Anand Srinivasan is the founder of Hubbion.com and DigitalAuthority.org
Millions of articles get published online every single day. That’s tons of new competition that your web page faces each day.
Knowing what factors contribute to your website’s ranking on Google and making sure that you are executing these strategies better than competition is vital to success with your Search Engine Optimization.
There are over 200 factors that Google uses to rank pages that they crawl. Some factors that most of us are aware of include,
and so on.
These factors have varying levels of priority. For instance, it is assumed that domain factors (like the age of the website, the authority of the website in the industry, backlink count, etc.) hold more importance than user interaction features (like time spent or bounce rate).
It is worth mentioning that all these factors together contribute to a website’s success on Google. However, some are more important than the others in the hierarchy of Google’s algorithm.
What this means is that it is not just enough for you to have the best content out there on your blog. It is also vital for the website you publish on to have higher authority than those that are ranking for the targeted keywords.
In addition to this, Google might assess the relevance of your web page for a given keyword based on how readable the content is, what the keyword density is, how well it has been shared on social media platforms, how interactive the content is, and so on.
A website like ResearchGate will get away with short content with advanced readability. This is because the keywords that the website targets is intended for academics and senior professionals.
On the other hand, it might be necessary for a website targeting young users to have easy readability and highly interactive. Google might assess your page on these factors and rank them based on who you are targeting.
There are a number of different ways to perform competitor analysis. The most popular way to do it is to analyze the keywords your competitors are targeting, the kind of content they produce, and the channels they are marketing on.
If you notice that your competition is producing a lot more video content these days, it is likely that they are either experimenting with this new format or they are witnessing better conversions here. This is perhaps your cue to invest in video marketing yourself.
Similarly, look for the social media channels they are advertising on, who they are advertising to, the pop culture trends they are piggybacking on, and so on. All this gives you an idea of what you could invest in yourself.
Such competitive analysis techniques involve a lot of guesswork. From an SEO perspective however, there are a lot more scientific ways to perform competition analysis.
The most effective way to do this is by assessing the top ranking sites on Google for your keyword for each of the SEO factors that I mentioned in the earlier section.
Let us say you want to rank your webpage for the keyword “best text editors”.
The top ranking article for this keyword is from Hackernoon while Mashtips ranks number 3. Let us go through these two articles individually.
Here are some observations:
As any SEO will tell you, more backlinks do not always mean higher authority. But in this case, Hackernoon is truly a bigger brand and is a lot more well known than its competitor. Google, in this case, has decided to trust a 200 word article on HN over a competitor piece that is ten times its size.
The contrast between various websites competing for attention on Google is not always this evident. This is because of what I already mentioned — there are over 200 factors at play here. The Google Search algorithm assesses every page it crawls on all these different factors and comes up with a unique way to rank them for any specific keyword.
The simple trick to beating competition on Google is this — find how the various web pages measure up for the various SEO factors and produce content that can beat it.
But again, this is easier said than done since everything that we know about Google’s search algorithm is an educated guess at best — there is no foolproof way to beating competition unless one could peek into Google’s algorithm.
This competitive analysis strategy is still your best bet in ranking your web page above competition on Google.
A competitor analysis tool for your website’s SEO is useless if it does not help you in actually ranking for your targeted keyword. So, before we go ahead and list out the tools you can use for analysis, let me quickly take you through a case study of how I plan to rank this very article on Google using one of these tools.
The tool I am going to use for this purpose is DigitalAuthority.org (Full disclosure: I am the founder of DigitalAuthority) — this is a website that creates exhaustive reports for a keyword you want to analyze.
For instance, the keyword I am trying to rank this article for is “Competitor Analysis Tool”.
When I check this keyword on Google, the top ranking page is from NeilPatel.com. In this article, the author has tried to strategically use the term “competitive analysis” instead of “competition analysis” several times throughout the blog post.
So for this analysis, this is the synonym I will be using. Synonyms are essentially alternate forms of the keyword that is used for diversity and to tell Google that you are not actually trying to stuff the same keyword over and over again in the article for the purpose of ranking.
In case you are curious — this is the report that was generated for this term: https://www.digitalauthority.org/public-report/NjQ=
According to this report, each of the top five results on Google for the keyword in question is extremely content-heavy.
In short, the word count ranges between 1755 words and 4982 words. Admittedly, the NeilPatel article has dozens of comments and they are included in the word count mentioned.
In any case, for us to even have a shot at the top, it is important to write an article that has at least 2000 words. That will still make this article only bigger than one of the top 5. But that’s a start.
Keyword density is one of the many ways to measure the relevance of a web page to any specific search query. In our case, both ‘competitor analysis tool’ and ‘competitive analysis’ shall be used to measure keyword density.
In this case, the report from DigitalAuthority.org appears a little suspicious.
While results from websites like Sproutsocial and Shanebarker appear to have a keyword density of over 47%, this is perhaps because of sections like this:
Notice the number of times ‘competitor analysis tools’ gets mentioned in this short section on the SproutSocial article.
The keyword appears over six times in under 60 words. On the other hand, the articles on Brandwatch and NeilPatel have a more reasonable keyword density of between 9% to 10%.
DigitalAuthority.org recommends having a KD of just about 9% and that is what we will be aiming for in this article.
While our competitive analysis does show that having a very keyword heavy article could help us in our rankings, 47% is a ridiculously high figure.
There is a case for Google to penalize such listings in future for keyword stuffing. So we will stay away from that.
A lot of SEOs recommend not having to bother about exact match titles and meta tags anymore since Google has become a lot more sophisticated than what it was ten years back. However, when it comes to this particular competitor analysis report, it does seem like title match is a vital component for ranking.
As you can see from the DigitalAuthority.org report above, 7 out of 10 top ranking pages for this query have the keyword mentioned in the title of the article.
When it comes to using the keywords in the H1 header however, it is a mixed result — 50% of the ranking pages have the keyword included while others don’t. In my opinion, Google is not taking this into consideration while ranking pages; at least for this query.
This is one of the commonly overlooked aspects of SEO competition analysis. Your article needs to be easy to read for the audience it is targeted to. For the keyword “competitor analysis tool” however, the readability score for the top five pages doesn’t seem to indicate anything.
Take a look at the report from DigitalAuthority.org
Notice how short the paragraphs are!
The ideal readability score is around 60 for web copies. Yet, only one page from NeilPatel.com (listed number 3) appears to be in this range. All the other pages (barring SEMRush at number 9) have pretty poor readability scores. The takeaway from this is that readability score doesn’t seem to matter all that much; at least for this query.
Part of your article’s readability comes from how long your paragraphs are. The average words per paragraph for the top 10 pages is just 15 words. I am guilty of writing long paragraphs for my articles.
Perhaps this means that I must be more careful and keep my paragraphs short.
See what I just did? ;-)
Truth be told, I am not big on using ordered or unordered lists in articles. I have written hundreds (or maybe even thousands) of articles for various websites over the years. I can barely recall a time I consciously used ordered or bulleted lists in my articles.
But I found something very interesting in the DigitalAuthority.org reports for the keyword “competitor analysis tool”. Take a look.
Each of the top ranking pages for this keyword have a generous number of bulleted lists in their article. (psst: when I noticed this, I went back and rewrote several parts of this article. You will now find several bulleted lists throughout this article)
How important is it to have your keywords included in the header tags? Let a screenshot from the DigitalAuthority.org report do the talking here.
However, the number one ranked page from SproutSocial has an overwhelming number of H2 tags with keywords in them. 7 out of 10 headers with keyword in them does seem like an overkill. Yet, it seemed to have worked for them.
At the same time, none of the other sites that are equally good with content marketing (like NeilPatel) seem to have bothered with stuffing keywords in their headers.
What it does tell me is that while stuffing keywords in the header can help you rank, it is not a necessity. If you play well with the other ranking factors, Google might give you a pass.
For this article, I decided to take the middle ground. While I do not certainly want to take the extreme approach of SproutSocial, I do want to indicate to Google that this article is about competition analysis.
There are hence a handful of headers with the keyword included in them.
A number of websites, including popular business ones like Entrepreneur, Forbes and Inc today nofollow all their external links by default.
This policy has generated quite a bit of controversy since these websites do not mind getting inbound dofollow links, but at the same time, deny the privilege to those they are willfully linking out to.
Glen Allsop from Detailed.com calls them #fakelinks.
It doesn’t matter whether you are for this strategy or not. What matters is, does this strategy work?
Here is the relevant section of the report from DigitalAuthority.org for the term “competitor analysis tool”
Does linking out matter when it comes to ranking your web page on top of Google?
The crucial takeaway from this is that nofollowing external links does not necessarily matter when it comes to ranking. Also, link generously for every 50–100 words of your article.
I should note here that this section possibly only analyzes the main content section of the ranking page. If you have a comment section on your article, it is safe to keep it nofollowed since you cannot vouch for the authority of those commenting.
The strength of your domain plays a heavy role in determining your ability to rank on the first page. But how heavy a role?
A screenshot from this part of the DigitalAuthority.org report should tell you.
The top ranking websites are all in the top-most tier of marketing websites on the internet today. If I have to beat them in the SERPs, there is no way I can do it with my own website that neither has the age or backlink profile to back it up.
According to this competitive analysis report, the only realistic way to doing this if I publish this on an equally top-tier website myself.
As we saw in the previous section, the top ranking pages for this keyword are from websites that are at least 10 years old and have several millions of backlinks pointed at them.
Hackernoon is a relatively younger website. However, they have terrific domain authority and a healthy number of backlinks. This makes them a good site to compete with.
In addition to this, here are some reasons why I pick this platform.
The one thing I am not convinced about is the fact that most of Hackernoon articles do not have ALT tags in their images. However, I am not too concerned given that this is also the case with a number of top ranking pages for my target keyword.
Overall, I am convinced that with the amount of exhaustive analysis I have provided in the article, this article stands a chance to rank among the top ranking pages for the keyword “competitor analysis tool”.
While DigitalAuthority.org has been immensely helpful for competitive analysis, this is not the only tool. Here is a list of other tools and apps you can make use of for this purpose.
As a marketer, you want to be sure about every single change that your competitors do to their website.
This includes the promotions they are running, the pricing changes on their products, the feature changes on their products, content that is added or removed, and so on.
With Kompyte, you get all of these details delivered to you as insights. This may then be used to devise your own marketing strategy. You may, for instance, monitor their pricing and drop your price every time your competitor does it.
If PPC advertising forms a significant component of your customer acquisition strategy, then Spyfu is a tool that you must check out.
You can, for instance, specify a competitor’s website and instantly get a report of all ads that they are currently running, analyze their ad copy, keyword groups and use the top-level highlights to dig deeper into the insights.
Spyfu also has an SEO competitor analysis feature where you can monitor the domains that are gaining on your keyword, and measure competition by the clicks they receive for their listing.
The cheapest Spyfu Basic monthly plan starts at $39/month and this goes up as much as $299/month for the Team plan. Annual plans are cheaper.
There are two reasons why you will find SimilarWeb in a number of articles about competitor analysis tools.
While the free version of SimilarWeb gives you five results per metric and only offers three months of website data, the enterprise edition gives you unlimited results per metric and has up to three years of website data.
From a competitive analysis’ standpoint, there are three things that Alexa does well.
Alexa’s marketing stack plan starts at $149/month and lets you look into your competitors’ keywords, backlinks and perform other site comparisons for competitive analysis.
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