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3 Ways Your Competitors Can Help You Improve Your SEO Rankings

Updated: Aug 9, 2022

So you want to improve your organic search rankings? There are several factors that influence search rankings, but links are the most important factor of them all. And if you want to build links effectively, competitor backlink analysis is a must.


Spying on your competitors has undoubtedly grown in popularity in recent years because it shows you what is working for your competitors and what could potentially work for you, too. In addition, competitor analysis gives you insight into what your competitors’ next moves are, and the opportunities they’re leaving behind. In other words, it’s your competitors that can help you improve your SEO rankings.


Before I share the three ways that competitors can help you improve your rankings, let’s start with a quick definition.


What is a Competitive SEO Audit?

It’s the process of tracking or spying on your competitors to know what makes them more visible in organic search. With a competitive audit, you want to pinpoint the strategies that are working for your competitors so that you can implement those strategies in your own campaign.


Because links are a primary ranking factor that influences organic search performance, tracking your competitors will help you know where their links are coming from – so that you can take advantage of those link building sources as well.


Know Your Competitors

Yes, your competitors can be your best friend, only if you know who they really are. When it comes to organic results, you probably have more competitors than you can think of off the top of your head.


The dilemma is that you have a lot of other tasks on your plate. You may think that monitoring your competitors is a waste of time.


But trust me, it’s worth it.


Getting to know who you’re competing with in organic search will help you improve your SEO rankings and learn from the competition. That’s exactly how Starbucks made a big splash in China. You can, too.


Here are two simple ways to find out who your competitors are:


a. Search Google: It’s easy to pinpoint your competitors in Google. Simply go to Google and search for your primary keyword (e.g., email marketing best practices). Generally, the top ten search results are without a doubt your competitors.

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b. Use SEMrush: There are several competitive analysis tools available, but I personally use SEMrush to find competitors. It’s simple: Go to SEMrush.com.


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Enter your domain into the search box and click on the “SEARCH” button at the right side. Next, click “Organic Research” then “Competitors” in the sidebar. You’ll then see the various competitors for the domain you entered.


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Now that you have known your top competitors in the search results, here are three ways they can help you improve your search rankings.


1. Get Inspirations from a Competitor’s Viral Content

There’s a saying that, “content is king.”


But, that’s not the whole truth. Because there are blogs with thousands of content pieces that aren’t anywhere near Google’s first page. Allow me to rephrase:


“Compelling content is king.”


Compelling content is what people want to read. It changes lives. It inspires people, and it generates leads and sales. You may not know what to write about, or how to approach a topic but your competitors can give you inspiration. How?


Use Buzzsumo to measure your competitors’ content virality, i.e. what content pieces received the most social shares.


Let’s assume that Social Media Examiner is your competitor, and you want to know what content topics generated the most social shares. Here’s how to do it:


a. Enter the blog URL (i.e., socialmediaexaminer.com) into Buzzsumo’s search box. Then click on the “Go!” button at the right side.


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b. Next, analyze the most shared content.


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c. At a glance, you can see that the post titled, “Snapchat for Business: A Guide for Marketers” went viral. It generated the most social shares.


d. All things being equal, this means that if you create a better content piece on the same topic, you’ll likely get a lot of social shares and some inbound links.


So, how do you create better content?


Create an irresistible headline

8 out of 10 people will click on your headline, if it’s catchy. With the inspiration that I got from the most shared content, I’m able to write better headlines. Here are some examples:

  1. Snapchat for Business: The Step-by-Step Guide for Marketers

  2. The Ultimate Guide to Using Snapchat for Business

Add more value

Research the topic (e.g., Snapchat for Business) thoroughly. Then add more visuals, use more recent statistics, data, and case studies to improve your content’s perceived and actual value.


Reach out to sharers

If someone shared an average content piece on a topic you just covered in more detail, you can notify them about your new content–and they’ll likely share and link to it. You can find these sharers and linking blogs via Buzzsumo’s results page.


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Buzzsumo also will show you trending topics that your customers might want to read about based on the number of social shares they have generated over a period of time.


2. Find Competitor Missing Backlinks

Does your competitor have authority links that improve their search rankings that you don’t have?

It’s possible.


You can use the Missing Links Tool by LinkResearchTools.com to compare your competitors’ and your own backlinks, and show all the domains where they have links but you don’t.


If a website is linking to multiple competitors, there’s a good chance that these websites will link to your site, too.


Let’s run the report for DetoxLocal.com.


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From the screenshot above, the first row highlights how vocationalbusiness.com is linking to two of DetoxLocal.com’s competitors: SubstanceRehabCenter.com and FindRehabCenters.org.

With effective email outreach, there’s a good chance that vocationalbusiness.com will link to DetoxLocal.com as well.


3. Set Backlink Alerts for Your Competitors

According to Irina Deber, “To beat your competition, you should spy on their every marketing move.”


Make no mistake about it, your competitors have hidden sources to get backlinks.


These hidden sources may be private blog networks (which I don’t recommend), or authority sites where a competitor might contribute content to regularly.


Wherever and however your competitors get backlinks, make sure to set alerts to monitor your competitor’s link building sources in real-time. In doing so, you’ll have opportunities to reach out and promote your own website’s content.


For example, a new link to a page on your competitor’s site might be a “further reading” link in a blog post.


If you have similar content on your own site, reach out to the linking site and ask them to consider adding your page as an additional resource. As the post will be fresh in the blogger’s mind there is more chance of them being receptive to adding your link.


To set competitor backlink alerts, you can use Buzzsumo. Simply go to “Monitoring” and select “Backlinks.” All you have to do is enter your competitor’s domain, and you’ll be notified whenever your competitor gets a new backlink.


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Wrapping Up

There you have it. Three effective ways to spy on your competitors and get links and social shares that will improve your search rankings.


While the methods we covered outline how you can “steal” your competitor’s backlinks, keep in mind that replicating links should just be part of your overall link building strategy.


After all, the purpose of any link building campaign is to overtake your competitors, not just catch up with them.


To do that you’re going to need to gain new links that your competitors don’t already have and do so at a faster rate than they are.


But here’s the good news.


By conducting competitor analysis on a regular basis and monitoring their new backlinks, you’ll gain tremendous insight into what’s working in your niche to build your own links.


Images: Author’s Own

Myles Vives is Founder & CEO of eREACH, a San Diego based content marketing firm. He’s on a mission to demystify and simplify Internet marketing for entrepreneurs. When he’s not working, you can find him traveling and exploring new surf spots. Follow him on Twitter @mylesvives.

#linkbuilding #SEOrankings

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