How to Perform an SEO Competitor Analysis

What Is SEO Competitor Analysis?

SEO competitor analysis is the process of researching and evaluating the SEO strategy of a website’s competitors in search engine results.

It involves analyzing:

  • The keywords competitors rank for
  • The pages competitors use to target specific keywords
  • Competitors' backlink profiles (i.e., which websites link to competitors’ pages)

How to Perform an SEO Competitor Analysis:

Why Is Competitor Analysis Important for SEO?

SEO competitor analysis allows you to:

  • Uncover valuable keywords: Find keywords to target and drive more traffic and conversions from organic search
  • Find link building opportunities: Discover sites that link to your competitors. So you can earn a link to your website from them, too.
  • Benchmark SEO performance: Compare your SEO performance with that of your competitors to look for improvement opportunities 

How to Do an SEO Competitor Analysis

Step 1: Identify Your SEO Competitors

Your SEO competitors aren’t always your business competitors. They might not sell similar products or services, but they’re trying to reach your target audience through SEO content.

Use Semrush's Organic Research tool to identify your SEO competitors.

Enter your domain and click “Search.”

Semrush Organic Research tool

The tool will generate a detailed report. Head to the “Competitors” tab.

Competitors tab

Scroll down to the “Organic Competitors” section to see a list of all the domains you’re competing with in organic search. 

You’ll also see:

  • The number of keywords you have in common with a competitor’s domain
  • The total number of keywords they rank for
  • The organic traffic generated from those keywords

Organic Competitors section

Export the domains to a .CSV or Excel file by clicking the “Export” button.

Export button

Step 2: Analyze Competitors' Top Pages

After identifying your SEO competitors, analyze their top-ranking pages. 

Use Semrush's Organic Research tool for your analysis. Visit the “Pages” tab.

Semrush Organic Research tool Pages tab

You'll see your competitors’ ranking pages, sorted by total traffic.

competitors’ ranking pages

Click the number in the “Keywords” column to see a list of all the keywords a specific page ranks for in the SERPs.

Keywords column

Or click a page’s URL to see a detailed report.


Step 3: Review Branded vs. Non-Branded Keywords

Branded keywords are those which contain the competitor’s brand name. Non-branded keywords include everything else.

Ignore a competitor’s branded keywords that signal navigational search intent (e.g., “[competitor name] login”). These are typed in by users who want to navigate to a specific page on a competitor’s website.

But there are branded keywords you should pay attention to. 

For example, keywords related to product or brand comparisons (e.g, “[competitor] review” or “[competitor 1] vs [competitor 2]”).

Filter for branded keywords by using the “Advanced filters” drop-down in the “Positions” tab of the Organic Research report.

Simply set the filter to include keywords that contain your competitor’s brand name. Then click "Apply."

Advanced filters / Positions tab / Organic Research report

Step 4: Perform Keyword Gap Analysis

A keyword gap analysis helps you identify keywords competing domains rank for, but yours doesn’t.

If you have multiple competitors ranking for a specific keyword, it’s likely a keyword worth targeting.

Identify these types of keywords using Semrush's Keyword Gap tool:

Type in your domain and the domains of up to four competitors. Click “Compare.”

Semrush Keyword Gap tool

From the generated report, scroll down to the “All keyword details for:” section and click the “Missing” tab to see a list of all the keywords your competitors rank for, but your website doesn’t.

Missing tab

Drop-down filters sort keywords by search volume, keyword difficulty, search intent, and more.

keyword filters

Step 5: Look for Keywords That Have Dropped in Rankings

Keywords for which your competitors have recently lost rankings could be opportunities for you.

Create pages targeting these keywords. And focus your link building efforts on these pages.

Use the “Position changes” tab in the Organic Research report to uncover keywords for which your competitors' pages have decreased in rankings.

Position changes tab Organic Research report

From the “Position changes” tab, scroll down to the “All Position Changes” section. Click on the “Declined” tab to view all the keywords where your competitor has lost rankings.

All Position Changes section / Declined tab

Filter these keywords further by search volume, keyword difficulty, intent, and more.

Filter keywords

Or export the list.

Step 6: Look For Competitors’ Featured Snippets

Featured snippets are a special type of prominent search result in Google. 

They can look like this:

Google search result

Earning a featured snippet can help attract more clicks from organic search.

But Google doesn’t display featured snippets for all search queries. Use Semrush's Organic Research tool to uncover competitors’ featured snippets.

Visit the “Positions” tab in the Organic Research report.

Positions tab Organic Research report

Use the “SERP Features” drop-down to filter the list for keywords with a featured snippet.

SERP Features

Filter the list further to only show keywords where your competitor is ranking for a featured snippet.

SERP Features

Next, optimize your pages to have the best chance of earning the featured snippet over your competitors. 

Here’s how:

  • Match the snippet format: Examine the existing featured snippet. Is it a list, a table, or a video? The format will help you understand the search intent. 
  • Make it short: Google doesn’t officially provide character limits for the featured snippet. But featured snippets are typically short—about 200-300 characters long.
  • Use BLUF: One of Google’s main goals is to help users find the information they need as quickly as possible. Structure your featured snippet section using the BLUF (bottom line up front) principle. 

Step 7: Analyze Competitors’ Content

Consider the following:

  • Content formats: Are they only publishing articles? Or do they create content across multiple formats (e.g., ebooks, case studies, white papers, videos, etc.)?
  • Publishing frequency: How often do they publish content? How many pieces of content do they publish per year?
  • Comprehensiveness: How in-depth is their content?
  • E-E-A-T: Does their content demonstrate experience, expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness?

Step 8: Competitor Backlink Analysis

Backlinks are those pointing from other websites to your website (or your competitors' websites). Analyzing your competitors' backlink profiles can uncover link building opportunities to help you outrank your competition.

Use Semrush's Backlink Analytics tool to analyze a competitor’s backlink profile:

Start by entering your competitor’s domain. Click “Analyze.

Semrush Backlink Analytics tool

The tool will generate a report on the domain’s backlink profile showing things like:

  • Total number of referring domains
  • Total number of backlinks
  • Monthly visits and organic traffic numbers
  • Outbound domains (total number of other domains the domain links to) 

backlink profile

Click “Referring Domains” to see a list of all domains pointing to your competitor’s domain.

Referring Domains

Filter the list of domains by Authority Score, link attributes (e.g., follow or nofollow), top-level domain, and more.

Referring Domains / Authority Score

Because these websites already link to your competitor, they’re likely relevant to your industry.

Which makes them good opportunities to target in your link building campaigns.

Step 9: Identifying Backlink Gaps

Websites linking to multiple competitors are prime opportunities. 

Here’s how to find them using Semrush's Backlink Gap tool:

Enter your domain and the domains of up to four competitors. Click “Find prospects.”

Semrush Backlink Gap tool

The tool lists websites that link to your competitors’ domains but not yours.

competitors’ domains / Semrush Backlink Gap tool

Filter the list by Authority Score, country, and top-level domain.

Authority Score

Export the list or click “Start outreach” to send the list to Semrush’s Link Building Tool to set up an email outreach campaign.

Start outreach / Semrush Link Building Tool

Step 10: Set Up Competitor Reporting

Use Semrush's My Reports feature to automatically create competitor analysis reports at predefined intervals. To monitor how your efforts compare with your competitors. 

Here’s how:

Find and click the “Monthly Competitor Analysis” report template in the “Ready-to-use templates” section.

Semrush My Reports

Enter your competitors’ domains and click “Create report.”

Create report button

The tool will generate a template you can customize using the widgets in the left-hand menu.

widgets menu

Once you’re happy with the template, click “Generate PDF report.” 

In the popup, enter your email and how often you’d like to receive the report. Click “Generate and send.”

Generate and send button

Stay Ahead of Your SEO Competitors

Take advantage of Semrush’s suite of SEO competitor analysis tools to uncover SEO competitors, find valuable keywords, and discover link building opportunities. To outperform your competitors.

About the Author
Boris Mustapic is a content marketing consultant with over a decade of experience in the digital marketing industry. He specializes in helping B2B SaaS companies drive growth through strategic, product-led content marketing.