Evaluating your competition is an important step to take. It's intertwined with keyword research, because you'll be competing with these other websites for ranking in search engines on each keyword that you target.
There are a couple key reasons to take a close look at competing websites:
- Competition tells you that a niche is profitable. It's one indicator of profitability that can always be relied on.
- A careful inspection of a competitor's content and back links can tell you exactly what you need to do to outrank them in search engines.
Factors to use in the Evaluation of Your Competition
There are a few factors that you should take a look at every time you evaluate a competitor for a given keyword/niche.
Understanding each of these factors will help you understand why your competitors appear in their positions in a given search engine, and how you can beat them. We'll take a look at a few of the top factors:
Consider these evaluation factors as a brief introduction to the next few chapters. They're important in evaluating your competition, they're also important to implement so that you can beat your competition. Because of their importance, we'll spend a chapter on mastering each of these factors.
Links to a website and specific page on a website are still the most important ranking factor. It's not about the number of links.
What's important is the quality of links. High quality links from trusted websites in similar niches pass on a ton of authority (boosts rankings) to the pages they link to. The tools we'll take a look at for competitor analysis will all focus on links. We'll analyze the other factors manually.
On Page Optimization:
These are the factors within a given page that effect it's rankings. Keyword density (number of times a keyword appears in content relative to the total length of content), title tags (page title), header tags and page speed all play an important role in SEO.
The quality of content on a page is important for a couple of reasons. First, high quality content leads to natural back links. If your competitors have strong content, their back link profile is likely to continue to strengthen going forward.
Second, Google monitors user engagement - a byproduct of high quality content.
Tools You Can Use to Analyze Your Competitors Back Links
Mozbar is a free SEO toolbar extension. You can find the extension on the Moz website. The Mozbar requires the Chrome web browser, just click on the yellow button to download. The setup from there is simple.
Once installed, Mozbar will show you the page authority (predicted ability of a specific page to rank in Google on a scale of 0-100), domain authority (predicted ability of a domain to rank in Google on a scale of 0-100) and total back links below each search result in Google search.
The Mozbar will also give you this information in the top bar of each website you visit. Here's a look at the top result for a search of hoverboard:
It makes competitor analysis for the top results of any keyword extremely efficient. There's also a link analysis tool that really comes in handy.
Click on compass looking button on the far right of the Mozbar and it will take you to a page that shows you the top links as well as PA, DA and anchor text for those links. Here's a look at the link analysis for Hoverboard.com:
These are just a few of the powerful links pointing to our top competitor. The authority of the links is important, also useful is the anchor text. If the anchor text of links pointing towards a domain is similar to the keyword it is trying to rank for, it will rank much higher.
Analyzing a link profile gets significantly more technical. But for the sake of a quick competitor analysis Mozbar has everything you need.
Similar to Moz, Majestic has designed tools to measure the authority of specific pages and domains. These are Trust Flow (TF) and Citation Flow (CF).
To use their tools, just head over to the Majestic website. Type in the domain or specific page you'd like to analyze. Make sure to specify whether you'd like analysis of the root domain, URL, subdomain, etc. Here's a look at the metrics for Hoverboard.com:
Citation Flow tells you the power that a link carries based on how many links point to it and the power of each of those links. CF is scored on a scale of 0-100.
Trust Flow is probably my favorite link metric. It was developed based on a manual review of the web. In this review, trusted seed sites were selected. Sites that are closely linked to these seed sites get a high TF. Sites that are not closely linked, or also have many low quality links are given a low TF. TF is scored on a scale of 0-100.
You also get a helpful back link and anchor text breakdown if you scroll further down the page:
Particularly useful is the Anchor Text section. It's not link specific, like Mozbar's anchor text evaluation. It does give a percentage based breakdown of the anchor text profile, which can be very useful.
If you notice on the Backlink Breakdown section, links are separated into follow and NoFollow.
How On Page Optimization Can Effect Your Competition's Rankings
In general, on page optimization doesn't carry as much weight as back links. But it is still a huge factor.
Let's say the top competitor in your niche is ranking #1 in Google for your targeted keyword. If they don't have that keyword somewhere in the title tag (title of page) for the page that's ranking they can be surpassed with significantly few back links.
I used the title tag for the primary example because it's one of the biggest on page factors. Here are some others:
- Header tags (H1, H2, H3). They're the headings for specific blocks of text throughout the page. They should include keyword variations.
- Page speed (load time of a page). If a page doesn't load fast enough the bounce rate will increase. Google hates high bounce rates.
- Keyword density (how often the targeted keyword appears in text). The general consensus is 1-3 percent. I don't pay too much attention to this, I just write great content that's related to keywords and they tend to naturally show up a few times.
How to Examine Your Competition's Content
The content that your competitors are putting out is important for two main reasons:
- Quality of content determines future links
- Content effects user engagement
You can learn a lot about a competitors content just by reading over the page that ranks for your desired keyword. Ask yourself a few questions while you're reading.
- Would I link to this content?
- Will I come back to this website for more information?
- Am I engaged enough to read the full post?
- Do I trust this content enough to click though the links?
If you answered yes to these questions, it's like that your competitor has put out some worthy content. Does this mean you can't outrank them? Absolutely not! You'll just need to find creative ways to produce better, more useful content.
The obvious reason for strong contents is link bait. As mentioned above, websites link to authoritative content that adds value for their own visitors.
But what about user engagement? Some time around the Google Penguin algorithm update engagement started playing a larger role in rankings. Google developed some more advanced metrics to measure the engagement of website visitors. Here are the cornerstone metrics:
- Visit duration
- Bounce rate
- Click through rate