Competitive Website Analysis: Guide To Finding Your Real Online Competition

So when working with clients there are many things we look at to determine how well they are doing online. One metric we analyze is a clients online competition. We look at this from two angles; competitive link metrics and competitive ranking metrics. The problem we often come up with is clients have a different perception of who their online organic competition is. The following post will teach you how to find your true online competitive landscape by utilizing the SEOmoz keyword difficulty tool.

Let’s first define what “online competition” means. For the sake of this article we are strictly talking about your organic (Google, Yahoo, Bing) competition and not PPC, Social, or other online media channels, since they will have their own analysis based on their channel specific metrics.

How to Find Your True Online Competition

When it comes to determining what your online competition is, it’s important to follow the steps below and not be skewed by other marketing channels, or brand related terms that you think might be in your same competitive landscape. Since Google returns search results based on relevancy and what they feel will match the users search query the best, its important to judge your online competition based on the keyword set you are trying to rank for.

Step 1: Define your keyword set

This is the most important step in the process, because without a focused keyword strategy, it becomes near impossible to determine who is also targeting those keywords in the organic results and thus who is your true online competition.

Defining your keyword set can be done in a couple different ways depending on if you have a site or if you are building one.

  1. If you have a site already and want to pull your keyword set you can use a tool such as Screaming Frog SEO Spider or Xenu Link Sleuth. Both these tools (one Mac focused and one PC focused) will spider your site and allow you to export your pages along with the Title Tags for each page. From the title tag export (if those have been optimized for SEO) you can then generate a set of keywords that you are targeting.
  2. If you are in the process of building a website or want to expend your current keyword set then I would suggest starting with the Google Keyword Tool, Using Google and Yahoo suggest, or other keyword tools to define your keyword set.

Step 2: Content and Gap Analysis

With the introduction of the Panda Update it has become ever more important to have quality in-depth content that targets keywords. This content needs to be robust, focused, and well written to satisfy both the user and the search engines for the keywords you’re trying to capture, and those that the user expects the page to be about when they click through from the search results.

If there are not content sets that match up with the keywords you want to target I would suggest bringing in a quality content creation company to build out the content sets that your site is missing. We would also suggest utilizing an SEO information architect to define the structure that best satisfies the users click path while focusing on optimizing internal SEO metrics distribution to help with rankings.

We strongly suggest you do not use content or text brokers that mass produce low quality content. We have done tests with these types of sites on small and large scales and most of the content that is produced did not meet our quality standards we have for our clients.

Step 3: Keyword Difficulty Tool

Once you have defined your keyword set, and identified gaps in content sets based on the keyword set you want to target, the next step is utilizing a tool like the SEOmoz Keyword Difficulty Tool to bring back the top 10 competitors in Google (onscreen) or top 25 (if exported to .csv) based on keyword.

For each keyword you have identified, you will need to run a keyword difficulty report. As stated above this will bring back your top competition per keyword along with additional metrics (noted below).

There are many tools that will bring back the top 10 sites ranking in Google, but in my opinion the SEOmoz tool has some valuable data that it returns about the pages that are ranking. These metrics become valuable when determining what it will take to rank for a keyword. The other benefit of this tool is that you can check keywords across multiple Google regional websites for different languages.

Additional Valued Metrics

  • Page authority: Similar to Google Page Rank 1-10, and shows importance of that page
  • Page linking root domains: Total domains linking the page that is rankings
  • Domain authority: how strong that domain is as a whole
  • Root Domain Linking Root Domains: Total Root domains linking to the root domain the page is located on

keyword report

Step 4: Analyze and Organize the Keyword Difficulty Tool Data

This is the final step to determine your true online competition. By this point you have defined your keyword set, determined where the gaps in your content were for the keywords you want to rank for, and run all those keywords through the SEOmoz Keyword Difficulty too (and exported the results). Now it’s time to analyze the data and define your true online competition for the keyword set you are targeting.

The example below looked at a keyword set that was targeted around Mortgage, Refinancing and Home Loans in which, for this example exercise, we went through and defined head terms associated with those top 3 terms, and high value supporting keywords for a total keyword set of close to 80 keywords. We then ran each keyword through the keyword difficulty tool and captured the data.

The following is the excel sheet of the data we gathered.

  • URL: URL of the top 20 Domains Ranking
  • Market Share: This is based off their keyword ranking compared to total keywords
  • Homepage Occurrences: Total number of home page rankings
  • Interior Page Occurrences: Total number of interior pages ranking
  • % of Interior Page Occurrences: % of interior vs home pages ranking
  • Site Domain Authority: Authority of the domain as a whole
  • External Followed Links: Total followed external links
  • Domain-wide Linking Root Domains: Linking Root Domains to all pages on the primary domain

online competition report

14 Step Process for Finding a Site’s Top Competitors in Organic Search

  1. Identify a set of relevant keywords the client is trying to rank for
  2. Take these keywords and enter them one at a time into SEOmoz’s Keyword Difficulty Tool
  3. On the tool’s results page below the fold, the SEOmoz tool will provide the Top 10 ranking pages
  4. Export this report to CSV
  5. Copy and paste the data for the Top 10 results into a central Excel workbook
  6. Repeat steps 2-5 for all keywords identified in the keyword set
  7. Once all ranking URLs and metrics are copied into the centralized workbook Select and Copy all the ranking URLs
  8. Paste these URLs into a new worksheet
  9. Select all URLs and use the ‘Text to Columns’ filter to extract the URLs’ root domains
  10. Select all the root domains and create a Pivot Table using the root domains as the value, this should count the number of times a root domain occurs in the list giving you the most commonly occurring URLs (the top organic competitors)
  11. Divide the number of keywords a competitor ranks for by the total keywords in the set to find each competitor’s “Market Share of Relevant Keywords”
  12. Determine the number of competitors you want to look at (Top 10, Top 20, etc.) and use SEOmoz’s Open Site Explorer tool to find the site metrics for each domain (standard metrics include Domain Authority, number of External Followed Links and Linking Root Domains but others can be included)
  13. Look back through all the ranking URLs and count the number of times a competitor’s homepage appears versus the number of times their interior pages appear and use these numbers to calculate the “% of Interior Page Occurrences”
  14. Paste all metrics and calculated data for each URL into a final chart to present to the client

And as always if you want to test out these tools head over to SEOmoz

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