This is a great list! I especially appreciate the sample set of pages you recommended - oftentimes we ask clients we're onboarding who they consider to be their competitors, but once we start digging into their sites we see they're not necessarily "search" competitors or the sites just aren't that similar to be regarded as such in the search engine's eyes. At least these pages can help weed out any sites that just aren't built out to be similar to a client or are way ahead, so you can get an accurate comparison!
Competitive analysis is a key aspect when in the beginning stages of an SEO campaign. Far too often, I see organizations skip this important step and get right into keyword mapping, optimizing content, or link building. But understanding who our competitors are and seeing where they stand can lead to a far more comprehensive understanding of what our goals should be and reveal gaps or blind spots.
It’s easy to get frustrated when stakeholders ask how to rank for a specific term, and solely focus on content to create, or on-page optimizations they can make. Why? Because we’ve known for a while that there are myriad factors that play into search engine rank. Depending on the competitive search landscape, there may not be any amount of “optimizing” that you can do in order to rank for a specific term.
You need to develop tactics to recognise and double down on the deep conviction you have in your gut that nobody else understands. Stop looking for consensus or opportunities that seem obvious and compelling at first glance. Great opportunities never have “great opportunity” in the subject line. Honing your gut instincts and acting upon conviction is a theme of every successful journey.