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Unmask your true SEO competitors

Taking an interest in your online competition is healthy. Knowing what the competition is up to can inspire your own business decisions about content, design, and SEO.

But just who are your online competitors? And how do you find them? 

If you’re struggling to uncover the businesses you should be keeping an eye on when it comes to your SEO efforts, you’re in the right place. 

In this short article you’ll discover:

  • what an SEO competitor is
  • how an SEO competitor may be different from a direct competitor
  • who you should be keeping an eye on (and who you can probably ignore)
  • how to find your online competitors, and keep track of what the data tells you. 

What is an SEO competitor? 

An SEO competitor is a business ranking for the same keyword or long-tail search phrase as yours. They’re after the same audience you are.

Traditionally, you might think of them as a direct competitor. After all, they’re a business in your industry offering the same, or similar, products or services as you. But when it comes to SEO that may not necessarily be the case. 

SEO competition gets confusing when we look at the type of content being created for a keyword. How one website targets a keyword with their content may be different from how you target it with yours. They might want to rank for the search query ‘running shoes’ but create a guide about finding the best shoes to run in. Whereas you might want your product or service page to rank for the same search term. 

The top search results for ‘running shoes’ illustrate this perfectly.

The first result is a product page, the second is a guide, and the third is another product page. So if you wanted to rank for ‘running shoes’ as a sales page you’d disregard the guide as an SEO competitor but try and outrank the retailer pages.

The SEO competitors you can (probably) ignore 

The business down the road. They may well be a direct competitor on the high street. But when you look them up online they’re nowhere to be found, so they’re not an SEO competitor. 

The business with the super sexy website. How their site looks, reads, and even functions may be impressive. But if it isn’t optimized and showing up in search then they’re not a threat.

The business your customers previously used. Just because a customer told you they bought from, subscribed to, downloaded from, or used a business similar to yours still doesn’t mean they’re an SEO competitor. 

The mega businesses. I’m talking about the Amazons, Targets, and Apples of the world with a seemingly infinite digital marketing budget. This is just play for them, and trying to outrank them on keywords is next to impossible. 

So who are your SEO competitors?

Your real digital marketing competitors are those businesses showing up next to you in search.

And that doesn’t just mean those businesses ranking above you for a keyword. You also need to worry about those ranking just below you. They’re closing in, and could soon overtake you, which means it’s time to revisit your content

Use your SEO competitors as motivation 

The digital marketing landscape isn’t static. Algorithms, rankings, businesses coming online (or closing) means your SEO competitors will change. And that’s no bad thing. 

Keeping track of your competitors, and what they’re doing to catch up or even overtake you in the rankings, should be a source of motivation and inspiration. 

For example, looking at your competitors may help you find new keyword opportunities. You should also look at the type of content they’re publishing. And then you need to think of ways you can take it a step further. How can you do it differently? Or more to the point, how can you do it better so the search engines rank your page higher?

Getting to know your SEO competitors

You know what an SEO competitor is, who they are, and who you can probably ignore. Now it’s time to learn more about them and how they’re ranking. There are a couple of ways to do this.

The super-simple way 

Type your keywords into search and see who’s ranking on the first page for that search term. Then find out where you’re ranked, and look at the businesses just above and below you.

This method is okay if you:

  1. have a small website, and aren’t trying to rank for many keywords
  2. aren’t using an in-depth competitor analysis tool.

I strongly suggest investing in a keyword tool. I use the Chrome extension Keywords Everywhere, which displays the number of keywords the site is ranking for (and the amount of organic traffic they attract) whenever you search for a keyword. 

If you then click on the site you’ll see the keywords its ranking for – a great way to see whether you’re competing for the same ones. It can also help you identify any keywords they’re targeting that you’re not.

The more involved but quicker way

If your time is precious, and your budget is more flexible, I suggest signing up to an SEO tool such as Ahrefs or SEMrush. These tools make it easy to find and confirm who your SEO competitors really are. 

When you enter your domain name into these tools, their databases analyze the information and pull details on your market, organic, paid, and local SEO competitors. 

Keeping track of the SEO competition

Once you’ve found your SEO competitors, I suggest doing a competitor analysis every six to twelve months. Keep notes on who they are and any changes in their rankings by setting up a spreadsheet with:

  • the name of the company and their URL
  • the keyword(s) they’re ranking for
  • where they’re ranking.

Feeling overwhelmed? I can help you get started. Reach out below.

Barb Davids - SEO Consultant

Barb Davids is an SEO consultant and owner of Compass Digital Strategies. Driven by data and analytics, she works hard to get business-changing results for her clients, such as 256% more website traffic and 22% more leads. Connect with her: Instagram | LinkedIn | Twitter
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