Determine competitive pressure with SEO

Measuring competitive pressure essential for any CMO or marketing manager. In this article, I show how to get behind competitor strategies. These insights help create an effective SEO roadmap. From analyzing search terms to teasing out backlink profiles, learn to define a strategy that always stays one step ahead of competitors.

Competitive pressure in SEO

By competitive pressure in SEO, I am talking about the intensity and nature of the battle for the top spots in search engine results. It is important to understand that SEO is not just about finding and using the best keywords, but also analyzing how others are using and ranking for those keywords. This is especially true for competitors. This information helps in creating new SEO strategies.

Analyze among other aspects below to determine competitive pressure in SEO:

  • The intrinsic value of a Web site as a whole;
  • The intrinsic value of a Web site’s content;
  • The intrinsic value of a website’s authority (this is not falsifiable).

Understanding competitors

The first step is to identify competitors. Don’t just pay attention to the obvious competitors. Certain companies may not be direct business competitors, but may be search engine competitors.

Tools like SEMrush or Ahrefs help see who ranks for the same target keywords. Analyze not only who they are, what their SEO strategies are. Research what keywords they are using and what their backlink profile looks like. Also pay attention to the quality of their content.

Metrics for determining competitive pressure in SEO

It is important to focus on some key SEO metrics, think keyword position, content quality, page speed, domain authority and backlink profile.

Tools like Moz and Google Analytics help in understanding these metrics. Compare website metrics with competitors. This gives a clear picture of the position in the SEO competition. It also provides insight into what areas can still be improved.

Off-page SEO metrics to determine the value of a backlink profile:

  • TrustFlow (TF): provides insight into the reliability of a Web site for Google.
  • Citation Flow: the krach that a link passes on from a Web site.
  • Domain Rating: the quality x quantity of link entries (from Ahrefs).
  • Domain Authority: the quality x quantity of link entries (from MOZ).

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Analyze competitors’ search terms

It is not only important to know what terms competitors use, but also how they use them and why these keywords lead to success. I examine competitors’ titles, meta descriptions and content to understand their approach.

Also, this way I can discover if I have overlooked terms and which ones they are. Tools like SEMrush or Google Keyword Planner are suitable for analyzing how these terms perform in terms of search volume and difficulty.

Using some short tail search terms as a starting point, it is possible to determine the competition in the marketplace. The key questions are what is the size of the market, how high is the competitive pressure and what is the total market.

Performing a content gap in Ahrefs

Performing a content gap analysis in Ahrefs provides insight into which topics and search terms are successful for competitors, but not for me. Perform this as follows:

  1. Log in to Ahrefs and select “Content Gap” in the “Site Explorer” section.
  2. Enter my domain. Enter the domains of up to three competitors below.
  3. Look at the search terms for which competitors rank, but your own website does not. This information is important for content strategy.

Understand backlink profiles of competitors

Analyze competitors’ backlink profiles to gain valuable insights into their link-building strategies. Look at the authority of the links, the relevance of the link sources and how their link profile grows over time. Tools like Ahrefs or Majestic show which websites their backlinks come from. Then try to get similar or better backlinks for a website.

Performing a link gap in Ahrefs

A link gap analysis shows where backlinks are available that competitors already have. Follow the roadmap below in Ahrefs:

  1. Go to “Link Intersect” in Ahrefs’ “Site Explorer.
  2. Enter your own domain in the top field and competitors’ domains below it.
  3. Analyze the websites that link to competitors but not to your own. Use these as target sites for new backlinks and focus link-building efforts on them.

Technical SEO: analyze competitors

With competitors’ technical SEO, pay particular attention to aspects such as the structure of their website and the speed of their website. Their mobile compatibility and use of schema markup are also important. Their sitemap provides insight into how their content is organized and the way search engines see their website.

Tools like Google’s PageSpeed Insights show website performance. This provides insight into what aspects of one’s website can be improved. Other important aspects include competitors’ robots.txt file and implementation of canonical tags to identify duplicate content issues.

What to look out for.

With technical SEO, pay attention to the following aspects:

  1. Website speed and performance: slow loading times negatively affect both user experience and search engine ranking.
  2. Mobile display: a large portion of search traffic occurs on mobile devices. An optimal mobile display is therefore optimal.
  3. Clean and structured code: well-organized code helps search engines better understand and index a website.
  4. Security: HTTPS is not only important for security, but also an important ranking factor.
  5. Schema markup: schema markup helps search engines understand the context of content. This can result in better visibility in search results.

Adjust SEO strategy based on competitive analysis

Adjust the SEO strategy using the results of the analysis of SEO performance and approach. This is a good way to benefit from competitive advantages. This can be done as follows:

  1. Improve underutilized keywords: use keywords with potential for which competitors do not rank optimally.
  2. Fill content gaps: create content in areas where competitors fall short. This involves both the selection of search terms and the content of the landing page.
  3. Improve user experience: review weaknesses in competitors’ Web site experience. Using this data, improve your own website. Users stick around longer as a result.
  4. Link building: identify new opportunities for backlinks by analyzing competitors’ backlink profiles. In this way, it is possible to respond proactively to market trends and continually refine the SEO strategy.


Competitive analysis in SEO goes beyond copy. It is a strategic process aimed at strengthening and, where necessary, improving one’s own position. To do this, it is important to thoroughly understand competitors’ approaches. Also change the strategy in response to market changes and search engine updates to always stay one step ahead of competitors. Need help? Fill out this contact form.

Senior SEO-specialist

Ralf van Veen

Senior SEO-specialist
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I have been working for 10 years as an independent SEO specialist for companies (in the Netherlands and abroad) that want to rank higher in Google in a sustainable manner. During this period I have consulted A-brands, set up large-scale international SEO campaigns and coached global development teams in the field of search engine optimization.

With this broad experience within SEO, I have developed the SEO course and helped hundreds of companies with improved findability in Google in a sustainable and transparent way. For this you can consult my portfolio, references and collaborations.

This article was originally published on 22 March 2024. The last update of this article was on 22 March 2024. The content of this page was written and approved by Ralf van Veen. Learn more about the creation of my articles in my editorial guidelines.