Competitor analysis is a broad term—to some degree, almost everything we do on the analytics end of SEO is competitor analysis. Keyword research? You’ll need to check keyword difficulty—and that means finding out what competitors are ranking for. Content creation? You’re trying to create content that’s going to help you outrank your competitors.
To keep things simple in this section, I’ve narrowed this part of the article down to the features that I most commonly use for competitor analysis.
Domain analysis is core to all competitive analysis—you need to know how well your domain is performing in order to accurately compare your domains to your competitors.
I’ll start with Semrush’s Domain Overview feature. With this feature, you get an overview of:
- The amount of organic traffic a domain gets
- The amount of paid traffic a domain gets
- The number of backlinks a domain has
- The top keywords a domain is ranking for
- Your main organic keyword competitors
- A competitive positioning map
- Branded vs. non-branded traffic
- Keywords by intent
- And much more
As you can see, the Domain Overview feature gives you a lot of information—information that you can use to position yourself in the competitive landscape, understand which keywords your competitors are fighting you over, and more.
Moz offers all of the same features—they’re just split up over a couple of different sources. For example, you’ll need to look at the “Links Overview” page to get information about the number of backlinks a domain has (and its sources). In the same vein, you’ll need to go to the “Site Overview” page in “Keyword Research” in order to get information about the keywords a page is ranking for.
Both of these tools can give you deep insights into how your domain is performing. On average, however, I prefer what Semrush has to offer. Its Domain Overview feature highlights vital information about your domain at a glance—you don’t need to move from feature to feature to get all the info we listed above.
I also prefer how Semrush displays information. All of the charts are easy to read, and it’s easy to find your way to more granular information when you need it.
As an aside, Semrush’s Domain Overview tool offers a “Compare Domains” feature—but it’s blocked by a paywall. This tool allows you to check two or more domains side-by-side instead of having to compare those domains manually. Certainly not essential, but it can save you some time in your competitor analysis.
Semrush’s Backlink Gap tool is one of the most unique tools for competitor analysis I’ve seen on the market. You input your domain’s URL, then the URL of up to four of your competitors. Semrush will then analyze the backlinks that your competitors have, compare them to your backlinks, and generate a list of off-page opportunities for you—complete with Authority Score, monthly visits, and more.
I’ve found the Backlink Gap tool to be invaluable in our competitor analysis and our off-page efforts. You’ll be able to find great off-page opportunities at a glance and better insights into how your competitors are leveraging backlinks to boost their rankings. You can also use the tool in conjunction with other off-page tools to spot the best opportunities your competitors aren’t taking advantage of.
Moz, on the other hand, doesn’t really have anything that compares to the Backlink Gap tool. You can use its Link Explorer tool to find who is backlinking to your site and who is backlinking to your competitors. You can then manually compare which backlinks your competitors have to the ones you have.
That’s a time-consuming process. This is SEO—there are at least a billion things to do at any given time, and tools exist to automate how we do those things. The faster you can compare your backlinks to your competitors, the better—and that’s why Semrush’s Backlink Gap tool is a favorite of mine.
Both Semrush and Moz have a Keyword Gap tool, and both tools serve a similar purpose—they allow you to analyze which keywords your competitors are ranking for, which keywords you’re ranking for, how well each domain is ranking for those keywords, and how those keywords overlap.
This tool skirts the line between keyword research and competitor research, but I’ve decided it fits best in the latter category. After all, you’re directly comparing to your competitor and discovering opportunities to outrank them for specific keywords.
I love Keyword Gap tools, as they provide actionable insights on which keywords I should be targeting in order to beat competitors to the top of the SERPs.
I prefer how Semrush handles Keyword Gap research. The charts showing keyword overlap are easy to understand. You’ll also get a table of keywords that are shared, missing, strong, unique, and more. This table includes everything you’d want to know about the keywords, including monthly search volume, keyword difficulty, and more.
With Semrush, you can also sort by organic, paid, and PLA keywords. This is one of Semrush’s biggest strengths—providing tools for PPC campaigns as well as SEO campaigns. This ethos extends to its competitor research—to great effect.
Better still, Semrush allows you to compare up to four different domains, while Moz limits you to three. Moz’s Keyword Gap tool offers less information, and it’s less elegantly laid out—another clear win for Semrush.
True Competitor is a feature offered by Moz. It’s a useful tool that allows you to quickly establish which sites are providing the biggest competition to your own. Moz calculates this by comparing DA scores, keyword overlap, and more to generate a Rivalry Score.
Conceptually, the idea is pretty interesting, and I’d like to see Semrush come up with its own “True Competitor” style tool. Realistically, however, you’re going to have to use some common sense. I’ve run True Competitor on some of my own domains and found that some of the “competitors” that pop up are not actually competing with me. Domains for review and aggregate sites, for example, are common to see with this tool.
True Competitor seems to work best for local SEO, where service-in-location (SIL) keywords are common, and rivalry over ranking for those keywords can get intense.
Once you’ve found competitors that you want to compare your domain to, Moz makes it easy to transition from the True Competitor tool to the Keyword Gap tool to instantly see which keywords your competitors are ranking for.
Overall, I like the True Competitor tool, but feel that it could be tweaked to improve its accuracy
Semrush doesn’t have a True Competitor tool, but you can use its “Competitors Discovery” tool (part of the position tracking function) in order to see which domains are ranking for the keywords you’re tracking. I find this approach to be a bit more effective than the True Competitor tool—though it does take more effort to set up.