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5 Ways To Collect SEO Competitive Intelligence

Competition in SEO is good.

On one hand, the fact that there are competitors in your niche means there’s money to be made. Else, you would be the only site in an industry no one cares about.

On the other, they give you a baseline what SEO tactics work and which ones don’t.

In this post, you will learn how SEO competitive intelligence can help give you a leg up against the competition.

By gathering intel on competing sites, you can develop your strategy based on their performance.

But before we jump into competitive intelligence, let’s first define what it means.

What is SEO Competitive Intelligence?

It refers to the data and information gathered about your competitor that you can use to help rank your site higher on SERPs.

At this point, you should be aware of the different SEO variables the the needle in search rankings.

If not, here’s quick overview of what you need to know about collecting SEO information about competitors:

SEO has two main factors: on-page and off-page (link building).

Under on-page SEO, there are smaller factors you need to observe to ensure that your site and its pages are optimized for organic search.

To help you, I have written a post that shows how you can incorporate the different on-page SEO elements into your website. Also, there’s a handy checklist you can download from the page for easy reference.

Regarding link building, you also have to worry about a myriad of variables that determine the strength of a link profile.

For example, a site with a handful of backlinks from authoritative websites are more valuable than thousands of inbound links from no-name sites.

Now, if you tweak your website following these factors, you can be sure to rank on top of SERPs for your target keywords.

In order to do that, you must check out how your competitors have done it. This way, you have a barometer on the best plan of attack for your website.

Of course, this is easier said than done!

Unless you know your way around SEO through years of experience, you can easily get lost in collecting intel from your top competitors keeping all these factors in mind.

How to Gather Competitive Intelligence for SEO

Below, I will show you different ways that you can fetch SEO data of competitors and how you can use them to your advantage.

For this part, I will primarily be using SEMrush to perform most of the tasks below. The tool is my secret sauce for optimizing my sites to rank for Google.

However, you can also use your SEO tools of choice in learning more about your competitor’s SEO activity.

Let’s get on with it, shall we?

Check the estimated traffic of a site

Google Analytics is arguably the best tool for breaking down your site’s marketing performance.

It shows where you get most of your traffic from, how you get them, how long do they stay on your site, and more.

Unfortunately, you can’t take a look at your site’s GA since it’s exclusively only to those with access to its account.

However, the next best thing you can use is SEMrush’s Traffic Analytics.

Simply type in your competitor’s URL and the tool will provide you with its estimated traffic.

semrush traffic analytics

It also breaks down the different sources from traffic. From here, you can see how many monthly visitors are coming from organic search.

semrush traffic analytics traffic sources

The more organic traffic the site has, the more you want to analyze the site’s SEO.

Which brings us to the next point:

Identify what keywords competitors are ranking for

The biggest reason why your competitors are hauling so much organic traffic is their keyword rankings.

Through proper keyword research, they were able to optimize their site pages for low-hanging fruit keywords, allowing them to rank on top of SERPs with relative ease.

To find out what these keywords are, hop on to Domain Overview under Competitive Research and enter the domain URL.

semrush domain overview

The overview will show you a lot of thing. But zero in on Organic Search Traffic and click on the number.

semrush organic serach positions

From here, what you can do is determine keywords that you can compete against. Click on the KD % (Keyword Difficulty) to other keywords from easiest to most difficult.

Create a new page on your site and optimize for the keyword by creating a much better version of the one your competitor published.

An easier way to do this is by heading to Keyword Gap.

Enter your domain URL and at least one competitor URL before clicking “Compare.” The tool will break down which keywords your competitor/s is/are ranking for that you’re not by clicking on the “Missing” tab.

semrush keyword gap

This way, you have a wealth of keyword and topics ideas you can optimize for on your website!

However, what’s even better is to tweak existing posts on your site that share the same keywords as the competing site.

This way, you don’t have to start from scratch and you simply have to make small changes to make massive organic traffic gains!

To do this from Keyword Gap, click on the “Shared” tab.

semrush keyword gap shared

Check out the pages that rank for your keywords and analyze why your competitor’s page is outperforming yours.

Improve existing content

When trying to rank for a keyword, your competition are all the pages ranking on SERPs for it.

Aside from manually checking the content, you can use SEMrush’s SEO Content Template to help you gather vital information about other pages ranking for your keyword.

In particular, this feature shows to you the Semantically related keywords and average word count of the top 10 pages.

semrush seo content template

The former is a list of words or phrases that appear on the top page that you should include in your copy.

By including the keywords suggested by SEMrush, you help associate your content with the top-ranking pages. By fashioning your content similar to the ones found on top of SERPs, you increase the chances of your pages to rank alongside them!

A much better tool that provides even more data about the ranking pages is Surfer.

Not only do you see the most common keywords and phrases used in the content, but you also get to see the how vital each factor is in search rankings.

surfer seo structure

In this example, you should turn your attention on improve your page’s exact keyword density and partial keywords. That means you need to mention your target keyword and its variation in your copy more.

Check the box to help you visual the data for you.

surfer seo graph

Keep in mind, however, that following the on-page suggestions from both tools won’t automatically increase your search rankings.

As shown in the template, you also need to create backlinks to compete with more authoritative web pages.

Speaking of which:

Analyze their backlink profiles

We already mentioned that building high-quality backlinks will get your page on top of Google.

Ad to help you do that, you need to look at the link profiles of your competitors.

Using SEMrush, go to Domain Analytics > Backlinks and type one of their domain URLs there.

semrush backlinks

There’s a lot to sink your teeth into once you’re in the overview page. But focus on Authority Score Trend.

This tells you how authoritative a site is based on its backlinks. The higher the figures, the more authority it wields.

You can dig deeper by scrolling down to see Referring Domains by Authority Score.

semrush referring domains by authority score

This gives you a general sense of backlink distribution according to the authority of the sites it has links from.

Click on which range of Authority Score backlinks you want to see.

semrush referring domains

From here, click on the numbers under the Backlinks columns of each referring domain to see what the links are.

The goal here is to understand how your competitors were able to acquire these links and how you can replicate that for your site.

Discover link opportunities

The process outlined above is a crapshoot in terms of finding sites where you get backlinks from.

It’s possible that you already have a link from the sites you’re checking out from competitors.

Therefore, the better way to go about it by using SEMrush’s Backlink Gap.

Similar to Keyword Gap, enter your domain alongside other sites that you want to compare backlinks with.

The results will show a table of domains where at least a domain has a link from ordered from highest to lowest Authority Score.

semrush backlink gap results

In this example, it shows that a site got links from Google from the Chrome Web Store. It’s because the site developed an extension or app that allowed him to create a link to his site in the description section of the extension.

google chrome web store backlink

So, if you want to get a link from these sites, then you must consider doing the same approach that you’re competitors did, regardless of how difficult it is!

Conclusion

Using the methods above for collection SEO competitive intelligence, you should be more equipped to develop a plan to help increase your search rankings.

However, the gathered data can also help you piece together an overall marketing plan for various channels like content marketing, social media, and others.

By creating better content and building relationships with authoritative websites in your industry, you make way for the creation of a better website that’s beyond what SEO can do.

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Craig Campbell

I am a Glasgow based SEO expert who has been doing SEO for 18 years.

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