Very often when asked to conduct consultancy for clients I will begin by looking at how effective their competitors are online. It is important to understand how you compare with your competitors and to learn and evaluate how well they are using digital tools. This is also something that the students on our CAM Diploma in Digital Marketing are asked to review as part of their digital marketing audits. So, let's take a look at some of the tools and techniques that can be used to analyse your competitors.
It is useful to know how many pages of your competitors are being indexed by Google. We can get a detailed picture of our own pages when we use Webmaster Tools but let's see how to go about looking for this information from Google. The command for this is: "site:" for example [www.innocentdrinks.co.uk] and it indicates the numbers of pages
Do you want to know if a particular site mentions certain keywords on their pages? Well, try out this search query [site:moz.com hummingbird].
With this same "site:" query we can also begin to evaluate the effectiveness of these websites for page titles. Nice how this query displays the page titles for searches on this keyword. You should start to question how good they are, what you can learn and what you can apply.
And how about related/similar sites or even competitors of your competitors? The search query "related:" for example [related:moz.com] search is pretty neat as it casts the net quite wide.
And what about finding sites that reference your competitor(s) in their page titles? The command "allintitle:" for example [allintitle: innocent drinks] is very useful. If you're looking to search the articles themselves (body text), then the search command "allintext:" works very well.
Leading on from that we can also explore whether your competitor or their keywords appear in "anchor text" from other sites and, if so, which ones. Here we use the search term [allinanchor: cam diploma digital marketing]. This example has been refined by using inverted commas either side of search terms.
If you have enough data, Google Trends let you analyse how your competitor compares against yourself or other organisations in terms of search terms. In the example below we are measuring the search term traffic for the names of the universities compared with the other universities. Therefore, it says that over two years the keywords "university of bath" have lower search volumes than "cardiff university" but more than "swansea university". If you further explore the trends table, you can also discover top locations for each query which may help you decide whether you could market into those locations.
Google Keyword Planner
This tool is very useful for identifying the sorts of keywords that you can be using to place on your website. However, it is also useful as a tool for analysing the keywords that Google identifies relevant for specified pages (called landing pages) - which could be your competitor's home pages or other pages.
This is a very useful tool for analysing both the organic and PPC effectiveness of your competitors. The free version allows you to gather some very useful information and gives you an idea of the search volume, organic and PPC keywords and even competitors of your competitors.
Checking Out Page Source
Whilst meta keywords are not important from a Google perspective, people still add keywords in to the "Meta Keywords" element of their code. This sometimes offers us the chance to view how competitors see themselves and consider using or bettering the words they use.
Open Site Explorer
A favourite amongst SEO companies, Open Site Explorer (and the many other tools from Moz) allows you to identify which and how many links are pointing in to your website. It is ideal for identifying interesting links that point in to your competitors. It also allows you to identify opportunities or prompt ideas for link building for your own website.
SpyFu, in their own words, lets you "Search for any domain and see every place they've shown up on Google: every keyword they've bought on Adwords, every organic rank, and every ad variation in the last 6 years." Check out these results PPC ads for Halfords and also for the keywords "bike accessories".