In this post, you’re going to learn how to analyse your industry search space and SEO competitors in around 10 minutes.
This is the exact same method I personally use to get an initial feel for what it’s going to take to rank at the top of Google.
You’re going to learn:-
- Who your competitors really are
- How to analyse the search results fast
- Work out what your competitors are doing to rank so well
- And lots more.
So come on. Let’s see what it is going to take to get you to #1.
One of the first things to do, before spending lots of time and money on any new SEO campaign, is to analyse your competition and the search space you want to compete in.
If you don’t do this at the outset, you will be going into your marketing campaign blind with no understanding as to what you are up against.
Below I will lead you through a simple process which will take you around 10 minutes and will give you an idea of how much time, money and effort you will need to put in, in order to become the top site in your search space.
Who are Your SEO Competitors?
Firstly, we need to establish who your competitors are. These will not necessarily be the businesses you have in mind. If you have a physical business location, for example, a shop, your competitors on the high street may not be the same competitors you will need to compete with online.
Your competition will be those websites that appear at the top of Google results for the keywords your potential customers are searching for.
Knowing who your main competitors are will allow you to not only find out what they are doing right but also what they are doing wrong. Once you know this, you can emulate what they do well and exploit what they do not.
Go Incognito and Search
Ok. One of the first things you will need to do is search Google for a few broad competitive keywords within your industry. Those you would really like to rank for. Ideally, you will want around three of these to give you a good idea of which competitors appear frequently and are dominating your search space.
One thing you will need to do when searching Google is to use incognito mode. To do this in Google Chrome on Windows you can use the following keyboard shortcut.
CTRL + SHIFT + N
Or you can click the top-right menu in Chrome and select ‘New incognito window’.
Other browsers will use a similar approach.
If you don’t do this, Google will show you personalised results, i.e. those sites you may have visited before (including your own). We don’t want this. We want to see the results that the average web user will see not those that are skewed and based on our own search habits.
Now you have enabled incognito mode, it’s now time to get an idea of who you are going to have to beat.
Analysing the Search Results
If you are looking to rank in a certain country, make sure you go to the correct Google site, i.e. for the UK, google.co.uk.
Now search for your first keyword.
I’m going to use ‘plumbers canterbury’ in this example.
See the results?
At this point, you may find that your own site does not rank as well as you thought. That’s just unfortunate. Google will have been serving you up results it thought you wanted to see based on your past search and click-through data.
Ok, now ask yourself the following questions.
Do you see any paid ads at the top of the page before getting to the organic listings?
In my example above there were two paid ads in the search that I did, which you can see before we get to the local map listings.
If you see paid ads, this can mean that there is commercial intent for your keyword and that your competitors are willing to pay good money for the clicks. If there are no paid ads, you may have discovered a good opportunity or a keyword that doesn’t have much commercial intent.
If there are ads being paid for, are they competitors you recognise?
Do you get a Google question box answering common questions related to the query you just entered?
If so that can indicate that the query is informational or a mixture of informational and commercial.
What kind of sites are ranking?
Are they business websites, home pages, sub-pages, directories, eCommerce sites, informational sites such as Wikipedia? Big businesses or small businesses?
Are there any map results showing for the search? Is it a local search?
If so how many? Do they have any reviews and if so how many?
If they have a lot of reviews you will need to work hard to challenge them in the results.
In my example below you can see that just after the paid ads there were a few local listings with reviews.
Now take a look to see if there are any related searches at the bottom of the page? (Google Search Suggestions) Are these relevant to your business? Could you target any of these as well?
Something else you can do is to type the following into Google, “allintitle: keyword”, where ‘keyword’ is the keyword you just searched.
What this does is gets Google to show you the number of pages where those keywords appear exactly in the title of the page.
Depending on the query and how competitive it is, you may see a handful or thousands of results. In my example using ‘plumbers canterbury’ there were 918 results.
Generally, if a website is targeting a keyword, they will place it prominently in the pages title tag so they can rank better.
You will now need to repeat the process above for another two or three keywords.
Do the same sites appear? If so which ones? In all probability, these are going to be your main competitors and the businesses you will be trying to leapfrog to grab all that juicy traffic.
If one or two sites keep appearing for these searches, they will most likely know what they are doing, so you can use these as a benchmark.
How are they getting there?
So now you have your list of competitors that appear the most when doing a few searches, you are now going to pick one so that we can deconstruct their own SEO efforts and find out what they have done to get where they are.
So decide on who your biggest competitor is based on your previous searches above.
In my example below I chose another search space that I am familiar with which is the golf holidays in spain related industry. I selected three of the biggest keywords in that industry which are:-
Golf holidays spain – 1,300 searches per month, CPC £2.26, organic difficulty 35, paid difficulty 72.
Golf breaks spain – 1,300 searchers per month, CPC £2.41, organic difficulty 35, paid difficulty 70.
Golf spain – 1,600 searches per month, CPC £1.33, organic difficulty 29, paid difficulty 34
As you can see by their organic and paid difficulty scores, all are fairly competitive and will take considerable effort to rank well. Another thing to note with the above is that the paid difficulty is quite high for the first two queries but fairly low for the last one.
This is probably because the last one can also incorporate informational queries so not as valuable as the first two which have much more commercial intent. So the cost per click is also lower than the other two.
Looking at those results in incognito mode I can see there are two or three dominant players within this search space which are yourgolftravel.com, golfbreaks.com and golfholidaysdirect.com. All of these consistently rank well for these and other related queries.
I could have used a couple of golf holiday in Spain tour operators that I work with Golf 4U Spain and Golf Breaks In Spain but I am going to choose golfholidysdirect.com instead and see how they have become one of the dominant players in this search space.
I chose these over the other two as their domain metrics were far lower than the other two sites. Golf Holidays Direct have a domain score of just 17 and 1,189 backlinks. Now compare that to the other two with golfbreaks.com have a domain score of 59 with 2.6 Million links, and yourgolftravel.com with a domain score of 69 and 167,000 links.
GHD are way inferior in domain and link metrics so it is especially intriguing as to how they are doing it.
Before I look at their on-page SEO, I wanted to check how they appear in the search results.
As you can see in the screenshot above, they rank at the top with a nice featured snippet.
You can see that the page title contains “golf holidays in spain | Spain golf breaks and then gets truncated as it is too long.
When you look at the full page title on their site it is “Golf Holidays in Spain | Spain Golf Breaks, Latest Package Deals for 2020/21 book today!”
86 characters instead of the cut-off point of around 60 characters. This is why Google truncated it in the search results.
Another thing to inspect at this point is the meta description that the site is using. In the example above it doesn’t show the meta description as it is a featured snippet. If we go to the site though and check the source code we will be able to check this which we will do in a moment.
Also, notice the URL in the search results which is https://www.golfholidaysdirect.com/golf-holidays-abroad/spain/ and the use of breadcrumbs in the search result which mirrors the URL and breadcrumb navigation on the landing page.
So the URL that they are using is a good length, descriptive and easy to remember.
Now click the search result and go through to the result that you are using. I will use my example.
So as you can see above, the landing page is definitely targeting the keyword “golf holidays in spain” along with “golf breaks spain” our original search query. The big heading is one of the first things that Google will be crawling on the page and it is wrapped in a H1 heading tag which is good practice.
Also at the top notice the breadcrumb with “golf holidays in spain”. There is also good E-A-T information at the top including email, phone number and ABTA protected which is a nice touch.
If we scroll down a little we can see that the page is heavily optimised for this and the other terms.
The headings which are circled above are H2’s which once again is good on-page SEO practice, so one H1 followed by H2 subheadings. Then there is a splattering of the main targeted keywords and synonyms (related words).
If we look at their source code we can see the following metadata.
So the main two to check are the title tag and the meta description.
Take note of the meta description. A nice meta description with keywords and USP’s is important if you want to improve click-through rates from Google’s search results.
Think about how you can do better….and stand out from your competition in the search results.
Do they link to other pages from the home page? If so, are these optimised for other keywords? Check the metadata, headings, textual content of the page, image alts. Are they linking well between the sites pages?
By off-page SEO I mean links.
Links act as a vote or citation for your site. They come in two main flavours. Followed links where the link passes page rank/link juice back to your site or nofollowed which means it does not.
Ideally, you will want to have more followed links than nofollowed links as it is the link juice from the followed links that will ultimately increase the websites domain score or domain authority and help it rank better in the organic search results.
To do this, use your favourite SEO tool. In my case, I will be using Neil Patel’s fantastic Ubersuggest https://app.neilpatel.com/en/
So as you can see, they have a low domain score of just 17, although they may have other domains redirected to this one so the domain score may not fully reflect this.
Good number of backlinks at 1,189 (834 which are followed) and a good number of organic monthly traffic at 13,576, although once again this is just an estimate based on ranking position and keyword traffic numbers. It gives us a rough indication nonetheless.
So Ubersuggest has a neat tool that shows you any domain’s top pages.
So the page that ranks for the golf holidays in Spain queries looks like this.
The software says they get around 1,785 visits to that page per month via organic traffic and gives me a juicy long list of keywords that the page ranks for and how many visits it gets for each one.
It also shows me the SEO Difficulty score for each one, paid difficulty and the amount people are pay for each Cost Per Click.
Another important metric that it shows me is the number of links back to the page. Just 11 in this example. If I click on ‘view all’ on the backlinks, I can see a list of all the pages that link back to this page to give it that SEO boost and allow it to rank better.
Most of these links appear to be sponsored or guest posts from blogs with medium to high domain scores. They all have nice keyword-rich anchor text, which will help the page rank well for those terms.
Ubersuggest also shows me any other links that point back to the domain to give me an overall picture of where and how their authority is being obtained.
Technical SEO is an aspect of search engine optimisation which can sometimes take a backseat. However, in this day and age, it’s an important factor to make sure that your site is functioning correctly, is returning the correct HTTP codes and running as quickly as possible.
Although I am not going to do a full audit of their website I can do a speed test to see how they are performing that front.
A fast website may help you rank better albeit with just a small boost according to Google, but may also help to reduce bounce rate. The slower a page loads, the more likely users are to become impatient and click away.
I was actually quite shocked to see the stats for this page considering that it ranks so well. A massive 25.2 MB in size (ideally you want no more than 2 MB) and a woeful page speed score of ‘F’. Shocking and one of the worst page speed scores I have ever come across.
However, on checking Google’s page speed insight tool in terms of first load etc, it scored quite well with 64 for mobile and 98 for desktop although there were warnings about the page size.
There are a lot of big images on this page, one is 4 MB in size and could quite easily be compressed or resized to get this right down and help the page load faster.
Just goes to show that page speed is not such a big issue for Google. Not at the moment anyway…
So there you have it. An easy way to analyse your industry’s search space and deconstruct your competitor’s SEO success.
The process above should only take around 10-15 minutes and will give you an insight into how much time, money and effort you will need in order to get to the top of Google.
See how easy it is to analyse your SEO competitors in minutes?
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