Understanding the competitive landscape is key for any business. Without knowing your organization’s position in the marketplace, it’s hard to develop a marketing strategy designed for growth.

At WTM, we often get requests from prospects or clients asking for competitive benchmarking. When it comes to search engine optimization, there are a lot of key performance indicators (KPIs) that you can use to compare your organization against your competitors. So how do you choose the KPIs that give you an accurate view of your competitive landscape? How do you provide data that is helpful to your C-suite?

We’ll review some common SEO metrics that you may use to measure competitor performance, and how to make sure these metrics provide meaningful insights.

Keyword Gaps and Opportunities

Keyword rankings are an easy way to compare your organization against competitors. However, we often find that businesses are focused on a particular keyword or set of keywords. While this can be a good way to narrow the focus of your SEO campaign, it can also lead to missed opportunities. Here’s why:

  • A competitor(s) could outrank you for a term for reasons that you may not be able to control with SEO.
  • A competitor(s) could rank well for one high-volume search term, but they are not dominating the search results for other valuable keywords.
  • That keyword may contain search results from indirect competitors, like Amazon, Pinterest, or Home Depot. Such platforms may be difficult to outrank.

Related Post: Top 5 Things to Keep in Mind While Doing Keyword Research

Determine Where There is Opportunity

Instead, look for keyword gaps and opportunities where you can win:

  • Is there a segment of search where your competitors are underperforming?
  • Will you see faster results in your SEO campaign if you focus on long-tail, low-competition keywords?
  • Are there high-value terms you rank for on page two of Google that you should prioritize?
  • Is there a product category in which profit margins are high but keyword ranking difficulty is low?Are you exceeding your paid search budget to compete? Consider focusing on improving organic rankings of those same expensive terms to reduce your spend.

Don’t forget to look at the terms the competition is ranking for, but your domain is not. Consider why that is, and if those are terms that make sense for your business to target.

Backlink Acquisition

The number of backlinks is a straightforward KPI, but does it tell the whole story?

If link building or digital PR is key to your marketing strategy, be sure to look at where your competition is earning mentions or backlinks. Your competitors could have hundreds of nofollow links from a press release. They could be a much larger brand earning natural backlinks. Or, their backlink profiles could reveal that they aren’t targeting one of your user personas.

This data may help you find an untapped market that your competitors haven’t explored. Or, it may help you identify where you need to gain market share.

Trying to build better backlinks? Get in touch with WTM.


Traffic can be a tricky KPI to use in a competitive analysis. Third party data may not be accurate. In addition, the number of organic sessions won’t tell a meaningful story on its own.

When analyzing your competitors’ traffic, a good place to start is with branded vs. non-branded traffic. Analyze how much of their traffic comes from their brand name or branded products. If their traffic is mostly branded, that competitor may not be optimizing for search. Or, brand recognition is very strong. Non-branded search traffic is often a better way to gauge SEO efforts.

In addition, look at what pages account for most of their website traffic. This may tell you if they’ve focused on optimizing a core set of pages, like product pages, or if they’re engaged in an ongoing content strategy. Again, this information could be more telling for your organization.

Create a Meaningful SEO Competitive Analysis

The metrics above are not the only metrics to use for competitive benchmarking, but they may provide a good start. Depending on your company’s goals, your SEO analysis may include different metrics or a thorough comparison of just one metric.

Here are some other tips to help you conduct a meaningful competitive analysis for your company’s stakeholders:

  • Identify the right competitors. These may or may not be the competitors you have traditionally considered.
  • Decide who is not your competition. Search results may show websites that don’t have your same service or product offerings.
  • Conduct your competitive analysis regularly. Organic search results change often, and so may your competitors.
  • Look beyond Google. Are any of the competitors you identified focused on Amazon or YouTube? Again, this could reveal opportunities you wouldn’t have otherwise considered.
  • Keep track of your own benchmarks. Competitor data is important, but you should use it to help you set benchmarks and goals for your SEO strategy.

If you’re looking for a digital marketing agency to help you make sense of your online competitive landscape, WTM’s team can help. Our strategists can help you create meaningful reports that allow you to keep an eye on your competitors, while you focus on other key areas of your business. Get in touch with our team to discuss SEO or other digital marketing services.