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SEO Competitor Analysis: How to Outrank Your Rivals in 2024

By Gabriele Meliūnaitė
Every niche in search engines features multiple websites fighting for visibility. Even in a specific industry, you'll see your competitors rank for relevant keywords you're targeting. Running an SEO competitor analysis is crucial for your website's visibility. You can never be a hermit in this business. Your competitors' websites are already researching your SEO strategy, so you might as well research theirs. With major search engines continuously updating their algorithms, analyzing an SEO competitor also changes. This in-depth guide uncovers how to conduct an SEO competitor analysis in 2024.

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Why SEO Competitor Analysis Matters?

An SEO competitor analysis refers to the process of assessing your competitors’ websites to gather intelligence on how they are optimizing for search engine rankings. This competitive analysis encompasses your competitors’ backlink profiles, keyword rankings, content strategy, and other avenues for acquiring organic traffic.

Keyword targeting is one timeless example of how effective SEO competitive analysis is. You can identify long-tail keywords your competitors are ranking for and then use the same keywords to optimize your content strategy.

An actionable SEO competitor analysis can be of benefit in these areas:

  • Identifying keyword gaps
  • Determining relevant topics for your content strategy
  • Discovering other avenues for link-building
  • Optimizing technical SEO aspects such as UX (User Experience)
  • Understanding your local SEO audience

Your SEO competitor can mirror a successful search engine optimization, whether you’re trying to grow a SaaS website with SEO or increase conversions on an eCommerce site. However, as we’ll discuss in the latter sections, it’s still important to develop a unique playbook.

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Business competitors vs SEO competitors

When conducting an SEO competitive analysis, you must differentiate business competitors from your SEO competitors.

Direct business competitors refer to groups, companies, or organizations that sell similar products or services and compete with you regarding market share and customers. On the other hand, SEO competitors are other websites or online platforms that compete with you for visibility in search engines.

If your immediate goals are product development, customer service, and overall market positioning, analyzing your business competitor should be your next move. On the other hand, we recommend doing an SEO competitor analysis if you need to compete with other websites in your niche.

Your business and SEO competitors serve important yet distinctive purposes in your marketing strategies.

Know Who Your SEO Competitors Are

As a website trying to attract more search traffic, banking on your USP (Unique Selling Proposition) is more important than ever.

The recent Google March 2024 core update has rolled out new spam policies, prioritizing content reliability, helpfulness, and uniqueness in core ranking systems. Your USP is a big help in your SEO strategy, and you can only do that through a competitor analysis.

The first step to doing an SEO competitor analysis is identifying your competitors. It’s not that difficult to begin with, as you have multiple ways to discover your competitors’ sites:

  • Doing keyword research will reveal competitor websites that are ranking for your target keywords
  • Read through industry-specific publications to see if they feature similar brands in your niche
  • Discover potential competitors that appear in location-specific keyword rankings
  • Use SEO competitive analysis tools like Google Search Console, Semrush, Ahrefs, and Moz

For example, you can see which competitors are ranking for your health blog’s “natural remedies for migraine headaches” keyword. A tool with an SEO competitive analysis feature will generate a list of sites that rank for that keyword, giving you a sneak peek at your SEO competition.

Best tools for SEO competitor analysis

Running an SEO competitor analysis is made easier through software and tools, some of which have freemium versions. These tools can help you gain that competitive advantage in SERPs (search engine results pages), especially if you can maximize their features.

For a quick overview, we made a list of the best tools for SEO competitor analysis, including the pros and cons of using each tool.

1. Semrush

Arguably one of the best all-around tools in SEO, Semrush is most suited for large-scale agencies and businesses.

Semrush offers a free 7-day trial to help you discover how this tool can be used for competitor analysis.


  • A vast array of data points on your competitors’ traffic
  • Keyword research with a competitor focus
  • Analytics capabilities for analyzing competitors’ backlinks
  • User-friendly data visualization
  • More reports and data exports than other paid tools


  • Expensive plans suited for medium to large-scale websites
  • Comprehensive learning curve
  • No provisions for multiple usersSEMRush Logotip

2. Moz

Compared to more complex tools like Semrush and Ahrefs, Moz is a great fit for small websites and people just starting their SEO journey. It’s also an excellent tool for competitor analysis, particularly with its free browser extension.


  • Free MozBar extension for tracking basic SEO metrics of your competitors
  • Keyword gap tool to identify new keywords for your content
  • Tools for identifying your competitors’ top landing pages and organic traffic
  • Easy-to-use interface for understanding competitor data
  • More affordable than Semrush and Ahrefs


  • Lower reporting limits
  • Not a lot of focus on link-building
  • Limited insights on competitors’ social media presence

Moz logotip

3. Ahrefs

Ahrefs’ powerful backlink database sets it apart from other business tools.

It’s a top choice for analyzing your competitors’ top-ranking pages, although it also has several drawbacks.


  • Extensive backlink database to analyze your competitor’s backlink profile
  • Tools for identifying main organic competitors
  • Content explorer feature that uncovers high-performing content in your niche
  • Powerful keyword research feature to identify new keywords in specific topics
  • Website structure analysis to understand your competitors’ pages


  • Steep learning curve
  • Fails to uncover search intent behind relevant keywords
  • Expensive starting price on subscription plans

Ahrefs Logotip

4. SpyFu

Having built its reputation on analyzing competitors’ paid search strategies, SpyFu has now diversified its SEO capabilities. Its affordability and other unique benefits make it a popular choice for SEO professionals.


  • Very affordable monthly plans
  • User-friendly interface that’s perfect for smaller businesses
  • Domain history tracker that includes historical keyword rankings
  • Strong PPC research tool that analyzes ad history and hidden trends


  • Limited backlink database
  • Still mostly focused on PPC
  • Limited reports on social media and content analysis
  • Less focus on on-page SEO elements like meta descriptions and title tags

SpyFu logotip

5. BuzzSumo

BuzzSumo is an underrated competitor analysis tool mostly used to optimize a social media content strategy.

You could use BuzzSumo’s content analysis capabilities to run one aspect of your SEO competitive research.


  • Content gap analysis to identify types of content that resonate with your competitors’ audience
  • Ability to discover influencers who share or repost your competitors’ content
  • Brand mention tracker to stay updated on industry trends and competitor activities
  • Free trial periods for each of their subscription plans


  • Database that’s mostly focused on social media, not on organic search results
  • Less priority on your competitors’ website structure and navigation
  • More expensive pricing than other specialized SEO tools
  • Limited insights on emerging social media platforms

BuzzSumo logotip

Conduct a Keyword Gap Analysis

You can’t rank for all the keywords in your niche until you conduct a keyword gap analysis.

A keyword gap analysis is an SEO strategy that identifies the keywords that your competitors are ranking for, but your website isn’t.

It reveals blind spots in your keyword research while also providing insights into your niche audience’s pain points and interests.

You can always use a keyword gap tool for a more efficient keyword gap analysis. There are free and paid versions of these tools, as you can see below:

  • Semrush Keyword Gap: Offers important data points like search volume, keyword difficulty, and estimated traffic for organic keywords
  • Ahrefs Content Gap: Provides reports on how much traffic each keyword brings to your competitor’s domain
  • Moz Keyword Explorer: Allows paid plans to enter up to 10 competitor domains
  • The HOTH: Free tool that allows you to analyze up to 3 competitor domains
  • iWriter: Free tool where you can add up to 3 competitor domains

Suppose you run a fitness website that sells equipment and machines. Analyzing a competitor’s domain could show high-ranking keywords such as “ankle weights for leg toning” or “eco-friendly yoga blocks,” two long-tail keywords for which you don’t have content.

Now that you have identified an opportunity, you can create a blog post or product page for those two keywords.

Identifying keyword gaps in your strategy will help you rank better in search results.

Keywords written on keyboard

Take Your Time With SERP Analysis

SERP analysis refers to examining top search results to understand the search intent behind each keyword.

Considering Google’s algorithm changes and user intent’s evolving trend, SERP analysis requires continuous monitoring. Moreover, different SERP features affect search rankings.

Fortunately, there are tools that you can use for each step of conducting a SERP analysis. Here is a quick overview of how to run a SERP analysis, along with the tools that can help you:

  • Research target keywords using tools like Google Keyword Planner and Answer The Public
  • Perform search queries on major search engines like Google
  • Use browser extensions like SEOquake and MozBar to analyze organic search results
  • Analyze paid search results using Google Ads Keyword Planner or SpyFu
  • Make a competitor analysis report using Semrush or Ahrefs
  • Gather your data and optimize your web pages
  • Track your SEO performance through Google Analytics or Google Search Console

A SERP report is a big aspect of your competitive analysis, especially in understanding the search internet from your target audience.

SERP (search engine results page)

Search intent is key – here’s why

Understanding search intent is what makes SEO competitor analysis important.

Why does a user type a particular query into a search engine?

Answering this question will help you identify the user intent behind high-ranking keywords in your niche. With this data, you’ll be able to create customer-centric SEO strategies.

There are different types of search intent, depending on the nature of your website. To make the most out of your web pages, align your content to these search intent types:

  • Informational: Queries where users are looking for knowledge or understanding on a particular topic
  • Transactional: Queries with the desire to purchase a product or service
  • Navigational: Queries that are centered around users searching for a specific page or website
  • Commercial: Queries that indicate users’ intent to research and compare products or services

Focusing on the search intent that’s suited for your niche audience will make for a more efficient SEO strategy.

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Analyze Your Competitors’ Content

Your competitors’ rankings depend greatly on the content they release, particularly those structured around trending keywords.

Content is at the forefront of your competitive analysis, especially now that SEO content is assessed through varying criteria. Google still pays major attention to the Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness (E-A-T) ranking factor, and their recent core update has doubled down on spammy, low-quality content.

Running a content analysis on both your and your competitors’ URLs is all about refining the value that you provide to your audience.

It helps you identify content gaps, allowing you to brainstorm new ideas even on the same keywords.

As you’ll see in the following sections, we recommend a five-step approach to conducting a content analysis on your organic competitors.

1. Content structure and navigation

Google’s algorithms monitor how users interact with your website.

For example, if many of your users leave immediately after visiting a single page, Google might take it as a signal of inorganized content structure and navigation.

These signals negatively affect your search engine rankings, but you can avoid it by optimizing your site’s UX. One way to do that is by analyzing your competitors’ content structure.

You can browse your competitors’ sites quickly and check how users navigate the main sections and internal links.

You can also analyze their sitemaps (/sitemap.xml or /sitemap.html) or leverage SEO tools such as Semrush, Ahrefs, Site Visualizer, and Website Auditor.

Regarding content structure, the most important attributes are clear navigation labels, relevant internal linking, and intuitive content flow. These characteristics are mostly evident among your competitors, who have the lion’s share of the search traffic.

2. Identify long-tail keywords

Long-tail keywords may be lower in search volume, but they also come with lower competition and higher ranking potential.

You’ll be surprised to see the specific keywords people type in on the search bar. Rummaging through your competitors’ pages for high-ranking long-tail keywords is a gold mine for the following reasons:

  • Provides accurate insights to search intent and audience interests
  • Helps you discover new content ideas and sub-topics in your niche
  • Offers information that can boost your whole marketing strategy, not just SEO

If you have an eCommerce website that sells laptops and computers, you might discover that one of your competitors is ranking for the long-tail keyword “2-in-1 laptops with the best touchscreens for artists”. You can use this keyword to create a listicle or category page for such devices.

3. Special focus on featured snippets

While there’s no guaranteed way to secure a featured snippet, your content strategy is in the right direction if you focus on ranking for this section.

Featured snippets directly answer a user’s search query, increasing the website’s visibility and click-through rates. So, focusing on the featured snippet strategy makes sense when doing an SEO competition analysis.

For example, SurveyMonkey’s SaaS content playbook may focus on answering featured snippet questions like “How to create a free online survey.”

If you’re also operating in survey creation like SurveyMonkey, it’s recommended that you create a FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) section on your pages to answer those kinds of user queries.

4. Evaluate content quality and relevance

Analyzing your competitors’ traffic could relate to their content quality and relevance.

With Google highlighting content quality over keyword stuffing, your competitive analysis should also focus on how other websites write their pages. Content evaluation of a competitor’s digital marketing strategy should cover these aspects:

  • Topic coverage and key ideas
  • Content length
  • Citation and references
  • Backlink profile
  • User reviews and engagement
  • Author Expertise

You could use content evaluation tools like Yoast SEO or Grammarly to assess the Readability Score of your competitors’ pages or utilize keyword tools to uncover their keyword targeting strategy.

Whether you’re analyzing your own SEO efforts or those of your competitors, remember that content substance is more important than length and other technicalities.

5. Examine on-page elements

Google uses on-page elements to crawl, understand, and index a website’s content.

With proper use of meta descriptions and meta titles, your own SEO efforts will be well-spent. Websites structure their on-page elements a little differently from each other. However, these small differences in styles could be a significant ranking factor in search engines.

You can utilize SEO tools to examine your competitors’ on-page strategies. For example, the MozBar browser extension lets you see your competitors’ title tags and meta description lengths.

Moreover, paid tools like Semrush and Ahrefs can reveal historical data about other sites’ title tags and meta descriptions.

With access to these data, you could imitate how a high-ranking web page structures and writes its headings, subheadings, and other on-page attributes.

Competitors’ Content Analysis

Perform a Backlink Gap Analysis

Google’s algorithms have evolved, but backlinks remain relevant in today’s organic search results.

If you’re targeting link-building, your competitors are likely doing the same. Even if you think you’re developing an excellent link-building strategy, there’s still a chance they’re doing it better.

Your SEO competitor analysis depends heavily on your backlink gap analysis. Performing such an analysis will give you direct insights into your competitors’ backlink profiles and the number of backlinks they’re acquiring from high-authority sites.

A backlink gap analysis is still relevant for one major reason: it shows you your competitor’s backlinks, but you currently lack them. This backlink gap allows you to discover other high-quality link sources and focus your outreach efforts on these websites.

You can follow this three-step approach in performing a backlink gap analysis.

1. Investigate competitor backlink strategies and profiles

Begin your backlink gap analysis by identifying your main competitors in your niche.

The process of spotting your competitors is now more straightforward with SEO tools.

These tools don’t just generate a list of competitors but also display their backlink profiles, anchor text distribution, and link context.

Let’s say you’re using Ahrefs’ Site Explorer tool. You type the competitor’s domain into the search bar, click the “Explore” button, and the tool will generate backlink metrics for you.

These metrics will show your competitor’s total number of backlinks and the domain rating and URL rating of its referring domains.

2. Assess the quality and diversity of competitor backlinks

Backlink quality is at the center of any link-building strategy.

As you evaluate your competitors’ backlink profiles, focus on their linking domains. Are they getting backlinks from websites with high domain authority? Do their links come from a diverse list of sources? How many backlinks do they have?

Diverse backlinks contribute to the topical relevance of your competitor’s website, while quality backlinks increase the site’s trustworthiness.

If you’re using Ahrefs’ Site Explorer tool, you can assess both attributes by clicking on the “Referring Domains” tab.

For a more efficient outcome, navigate to the “Top Pages” section and analyze the backlink quality of your competitor’s top-performing pages.

3. Identify potential opportunities

After you analyze your competitors’ backlink profiles, the next step is to benchmark them to your profile.

Here’s how you can uncover potential link-building opportunities through benchmarking:

Explore common backlinks, and don’t ignore backlinks that are unique to specific competitors

Identify which niche websites link the most to your competitors

Observe how your competitors are placing their anchor texts

Supplement benchmarking with researching keywords and optimizing on-page elements

Reaching out to niche websites for potential link-building partnerships is a good strategy, but ensure you have valuable content to offer, especially for a long-term collaboration.

Don’t Underestimate Technical SEO

Technical SEO lays the groundwork for search engines to understand your website easily.

Prioritizing technical SEO ensures that search engines can efficiently crawl and index your site, helping you potentially rank higher in search results. There are different aspects to technical SEO, including the following:

  • Faster loading times
  • Stable structure (no broken links and server errors)
  • Mobile-friendliness
  • Clear and intuitive navigation
  • Accessibility features
  • Readability

Analyzing the priorities of your competitors in this specific SEO category is also beneficial for your website. For instance, you can use the Semrush Organic Research Tool to conduct a technical SEO competitor analysis.

Once you have identified your main SEO competitors, you can type a competitor’s URL into Semrush’s research tool. Then, click on the “Site Audit” tab within the tool to generate a technical SEO report on your competitor.

This competitor report will show important details such as crawl errors, mobile usability, site speed, and internal linking. You can use this information to see how high-ranking websites in your niche are prioritizing specific technical aspects.

Once you’ve done this, you can apply the good strategies with your technical SEO optimizations.

Technical SEO

Adapting Your SEO Strategy Based on Competitor Insights

Your SEO competitor analysis can give you benefits even outside your SEO campaign.

Diving into your competitors’ SEO strategies could uncover different aspects of their marketing playbook.

What products are they promoting the most in their content? Do they advertise specific pricing deals and promos on their pages? What kind of niche audience are they addressing?

Doing a competitive analysis for SEO is just the tip of the iceberg. You can also use it to improve your product, increase brand awareness, and plan for sustainable growth.

Running an in-depth competitive analysis will take time, though. You must consider the digital industry’s evolving nature and your audience’s varying pain points.

This kind of analysis could be time-consuming, which is why many websites opt to collaborate with SEO marketing agencies. For instance, a digital marketing agency like us, Fortis Media, can do a full competitive analysis so you can focus on other aspects of your marketing needs.

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SEO Competitive Analysis: Key Takeaways

Regularly running an SEO competitive analysis can help bring in the most traffic potential for your website.

Competitive analysis helps you adapt to the current SERP trends, including ranking in the featured snippet section, structuring content for local SEO, and optimizing for voice search. You’ll eventually see positive results, especially if you constantly monitor your competitors’ movements.

You can always collaborate with trusted SEO marketing agencies to analyze your competitors more efficiently. If you aim to track your competitors regularly, you could link up with trusted digital marketing experts like Fortis Media.

Just make sure to do a thorough background check of the SEO agency you’re collaborating with, as this partnership is crucial for your long-term, sustainable SEO growth.

FAQs about SEO Competitor Analysis

  • What is the best SEO tool for competitor site analysis?

    Depending on your particular needs and budget, the most reliable SEO tools for competitor site analysis include Semrush, Ahrefs, Moz, SpyFu, and SimilarWeb.

    Most of these tools offer free trials or demos, so you could try their solutions before committing to a subscription plan.

  • How do you do a competitive analysis for local SEO?

    Running a competitive analysis for local SEO involves identifying your main local competitors and leveraging SEO tools to analyze their profiles and strategies.

    You can utilize tools like Google My Business, Moz Local, or BrightLocal to monitor and evaluate your competitors’ local SEO strategies.

  • What is the biggest factor in SEO?

    High-quality content is the biggest factor in SEO today, although link-building and technical SEO are still relevant.

    With Google doubling down on spammy, low-quality content, your content strategy is crucial for achieving and maintaining a good SEO performance.

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