July 10, 2012: Understanding the SEO strategy of a competitive website is a critical component of a B2B SEO campaign. Both traditional (the companies sales and marketing teams often come across) and keyword (those that rank for target keyword phrases in search engines) competition should be reviewed.
Factors B2B search engine marketers should seek to understand about their competition include keyword and content strategy, inbound link information, and social media presence. Here are seven SEO tools we recommend using for evaluating the competition.
- SEO Objective: Obtain the file information and SEO properties per page of the competitive website.
Screaming Frog lets SEO professionals crawl entire domains, pulling SEO relevant page details like HTML titles, Meta Descriptions, Keywords, Headings, etc. With this information in hand, an SEO professional can work more diligently in evaluating the competitor’s keyword strategy, key phrase usage across the site, and depth of material within the domain.
The free version crawls up to 500 URL’s, which may be ideal for small sites, but larger organizations should invest in the commercial version which carries a £99 per annum licensing fee. I run reports from Screaming Frog daily, so the investment has certainly been well worth it.
- SEO Objective: Obtain key inbound link information of the competitive website.
Inbound link review is a critical component for competitive SEO analysis and Open Site Explorer, part of the SEOmoz suite of SEO tools, is one of the best resources available. The free version of Open Site Explorer provides high level link metrics such as inbound links to the domain, overall site, and a proprietary scoring system designed to emulate in part the Google PageRank algorithm.
The commercial version provides more in-depth analysis, such as sorting by the level of importance of each link and site linking, anchor text details, and comparison reports. SEOmoz is a bit more expensive than other tools ($99-$499 per year), so consideration should be made into leveraging their entire SEO suite, in addition to Open Site Explorer.
- SEO Objective: Provide a secondary or alternative source of inbound link information.
The free version of Majestic SEO provides a nice alternative to Open Site Explorer. SEO professionals can obtain detailed information for their own sites through a simple verification process, and can also access general link information on competitors as well. The commercial version provides more in-depth details on competitive sites and there are multiple pricing options.
In my opinion, it is advantageous to have more than one link reporting tool, since no single resource has the same volume of link information as Google. Comparative benchmarks across tools like Open Site Explorer and Majestic SEO provide for greater coverage and analysis. But a key difference between Majestic SEO and Open Site Explorer is focus. Majestic is almost solely focused on link analysis and pricing options are reflective of that.
- SEO Objective: Learn more about the competitive keyword strategies and keyword costs.
Spyfu provides in-depth reports on the keyword phrases a competitor is bidding on in PPC, and the estimated costs associated to them. Broken out by date found, CPC, and estimated search volumes among other data points, SEO professionals can get a better understanding of the search marketing budgets and competitiveness of organizations vying for target phrases.
Report data can be exported in Excel and csv, for easy manipulation and formatting. Need to sell your search engine marketing program to an executive? There is almost nothing better than illustrating the approximate costs of a competitors bidding strategy and the depth of competition involved.
- SEO Objective: Understand keyword positioning (keyword rank) of competitive websites.
RavenTools provides a simple interface for adding competitors and keyword phrases for ranking comparison. Rankings can only be tracked over time for the main site, and we export competitive data on a regular basis (because it is not tracked historically).
Like SEOmoz, RavenTools is a bit more expensive than other SEO tools. As a result, evaluation of the entire suite of RavenTools functionality should be made, to justify and support the investment.
- SEO Objective: Understand the impact of the Twitter network associated with key profiles of the competitive website.
Assuming your competition is using Twitter, FollowerWonk is one of the few free tools available that provide analysis of a target profile’s Twitter network. Information which can be gathered includes locations, network size (number of followers/following), and influence. We use the influence scores in an attempt to find key profiles in various markets and industries, and attempt to learn who and what influences them through ongoing monitoring and analysis.
- SEO Objective: Provide a high level demographic and management view of the competitive website
In my opinion, Quantcast provides the best high level traffic data for competitive websites, with the corresponding breakdown of audience demographics. While we have seen inaccuracies in visitor counts, Quantcast in coordination with sites like Alexa and Compete, can provide a reasonable method for establishing traffic benchmarks across the competition.
Final Thoughts and Considerations
Greater access and ability to gather competitive information puts the B2B SEO at a distinct advantage. We hope sharing these tools will help start the process but to truly succeed, one must take the information gathered and make actionable recommendations and plans. Data will only get the SEO professional so far.
For more tools and information, check out my recent column 40+ SEO Tools of the Trade. What SEO tools do you find important for competitive analysis? Are there alternative SEO tools out there that satisfy a majority of the needs listed above? We would enjoy reading your feedback and perspective via the comments below.