Local businesses often have limited time and budget to test different things. If their content or SEO strategy isn’t working, they may not have the luxury to try something completely different.
In such cases, competitor analysis is a lifesaver.
With a thorough and well-rounded competitor analysis, businesses can identify what makes their competitors more successful, so they identify opportunities, areas of growth, and shortcomings.
But what should you evaluate?
Here are 15 items a local business should check when conducting a competitor analysis.
For local businesses, SEO directories play a crucial role — particularly when it comes to building a backlink profile. During your competitor analysis, make sure to shortlist all SEO directories that your competitors are using and generating backlinks from.
You should not use all those directories, however. Once you have a list of all the SEO directories that your competitors use, evaluate each of them individually and see which one would be a good fit for your business.
Local websites often support local businesses. Identifying which websites support your competitor’s websites can not only help you identify useful backlink sources but can also give you insights into your competitor’s strategy.
For instance, if a local online newspaper site has covered your competitor's business for participating in an event or hosting a fundraiser, you can learn about that during your audits.
.edu links are very powerful. If your competitor’s website has any .edu links, you should take note of that. Moreover, understand their strategy and try to replicate that.
Similarly, .gov links are also extremely valuable and not easy to get. Local businesses often get themselves listed on official websites — e.g., Chamber of Commerce websites — to get .gov backlinks.
Take note of all the .gov websites that are linking to your competitor’s site and try to replicate their strategies.
This goes without saying, but your competitor analysis should produce a detailed list of all the keywords that their site targets.
You should also filter all the keywords that your competitor successfully targets but you don’t. This can help build a foundation for upcoming content on your website.
While analyzing competitors, you should identify the most popular content on their websites. The next step will be to see if there is any pattern.
For example, do list articles perform well? Or do case studies perform better?
Identifying popular content types help ascertain the direction of your content policy.
How long should your content be? Considering that every local business has limited resources that they can spend on content creation and marketing, should the focus be on writing one super high-quality 10,000-word post per month or publishing ten 1,000-word blog posts?
A thorough competitor analysis can help you identify what’s working for your competitors and what is expected to work best for your business.
While we are on the topic of content, it is also important to gain some insights into whether your competitor relies heavily on informative content or commercial content?
This can help you identify what your target audience is most interested in. You can then use that information to direct your content strategy.
Website architecture is one of the most crucial aspects. It is the foundation upon which a site is built. If the foundation is weak, you won’t be able to build a strong and tall skyscraper.
Take a look at the site architecture of your competitors.
In addition, also if they are using subdomains or folders to host different areas of their website. For example, do they use blog.website.com or website.com/blog?
Generally, a folder (website.com/blog) should be preferred over a subdomain (blog.website.com) as it helps keep the link equity consolidated.
Apparently a small thing, but you should take note of how your competitors follow the best URL practices for each web page.
Studying how your competitors use meta content to their advantage can also be very helpful. There are two main functions that meta titles and meta descriptions can perform:
If you are struggling with organic click-through rate (CTR), analyzing the meta content of your competitor’s websites can be extremely beneficial.
Structured data can help produce rich snippets on the search engine results pages (SERPs). This not only helps Google understand what your page is about, but rich results may also increase the organic click-through rate that leads to more customers, sales, and revenue.
Structure data is especially important for local businesses as rich search results contain lots of useful information that customers can find helpful.
See (1) if your competitors use structured data and (2) how they use it.
After a thorough competitor analysis, you are bound to find some pages that your competitors have, but you do not. This analysis can help you find the “content gap” you and your competitors have.
Shortlist all the pages that you think can add value to your website and website visitors.
If you use Ahrefs, it has an excellent and super easy-to-use Content Gap tool that can automatically identify all the pages and keywords you are missing out on. Read how to use the Ahrefs Content Gap report.
Website loading speed is a search engine ranking factor. It only affects the search rankings of a website, but loading speed also directly affects conversion rate and revenue. According to a study, conversions are decreased by 7% for every extra second a website takes to load.
Assuming everything else is the same, if your competitor has a faster loading website, they will most likely rank above your page in search engines. Your competitor will also likely generate a higher conversion rate and total revenue.
You can use the Google PageSpeed Insights tool to measure the performance of your and your competitors’ websites.
If you want even more information, check out our free site loading speed test tool.
Last but not least, the overall site health of your competitor’s website can give you a meaningful idea of how well their site might perform in search — in comparison to yours.
You can use the SEO Site Checkup website audit tool to conduct a detailed technical SEO audit and get a site health score. Compare your website’s score with that of your competitors to get the full picture.
You can do a lot more than this during competitor analysis, but even just these 15 items will give you a very comprehensive overview of what other local businesses in your industry are doing and how.
Once equipped with all the important information, you can then take the necessary steps to make your website more appealing to users and search engines.