SEO analysis refers to the process of assessing and evaluating various factors that impact a website’s SEO performance, especially the website’s ranking in search engine results pages (SERPs.)
Since an SEO campaign can involve the optimization of many different website elements, in practice, we can also divide SEO analysis into several different aspects, including technical structure analysis, content analysis, keyword analysis, backlinks analysis, and others.
SEO analysis helps digital marketers and website owners understand how Google and other search engines perceive their websites and how to optimize them to achieve better visibility and higher search rankings. Analyzing key SEO metrics will help website owners identify potential areas for improvement and provide valuable insights into how to develop more effective SEO strategies to:
- Rank higher on SERPs
- Drive more traffic to the website, and ultimately
- Improve conversions
In this article, we will discuss the fundamentals of SEO analysis, and throughout this guide, we will cover key topics such as:
- Keyword analysis (or keyword research)
- Site structure analysis
- Content quality analysis
- Backlinks and link profile analysis
- Technical SEO factors analysis
- Competitor analysis
And other SEO performance tracking practices you can adopt.
By the end of this article, you’ll have a more comprehensive understanding of the concept of SEO analysis and how to use it to your advantage.
The fundamentals of SEO analysis
To reiterate, SEO analysis refers to the process of evaluating various aspects of a website that will affect its SEO performance. The main objective of SEO analysis is to help website owners and digital marketers practicing SEO identify the site’s current weaknesses and find opportunities for optimization.
Potential benefits of SEO analysis
By analyzing these various aspects of the website, website owners can gain very valuable insights into how their target audience interacts with the website and how the search engines currently perceive the website. These insights will help website owners to make informed decisions about optimizing the website for better SEO performance.
Below are just some of the key benefits offered by the proper execution of SEO analysis:
- Identifying areas for improvement: by analyzing your website’s SEO performance, you can identify specific aspects of the website that needs improvement, such as backlinks profile or content quality, for example.
- Enhancing user experience: SEO analysis will also help you identify areas where you can improve the user experience for your visitors. Improved user experience will ultimately lead to increased engagement, conversion, and satisfaction levels.
- Improved traffic: effective SEO analysis will result in improved search rankings. The increased visibility in SERPs will naturally drive more traffic to the website.
- Gain a competitive edge: SEO analysis can help your business stay ahead of your competitors. Competitive analysis can allow you to identify competitors’ strategies and tactics, allowing you to adapt and improve your own strategies.
- Maximize ROI: with SEO analysis ensuring the success of your campaigns, it can allow you to maximize your campaign’s ROI by driving more targeted, qualified traffic to your site with a higher chance of converting more of those visitors into customers.
- Keeping up with algorithm updates: this is a very important benefit to consider. With the ever-changing algorithm updates of Google and other search engines, regular SEO analysis can help you stay up-to-date. This will ensure that your website remains complaints with the latest SEO best practices and is always optimized for search.
- A better understanding of user behavior: via SEO analysis, you can gain a better understanding of your site visitors’ needs, goals, and behavior. For example, you can identify which pages they are visiting, what search queries they are using to find your site, how long they are spending on your pages, and so on. This valuable data can inform your SEO and marketing strategies.
Different categories of SEO analysis
As discussed, SEO analysis involves analyzing different aspects of a website, so in practice, there are many different types of SEO analyses you can implement.
However, all of these types can be categorized into just four main categories:
- On-page analysis: analyzing the website’s HTML structure, metadata (title tags, meta description, etc.,) and content optimization to ensure they are properly optimized for both users and search engine algorithms.
- Off-page analysis: analyzing factors outside the website, especially backlinks, but also social media signals, online mentions, and other outside factors that may impact the website’s SEO performance.
- Technical analysis: analyzing the technical elements of the website, such as page speed, mobile-friendliness, security, and other technical factors that may impact both user experience and indexability.
- Competitor analysis: analyzing the competitors’ websites to identify the strengths and weaknesses in their SEO approaches in order to develop a strategy to outrank them in the SERPs.
In the next sections, we will delve into each of these categories, starting with the first one: on-page analysis.
On-page SEO analysis
On-page analysis refers to the process of evaluating the on-page aspects of the website that will affect its SEO performance, which mainly involves three elements:
- HTML structure
Analyzing and optimizing these elements can improve the website’s value in front of its visitors, as well as its search engine visibility.
- Content analysis
As we know, we can’t separate any SEO strategy from content.
Content quality and optimizations of various content elements are some of the most important on-page factors considered by search engines when ranking websites. Thus, it’s very important to regularly evaluate and optimize your website’s content to ensure compliance with the latest SEO best practices.
When analyzing content for SEO, there are different aspects you should evaluate, including:
- Keyword analysis: evaluate the use of target keywords within your content. The content should feature the target keywords and related words/phrases with an optimal but natural density. Also, evaluate the use of long-tail keywords and variations of the target keywords to assess the content’s ability to capture a broader audience.
- Content quality: evaluate whether your content is informative and provides value for the intended audience. Evaluate the following elements:
- Relevance: the content is relevant when it successfully answers the user’s search query according to their search intent. You can measure relevance by analyzing user engagement metrics, such as time on page/dwell time, bounce rate, and social shares.
- Originality: use plagiarism check tools like Copyscape to make sure the content is 100% original and not copied from other sources and to make sure no one is copying and publishing your content somewhere else.
- Readability: the content should be easy to read and comprehend by its target audience. You can use tools like Gunning Fog Index and Flesh-Kincaid to measure and analyze your content’s readability.
- Content length: longer content tends to perform better in SERP rankings. However, length alone isn’t enough if the content isn’t engaging and/or if it’s filled with unnecessary filler.
- Structure: optimal use of headings and subheadings can help structure the content and improve readability. Proper use of heading tags (H1, H2, H3, etc.) will also help search engines understand the hierarchy and context of your content.
- Visual appeal: it’s today’s reality that content should be visually appealing to succeed. Ideally, it should contain images, videos, and infographics to improve user experience. Besides manually checking the presence of visual assets, you can also measure and analyze user engagement metrics like social shares and dwell time.
- Metadata analysis
Metadata refers to information about a webpage (and, in this case, the page’s content) that is not part of the content but rather embedded within the HTML code to provide additional information to the search engines.
Metadata provides information about the page’s title, descriptions, focus/target keywords, and other elements so the search engines (and other applications) can better understand what the page is about.
Some elements of metadata are not visible to website visitors, so it doesn’t play a direct part in improving user experience. Yet, it plays a critical role in search engine optimization by providing context and relevant information about the webpage to search engines.
Analyze your website’s metadata to ensure Google and other search engines can understand your website properly and that it accurately represents the content of your web pages in the SERPs.
Analyze the following:
- Title tags: the title tag will appear in the search result and the browser tab as the clickable text, so it will significantly affect the click-through rate (CTR) when your page is displayed as a search result in the SERP. Make sure the title tag is descriptive and compelling while naturally including the targeted keywords. Ideally, the title tag should stay under 60 characters.
- Meta description: the meta description is a brief summary of the web page’s content. In the SERP, it will appear as a snippet below the title tag, so it will also affect the click-through rate. The meta description should naturally include target keywords and a call-to-action (CTA) to encourage clicks. However, focus on making the meta description unique and compelling. Ideally, it should be under 155 characters.
- Alt tags: alt tags are used to describe non-text content (images, infographics, videos, etc.) to search engines, as well as to visually impaired users. Make sure to add alt tags to your non-text assets. Keep them descriptive and include the relevant keywords
- Canonical tags: canonical tags are used to tell the search engines about the preferred version of a web page when there are multiple versions of the page available. Setting up canonical tags correctly is important in order to avoid duplicate content issues.
- Structured data markup: structured data markup provides additional information to the search engines about the content of a webpage and its context. Make sure to include relevant schema markup on your content to ensure the structured data is correctly implemented.
- HTML structure analysis
HTML structure analysis for SEO involves analyzing the underlying HTML code of a website to make sure search engine crawlers can properly crawl it and understand its content.
Therefore, the focus of HTML structure analysis is to make sure that your site’s HTLM code is optimized for the search engines. Consider analyzing the following areas:
- Analyze URL structure: the content’s URL structure should be user-friendly and include the targeted keywords. Use hyphens to separate words (and not underscores), and make sure the URLs are descriptive. Avoid using dynamic parameter URLs (i.e., URLs that use session IDs and tracking codes), and avoid using generic or vague terms that don’t convey any meaningful information to the users.
- Internal linking structure: internal links refer to links on your content pointing to another page on the website. A proper internal linking structure will not only aid user navigation and improve user experience, but it will also help tell the search engines about your site’s hierarchy and structure.
- Non-text content optimization: when analyzing your website’s HTML structure, review your website’s non-text content (images, videos, infographics, etc.) to ensure they are optimized for search engines with descriptive file names, alt text, and titles. Include the target keywords when possible, but focus on ensuring the search engines and visually-impaired users can understand the context and relevance of your non-text content.
II. Off-page SEO analysis
As mentioned, off-page SEO analysis involves analyzing any external optimization efforts and any factors outside the website that can impact the said website’s search rankings.
Off-page factors are naturally more difficult to control than on-page factors since they involve external parties, but off-page SEO factors are highly critical to improving website rankings on the SERP and driving traffic to the website.
Here are some important off-page elements you should analyze:
Backlinks, or inbound links, are links from other websites pointing to your website.
The quantity and quality of backlinks are two of the most important ranking factors affecting the website’s ability to rank higher on the SERP.
Backlinks are treated by the search engine algorithm as votes of confidence. When a website links another website, it’s essentially saying that the linked website and its content are trustworthy and credible.
This is why, the more links from high-quality and authoritative websites it has, the higher the chance a website will rank higher on the SERP.
When analyzing your website’s backlinks, you should involve several aspects:
- Backlinks quantity: there are various backlink analysis tools like Ahrefs or SEMRush that can help you gather all of the backlink data for your website so you can assess the total number of links coming to the website.
- Authority of linking domains: you can use tools like Moz to check the Domain Authority (DA) and Page Authority (PA) scores of the linking websites.
- Relevance of linking content: backlinks from sites with similar or related content to your website are more valuable than those from totally unrelated sites.
- Anchor text: the anchor text used for the backlink may affect its impact on the website’s search ranking. Anchor text should be relevant to the content of the linked page and, ideally, should fit the context of the target keywords. However, it should not be over-optimized with too many use of exact-match keywords.
- Diversity: a healthy backlinks profile is one with diverse sources from different types of sites (blogs, social media posts, news sites, etc.). Having too many links from just one or two websites may hurt your SEO performance instead.
- Trustworthiness: links from sites that have been penalized before (i.e., those with a history or black hat SEO tactics) may hurt your site’s search engine rankings. You can use Google Search Console or tools like SEMRush to check if the linking website has been penalized in the past, or you can manually evaluate the site’s content and look for signs of low-quality/spammy content.
- Traffic: backlinks from sites with high traffic won’t only benefit your site’s SEO performance, but these sites also have a higher chance of bringing more referral traffic to your site. You can use Alexa or SimilarWeb, among other tools, to check the traffic quantity of your backlink sources.
2. Social signals
Social signals can impact your site’s search engine rankings in direct and indirect ways.
Regular monitoring and analyzing of social media signals related to your website can help you develop a more effective SEO strategy. For example, analyzing mentions of your brand on social media can give insights into how well your brand is currently perceived.
Here is a step-by-step guide on how to analyze social signals in an SEO campaign:
- Identify the platforms to analyze: determine which social media platforms are the most relevant for your target audience. You’d also want to focus on building a strong presence on platforms your target audience uses the most and tailor your strategy accordingly.
- Monitor mentions: you can use social media monitoring tools such as Hootsuite or Mention to monitor any mentions of your brand on the identified platforms. This will help you identify opportunities to engage with your followers and build relationships, which in turn may result in backlinks to your site.
- Analyze social media engagement: analyze the engagement metrics (likes, shares, number of comments) of your social media posts. This can also give you valuable insights into how to create more engaging content both for your social media and your website. For example, when a social media post generates a lot of engagement, you can discuss the same topic in a blog post, so it’s more likely to be linked and shared.
- Monitor social media backlinks: while backlinks from social media platforms are nofollow links, they can still provide referral traffic and can indirectly impact your search rankings. You can use tools like Ahrefs or Moz to monitor social media backlinks to your website, which can also help you understand which social media platforms are providing more backlinks and driving the most traffic.
- Monitor your competitors: use the same social media monitoring tools to monitor your competitors’ social media activity and engagement. Doing so can help you identify opportunities and gaps in your own social media strategy and link-building strategy.
Regularly monitoring and analyzing your social signals can help you improve your website’s SEO performance and increase your organic and referral traffic. You can also leverage social media for link-building. For example, building relationships with relevant social media accounts may allow you to secure backlinks from their websites.
3. Online directories
Online directories are websites or platforms that list business information (name, address, phone number, URL, etc.)
Online directories can be local (city-specific,) national, or even global in scope, and they can also be industry-specific or general.
If you are a business targeting a local audience via Google Maps SEO (local SEO), then building citations on online directories should be one of your primary focuses. The quantity and consistency of mentions on online directories will significantly affect your business listing’s chance of being ranked higher on Google Maps.
To analyze your presence on online directories, consider the following:
- Identify relevant online directories: you should start by identifying relevant directories for your business and industry. For this purpose, you can perform a Google search with operators like “industry” + “submit a listing” or “industry” + “directory,” or you can also leverage tools like Moz Local or Yext.
- Evaluating the quality of directories: use Google Analytics, Ahrefs, or other tools to review website metrics like Domain Authority, traffic, backlinks profile, etc., to determine the quality of relevant online directories. Regularly evaluate the quality of directories you’ve listed your business on, as their quality/authority may change over time.
- Monitor listing accuracy and consistency: make sure your business information (name, address, phone number, website URL, etc.) is consistent and accurate across all online directories where your business is listed. Inconsistencies and inaccurate information can negatively impact your SEO, especially local/Google Maps SEO.
- Monitor and update: regularly monitor the directories your business is listed in, and make sure to update any outdated information.
4. Reviews and social proofs
Online reviews for your product or services can impact your website’s search engine ranking and the business’s overall reputation.
Thus, in this social media age, monitoring and analyzing online reviews should be a critical aspect of any SEO campaign.
- Monitor online reviews: you can use tools like Google Alerts (free), BrightLocal, or ReviewTrackers, among others, to monitor online reviews across various relevant platforms. Evaluate what your customers are saying about your business, what they liked and disliked about your product/service, and identify areas for improvement.
- Respond to reviews: regularly monitor incoming reviews so you can respond promptly, including and especially the negative ones. Doing so shows that you value customer feedback and may encourage more people to leave reviews. Make sure to address any concerns mentioned in the reviews ASAP, and thank them for their feedback.
- Encourage reviews: monitor the number of reviews for each product and service. If you get too few reviews compared to the number of sales, then consider contacting your existing customers and encouraging them to leave their reviews. You can include links to review sites on your website, send them follow-up emails after a purchase, or even offer incentives (i.e., discounts) for leaving a review.
- Leverage reviews for keyword research: reviews and testimonials can be a valuable source of keyword research. Analyze the language and terminologies used by customers in these reviews to identify keywords and phrases you haven’t targeted in your SEO campaign. You can then incorporate them into your next content creation process.
- Monitor competitors’ reviews: you can use Google Alerts, Mention, or other tools to monitor your competitors’ reviews on relevant platforms. Monitoring competitors’ reviews can help you identify gaps in your strategy. Find areas where they excel and learn from their mistakes to help refine your own SEO strategy.
III. Technical Analysis
Another important consideration in ensuring successful SEO is to make sure the website’s technical elements are properly optimized for both search engines and users, meaning:
- The website must offer an optimal user experience on all fronts: it should be fast, mobile-responsive, and easy to navigate.
- The website must be accessible by search engines’ crawler bots without any indexability issues. The search engine crawlers should be able to easily access and crawl the website’s pages.
In a technical SEO analysis, we analyze various technical elements of the website that may affect these two objectives, including:
- Page speed: how fast a web page loads is now a crucial ranking factor for Google and other search engines. Slow loading speed leads to a poor user experience, which in turn will result in higher bounce rates. You can use tools like Google PageSpeed Insights and GTMetrix to analyze factors affecting your website’s speed. These tools may also provide suggestions on how to improve your page speed, including:
- Compressing video and image files
- Use a faster web hosting service or a private server to improve server response time
- Enabling browser caching
- Use a Content Delivery Network (CDN) to reduce the distance between the user and your server
- Mobile-friendliness: more and more users are exclusively browsing websites on mobile websites, and this phenomenon also encourages search engines to prioritize mobile-friendly websites on their SERPS. Meaning, if your site doesn’t have a responsive design that adapts to different screen sizes, you are jeopardizing your efforts to rank on the SERPs. Use Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test tool or Bing’s Mobile Friendliness Test to analyze whether your website is already mobile-friendly. If not, consider the following:
- Use a responsive Theme (on WordPress) or responsive design templates if you are using website builders like Wix or Squarespace.
- Optimize images and videos by compressing them and using responsive video and image formats.
- Use large enough font sizes to ensure your content is easy to read on mobile devices
- Avoid using pop-ups. Or, if you must, use them very sparingly.
- Use mobile-friendly navigation (i.e., hamburger menu)
- Website security: security is not only important for ensuring your user’s trust and optimal user experience but is now an important ranking factor for Google and other search engines. Below are some key points to consider:
- SSL certificates and HTTPS: Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certificates provide end-to-end encryption between a website and its users, preventing hackers from intercepting user information. Websites with SSL certificates have HTTPS instead of traditional HTTP in their URL, and HTTPS is now a ranking factor. Make sure your website has a functional SSL certificate and is using HTTPS.
- Website security scans: schedule regular website security scans to identify vulnerabilities that could be exploited by malicious actors. This can include regular malware/virus scans, outdated software, weak/non-unique passwords, and others. Regular website security scans can help prevent any negative impact on your search rankings related to security issues.
- Regular backups: schedule regular backups for your website’s data and files. This can help ensure that your website can be quickly restored in the case of successful attack or security issues, preventing downtime. Too much downtime can hurt your site’s SEO performance.
- Scheduling regular updates: make sure your website’s software, plugins, and other components, including hardware and firmware, are up-to-date. This will ensure that known security vulnerabilities are patched, and your website is properly protected.
- Content Security Policy: a Content Security Policy (CSP) prevents cross-site scripting (CSS) attacks by limiting the sources of content that can be loaded onto the website. Make sure CSP is properly implemented to protect your website against malicious scripts.
IV. Competitor analysis
SEO, in its very basic nature, is a competition.
You are competing against other websites to rank higher on the search rankings.
So, it would only make sense that understanding the competition should be a critical aspect of any SEO campaign in order to develop working strategies to outrank them.
SEO competitor analysis consists of three basic steps:
- Competitor identification
In SEO, your competitors are websites that are ranking for the same target keywords and are targeting the same audience as your website. In most cases, your SEO competitors are also your business’s direct and indirect competitors, but there are scenarios when these websites don’t belong to your business competitors.
Nevertheless, here are some different methods to identify your SEO competitors:
- Keyword research: in this approach, you start by conducting keyword research to identify the target keywords of your SEO campaign. Then, you can either do a manual Google search for these keywords or use tools like SEMRush or Ahrefs to identify the top 10 to 20 ranking web pages for these keywords. These websites that appear on the first page of the search results are your main SEO competitors.
- Industry analysis: analyze your industry and review market reports to identify the main players in your industry. Look for businesses that offer similar products and services as yours, and analyze their online presence to determine whether they are targeting the same audience and keywords as yours. If there are any keywords they are already ranking for, but you haven’t targeted, this may be an opportunity for you to pursue.
- Backlink analysis: use tools like Ahrefs or SEMRush to conduct a backlink analysis of your website. Look where your backlink sources are also linking to, and assess whether there are similar websites or businesses selling similar products/services as yours. Analyze their online presence and overall SEO performance.
- Social media analysis: use social media listening tools (like Hootsuite or Mention) to monitor conversations related to your industry or niche. This can help you identify competitors your target audience is talking about on social media. Also, look for potential competitors that are active with sponsored posts and ads. Their ads can give you insights into your competitors’ messaging, offers, and targeting strategies.
- Competitor strengths and weaknesses analysis
Once you have identified your SEO competitors, in this step, you are going to analyze each of these competitors to identify their strengths and weaknesses.
Analyzing your competitors’ strengths and weaknesses can help you identify opportunities and gaps so you can gain a competitive advantage.
Some of the key areas to evaluate are:
- Content: analyze the type and quality of content they’ve published on their website. Evaluate whether the content is well-written, relevant, engaging, and informative. Also, check whether the information included in the content is up-to-date (if not, you can aim to create more up-to-date content in an attempt to outrank it.) Identify the keywords they are targeting, and analyze the content’s structure, length, style, and formatting.
- Keywords: use tools like SEMRush, Ahrefs, or others to identify the keywords that this competitor is ranking for. Also, analyze the keywords they are targeting in the published content. Identify keywords that you can also target (that you find it’s worth competing), and identify gaps (high-volume and low-competition keywords they haven’t targeted) that you can fill.
- Backlinks: analyze your competitors’ link profiles and attempt to understand their linking strategy. Assess the quantity and quality of their backlinks, the domains linking to their websites, and the anchor text used in their backlinks. Identify opportunities and gaps in their link-building strategy. Be on the lookout for potential link sources or find opportunities to find better backlinks.
- Social media presence: analyze your competitors’ social media presence and strategy. Identify the platforms they are active on, and use social media analytics tools to analyze the content they share, tone of communication, engagement rates, and other relevant metrics. Identify what worked in their strategy and areas where you can improve your own social media strategy to gain a competitive edge.
- User experience: analyze your competitor websites’ layout, page speed, navigation, mobile-friendliness, and other factors that may affect user experience. Identify elements you can imitate or improve upon and learn from their mistakes.
The objective of analyzing your competitors’ strengths and weaknesses is to improve your own strategy so you can beat these competitors. In the next step, we’ll discuss how to use the information you’ve gathered to develop your own SEO strategy.
3. Strategy development to outrank competitors
Based on your analysis of competitors in the previous step, you can develop an informed strategy to outrank them in the SERPs.
While your strategy should be unique according to your own strengths and weaknesses, here are some main considerations:
- Improve your content strategy: use tools like BuzzSumo, SEMRush, or Ahrefs to analyze your competitors’ content and then assess your own content. Identify gaps in your competitors’ content strategy, and fill those gaps by developing better, more in-depth, or unique content.
- Keyword optimization: based on the information you’ve gathered about your competitors’ keyword strategy, you can either identify keyword opportunities your competitors have ranked in or relevant keywords they haven’t targeted (keyword gaps.) Optimize your content and metadata to target these keyword opportunities.
- Update your link-building strategy: identify websites that link to your competitor’s websites; they are potential backlink sources you can pursue. Develop better content, reach out to these websites, and offer them to link to your new content.
- Improve social media presence: analyze your competitors’ social media strategy and use the gathered information to improve your own strategy. For example, you may aim to post more frequently than your competitors.
- Monitor and adjust: monitor your SEO performance while also keeping an eye on your competitors’ activities. Adjust your strategy accordingly and always aim to gain a competitive edge.
In conclusion, SEO analysis is crucial if you really want to achieve success in SEO, improve your website’s visibility, and achieve better search engine rankings. By performing SEO analysis on your website’s on-page factors, off-page factors, technical factors, as well as your competitor’s websites, you can identify the strengths and weaknesses in your SEO strategy and make informed decisions for improvements.
Continuous improvements are critical so you can continue to stay ahead of your SEO competitors while ensuring your website stays compliant with the latest SEO best practices.
Regular SEO analysis and optimization can ensure your website is optimized for the search engine algorithms, climbing the SERP ranking and attracting high-quality, qualified traffic.