SEO SWOT analysis: how, what, why and when

Lewis Koch | 5th December 2022 | Organic

Over the course of the last year or so, I’ve seen some increasingly lively debate around the use and importance of SEO SWOT analysis.

Many in the industry argue that when devising SEO strategies, it helps you to prioritise recommended activity by the biggest potential impact on growth – or the biggest threat. Whereas others, notably Andi Jarvis, see it as a “pointless” exercise.

Whilst I agree that a SWOT analysis has the potential for a free-for-all where everyone voices their opinion, often led by internal agendas or priorities; when carried out effectively, it is a powerful tool that can help you to better understand your business and inform your SEO strategy with impactful recommendations and valuable insight.

Here at Distinctly, we’ve developed a high-quality SWOT analysis that provides a fresh perspective on a business and prioritises the SEO recommendations that are going to drive the most organic growth. 

So when is a good time to conduct an SEO SWOT analysis? 

In terms of timings, conducting a SWOT analysis is beneficial in the following circumstances: 

  • when you are undertaking a review of strategy to determine aims, KPIs and budgets for next year.
  • when you have too many stakeholders that can’t agree on the best next steps. 
  • when your website is experiencing poor organic performance.
  • when your Industry landscape changes or you need greater analysis of the competition. 
  • when there’s a lack of answers or SEO expertise within your team.
  • when you need greater insight and intelligence to secure increased funds or justify existing spend.

Generally, a key defect of a SWOT is that it fails to encapsulate every type of issue and it doesn’t fit a complex reality. However, whilst SEO continues to evolve, the core principles remain the same and so can be accurately assessed. At Distinctly, we also break our analysis into four pillars – Technical, Optimisation, Content and Authority – to aid understanding and delivery.

Who should conduct the SEO SWOT analysis?

To gain the most out of a SWOT analysis, it needs to be run by a third-party or SEO agency, as this ensures the impartiality and credibility of the analysis. Each time we have delivered a SWOT analysis of a website’s SEO performance, we’ve uncovered both known and unknown issues, and underlying complimentary issues that can be remedied by fixing a main issue also. 

How to determine your closest competition 

Before embarking on a SWOT analysis project, we always ask the client for their five biggest competitors in their eyes – from both a business and service level. This helps us to learn whether the client has been benchmarking their performance correctly. If not, it’s important to educate the client on where they’re going wrong. 

As these Sistrix graph examples demonstrate:  

Rather than assessing the client’s performance, we compare it to their immediate competition to provide a much better idea of their standing, trends and more realistic goals moving forwards. 

Deducing share of voice 

We carefully select between 100-500 non-branded commercial keywords from Google Search Console for each international website/service/section of the website. We then analyse the SERPs to give us an idea of who appears most regularly. 

This results in more granular insight as to who the client’s current organic competition are, and allows us to analyse:

  1. Whether the client features in the share of voice. 
  2. The authoritativeness of the competition. 
  3. The nature of the competition and whether they are more informative or commercial.
  4. If there are any surprise inclusions in terms of competition. Or any organic competitors that the client wasn’t aware of. 

This closer look at the competition, using the SWOT framework, enables us to understand where organic growth might be unlocked more quickly, defining where resources should be spent. 

For example, if the competitors listed in the share of voice are all informative, this may mean a change in keyword targeting may be required – using more blog content to create long form content to replicate the SERPs.  

Certainly, if you’re reviewing marketing strategy, need to justify spend or want to increase resources, an SEO SWOT Analysis can be a valuable and cost-effective device which delivers a range of effective recommendations to help inform your business and better understand your competition.

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