also contains relevant information about the keyword to help you figure out your next course of action.

semrush competitor keywords

Also, you can view keywords that you’ve just recently ranked for, those that you’ve lost or declined in rankings, and those that increased. This allows you to focus on new keyword rankings to boost and reclaim and improve those that you’ve lost.

semrush position changes

Recommended competitor analysis tools to use

We have discussed above some of the best tools to help you implement a competitive analysis process. However, those are just some of the tools available in the market. Below are other tools you need to consider so you can develop a competitive analysis method that suits your needs.



HitTail is similar to LongTailPro in that it helps you find keyword suggestions for your topic to optimize for in your site pages. The tool analyzes your website traffic to help you find low-hanging fruit keywords that allow you to boost your organic traffic. HitTail also offers an SEO Checker feature that audits your site pages for their respective target keywords and provides actionable items that will help improve your ranking for that keyword.



When it comes to analyzing the SEO of your competitors, Spyfu is the tool to use. It offers comprehensive SEO research features for online businesses looking to one-up sites in their industry. More than just a competitor analysis tool, Spyfu lets you perform backlinks outreach so you can reach out to the site owner for a backlink without having to use another tool!

Monitor Backlinks

monitor backlinks

If you’re simply focused on managing your backlinks and tracking your competitor’s backlink profile, Monitor Backlinks will do these for you and then some! You can receive updates from the tool for new backlinks you will have acquired over time and backlinks you’ve lost. This allows you to reclaim the ones you’ve lost. Also, you can disavow links that are hurting your rankings so you can regain lost ground in organic search.


Doing competitive analysis the right way is a painstaking process that requires an eye for detail for creativity so you can develop an SEO strategy that takes advantages of your competitors’ weaknesses. In other words, competitor analysis is meant to be done with greasy elbows and dirty hands – if it were easy, then everybody would be ranking on the first page of organic search.

The techniques and tools mentioned above should help you get started in developing a solid competitor research plan so you can put the best foot of your online business forward.