Search engine optimization (SEO) isn't just for your content team. Research into your competitors’ content strategies can, and should, be a mainstay of your competitive research process.

That’s where an SEO competitive analysis comes in; it reveals the gaps in your SEO strategy so you can adjust and overtake the leaders in your space – with both your content and your products.

And in this article, we’re going to show you how to do it.

This 7-step guide won’t just cover how to figure out which keywords your competitors are going after; we’ll also suggest ways you can use this information to learn about their overall marketing strategy – and improve yours accordingly.

So, sit back, strap in, and get ready to overtake your competitors in Search. 🚀

What is an SEO strategy?

First, let’s break down how an SEO strategy works.

Imagine your kitchen faucet just won’t stop dripping. Who are you going to turn to for help? Why, your old friend Google, of course! If, in the list of search results, you see the name of your favorite hardware store, you’ll likely hit that link. 

While you might initially search “how to fix a leaky faucet”, you’ll almost certainly follow that search up with others. If the website can answer every query you have, you’ll trust it even more, and you’ll trust its product recommendations more too. 

In the end, you might buy more than just a new cartridge to stop your faucet from leaking – and the more you buy, the more profit the store makes.

"How to fix a leaky faucet" Google search

It works the same in any industry. Businesses identify topic clusters around which to create content. These topics are hyper-relevant to the business, and to the pain points they’re trying to solve for their customers.

How to identify keyword opportunities

But how do businesses know which search terms to target? Well, typically content writers do research to find out which keywords their target audience is searching for, and they answer those queries with content to:

  • Build trust,
  • Frame themselves as an authority,
  • And ultimately sell more products.

Now, the SEO strategy we’ve just outlined is not only one you should be using for your business – it’s one you can use against your competitors too. If you can figure out which keywords your competitors are targeting, you can learn more about the topics that are important to them and their customers.

For example, if a competitor has five times as many pages on DIY plumbing jobs as it does on installing shelves, the plumbing content probably brings the business more leads and makes it more money.

You can use intel like this to fill gaps in your own content strategy and start to capture more leads and more business.

Let’s explore how. 

How to Perform an SEO SWOT Analysis
SWOT is as crucial for SEO as for any other area of your organization. Whether you’re just getting started with SEO or want to take a comprehensive look at past efforts, a SWOT analysis will be an invaluable planning tool.

How to perform a competitor SEO analysis

We’ll use SEMrush to demonstrate, but there’s a wealth of free and paid tools you can use to do this, including Ahrefs WebMasterTools, SpyFu, and AnswerThePublic. At the simplest level, you can even just manually check out your competitors’ online content.

A couple of quick tips before we get started:

  1. Pay attention to the website’s folder structure for clues into how content is organized into topics.
  2. Many sites also have tag pages or category pages that you can use to learn more about the highest-level subjects your competitors are interested in.

Here's the process:

  1. List your main competitors
  2. Identify keyword gaps
  3. Filter out irrelevant keywords
  4. Map keywords to pages
  5. Assess your competitors' efforts
  6. Analyze their backlinks profiles
  7. Review technical and on-page SEO

Step one: List your main competitors

The first step is to create a list of the main competitors that you want to analyze. Choose companies that operate in the same space and market as you, then zoom in on the ones that represent the biggest threat to your business. 

Step two: Identify keyword gaps

Once you have a list of your main competitors, run it through an SEO tool like SEMrush to find keyword gaps – keywords that your competitors rank well for, but you do not.

In SEMrush, you can use the Keyword Gap tool to compare the keywords your website ranks for against one or more competitors. You can filter to show just the keywords competitors rank for that you're missing out on.

Let’s say you’re Home Depot. You might enter Lowe’s domain as well as your own for a side-by-side comparison. From there, you can select the keywords that Lowe’s is ranking for that you’re missing.

You can also filter for keywords you rank for in common, or those you rank for that your competitor doesn’t. These might indicate that your strategy needs reworking, or perhaps you’ve identified a niche your competitors have missed.

Keyword gap analysis in SEMrush: vs.

Step three: Filter out irrelevant keywords

The initial keyword gap results may include some irrelevant or low-value keywords. To refine the list, filter by search intent and crank up the keyword difficulty threshold; that way, you’ll remove outliers and surface the most relevant, high-value keyword opportunities you’re missing out on.

Step four: Map keywords to pages

Now you have a refined list of keywords, you can start mapping them to specific pages on your competitors' websites. This will reveal which content areas they’re focusing their SEO efforts on.

Step five: Assess your competitors’ effort

Don't just look at what keywords your competitors are ranking for, but how much effort they’re putting into those pages. Are they producing high-quality, in-depth content? Or are they managing to rank despite putting in zero effort? If they’re pouring their energies into ranking for a certain topic, that’s clearly a priority area for them.

Here, Lowe's has gone to the effort of incorporating a Table of Contents, accompanying images for each step of the progress, and collapsible sections for easier navigation. All of these aspects point to the effort they've invested in creating the content for this page.

There’s more to SEO than just keywords; looking at your competitors' backlink profiles is a great way to get to grips with their off-page SEO strategies. 

Use a tool like SEMrush's Backlink Analytics to analyze things like:

  • The authority level of the websites linking to them.
  • Whether they’re getting links from niche-relevant or brand-relevant websites.
  • The types of pages (e.g. blog posts, directories, news sites) that link to them.

Backlink analysis in SEMrush

Does it look like your competitor has spent time and money trying to get backlinks from particular websites, or particular types of websites?

The law of effort applies here too, so if the answer is ‘yes’, you’ve learned something useful. If a competitor values votes of confidence from websites in a particular niche, ask yourself if it could help your own strategy to target similar brands and websites.

Step seven: Review technical and on-page SEO

It’s also worthwhile to analyze the on-page elements of your competitors’ sites. On-page SEO work, like optimizing headers and metadata, isn’t that time-consuming, but it tells you how your competitor wants people to see the page.

Page-speed metrics, too, can tell you a lot about the pages your competitor is prioritizing. While it might not be surprising to see landing pages for key products being optimized for speed, when content pages answering informational queries are speed-optimized, it’s worth paying attention. These pages are probably worth something to the business and might be generating valuable leads.

If this sounds like a lot of work, don’t worry – testing competitors’ web pages for speed couldn’t be simpler. Just drop the relevant URL into Google's tool at

It's rare for even well-optimized pages to pass the Mobile Core Web Vitals assessment. Pages that do should stand out, but relative performance is important, too.

Summing up

By following the seven steps above, you'll gain a well-rounded understanding of your competitors' SEO strategies from both an on-page and off-page perspective. This data can then inform your own SEO priorities and content strategy.

You can always dive deeper down the rabbit hole, examining your competitors’ presence on social media, checking out online reviews, and looking at paid keyword data in Google Adwords. Combine that information with what you’ve found from your SEO competitor analysis to learn even more about your competitors’ overall marketing strategies.

Finally, make sure you consider what your findings mean for your own marketing strategy. Don’t just blindly copy what your competitors are doing – instead, use what you’ve learned to identify weaknesses in your strategy and fill gaps in your existing content. This will help you create a marketing plan that’s tailored to your business objectives.

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