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10 Tools You Can Use For SEO Competitive Analysis

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10 Tools You Can Use For SEO Competitive Analysis

A successful search engine optimization strategy includes competitive analysis. The tools available today offer incredible value at generally reasonable fees.

They help users accomplish more in less time, and many may find that the tools are so useful that they essentially end up paying for themselves. Here are 10 popular SEO competitive analysis tools, their pricing, and how you can use them to bolster the success of your SEO strategy.

1. Semrush

  • Pricing: Plans start at $119.95 per month.

Semrush not only offers good data for search results analysis, but everything functions the way you expect it to – it’s that easy to use.

There is no need to read a manual to use Semrush’s SERP analysis tool.

Every link, button, and heading has a tooltip that explains what it is so that everything makes sense.

Semrush Tooltip Explains SERP Analysis Tool Data

Screenshot from Semrush, January 2023

Semrush Tooltip Explains Jargon

10 Tools You Can Use For SEO Competitive AnalysisScreenshot from Semrush modified by author, January 2023

Semrush’s Authority Score is assigned to every URL listed in the SERP Analysis.

Like any third-party metric, the Authority Score is just a score based on factors like backlinks, traffic, and referring domains.

The metric makes it easy to make a quick judgment about a webpage without having to spend hours researching all of the factors for each webpage.

The research is already done; that’s what Semrush’s Authority Score is about.

That’s just one part of the Semrush SERP analysis, but it’s the part that is directly tied to competitor research.

Semrush is useful for researching competitor backlinks. The ease of use makes the workflow of researching links a pleasure.

There’s no need to read a manual. Everything is self-explanatory.

Starting an analysis consists of entering a domain name or an entire URL.

The resulting page shows various metrics that help you see the competition at a glance, literally.

There’s a graph that shows the growth of referring domains and also backlinks by year, which provides a quick idea of how aggressively they’re building links, organized by time.

10 Tools You Can Use For SEO Competitive AnalysisScreenshot from Semrush modified by author, January 2023

Beneath that graph, there’s another visual representation of the backlinks organized by the categories of referring domains.

The categories are the general niche areas that the backlinks belong to.

10 Tools You Can Use For SEO Competitive AnalysisScreenshot from Semrush, January 2023

When you click through a category, the tool presents a filter where you can add a word, a phrase, or a TLD, which means Top Level Domain (.net or .org), to find all the relevant links.

There’s also a drop-down menu for selecting “zones by TLD,” but I found that typing in the TLD works better.

Or you can get granular and click on the View Full Report button to see all of the categories in granular detail.

It’s easy to recommend Semrush because it truly is designed for researching competitors and for link building.

The tools for competitive research are easy to use and give a visual snapshot of their activities and offer a useful user interface for drilling down by category.

2. Ahrefs SERP Checker (Free And Paid)

  • Pricing: Free checker tool, then starts at $99 per month.

Ahrefs has a free SERP checker that shows the same SERP data as the paid version, only for just the first few positions.

The paid version has more data. But if you’re on a budget, the free version is a useful start.

Below is a screenshot of the SERP overview that lists featured snippets, people also ask, and the sitelinks enhancements.

This extra data gives a good overview of what the SERPs look like, plus page and domain rating metrics.

10 Tools You Can Use For SEO Competitive AnalysisScreenshot from Ahrefs, December 2022

Here is a screenshot showing more data from the SERP analysis tool.

All of the column headings show a tooltip that explains what each column means.

10 Tools You Can Use For SEO Competitive AnalysisScreenshot from Ahrefs, December 2022

Ahrefs is a solid choice for search results competitor analysis.

3. Serpstat

  • Pricing: Free version, then starts at $69 per month.

Serpstat is an affordably priced SEO platform that offers SERP analysis tools. It’s possible to sign up for free to test it out.

Serpstat is focused on analyzing the search results and is useful for Backlinks Analysis and Competitor Analysis.

4. SpyFu

  • Pricing: Free analysis tool, then starts at $39 per month (or $16 per month on an annual plan).

SpyFu is a very reasonably priced service that is dedicated specifically to competitive research and offers many useful features.

The benefit of the tool is that it generates all the data necessary for competitive research.

SpyFu basically takes the “research” part out of competitive research tasks and provides the data.

The SERP Analysis tool, which can be used for free, offers unique information, such as indicators that signal a website rises or drops in the search results.

10 Tools You Can Use For SEO Competitive AnalysisScreenshot from SpyFu, January 2023

Another interesting feature is that it offers a Ranking Difficulty score, data on whether .gov or .edu sites are ranking, and the number of homepages that are ranking in the top 100 positions.

10 Tools You Can Use For SEO Competitive AnalysisScreenshot from SpyFu modified by author, January 2023

SpyFu Backlinks Report

Another unique feature is how SpyFu identifies what it determines are the strongest webpages to get a link from.

Just enter a keyword phrase into the search box, and SpyFu searches the backlinks of the top 5,000 ranked sites, including for similar keyword phrases, and identifies all the backlinking domains that the ranked sites have in common.

Even better, SpyFu allows users to filter those webpages by backlink types.

The backlink types one can filter for are .gov/.edu/, sites with affiliate links, blogs, news sites, forums, and directories.

Filtering for forums reveals all the strongest forum backlinks, filtering for .edu domains shows the best .edu sites to get a link from, and so on.

Another cool feature is called Backlink Kombat.

10 Tools You Can Use For SEO Competitive AnalysisScreenshot from SpyFu, January 2023

This tool allows you to enter two competitor domains and then exclude your own domain. It will then show you all the links the competitors have in common that your site does not.

I like using tools in creative ways to get even more or better data.

What I would suggest doing with the SpyFu Backlink Kombat tool is comparing sites that aren’t your direct competitors. This can help you discover opportunities you might not otherwise.

So if your topic is plumbers in City X, compare roofers in City X.

Competitor backlink research with SpyFu is incredibly easy. I would like the flexibility to filter by keywords (like Favorite Sites) or by TLD (to find .org or .us domains).

A limited amount of this data is free, and the complete data set is available to paid subscribers.

SpyFu is an interesting tool because it takes the extra step of presenting the data while minimizing research.

It’s easy to use, specific to competitor research, and reasonably priced.

5. Sandboxweb.io SERP Analysis Tool

  • Pricing: Free version, then pricing starts at $19 per month.

Sandboxweb.io offers a SERP analysis tool that provides data on top-ranked competitors.

This tool shows the schema types, Core Web Vitals data, and word counts.

You can click on each competitor in the SERP to research further.

The free version of this tool offers a lot of information. But it’s limited to 10 keywords per month.

The data is somewhat limited, but it does offer a quick analysis.

6. Screaming Frog

  • Pricing: Free version and a paid version at $209 per year.

Screaming Frog has a SERP analysis function. It’s not easy to use, but it’s not excessively difficult.

I’d like to see Screaming Frog make it easier to run this kind of analysis without getting technical.

If you take the time to figure it out, Screaming Frog can scrape the SERPs and provide analysis.

It’s also useful for analyzing competitors one at a time to get a sense of what sites they link to, how much content they have, interlinking patterns, headings used across the site, and many other competitor data points.

7. Inlinks

  • Pricing: Free version, then pricing starts at $39 per month.

Inlinks is a content optimization-focused tool that can extract relevant data points from search results and competitors.

Inlinks features a SERP analysis function that offers multiple data points about the sites in the search results, such as semantically related topics and user intent data.

The user intent data and topic suggestion features are quite unique.

There is also a Topic Analysis feature that provides competitors’ related topics and other data that is useful for creating content.

Other SERP Analysis tools look at the top 100 through the top 5,000 for their analyses.

But in my opinion, what really matters most are the top 10 search results because not every site in the top 100 or even the top 10 is a competitor.

So, I really appreciate that Inlinks’ SERP analysis tool focuses on the top 10.

The Inlinks SERP analysis tool offers data on the following:

  • Topic density.
  • Internal and external link counts.
  • Readability scores.
  • List of H2 headings.

I asked one of the founders, Dixon Jones, to explain what Inlinks does regarding competitor analysis.

Dixon answered:

“Inlinks analyzes ten competing pages for any Keyword. It aggregates the combined number of times entities are used in the SERP and uses this to build a Knowledge Graph of entities related to a given search.

This is then compared to the entities in the content on YOUR competing page, highlighting material gaps in your content.

At a site level, Inlinks can build a knowledge graph of any site, but does not currently have many tools to compare whole sites.

We look at the verbs used to describe entities (in competing pages for a SERP) and cluster them into verb based intent.

This helps content publishers answer a genuine user query, rather than use words in the wrong context.”

Inlinks offers more tools; it’s more than just competitor analysis.

There is a free, pro, and enterprise level.

8. MarketMuse

  • Pricing: Free version and paid plans starting at $600 per month.

MarketMuse is an AI-based content analysis tool that functions within the entire content creation workflow, from research to content brief and more.

What I appreciate about MarketMuse is that it looks at the top-ranked pages and offers a keyword overview of the topics.

A key competitor analysis function in MarketMuse is called Compete.

The Compete tool analyzes the competition and suggests what to write about and ways to do better than the competitors, such as covering overlooked related topics.

Compete’s unique selling proposition, in my opinion, is that it is focused on helping users create content that is better than the competition.

My understanding of MarketMuse is that it’s not just focused on helping users beat their competition.

The tool streamlines the entire content creation workflow, with competitor research being one part of the process.

There is a learning curve to MarketMuse.

9. SimilarWeb

  • Pricing: Free version and paid plans starting at $167 per month for the starter package.

SimilarWeb is a unique competitor analysis tool.

It’s focused less on SEO and more on providing a clear image of the differences between the two websites.

There are multiple data points related to traffic, keywords, traffic share by country, and even a comparison of audience demographics.

SimilarWeb offers a free and paid version.

The free version offers a generous amount of data that helps users compare competitors.

10. LinkResearchTools

  • Pricing: Starts at $599 per month. One-week trial for $17.

LinkResearchTools is an enterprise-class link research tool.

It’s the most sophisticated and comprehensive link-building tool I’ve ever used.

One of the qualities I like most is that it feels like it has a comprehensive inventory of crawled links.

The tool makes it easy to find links with normal searching, like adding a TLD, but you can also find links multiple sites have in common.

Most of the functionality is geared toward businesses that want to disavow backlinks, which is useless for link builders.

I’d like to see a tool that does away with all of the link-disavowing-related features and just focuses on researching competitor backlinks.

One can subscribe to most of the other lower-priced tools and use their combined competitor backlink research features and still pay less than LinkResearchTools.

For most people, that’s more than enough.

But the data in LinkResearchTools is, in my experience, possibly the most comprehensive backlink data available.

Backlink Analysis

Backlink analysis is more than just poaching keywords from competitors.

It’s a way to understand what the barrier to entry might be, which means how easy or difficult it might be to compete.

Competitor links can be a starting point for building better links as well.

Sometimes a group of links might stand out, giving you an idea of a direction to take.

Doing solid link building requires a flexible backlink analysis tool.

Competitor Research

There are many useful SEO tools available today. They don’t do the SEO for you, but they make it easier to accomplish better results faster.

The tools also provide time-saving access to a huge amount of data that would ordinarily take days to compile.

Saving time, being more productive, and having the data to make informed decisions is the hallmark of all of these SEO tools.


Featured Image: Paulo Bobita/Search Engine Journal



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Google Quietly Ends Covid-Era Rich Results

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Google Quietly Ends Covid-Era Rich Results

Google removed the Covid-era structured data associated with the Home Activities rich results that allowed online events to be surfaced in search since August 2020, publishing a mention of the removal in the search documentation changelog.

Home Activities Rich Results

The structured data for the Home Activities rich results allowed providers of online livestreams, pre-recorded events and online events to be findable in Google Search.

The original documentation has been completely removed from the Google Search Central webpages and now redirects to a changelog notation that explains that the Home Activity rich results is no longer available for display.

The original purpose was to allow people to discover things to do from home while in quarantine, particularly online classes and events. Google’s rich results surfaced details of how to watch, description of the activities and registration information.

Providers of online events were required to use Event or Video structured data. Publishers and businesses who have this kind of structured data should be aware that this kind of rich result is no longer surfaced but it’s not necessary to remove the structured data if it’s a burden, it’s not going to hurt anything to publish structured data that isn’t used for rich results.

The changelog for Google’s official documentation explains:

“Removing home activity documentation
What: Removed documentation on home activity structured data.

Why: The home activity feature no longer appears in Google Search results.”

Read more about Google’s Home Activities rich results:

Google Announces Home Activities Rich Results

Read the Wayback Machine’s archive of Google’s original announcement from 2020:

Home activities

Featured Image by Shutterstock/Olga Strel

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Google’s Gary Illyes: Lastmod Signal Is Binary

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Google's Gary Illyes: Lastmod Signal Is Binary

In a recent LinkedIn discussion, Gary Illyes, Analyst at Google, revealed that the search engine takes a binary approach when assessing a website’s lastmod signal from sitemaps.

The revelation came as Illyes encouraged website owners to upgrade to WordPress 6.5, which now natively supports the lastmod element in sitemaps.

When Mark Williams-Cook asked if Google has a “reputation system” to gauge how much to trust a site’s reported lastmod dates, Illyes stated, “It’s binary: we either trust it or we don’t.”

No Shades Of Gray For Lastmod

The lastmod tag indicates the date of the most recent significant update to a webpage, helping search engines prioritize crawling and indexing.

Illyes’ response suggests Google doesn’t factor in a website’s history or gradually build trust in the lastmod values being reported.

Google either accepts the lastmod dates provided in a site’s sitemap as accurate, or it disregards them.

This binary approach reinforces the need to implement the lastmod tag correctly and only specify dates when making meaningful changes.

Illyes commends the WordPress developer community for their work on version 6.5, which automatically populates the lastmod field without extra configuration.

Accurate Lastmod Essential For Crawl Prioritization

While convenient for WordPress users, the native lastmod support is only beneficial if Google trusts you’re using it correctly.

Inaccurate lastmod tags could lead to Google ignoring the signal when scheduling crawls.

With Illyes confirming Google’s stance, it shows there’s no room for error when using this tag.

Why SEJ Cares

Understanding how Google acts on lastmod can help ensure Google displays new publish dates in search results when you update your content.

It’s an all-or-nothing situation – if the dates are deemed untrustworthy, the signal could be disregarded sitewide.

With the information revealed by Illyes, you can ensure your implementation follows best practices to the letter.


Featured Image: Danishch/Shutterstock

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How to Persuade Your Boss to Send You to Ahrefs Evolve

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How to Persuade Your Boss to Send You to Ahrefs Evolve

There’s one thing standing between you and several days of SEO, socializing, and Singaporean sunshine: your boss (and their Q4 budget 😅).

But don’t worry—we’ve got your back. Here are 5 arguments (and an example message) you can use to persuade your boss to send you to Ahrefs Evolve.

About Ahrefs Evolve

  • 2 days in sunny Singapore (Oct 24–25)
  • 500 digital marketing enthusiasts
  • 18 top speakers from around the world

Learn more and buy tickets.

SEO is changing at a breakneck pace. Between AI Overviews, Google’s rolling update schedule, their huge API leak, and all the documents released during their antitrust trial, it’s hard to keep up. What works in SEO today?

You could watch a YouTube video or two, maybe even attend an hour-long webinar. Or, much more effective: you could spend two full days learning from a panel of 18 international SEO experts, discussing your takeaways live with other attendees.

How to Persuade Your Boss to Send You to AhrefsHow to Persuade Your Boss to Send You to Ahrefs
Evolve speakers from around the world.

Our world-class speakers are tackling the hardest problems and best opportunities in SEO today. The talk agenda covers topics like:

  • Responding to AI Overviews: Amanda King will teach you how to respond to AI Overviews, Google Gemini, and other AI search functions.
  • Surviving (and thriving) Google’s algo updates: Lily Ray will talk through Google’s recent updates, and share data-driven recommendations for what’s working in search today.
  • Planning for the future of SEO: Bernard Huang will talk through the failures of AI content and the path to better results.

(And attendees will get video recordings of each session, so you can share the knowledge with your teammates too.)

View the full talk agenda here.

There’s no substitute for meeting with influencers, peers, and partners in real life. 

Conferences create serendipity: chance encounters and conversations that can have a huge positive impact on you and your business. By way of example, these are some of the real benefits that have come my way from attending conferences:

  • Conversations that lead to new customers for our business,
  • Invitations to speak at events,
  • New business partnerships and co-marketing opportunities, and
  • Meeting people that we went on to hire.

There’s a “halo” effect that lingers long after the event is over: the people you meet will remember you for longer, think more highly of you, and be more likely to help you out, should you ask.

(And let’s not forget: there’s a lot of information, particularly in SEO, that only gets shared in person.)

The “international” part of Evolve matters too. Evolve is a different crowd to your local run-of-the-mill conference. It’s a chance to meet with people from markets you wouldn’t normally meet—from Australia to Indonesia and beyond.

How to Persuade Your Boss to Send You to AhrefsHow to Persuade Your Boss to Send You to Ahrefs
Evolve attendees by home country.

If you’re an Ahrefs customer (thank you!), you’ll learn tons of tips, tricks and workflow improvements from attending Evolve. You’ll have opportunities to:

  • Attend talks from the Ahrefs team, showcasing advanced features and strategies that you can use in your own business.
  • Pick our brains at the Ahrefs booth, where we’ll offer informal 1:1 coaching sessions and previews of up-coming releases (like our new content optimization tool 🤫).
  • Join dedicated Ahrefs training workshops, hosted by the Ahrefs team and Ahrefs power users (tickets for these workshops will sold separately).

As a manager myself, there are two questions I need answered when approving expenses:

  • Is this a reasonable cost?
  • Will we see a return on this investment?

To answer those questions: early bird tickets for Evolve start at $570. For context, “super early bird” tickets for MozCon (another popular SEO conference) this year were almost twice as much: $999.

There’s a lot included in the ticket price too:

  • World-class international speakers,
  • 5-star hotel venue,
  • 5-star hotel food (two tea breaks with snacks & lunch),
  • Networking afterparty, and
  • Full talk recordings to later share with your team.

SEO is a crucial growth channel for most businesses. If you can improve your company’s SEO performance after attending Evolve (and we think you will), you’ll very easily see a positive return on the investment.

Traveling to tropical Singapore (and eating tons of satay) is great for you, but it’s also great for your team. Attending Evolve is a chance to break with routine, reignite your passion for marketing, and come back to your job reinvigorated.

This would be true for any international conference, but it goes double for Singapore. It’s a truly unique place: an ultra-safe, high-tech city that brings together dozens of different cultures.

1718123166 301 How to Persuade Your Boss to Send You to Ahrefs1718123166 301 How to Persuade Your Boss to Send You to Ahrefs
Little India in Singapore

You’ll discover different beliefs, working practices, and ways of business—and if you’re anything like me, come back a richer, wiser person for the experience.

If you’re nervous about pitching your boss on attending Evolve, remember: the worst that can happen is a polite “not this time”, and you’ll find yourself in the same position you are now.

So here goes: take this message template, tweak it to your liking, and send it to your boss over email or Slack… and I’ll see you in Singapore 😉

Email template

Hi [your boss’ name],

Our SEO tool provider, Ahrefs, is holding an SEO and digital marketing conference in Singapore in October. I’d like to attend, and I think it’s in the company’s interest:

  • The talks will help us respond to all the changes happening in SEO today. I’m particularly interested in the talks about AI and recent Google updates. 
  • I can network with my peers. I can discover what’s working at other companies, and explore opportunities for partnerships and co-marketing.
  • I can learn how we can use Ahrefs better across the organization.
  • I’ll come back reinvigorated with new ideas and motivation, and I can share my top takeaways and talk recordings with my team after the event.

Early bird tickets are $570. Given how important SEO is to the growth of our business, I think we’ll easily see a return from the spend.

Can we set up time to chat in more detail? Thanks!

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