The following chapter is about the Competitor Audit Checklist which is part of the full Website Audit Checklist definitive guide.
The competitor audit involves analysing some of the items from checklists we’ve done so far (e.g. SEO audit checklist) together with items that are specific to the competitor audit.
Auditing your competitors is all about gaining valuable insights you need to stay ahead.
If you find out what is working for your rivals you can leverage and improve those same strategies to beat them online.
A competitor audit will look at 3-5 of your key competitors and how they’re performing in different areas, including SEO, branding, UX, etc.
SEO audit for competitors
You want to know where your site is positioned compared to other websites in your industry that are your direct competitors. You can’t compare your site to all websites, so you must choose wisely based on some criteria, such as which keywords they are targeting and how you are ranking on those keywords compared to how they are ranking.
Razvan, CEO, Cognitive SEO
Who’s linking to them?
You want to see who is talking about your competitors online (i.e. who is linking to them).
You’ll list the highest ranking competitor domains and try to identify links that you should have.
For example, a competitor may be listed on an important industry website that you should be listed on, too.
You can use a backlink gap analysis tool from SEMRush, enter in multiple competitors and find one or more competitors with high quality links that you don’t have.
The following is analyzing 2 competitors to find backlinks where they are getting links from but you are not!
This can be a great opportunity to do some outreach to get those links!
Is there an opportunity to capitalize on broken pages?
With a little help of a tool like Semrush, you can identify any broken pages on your competitor’s website.
You may wonder what their broken pages have to do with your website…
Well, it’s simple actually!
If those pages have backlinks from quality websites relevant to your business, then you should create a great page with the same focus/topic as the broken page and reach out to everyone linking to it to offer a replacement.
This is a very effective link building strategy and a way to benefit from your competitors’ broken pages.
What keywords are they ranking for?
Performing a keyword gap report will help you discover keywords that one or more of your competitors are ranking for and you are not.
You can use Ahrefs Content Gap tool for this. The report will give you a substantial list of keyword opportunities that you can go after.
You’ll focus on the keywords that are driving the most organic traffic to your competitors’ websites but have low/medium difficulty. The lower difficulty score means these keywords will be easier to rank for.
What are their top pages?
By top pages we mean the pages that are most valuable because they drive good traffic to them.
Here’s a report from Ahrefs for top pages for a website. You can see it shows the value, estimated traffic, keywords it ranks for etc.
You want to create content focused on these keywords.
Ideally, you’ll create a resource that is even better than your competitor’s top content and get your share of the (organic traffic) pie.
What platforms and tools are they using?
There’s a really useful tool called Builtwith that can help you take a peek ‘below the hood’ of your competitors’ websites.
You can get information about their server providers, SEO plugins they use, CMS, analytics and tracking, and more.
This way you’ll stay on top of the latest tools and technologies your best performing competitors are using.
What phrases are they bidding on?
If you see a competitor advertising on Google for certain phrases that may give you some ideas for content you should be writing on your blog!
They are paying for these keywords so there’s a good chance that they are generating income from their ads. You do need to track this over time because sometimes they are just testing new ads!
What is their domain authority?
It’s useful to use a tool such as Ahrefs/SEMRush to find out your competitor’s’ domain authority which is a score out of 100.
If your score is a lot lower you know you have a lot of work to do.
UX audit for competitors
A competitive UX audit focuses on analyzing the websites of your main competitors to see how they design for their users and if they’re using any good practices that you’re not.
It also gives you an idea of what users expect from websites in your industry or niche.
What’s their overall design like?
By looking at the competitors’ visual design, you’ll be able to spot any trends that are popular in your industry.
But…you’ll also get inspired from good design examples that you discover.
When it comes to website design, it’s important to answer questions like:
Does it look professional? Is it responsive?
What colours and fonts are they using and what kind of look and feel are they creating?
What kind of imagery and graphics are they using?
Is the design consistent?
Consistent use of colour schemes, fonts, and messaging style all have a positive impact on website UX.
Visual consistency is one of the main rules of design since it keeps your website simple and easy to use, making users feel familiar with your website.
Is it easy for users to interact with the website?
Check the layout of their website. Is there too much going on? A cluttered layout will make it difficult for users to focus attention on important content or take a desired action.
Is it easy to navigate and can users quickly find what they are looking for?
Or are there too many navigation options per page?
Do they follow the rules of visual hierarchy?
A good visual hierarchy guides users toward the most important content and elements on the website.
Are your competitors using colour, size or positioning of certain elements on the page so that visitors notice them first?
Have a look at this visual hierarchy guidelines:
Is the website accessible?
Can users with different disabilities understand, navigate, and interact with the website?
If your competitor’s aren’t applying the rules of accessible design they are excluding users with disabilities, meaning their website can’t be used by everyone equally.
Content audit for competitors
Content is the ‘meat’ of your website, it’s what drives traffic to your website by telling search engines and searchers what your company and your product(s) are about.
Great content helps you raise above the noise and positions you high up the rankings on Google. So that is why content is one of the most important things to analyze when auditing your competitors’ websites.
You want to know what your competitors are doing well (and not so well) and if there are any untapped opportunities you haven’t previously discovered.
What tactics are they using on the blog to drive traffic and leads?
What you need to look at when it comes to your competitors is the quality of their blog content.
Are they publishing long form articles that are packed with valuable content that both engages the users and drives search engine traffic?
What topics do they cover in their most popular articles? And can you ‘beat’ them by creating something even better?
You also want to check if people are engaging with their content e.g. sharing on social media, leaving comments, linking to it, etc.
What type of content do they publish?
Examine the content your competitors publish to figure out the type of content they regularly publish.
Do they focus most of their attention on videos, podcasts, infographics, case studies, blog posts, webinars?
Which content type is most popular on their website and is there a way to replicate their success without copying them?
Is there specific content for every stage of the buyer’s journey?
Your competitors may have good quality content overall, but they may be missing out on catering to all stages of the buyer’s journey.
Is there enough awareness (e.g. blog articles, how to guides), consideration (e.g. checklists, case studies, product comparisons), and decision (e.g. free trial, demo offers, etc.) stage content?
Branding audit for competitors
It’s important to analyse how well your competitors are incorporating their company branding into their website design, the content they publish on their blog, the messaging they use on product pages, etc.
From visual branding to messaging, tone and voice, you need to check if they’re creating a consistent brand experience for their target audience.
How’s their brand image?
What kind of a brand image are your competitors portraying?
You can assess this by looking at the type of voice, tone and brand personality traits they use to deliver their brands’ messages.
Depending on your goals, you may need to adjust your brand’s voice to add more uniqueness to your branding and better attract your target audience.
Do they have good visual branding?
Is the visual design memorable and can users instantly recognize your competitor’s brand?
Here’s an example style sheet for a brand!
Do chosen colours, fonts and layout represent their brand?
Do they have high-quality images and graphics that are on-brand and demonstrate what the brand is about?
If your competitors aren’t using the same colours, fonts, image style, etc — they’re missing out on the opportunity to build brand equity.
This means more opportunities for you to position your brand in the mind of your current and potential customers.
What are others saying about their brand?
Are there any negative stories about your competitors online?
Check if there are any bad reviews on Google and Facebook and how they respond to them.
What kind of comments do customers leave on their social media posts? How about their employees? How do they talk about the company?
All of this affects your competitors’ brand perception and reputation.
Do competitor websites perform better than your website?
If your website is much slower than your competitors’ websites, then you definitely need to know about it and take necessary steps to fix this.
You can learn more about the factors that impact speed/performance in our Technology/Performance audit checklist.
What platform is their website built on?
You want to see what platforms your competitors are running on, but also the plugins they’re using, the CMS they run their blog on, the ecommerce platform they use for their shop, etc.
This will help you stay on top of the latest technologies that are used in your industry or niche.