Everyone who owns or runs a website needs an SEO strategy. Luckily, sometimes you don’t have to sit brainstorming for days or weeks to reinvent the wheel. You can simply spy on your direct competitors, pry their activities, and ‘steal’ their best SEO moves.
In this article, I will show you exactly how you can do it.
The Fundamentals of Today
I’m sure you’ve read dozens of articles on SEO, each of which is trying to outgun others with various ingenious strategies. No wonder you may think that SEO is a rocket science and takes years to master.
I agree, SEO has tons of nuances, but there are three vital points your search rankings cannot live without:
Finding and using the right keywords
Making your on-page SEO perfect
Getting quality backlinks
Thousands of articles and e-books have been written about on-page SEO. I’ve got nothing new to tell you about it in this article. The best material on this topic I’ve ever seen is Brian Dean’s On-Page SEO: Anatomy of a Perfectly Optimized Page. And if you’re using WordPress, Yoast SEO plugin is a must-have minimum for your on-page optimization.
But learning to “steal” keywords and backlinks from your competitors can boost your SEO strategy enormously. Just read on to master this skill.
Spying on Your Competitors’ Keywords
Let’s say you want to craft and sell… leather belts online.
The first result in Google on “handmade leather belts,” skipping ebay.com, is Equus Leather, UK. Obviously, your competitor.
Discovering Your Competitor’s Keywords with Google’s Keyword Planner :
There is a simple and free way to find out what keywords your competitors are targeting. All you need is Google Keyword Planner Tool and some time.
As you know, it is a main keyword research tool for many marketers. What you may not know is that you can spy on your competitor’s keywords by using this tool.
You just go to “Search for new keywords using a phrase, website or category” section, select the appropriate category (“Men’s Clothing” in our case) and paste the URL to the page of your competitor into “Your landing page” field.
As you click “Get ideas” you will see a list of keywords that Google finds optimal for your competitor’s page.
Sorting keywords by relevance and by a number of searches, you can come up with a list of great keywords for your own website and for your AdWords campaign, if you decide to run one.
Seeing the Exact Keywords Your Competitor Aimed for (If You’re Lucky) :
Why have I added “if you’re lucky” to this subhead, you wonder? The trick is to see the source code of your competitor’s page and see what keywords they’ve used in Meta Keywordsif they did.
Ages ago meta keywords tag was used to provide the search engines with more information regarding what your page is about. And it did work back then. But this tag was used a lot for spamming through keyword staffing and search engines stopped paying attention to meta keywords. And today it is even not recommended to use this tag.
But I bet you’ll be surprised to find lots of websites still using this tag. I’m not sure if they haven’t updated their pages since late 2000’s (which I doubt), or the companies who created their websites used ‘outdated’ checklists…
Anyway, your profit here is that you can see the exact keywords your competitor wanted to rank for. Getting back to our example, let’s see if our competitor still uses this tag. Just right-click anywhere on the researched page and select “View Page Source” right in your browser.
Ta-da! Here they are.
You’ve got another list of keywords to consider for your website.
Analyzing Your Competitor’s Keywords with Ahrefs
Although Ahrefs is mainly a backlink checker tool, they’ve developed very strong algorithms in terms of keywords.
Here’s a part of the keyword list Ahrefs gives to you, after analyzing your competitor’s website.
Stealing Link-Building Efforts from Your Competitors
If you decided to spy on your competitor’s link building activities, you won’t go far without a good tool. Although there is a number of backlink analysis tools today, I will use Ahrefs as an example. I like Ahrefs for the vast variety of tools and opportunities it provides. And I like that they keep on adding new and new helpful features constantly.
This tool is not cheap, I must warn you. But they give a really cheap trial period, that will be more than enough for you to research your competitor’s SEO efforts.
Discovering the Strongest Backlinks of Your Competitors :
Domain authority is the most crucial factor of a backlink to one’s site. Let me show you how you can find the strongest backlinks to your competitor and use this knowledge for your good.
Explore the URL of your competitor in Ahrefs Site Explorer and go to Backlinks section.
You will see all links, leading to the website we’re ‘stripping’. Now you can sort this list by Domain Rating to find the strongest domains, linking to this site.
Skipping Pinterest and Bit.ly, you will see that our competitor got a bunch of backlinks from Reddit, The Telegraph, The Art of Manliness Forum, PaperBlog and other relevant authoritative resources in this niche.
In our ‘leather belt’ example a bunch of nice backlinks comes from forums. Obviously, you can also get backlinks from there if your competitor could. Keep in mind that your links and mentions on forums must be as natural as possible, because, unfortunately, forums today are stormed by spammers.
There are also links from Reddit posts and discussions. You can do the same and even better, right? Again, don’t make it spammy or too self-promotional.
Mentions on blogs can easily come from guest posts and reviews. After this analysis, you get a ready list of blogs, who write in your niche. Just reach out and offer your content.
I strongly recommend you to read this link-building guide from Ahrefs to get the full understanding of link-building process.
Finding the Most Popular Content About Your Competitors and Where it Rests :
Let’s also find the most popular content about your competitors. Ahrefs has the Content Explorer tool of this. Here’s an example list of the most popular content you will get if you search for “Equus leather” in it.
Now you also know what content about leather people love to read and to share. Isn’t that a huge opportunity for your content creation process?
Fixing Your Competitor’s Broken Links
Sure thing by ‘fixing’ I mean ‘grabbing them for yourself.’
Broken links don’t do too much harm to a website really. However, according to Siteimprove blog, they decrease user experience and stop search engine crawlers in their tracks.
Cutting it short, nobody wants broken links on their websites. And you can easily use this for your good! Get back to Ahrefs Site Explorer with your competitor’s website and click “Broken” in “Backlinks” section.
For our example, you can see 17 broken links found. Don’t forget to double check that these links are really broken by simply by clicking on them (who knows, maybe the website was down for a minute as Ahrefs crawled one of these links).
Now you can reach out to the owners or managers of these sites, pointing at the broken links, and offering to link to your website as a fix.
Some Final Words :
I must tell you that I chose ‘leather belts’ as an example for a good reason. I wanted to show you how it works for a simple, tangible business. Not for another online marketing blog or for SEO agency. I hope this article will help you with your search rankings and bring you more visitors and more sales.
Don’t get me wrong, this article is not a magic pill. You should understand that not all of your competitors’ SEO attempts will work for you. Besides, what your competitors do, is not necessarily right or effective. You’ll need to decide which SEO moves are right and which are wrong. But at least you will have enough data to analyze and choose from.