I usually ignore the competition. Watching the other guy can be a distraction. It takes your focus off important things like doing your bes...

10 Competitive Analysis Tools: How to Analyze Competitors Websites

I usually ignore the competition. Watching the other guy can be a distraction. It takes your focus off important things like doing your best work for the customers in front of you.

But competitor websites have data, and looking at this data can quickly give you ideas for your own web marketing. Of course, we can’t see their Analytics, but there are other ways to get competitive intelligence.

Here are ten free competitive analysis tools that you can use to see what the competition (or at least similar websites) are up to…

Search Engine Performance

What phrases are they ranking for? How high are they ranking? Without using a tool, the only way to find this information would be to search for every conceivable key phrase.

1. SEMrush – Super powerful, highly recommended. You can try SEMrush for free now.

(Full disclosure: This is an affiliate link, but we love SEMrush and use it daily).   

2. ahrefs.com

3. Searchmetrics Essentials

How and What: Enter a site to see rankings for top phrases and AdWords advertising budgets. Once you see what phrases they’re ranking for (and bidding on), it may give you ideas on new phrases to target. If you can create better pages and content on those topics, you may be able to outrank them and capture those visitors!

The Catch: Free versions shows only five to ten phrases and AdWords ads. You’ll need to create an account to see more.

Link Popularity

Why do they rank so well? How authoritative is their domain? It’s a factor of “link popularity.” Generally speaking, a site with more links (higher “domain authority”) than you are going to outrank you in Google, unless you target phrases that they aren’t.

4. Open Site Explorer

5. Majestic SEO

How and What: Enter any website to see the number of inbound links and domain authority.

10 Competitive Analysis Tools: How to Analyze Competitors Websites

If you find yourself in a tough neighborhood (competing in Google with sites that have powerful domains with very high link popularity), avoid targeting general phrases. Try to become relevant for longer, more specific phrases, or you may not get any search traffic at all.

The Catch: Free versions show a total number of links, but not all the linking websites. There is limited use without a paid account. Also, the terms are a bit technical. You may need to read up to fully understand the metrics.

Traffic and Visitor Activity

Yes, there is a way to get a sense for how visitors are using your competitor’s website. Get a glimpse into the kind of data that only Analytics would normally provide…

6. SimilarWeb.com

7. Compete.com

8. Alexa.com

How and What: Enter any website to see traffic estimates, pages per visit, time on site, bounce rate, and percentage of traffic from search engines. Also, some data about the demographics are available.

Compare their site to yours. If the stats are a lot better, visitors may feel more at home, and you may want to start planning a new site. The demographics information is interesting, but I’ve never found a way to use it.

The Catch: I recommend starting with SimilarWeb. Alexa only shows historical data (chart) for the top 100,000 sites in the U.S. Compete requires you to create an account to use even the free version. For both tools, the data isn’t super reliable. Use these to get a general idea.

More ways to compare
Here are a few more analysis tools you can use for comparisons.

9. Hubspot’s Marketing Grader (general web marketing overview)

Enter a competitor to get all kinds of competitive analysis: search optimization, mobile site, Facebook shares, etc. It gives you a nice “marketing grade” which you can compare to your own site. Requires you to register.

10. Simply Measured (social media)

The free reports let you enter the Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, or YouTube account of a competitor to learn about who’s following them (or at least what keywords their followers use in their bios). Requires you to go through a pretty annoying registration process and send a tweet on their behalf.

When to do this kind of competitive analysis

These are the times when checking out the competition is especially useful:

  • When starting a web-based business
  • When starting a website redesign project
  • Twice a year or so, just because (put it on your calendar!)

There you have it. Nine tools to snoop on the competition. Don’t pay too much attention to the other guys, but never miss a chance to find the data that can help you make better decisions.

What do you think?

Do you have a favorite competitive analysis tool you’d like to share? Should we ignore the competition?