An In-Depth Guide to Using Competitors to Bolster Your Own SEO
Many people view their competition as only a negative element that needs to be defeated, yet in certain circles, such as sports and the wide world of the Internet, the competition can actually be used as a great source of learning. Athletes often spend hours studying film of their competitors' performances trying to learn from their strengths and weaknesses, and small business owners should be adapting a similar strategy, especially in terms of SEO.
SEO is one of the most important elements that determine a company's success, and it's amazing how much you can learn and improve your own rankings by analyzing your competition. Below is a list of areas that entrepreneurs can study in order to gain valuable insights into their competition and hopefully improve their own SEO ranking.
Analyze the Competition's Keywords Using a Keyword Rank Tracker
Take the time to analyze your competition's keyword strategy in order to identify keywords that your company has perhaps not put into place. AgencyAnalytics offers a rank tracker tool that helps you determine which of your keywords (and your competitor's keywords) are ranking well and which are not, shown below:
Just remember that keyword research is an art and not a science, and it's virtually impossible to understand how Google thinks when it decides which words to rank (and even if you could, they change their mind fairly often). So while this is definitely a strategy worth pursuing, it's one that will need constant time and attention and should never be the only thing you learn from the competition.
Evaluate the Competition's Top Pages' Data and SEO Analytics
There are a lot of different kinds of top pages data, and all can be helpful when trying to understand your SEO analytics. You can analyze top pages by links, by social shares, by search traffic, by total traffic, and by number of ranking keywords in order to gain insight into how your competition is performing in terms of their SEO marketing strategy. Look at which of their content has been most successful—what's been linked to the most, what's been shared the most, etc. as well as what hasn't been so successful. For example, is an infographic getting a lot of traction while long-for "how to" posts are falling flat? Or you can look more high level to see that, for example, maybe more people are interested in website design as opposed to website development.
Try to find any gaps in their strategy and then brainstorm ways you can fill them. Perhaps they had some successful posts a few years ago but haven't taken the time to update them; this is a great opportunity that you can capitalize on by giving the same ideas a fresh twist on your blog. The key here is just to analyze all their top page data and do you best to learn from their success and their shortcomings, while still tailoring your marketing strategy to your unique business.
Use Your Competitors for Content Ideas
Content is huge in terms of SEO, and you should definitely be looking at what your competition is publishing to get ideas for what may or may not work for you. It can be challenging to constantly think of new ideas for content, so one thing you can do is look to your competitors for content ideas and take your own spin. See what they're writing about that's doing well, and while you don't want to copy their work exactly (even an exact idea can be considered taboo), you can certainly use it as a source of inspiration. Just make sure you borrow ideas that have performed well for them and not ones that have failed.
You'll want to make note of which posts have been liked and shared the most. As discussed above, it's also a good idea to look at what type of content is performing well for them. Are they having a lot of success with videos? Infographics? Blog posts? This could potentially be an indication of what additional elements you should be incorporating into your content strategy. Finally, consider how they're promoting their content and whether their promotion strategy is successful. Are they utilizing their social media platforms? Email marketing? Syndication and guest posting? Some people argue (AgencyAnalytics included) that you should spend as much time promoting your content as you do writing it, and analyzing your competition's promotion strategy is a good way to get started.
Study and Learn from the Competition's Social Media Presence Using a Social Reporting Tool
Social media marketing plays a huge role in SEO; social media platforms are often the best way to promote new content, reach your target audience, and drive web traffic (all of which will positively impact your rankings). Hopefully you have some kind of indication as to which platforms your target audience likes to hang out in, but if you don't, start by using a social reporting tool:
A report such as the one above makes it easy to create social media reports so that you and your clients can see exactly where your business stands in terms of it's social media strategy, and then you'll know in which areas you need to improve.
Once you've determined this, your competition is a great place to start. See which sites they use, which strategies they use with them, and analyze how well they perform for them. Look at how they're using social media to represent their brand, and most importantly, how their followers are responding. You can save yourself a lot of time and effort if you notice that they've made a mistake and learn from it before trying out the same strategy.
Note: And again, while it's encouraged to look to the competition for ideas and to learn from their mistakes, you'll ultimately want to create your own social media marketing strategy, which you can learn more about here.
See How Other Websites are Designed and Optimized
Website design and optimization affects a multitude of things, including bounce rates and conversion rates, both of which impact SEO. It's worth spending some time analyzing your competition's' websites to see how they're designed and whether or not they're optimized to best meet customer needs. This article accurately suggests looking at elements such as:
- URL structure
- Title tag
- Header tags
- Navigation structure
- Site speed and other SEO changes
Use their design for inspiration for your own website, and try to find areas that you can improve upon as well for maximum impact.
Don't Forget about Guest Posting!
Analyzing the competition doesn't necessarily have to be done sneakily. There's a lot to be said for transparency in your efforts, and for trying to befriend your competition and work together with them to improve both your rankings. One way to do this is through guest posting. Consider offering them a guest posting position on your blog, and then ensure that they'll return the favor and do the same for you. Guest posting is a great way to get the word out about your business to a new audience and increase your rankings, and so you'll both benefit from this strategy. Doing so may also open up new doors in your industry from other business owners who see your posts and who may want to offer you guest spots on their blogs as well.
Of course the same can be said for your competition, so it's always best to find complimentary companies (or companies with the same audience as your business) as opposed to direct competitors.
If you're struggling to learn about your rankings and/or your clients' rankings and need better metrics and organization to understand competitors, try our comprehensive marketing and SEO performance dashboards. The dashboards are easy to use and provide a variety of helpful information for your business (see the image above).
Written by Joe Kindness
Joe is the CEO of AgencyAnalytics, but often spends his day programming, designing or executing marketing tasks. And like most Canadians, he can be found playing or watching hockey!