When we talk about SEO we mean we want our website to rank on top of all search results for a given term. We are not alone to think so, there are several  hundreds and even thousands of websites battling out for that space. We are competing against website who already have that rank and who are trying to achieve that rank.

So optimizing your website alone would do no good if you are not aware that what is the competition of space that you are optimizing for. Concentrating on your website and optimizing it for better ranking without looking at competition is just like running on race track with your eyes closed and hoping to win the race.

Competition analysis is as import as other factors are in SEO.  Competition analysis is not about spying on your competitor, but it is about getting information that what your competitors are doing to stay on top. It not only tells you what they are doing, but helps you build your own idea to do things better than them.Lets us discuss competition analysis in details now.

Identify your competitors.

Identifying your competitor can be sometimes tricky, but if you have a defined niche website or if you know what keywords you want to rank for it is then quite simple. In case if you are not sure who your competitor are then possibly you have not done keyword research yet. So to start of first make a list of keyword which describes your website or, keywords for which you want to rank for. Perform search on Google  with those keyword and make a list of websites which rank higher for these keywords. This list will give you your possible competitor.  Refine this list to find more relevant competitor and this list should be good enough of starting point for you.

Now that you have got a list of competitor next step will be to gather information about them and  evaluate them on different parameter. To accomplish this task you will not only have to  use our intelligence, but you will also have to use tools. There are a number of tools which can be used for this purpose. Some are free, some are paid and some are available for trial basis, for a limited time or functionality.

Now let us discuss key parameters which we will use to evaluate our competitor and I will also suggest the best tools to do the analysis.

1. Popularity of your competitor: Why should you do a popularity check of your competitor? The simple answer is “To do your goal settings”. If you know where your competitor are you will be able to set up a target for yourself and work towards achieving that goal. One of most important indicator of popularity is ranking of the website on the internet. There are various agencies who rank websites based on some parameters. Below are some ways to check the ranking of a website and how to read the ranking score.

Google Page rank: Page rank is assigned to a website by google on the basis of an algorithm preformed to assign the importance and relevancy of a website. Page rank score is given  between 0 and 10. Higher the number higher is your page rank. So check what is the page rank of your competitor to find out what is their position in Googles eye. There are various websites where you can check it one such website is http://www.prchecker.info. You can also install Page rank add on, on Google Chrome and Firefox this instantly displays the page rank on the tool bar as soon as you open the website. Although it is one of the important popularity indicators, but page rank is not frequently updated so you might be looking at a pare rank which is quite stale and may not indicate the current popularity of the website. This is the reason we need to look towards other ranking agencies and the ranks given by them.

Alexa rank:  After google alexa.com is one of the most reputed and trusted place to check for website ranking. Alexa.com not only gives you the ranking of a website, but apart from it gives you hell lot of useful information about a website. Alexa gives world ranking as well as country ranking of a website it is quite useful  if you want to compete with a website for traffic in particular companies.

Ranking provided by Alexa is on the basis of traffic estimates of a website and its ranking is updated more frequently as compared to Google page rank. Ranking number of Alexa are actually the position of a website in the world or country lower the number higher is your rank in the world. Guess who is at no 1 spot on world ranking? I bet you have the same answer as I have, but no prizes for correct answers J.

MOZ Open site explorer: Open Site explorer is another tool to find the position of a website on the internet. It gives two types of ranking to a website which is called Page authority and Domain authority Domain authority is the strength of domain and page authority is the strength of a single page. The ranking is done from 1 to 100 higher the number higher is the popularity. Open site explorer is a product of MOZ.com and is reputed digital marketing company whose data can be trusted and widely used by webmasters. You can access the tool at https://moz.com/researchtools/ose. You can also install add on which is available for Firefox and Chrome.

2. Keyword analysis: Kewords form the building block of search traffic. It all starts with words typed in the search engine. So it is important to find out what keywords your competitor is targeting and what keywords drive traffic to your competitor website. To get this information you can use tools such as Alexa.com and Semrush which gives insight on keyword of your competitor. Once you have this information I would suggest not to use them directly, but I would recommend to use them to do further keyword research and find out the keywords. This would give you additional benefits as you not only have keywords of your competitor, but by keyword research you have additional keywords which your competitor may have missed to use.

3. Backlink analysis: By now you are aware how important backlinks are in SEO. While doing competitor analysis this is the main area to focus on. To do backlink analysis, there are various tools available for example alexa.com, Moz open site explorer, ahref.com and there are several others, but these there are most trusted and widely used tool to find the backlink of a website. You can not only use these tools to check backlink of any website. The idea is not only to get the number of backlinks for a website but, to find out where are the getting backlink from.

When you use these tools they not only give the number of backlinks of a website, but they also give you the list of links of backlinks. They do not provide the entire link in free version only first 5 are free for you to check. I would strongly suggest you to click through these link and visit websites where the links are. This will not only help you to find the website where you can build back links to your own website, but you will also be able to find out a new innovative method that your competitor is using to build backlink. This will save lots of your time as you will not have to spend time thinking your own new methods of link building.

4. Check your competitor social media presence: Social media is not directly related to optimization, but it certainly has an impact on it and it is also a major source of traffic generation of a website. There is no such tool for this, but it is quite easy. Check if your competitor has a Facebook fan page and a Twitter account. Like their page and follow them on twitter. By doing this you will not only be updated on what they are doing or what is their future plan, but you will also be able to find out what kind of audience to target for your own Facebook fan page and Twitter followers. It will also give you an insight how your competitor is engaging their customers on social media.

5. Analyze your competitor PPC ad. PPC is most efficient and easy way to generate immediate traffic to a website. Although it is paid services many webmasters use it mainly in if their website is new to increase the popularity of the website and get their website introduced to users. Some may use it regularly depending on what their ambition is. One tool for this purpose is Spyfu. This tool can give you an insight on what keywords they are targeting for advertising and how much is their estimated spending. This would help you to take a call whether you too should go ahead with PPC advertising or not.

Competition analysis is an ongoing process. You have to continue it if you want to stay on top. You cannot relax once you outrank your competitor as there many others who will still be looking to outrank you.

In this chapter I have given you an idea what competitor analysis is and what and factors key parameters on which you can do the analysis. Competitor analysis is a time consuming process, but it is vital for success. So I would do several blogs about it, in which I will give you some tricks and tips on completion analysis and there will be some blogs which will explain in details on how to use tools (some of which I have mentioned above) for competitor analysis. So watch out for it.

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