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SEO Competitive Analysis: The Ultimate Guide

You know your audience. You think you know your competition. But do you really know who your target market is and what they're looking for?

Comprehensive SEO competitive analysis is key to understanding not only who your target market is, but also how to reach them and resonate with them on a deeper level.

In order to connect best with your target customers, it’s important to understand what your competitors are doing – and how you can do it better.

In this post, we’ll discuss which metrics you should look at, the best tricks, and common mistakes to avoid. 

What is SEO Competitive Analysis?

Competitor analysis is the process of identifying and assessing your competitor's strengths and weaknesses to gain a competitive edge. In other words, it's all about keeping tabs on the competition!

In the age of SEO and social media, it can make or break your marketing campaigns.

Some key strategies for using competitor analysis effectively include:

  • Tracking social media activity
  • Analyzing website traffic patterns
  • Studying customer reviews and feedback

And how do you track your competitors’ website activity? You can use competitive analysis tools like Surfer to get the lowdown on your competitors.

For instance, let’s say you work for IKEA and want your products to feature for the search term, “lamp shades for bedroom.” 

The first step in the process is to check how your site measures up to the top ranking sites in the SERPs. For the above-mentioned keyword, here are the results I got on Surfer.

Surfer SERP analysis for keyword "lamp shades for bedroom"

Isn’t it super easy to do a quick comparison?

With these tools at your disposal, you can make competitor analysis a powerful tool for understanding your target audience and connecting with them on a deeper level.

Competitive Analysis: Why is it Important?

SEO competitor analysis is an important part of any successful SEO strategy. By analyzing your competitors and the strategies they are using to increase their search engine rankings, you can gain valuable insights into which tactics and strategies will work for your own website.

Whether you are just starting out in your business or have been competing in your industry for years, SEO competitor analysis is a powerful tool that will help you stay ahead of the curve. 

Here are four reasons why your business needs competitor analysis:

1. To Understand Your Industry Landscape

In order to succeed in any industry, it is essential to have a deep understanding of the competitive landscape. 

SEO competitor analysis helps you to identify the major competitors in your industry and understand their market share, content strategy, pricing strategy, key products, and strengths and weaknesses. 

This knowledge gives you a better foundation from which to develop your own marketing strategy and improve your chances of building a successful business.

2. To Keep Up With Industry Trends

The world is constantly changing and evolving, and it can be difficult to keep up with all the latest industry trends. 

SEO competitor analysis allows you to stay on top of the latest changes and developments in your industry so that you can make adjustments to your own business accordingly.

3. To Identify New Opportunities

By studying your competitor's content marketing strategies, you may be able to identify new opportunities for your own business. 

For example, if you notice that a competitor is getting a lot of traffic on a blog post that covers a topic you’ve not written about, you could add it to your priority list.

In fact, with Surfer, you can even find multiple keyword clusters for any phrase that you enter. 

Here are the results for the keyword, “watches for men.”

Content Planner results for the keyword, “watches for men.”
Image via Surfer

4. To Improve Your Marketing Campaigns

Competitor analysis can also help you to improve the effectiveness of your marketing campaigns. By understanding how your competitors are reaching their customers, you can adapt your own campaigns to be more effective. 

Additionally, by keeping an eye on your competitor's campaigns, you can quickly react to any changes or new developments.

Who Should Conduct an SEO Competitor Analysis?

There's no question that SEO competitor analysis is important for businesses in any industry. Search engine optimization is a complex and ever-changing field, and it's essential to stay on top of the latest trends and developments. 

However, for some businesses, SEO competitor analysis is absolutely necessary. 

Here are four types of businesses that should definitely make SEO competitor analysis a priority:

1. Ecommerce Businesses

Ecommerce businesses rely heavily on search traffic to drive sales and revenue. Without a strong SEO strategy, they'll quickly fall behind the competition. 

By conducting regular SEO competitor analysis, ecommerce businesses can keep track of the latest trends and ensure they're always ahead of the curve.

2. Local Businesses

Local businesses need to be visible in search results for their area. If they're not, they'll lose out on potential customers. 

SEO competitor analysis can help local businesses track their progress and ensure they're ranking highly for relevant keywords.

3. Businesses With a Lot of Competition

If a business has a lot of competition, it's especially important to stand out. SEO competitor analysis can help businesses in competitive industries keep track of their competitors' strategies and make necessary adjustments to stay ahead.

4. Businesses with Limited Resources

For businesses with limited resources, SEO competitor analysis can be an invaluable tool. It can help them identify areas where they need to focus their efforts and allocate their resources accordingly.

Which Factors Should You Look At For SEO Competitive Analysis?

If you're not using competitive analysis as part of your SEO strategy, you're missing out on a huge opportunity to get ahead of the competition.

By keeping an eye on your competitors’ websites and overall online presence, you can stay one step ahead and make sure that your own SEO efforts are always at the forefront.

When you're doing competitive analysis for your direct and indirect competitors, these are some of the things you should look at: 

1. Keywords: What keywords are they targeting? Are they ranking for any keywords that you're not? If so, why?

2. Content: What type of content are they producing? Is it better than yours? If so, how?

3. Links: Who is linking to their website and what is their Domain Authority? Can you get links from the same sources? 

4. Social Media: How are they using social media platforms to promote their website? What strategies are they using that you could learn from?

5. Technical SEO: Look for broken links, duplicate content, site speed, mobile-friendliness, site structure, URL structure, and more.

How to Do an SEO Competitive Analysis: 6 Tips You Should Check Out

There's no denying that an SEO competitive analysis can be daunting. After all, where do you even start? Luckily, we've got you covered. 

Here are six tips to get you started on your journey to becoming an SEO competitive analysis master: 

1. Select the Right Competitors

The first step to any good SEO competitive analysis strategy is selecting the right direct competitors. You can't just pick the first three results on Google - you need to select competitors that are similar to you in terms of size, product offerings, and target market.

Also, you want to focus on those businesses that align most closely with your own. If you have a small ecommerce store selling women's clothing, you might want to compare your site to a few other small ecommerce stores selling women's clothing, but your direct competitor wouldn’t be a large department store.

In other words, rather than targeting big names like Amazon or Walmart, try to find smaller niche players who may offer more specialized products or services relevant to your industry or target audience. This will ensure that you're comparing apples to apples, and not apples to oranges.

That said, you can’t ignore those who are dominating the SERPs. You should include them on your list of indirect competitors even if they are much bigger in size. 

An easy way to figure out your competitors is via keyword rankings. For a particular keyword, check via Surfer’s Audit option by adding any website’s link. Plus, you can check all the top organic competitors for a selected keyword. 

Here are the top organic competitors for the keyword “face mist:” 

Sufere Audit top organic competitors for the keyword “face mist”
Image via Surfer

2. Conduct Keyword Gap Analysis

If you want your website to stand out from the competition and rank at the top of Google results, you need to conduct a keyword gap analysis. This process involves looking at keywords commonly used by competing websites

By understanding which keywords are being targeted by your direct competitors, you can identify areas where there are gaps that you can fill – such as using those keywords yourself or directing users towards them with useful resource pages or link-building strategies.

3. Conduct Google SERP Analysis

Analyzing competitor content can be a great way to get insights into the searcher's intent behind particular terms and phrases. 

By taking a look at what your competition is ranking for (and why), you can better understand the searcher's needs and develop content that meets those needs more effectively.

First things first: what is search intent? It's the underlying motive behind why someone is searching for something on the internet.

There are four main types of search intent. Let’s take a look at them in detail.

Navigational Search Intent

Navigational search intent is when a user is looking for a specific website or webpage. This type of intent is usually indicated by keywords that include the website or brand name, such as "Facebook" or "YouTube."

Google SERP result for "walmart"
Image via Google

Informational Search Intent

Informational search intent is when a user is looking for information on a particular topic. This could be anything from finding out the weather forecast to researching a new car. When it comes to SEO, optimizing for informational search intent can be a great way to drive traffic to your website.

Here is an example:

Google SERP result for "what to look for when buying a camera"
Image via Google

The best way to optimize for informational search intent is to create content that is informative and relevant to the user's query. This means creating content that covers all the bases of what the user is looking for and doing so in a way that is easy to understand and digest.

Transactional Search Intent

Transactional searches are ones where the user is looking to take a specific action, such as buying a product or booking a service. If your business offers something that can be bought or booked online, then your website must appear in search results for relevant transactional keywords.

For example, let’s say you run a hotel. A potential customer might search for “book hotel room in San Francisco” if they’re looking to make a reservation. If your hotel website doesn’t appear in the search results for this keyword, you’re missing out on a lot of business.

Google SERP result for "book a hotel room in san francisco"
Image via Google

It’s not enough to just rank for transactional keywords, though. Your website also needs to be optimized to convert searchers into customers. That means having a user-friendly booking system and providing all the information potential customers need to make a decision.

Commercial Investigation Search Intent

These types of searches are conducted to find out more about a company or product before making a purchase and can be invaluable for businesses looking to improve their sales and marketing efforts.

By understanding what people are searching for when they're considering a purchase, you can better target your advertising and ensure that your website appears in front of potential customers at the right time.

Google SERP result for "New cars for sale New York"
Image via Google

As you can see, each type of search intent requires different content to satisfy the searcher. For example, someone who is looking to buy a new car isn't going to be satisfied with an article about the history of automotive design - they're looking for information on what cars are currently available and where to get the best price.

By understanding the different types of search intent, you can create content that better meets the needs of your audience and increases your chances of ranking highly in the SERPs. 

Pay close attention to the search intent that your competitors cater to. Based on that, you can build your own content strategy.

4. Conduct Backlink Analysis

Backlink analysis is a process of examining and assessing the inbound links pointing to a website. By analyzing these links, you can glean valuable insights about your competitors’ SEO strategies – including the types of content they’re creating, the link-building tactics they’re employing, and the overall effectiveness of their backlink profile.

While analyzing your competitors’ backlinks, you should pay attention to the following things:

  • Total number of backlinks
  • The domain authority of sites that are linked
  • Overall relevancy of links

5. Prioritize Keywords With a High ROI

If you want to take over the top spots in SERPs, it’s a good idea to start prioritizing more valuable keywords for your target audience! The advantage of focusing on ROI-worthy keywords is that they'll help drive more traffic and conversions than other content. 

That's because these terms are typically searched more often, resulting in a higher level of engagement from viewers who are closer to being ready to make a purchase or sign up for your service.

So rather than wasting time writing content that won't really benefit your website in any meaningful way, focus on choosing high-quality keywords that will make all the difference when it comes to ranking well with search engines. 

Typically, high ROI keywords are very competitive as well. You’re likely to find your competitors targeting these keywords through their content.

6. Create an SEO Competitor Analysis Report

To create an SEO competitor analysis report, you’ll need to gather data about your competitors’ websites. This can be done using several different tools, including Surfer, Google AdWords Keyword Planner, and Moz’s Open Site Explorer. 

Once you have this data, you can begin to analyze it to identify patterns and trends. Your report should include all the important factors that we discussed in the previous section. 

By performing an SEO competitor analysis, you can improve your own website’s rankings by identifying the areas where you need to improve. You can also look at different weaknesses and strengths between you and your direct competitors.

This can help you stay ahead of the competition and drive more traffic to your site. If you aren’t sure how to get started, you can look for a free competitive analysis template online. They are easily available. Just make sure it includes the important factors needed for competitive analysis.

5 Common Mistakes to Avoid While Doing an SEO Competitive Analysis

SEO competitive analysis is a tricky business. To compete for the top spots in Google’s search results, you need both quality content and technical prowess.

However, many businesses make common mistakes when conducting their SEO competitive analyses. Here are five of the most common ones:

1. Not Having a Clearly Defined Goal or Target Audience

Another common mistake is not having a clearly defined goal or target audience for your competitive analysis. This can hinder your efforts from the start and prevent you from making an impact on search results pages. 

To ensure that you have the most success with your competitive analysis, it’s important to define what you are attempting to achieve – whether it be increasing traffic, reducing bounce rate, or increasing conversions… Whatever it is! 

Once you have defined this, you will be able to build a strategy around your goal and will increase the likelihood of achieving greater visibility online.

2. Not Putting in the Time

Conducting a competitive analysis takes time – there’s no getting around that. However, many businesses try to take shortcuts in the process by skipping steps or not putting in the necessary effort. 

This often leads to subpar results and can mean that you miss important opportunities to improve your ranking.

3. Not Tracking Your Progress

One of the most common mistakes is failing to track your own progress. It's easy to get caught up in monitoring your competition and lose sight of your own goals and progress. Make sure you keep track of your own SEO efforts so you can see how you're doing in relation to your competitors.

This is important because you need to be able to see how your efforts are paying off and whether or not they are helping you move up in the rankings.

4. Not Checking What Your Competitors Are Doing Off-Site

When conducting a competitive analysis, it’s important to not only check out what your top five competitors are doing on their websites – you should also look at how they promote their content and build their audiences off-site. 

Are they active on social media? Do they have an email list that you can tap into or strong partnerships with other businesses? 

If so, these channels could be worth exploring as part of your own promotional efforts. Just remember that in order to compete effectively, you need to monitor more than just the on-page SEO aspects of your competitors.

5. Not Including a Mobile-Specific Analysis

With more and more people using mobile devices to access the internet, it’s important that your website is optimized for mobile users. 

This means not only having a responsive design but also making sure that your content loads quickly on mobile devices and that your pages are easily navigated on a smaller screen. 

Many businesses make the mistake of assuming that their desktop website will automatically be optimized for mobile – but this isn’t always the case. 

As part of your competitive analysis, be sure to check out how your competitors’ websites look and function on mobile devices, as well as on desktops. This will give you a good idea of where you need to improve in order to better compete for mobile users.

For quick mobile-specific analysis of your competitors’ websites, you can use Google’s Test My Site.

Think with Google screenshot

Which Are the Best Tools For Competitive Analysis?

There are a lot of great tools out there that can help you with your SEO competitive analysis - but which ones are the best? Well, that depends on a number of factors, including what kind of analysis you're looking to do, what level of detail you need, and how much you're willing to spend.

In this section, we’ve included free competitive analysis tools along with paid ones. Whether you are an amateur or a professional, you’ll find a match here:

  • Surfer
  • SEMrush
  • SpyFu
  • SimilarWeb
  • Ahrefs
  • Hootsuite
  • Sprout Social
  • Moz
  • Google Keyword Planner

Some common uses for competitive analysis tools include keyword research, link building, and content optimization. If you have a specific use in mind, be sure to look for a tool that offers those features. Otherwise, you'll likely be disappointed with the results.

Keep in mind that there are a lot of free options out there, but they may not offer the same features and functionality as paid options. If you're serious about competitive analysis, it's worth investing in a tool that will give you the best chance of success.


1. How are SEO competitors determined?

Your direct SEO competitors are the ones who are similar to you in terms of product offering, target market, and size. Typically, they are the businesses that align with your business. 

In addition, you also need to consider those competitors who rank at the top of the SERPs even if they are bigger in size.

2. Why is competitive analysis important for SEO?

Competitive analysis is important for SEO because it allows you to understand what your competitors are doing and how they are ranking in search engines. 

This information can be used to improve your own SEO strategy and tactics. Additionally, a competitive analysis can help you identify opportunities to exploit and weaknesses to avoid.

3. How is competitor analysis used in digital marketing?

Competitor analysis is a vital part of digital marketing. By understanding what your competitors are doing, you can develop strategies to stay ahead of the curve and better serve your target market.

You can also craft a more effective SEO strategy to boost your online presence and improve your rankings.

4. How to analyze competitors for free?

You can analyze your SEO competitors for free using specialized tools like Google Trends, BuzzSumo, SpyFu, and others. 

5. What are some common mistakes that marketers make while doing competitive analysis?

Here are some common mistakes that marketers make while doing competitive analysis:

  • Not having defined goals
  • Not putting in enough time
  • Not tracking progress
  • Not checking what competitors are doing off-site
  • Not paying attention to mobile-friendliness

Ready to Conduct an SEO Competitive Analysis?

In the SEO arena, competition is fierce. And no matter what industry you're in, there's always room for improvement when it comes to your website's ranking on search engines. 

By understanding what your competitors are doing, you can adapt and improve your own strategies to stay ahead of the curve. If you want a competitive advantage over your rivals, you should start doing a thorough competitive analysis today!

Do you have any questions about SEO competitive analysis? Please feel free to write them in the comments section below. I will be happy to answer them for you!

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Shane Barker is a digital marketing consultant who specializes in influencer marketing, content marketing, and SEO. He is also the co-founder and CEO of Content Solutions, a digital marketing agency. He has consulted with Fortune 500 companies, influencers with digital products, and a number of A-List celebrities.


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Screenshot of Surfer SEO Content Editor interface, displaying the 'Essential Content Marketing Metrics' article with a content score of 82/100. The editor highlights sections like 'Key Takeaways' and offers SEO suggestions for terms such as 'content marketing metrics