When it comes to developing a successful SEO campaign, conducting a comprehensive and intelligent competitive analysis is vital. With so many variables impacting competitive search engine results pages (SERPs), collecting data and assessing the strength of your competitors is almost essential to contend.
Following SEO best practices without data is often not enough to outrank your greatest contenders. Your efforts must delve deep in order to unearth the information the lends to creative and impactful SEO campaigns.
To underscore the value of this process, below we highlight the cornerstones of an intelligent competitive analysis for Atlanta SEO success.
Identify Your Primary Competitors
The first step is identifying your top SEO competitors in Atlanta. You may not always have a clear idea who your primary competitors are because they may differ from one keyword query to another.
For this reason, focus on the top 3-5 rankings sites for your top 3-5 keywords that offer the greatest traffic-generating potential. In a way, you’re leveraging the 80/20 rule by investing your energy more efficiently.
Further complicating this part of the competitive analysis are different search engines. While Google dominates over 70% of the search activity on the web, the top competing sites may be different on Bing and Yahoo search.
To identify your competitors by search engine, use KeywordSpy, a free tool that enables you to view the top rankings sites on different search engines for various keywords.
Conduct a Backlink Audit
Auditing the backlink portfolio of your top competitors is perhaps the most important part of an intelligent competitive analysis. The volume, relevant, and strengthen of a site’s backlinks is what drives SEO and domain authority.
The best backlinks come from referring sites that are both relevant and authoritative. Auditing your competitors’ backlinks will help you:
- discover new link building opportunities
- pinpoint related sites with high domain authority
- identify partners for guest blogging and ethical link exchanges
- find directories where you business is not present
- reveal forums and discussion site relevant to your industry or niche
Evaluate Domain Metrics
How long a domain has been in existence can influence its overall authority, and thus, its search engine ranking. Most high-authority sites have been around for several years. This has enabled such domains to have earned backlinks, traffic, and credibility over the years.
While the domain age your top Atlanta SEO competitors may not entirely relevant, domain authority, which is mostly dictated by backlinks, is a simple benchmark to use. Open Site Explorer is a great tool from Moz that can reveal domain authority information. It’s also one of the best SEO tools for an intelligent competitive analysis. Other tools for comparing domain authority metrics are Raven Tools and Ahrefs.
Assess Competing Sites’ Content
There are many different ways to assess the quality of content on your competitors’ sites. Some of the basic elements include: keyword density, use of videos and images, grammar, and content depth (word count, use of headers, etc.) Also, take a look at how the site uses Meta titles and Meta descriptions. Excellent tools to conduct on-site content audits are Screaming Frog’s SEO Spider and SEO PowerSuite’s Website Auditor.
You may also want to see how often the site is updated with content. This is best achieve if the competitor has a blog or publishes articles and videos on the site.
Going further, a technical assessment of the site’s content can indicate how crawler-friendly it is. For instance, if the site is using Flash media and a lot image-based text (which cannot be crawled), then it’s missing the mark with SEO.
Scope Out Your Competitors’ Social Media Presence
Since the emergence of Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and other social media platforms, the SERPs have changed dramatically. In short, social signals (i.e. Facebook Likes, (Re)tweets, Pins, Google +1’s, and Shares) contribute to a page’s rankings.
Take a look at your top competitors’ social media presence. This should focus on how many social media followers they have on each platform, as well as how many social signals they’ve earned on their homepage, top-ranking inside pages, blog posts, articles, and videos.
If you see a high level on engagement on your competitors’ social content, this can indicate greater strength to their SEO standing. This part of the analysis can also provide insights as to where your business may be weak using social media.