With the latest Google Penguin Algorithm Update, the continuous roll out of Panda Updates and other ranking algorithm changes ultimately affecting a site’s search result ranking, doing an SEO Competitive Analysis has really become increasingly more important, SEO-and-SEM-wise.
In an SEO Competitive Analysis, there are 3 areas to consider: Content, Authority, and Opportunity.
Content is not just all about text. You need to have a keyword target list. You need to know the most important terms to your company/site theme and do a review of the search results.
Determine and identify who comes up consistently in organic search results. Once you’ve identified the top 3-5 regularly appearing sites, review their results. Do they ethically optimize their title tags, meta descriptions and URLs? Determine if they are targeting the terms they are showing up for.
Use tools like SEMRush or Spyfu Kombat in assessing what other terms your competitors rank for and that drive traffic. And then determine if these terms are also on your targeted keyword list.
Don’t forget also to evaluate the authority of their social profiles on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google Plus. Assess for presence, content delivery, engagement, and their fan base.
Know if your competitor’s content gets links and shares, and if it has authority via inbound links.
Determine competitor engagement with link building. Use Open Site Explorer as it will enable you to easily review several competitors across multiple trust/authority factors.
Do a comparison of the domain authority and the page authority of top pages of the competitors’ sites. Also, know the amount of links coming to the site and the number of unique linking domains.
Know if the content on the site is shared, tweeted, or others and if there is an overabundance of a certain anchor text phrase or a dominance in any one type of linking site, directories, forums, news, etc. This is done so that you will know what types of content you may need, how well you need to push your content, and where you may need to make up any ground between you and the competitors.
Then, use a tool such as the SEOmoz Competitive Link Finder to find potential linking options to help even the score.
Do an assessment of the structure of the site to see where improvement is needed.
Assess the on-page keyword targeting of site pages in areas such as titles, copy, heading, alt tags and internal link anchor text.
Know the overall hierarchy of content on the site and if it is an advantageous information architecture. Determine if they make use of sitemaps in delivering content to search engines and if up to date techniques such as HTML5 and schema markups are being used.
If you want to know if they are SEO savvy, then assess their robots.txt to see if they are blocking certain content accidently or making other errors such as duplicate content. Doing this would tell you how updated they are with SEO and their site.