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Your competitors are a valuable source of information and data, you should be keeping an eye on them as chances are they are doing the same to you.
One of my favourite tools to spy on competitors SEO and PPC is SEMrush.
SEMrush allows you to benchmark yourself against your competitors by analysing their organic and paid search activity.
SEMRush has a simple intuitive dashboard and for long remained the same, however they are working on a new design which can be accessed immediately.
Once you log in, you are greeted with a dashboard where you can manage your projects. It takes a few minutes to set up a project, you can select competitors and connect Webmaster Tools and Google Analytics amongst other options.
Let’s assume I am in the recruitment industry and Totaljobs.com is a competitor I want to spy on. To get started enter the domain you wish to analyse in the search bar at the top.
Immediately you can see the key metrics at the top. This includes the approximate monthly organic and paid traffic along with the number of backlinks and Google display activity data. Now, by no means is this data 100% accurate, no third party tool ever will be. The data should be used as an indicator and not taken at face value.
Competitor Traffic Overview
One of the metrics I like to look at is the organic and paid traffic levels, displayed as a handy graph.
There are obvious peaks and troughs which stand out. The first thing that comes to mind when I look at these charts is the Google algorithm updates. The first dip coincides with the first iteration of the Google Panda update released in February 2011. Moz provides comprehensive timeline of updates here. Totaljobs appears to have been recovering from that update until January 2013, which incidentally was when another Panda refresh took place.
Whilst I first associate a trough with a Google update, it could be a coincidence. I always suggest using the Wayback Machine to see what the website looked like around the date of the trough, as another common reason for a dip in traffic is often website redesign which was not properly SEO migrated.
The other point of note in this graph is the paid activity. Totaljobs have started engaging in paid search activity again towards the end of 2014.
Takeaway: Totaljobs look to have been affected by the Panda update. Compare the website around the time of the updates before and after using the Wayback Machine. See if they have done anything different to recover, make sure own site doesn’t suffer the same fate.
Make sure the performance of own paid activity has not been affected since Totaljobs re-engaged in paid search activity.
Organic Traffic Analysis
The next section shows me the keywords which bring the most traffic to the Totaljobs website. SEMrush has detected over 100,000 keywords! You can dig deeper in to the report to get a lot more stats as well as filter them to your specific needs and export them.
Bear in mind the keyword volumes displayed are averages over a year, not monthly.
You can also see organic keyword distributions at a glance. These display how many keywords rank in key positions.
Takeaway: Check which non-branded keywords are driving the most traffic to Totaljobs and compare your own rankings against them. Put tactics in place to outrank Totaljobs for the keywords they are ranking above you.
SEMrush identifies other competitors for you. Though if you set up a project you can select your competitors. They show you how many keywords competitors have in common with the site you are querying, in this case Totaljobs. Once you drill down into the full report you are able to see further metrics.
I like the way SEMrush presents the competitive data in the positioning map. It is a good visual to use when presenting the data to stakeholders.
If you work in the SEO or recruitment industry, you would know Indeed dominates this market.
Takeaway: See where you stand against known competitors and discover any new ones.
Paid Traffic Analysis
SEMrush offers all of the above organic data for paid traffic as well. In addition for they allow you see to see ad copies.
Takeaway: Perform same analysis mentioned above for Paid data. In addition look at competitor ad copies and compare your own to see where you can improve and spot any opportunities.
Backlinks still play one of the most important roles in SEO. SEMrush shows a large portion of Totaljobs backlinks along with the top anchor texts and amount of follow vs nofollow links.
Takaway: Export the backlinks and compare it to your own. Implement strategy to acquire competitor backlinks which you do not have.
With a ‘significant’ Google mobile update expected on April 21st, this is a key feature.
Projects allow you to monitor your own search performance against your competitors in one place. Alongside monitoring rankings in your country, you can also monitor rankings in other countries and cities as well as by device. With a ‘significant’ Google mobile update expected on April 21st, this is a key feature.
Takeaway: Easily compare your website performance against your competitors. Start tracking mobile rankings as an update is expected this month.
SEMrush also offer an array of other features including but not limited to:
- API Access
- Keyword Research
- Product Listing Ads Analysis
- Display Advertising Analysis
- Keyword Difficulty
Do you use SEMrush? What is your favourite tool for analysing your competitors’ search marketing activity?