SEO Competitor Analysis

SEO Competitor Analysis
  • Aug 24, 2022

SEO Competitor Analysis

Original article 10  Feb 2020 - Updated Dec 2022

An SEO company that ranks highly is not always an indication they are a good SEO for your business.

You may be exposed to a barrage of claims used to appeal to your competitive emotions. Fear of missing out.

If an SEO company approaches you, be wary. Firstly if they are so good at SEO why are they contacting you via phone or email or a paid ad? Shouldn't their SEO accomplish this?

It is a common 'sales technique' used by prospecting SEO companies to claim-:

"Your competitors are getting 1000 clicks on this keyword. You are missing out."

Appealing to your competitive emotions

Sophisticated SEO software like Ahrefs can give very accurate estimations of traffic volumes for both you and your competitors on specific keywords. Offers like a 'comprehensive website report' including 'keyword analysis, onsite audit and conversion optimisation' can be produced at a click of a button with SEO software like Ahrefs. It is the analysis of that information in the context of your business that is important.

The question is how can you improve your rankings with an appropriate ROI?

What we do know-:

  • We can see if a site is doing well on certain search terms
  • We can see how many searches are made in Google per month on that search term (volume)

What we don't know-:

  • How many of those clicks result in successful sales (conversion rate)

Analysing Competitors Incoming Links

SEO software allows us to know the incoming links a competitor is using and the specific page it links to. This is very useful information and can indicate why a site is working well in searches.

Knowing whether the link is from a highly respected domain, is a legitimate link in a related topic to your site can indicate the value of that link.

Many SEO practises that actually work are in direct violation of Google's rules. For example a paid guest sponsored advertorial can be in breach of Google's Webmaster Guidelines. Algorithms change, spammy links or paid links (if discovered) can cause your site to drop in rankings. Google consistently emphasises creating quality content. Google has to be cautious about penalising sites because competitors would use those strategies to discredit their opposition.

Consider the quality of the pages your competitor has links on. Is the style of writing the same as appears on their site? Is the style of writing clearly an English as a Second Language author. It is almost guaranteed to be a spammy link. And consequently can be reported as such.

Analysing Competitors Anchors

An Anchor is the test used in a link.


In the above example the Anchor is Google.

Some SEOs vary their Anchors due to Google penalising the over-use of exact match Anchors.

It is still a good idea to use some exact match anchor texts. However, in general, you want to mix it up with other types of anchor texts.

When analysing a competitors page, software like AHREFS can list the Anchors used in external links into that page. As an SEO this will give some insight into the tactics used by the SEO Company. The software also compares the value of the links in a score called DR - other SEO software may call this a Domain Authority score. These are always estimates.

It is a fine art to get a specific page to rank on various terms. If you try to create a page for every keyword variant you can canibalise your site. So balancing Anchor texts and being able to peak into what is working well for your competitors is a good thing for your strategy.

Competitors SEO Strengths

You may find a competitor does well on location based searches and has optimised their site for this. They may not do well on the large heavy hitting terms (generic) but do well on the location terms.

Analysing Competitors Historical Trends

Case Study 1

SEO Analysis Case Study 1

This is an interesting graph to analyse. Note the inverse effect of a sudden increase in external links (referring domains blue) to the site. This is a red flag to Google because this site quickly gained massive numbers of links. Organic traffic (orange) is an estimate. Notice it can vary from 147 (lowest) to 521 (highest). There were no significant Google algorithm updates (G on x axis) when the site started to drop in April. This indicates that the natural algorithm in Google detected spammy activity and started to reduce the value across the board for this site.

Case Study 2

SEO Analysis Case Study 2

This is an interesting graph to analyse. There had been virtually no Organic traffic (orange). A sudden improvement and a quick drop off after a Core Update. Note there has been no sudden increase in external links (referring domains blue). Later there has been a steady improvement after a Google Core Update.

Case Study 1 - 2 Summary

Both of the above sites have had "wild rides" in Google yet they both target similar search terms. The lesson(s) to learn in cases like these is that part of the issue is the quality of the site(s) and part of the issue is volitility in Google algorithms. As an SEO you have to have the experience to recognise a radical shift in an algorithm and a permanent trend. The sites above have radically different link profiles. The site "Case Study 2" has virtually no external links and limited content depth, yet it is improving in rankings under current 2022-23 trends.

Case Study 3

SEO Analysis Case Study 3

This is the best trend. It is not directly comparable to Case Study 1 or 2 it is a completely different industry. It is a trade related site. This is the trend we are aiming for as an SEO. More of the benefit is created from the site itself with little reliance on external links (referring domains blue). In this case it may be that the external links remain but they too are improved regularly. SEO on this site started in March 2019. What is important is there are no bottoming out, no times when the site produces no organic traffic, since the start of SEO.

Case Study 4

SEO Analysis Case Study 4

An eCommerce site showing solid long-term growth. This growth continues through the Google Link Spam Update. This site is not reliant on ever increasing external links. It uses a content strategy.

Case Study 5

SEO Analysis Case Study 5

An eCommerce site which dominates the same industry as Case Study 4. However notice the inverse effect of the Google Link Spam Update. When the site increased its external links there was a direct inverse response in organic search results.

Case Study 4 - 5 Summary

An example of eCommerce SEO with the volumes of organic searches indicating how many opportunities are available. This trend will be interestings because it appears Case Study 5 will need to adjust to the Google Link Spam Update or risk losing its dominant position to better quality SEO.

Case Study 6

SEO Analysis Case Study 6

This is an interesting graph to analyse. There was a site upgrade in Decemeber 2021 where the developer made some fundamental mistakes. Organic traffic dropped to nil. For the client, this was devastaing. The graph shows the recovery once the mistake was realised by the SEO.

Case Study 7

SEO Analysis Case Study 7

This is a very dramatic example of an algorithm change in Google. This site is competing directly with Case Study 1 and Case Study 2. Every time this site has increased its external links the site has historically improved Except for the December Link Spam Update where Google relied on articificial intelligence. Google stated: "Ranking may change as spammy links are neutralized and any credit passed by these unnatural links are lost." It is important to note this will be adjusted, however as an SEO we need to adjust to sometimes quite radical changes. Google even warns against appearing as a spammy link site as the changes will work at "scale".

Your choice of SEO matters because if they have broken Google Webmaster Guidelines on their own sites - what short-cuts are they taking with yours.

Is the SEO familiar with the industry?

In some industries, you simply need product knowledge to advance in search rankings. Often this requires an SEO with some 'skin in the game'. For example an SEO for a local pest company, would do well with a track history of success and some related clients like Building Inspectors or Builders.

Is the SEO trustworthy?

Would you hand over the keys to your house to someone you just met online? Handing over access to your website hosting and server to an SEO that outsources is risky. It is too easy to cause issues and far more expensive to fix them. Look for an SEO where you can see proof of ongoing success for your industry or a similar industry. If there is success, how much has that success cost? Verify their integrity. Does their site match the rhetoric? Often you will find slow, poorly created sites, riddled with validation errors, yet the company claims they will fix the same issues on your site.

Is the SEO multi-skilled?

We discuss the value of a multi-skilled SEO, there is also a very good case to use a specific type of SEO in certain competitive situations. In the article Writing for SEO we discuss some of the techniques that will improve the readability of an article.

Google generates income from advertising

It is no secret that Google's business model relies on generating income from advertising. However did you know that time a person spends on your site from an advertising click can be very different from an organic search click?

CPC VS Search
Organic Search Clicks stay longer on site than Paid (CPC)

The Competition has changed

The Google available real-estate has changed. Page 2 can be virtually oblivion. Paid search is now larger, more prominent. Actual local businesses compete with conglomerates for the same organic search placement. Even for searches based on locations will be filled with conglomerates that are going to give you "their list" of the search you were looking for. You may be in the top 3 legitimate organic searches, that actually are a company rather than a list of other companies, yet still not be on the all important 1st page.

Phil Hoile
Web Developer 20+ years of web development and SEO.

Phil Hoile





A Gold Coast SEO and Web Developer