SEO can be a task with a lot of layers, but conquering the basics can sometimes be as easy as looking at your competition. In many cases, your competitors actually will teach you something that you can use to alter your current efforts (as opposed to teaching you something new altogether), so it's important to keep an eye on others in your industry for clues.

Top 7 SEO Strategies Your Competition Can Teach You

  • They can give you insights into link acquisition strategies/partners.

This is probably the biggest and most valuable piece of information your competition can give you. Consider using a tool like Open Site Explorer or Ahrefs to type in your competitions domain name. This will give you a list of all the backlinks that your competition has earned. You can then start to see patterns of what your competition is doing to be able to acquire certain links.

Since they are linking to a competitor, you know there is at least the chance that they are interested in your industry in some way. See if you can get them to link back to you by connecting with that company or blogger on social media, introducing yourself, and making your content readily available. This will help open up the doors to relationships with companies/ people that are truly interested as opposed to a blind shot in the dark.

  • They can help tip you off to potential advertising opportunities and platforms.

This works in the same way that looking at link building and relationship building can help give you direction for your strategy. See where your competition is advertising and what platforms they seem to be spending the most on perfecting. You may very well find an opportunity you hadn't thought about before, so this is a good place to start if you're also trying to perfect your advertising strategy (as opposed to only SEO).

  • Use tools like SEMRush to help you monitor and gain insight into keyword competition.

SEMRush will allow you to plug in a URL and then gain keyword information about that URL (so in this case, your competitors). This will help show you what keywords your competitor's are targeting, which should then help give you a place to start analyzing and revising your own strategy. How many of those keywords could you compete over? It's a quick and easy way to help you make some of the most fundamental decisions about marketing, so for me this is a "must" for all companies.

  • Look at their tweets and other social signals to see what gets the most engagement.

Chances are if they are your competition, their social audiences are similar to yours or what you hope your audience may someday be. This means that you should pay close attention to which types of content are thriving on their social accounts and which content is flopping. You won't be able to have exact numbers, but take a look at the number of likes and comments each post is getting. Are infographics the most popular, but videos aren't quite what you expected? This will help give you ideas about what to publish on social media.

In addition to just looking at the content that does best, you can check to see who exactly is engaging with the brand most. If someone appears very interested in your industry, considering prompted him/her to connect with your company. You can also see what other complimentary companies are connecting with your competition and then try and connect with them in some way (even if it's not through social media).

  • Get an understanding of what type of content they are developing.

Piggy-backing off of the last point, understanding which content types your competition is developing allows you to see who is doing things right and who is doing them wrong so you can find the best way to approach content for your own company. You should not only be trying to see which content does best with your competition's audience, but also pay attention to content types in general. Have they been producing a lot of videos? Are surveys becoming a weekly blog post for them? If so, they might know something that you don't about what works and what doesn't.

  • What does their On-site optimization look like?

This is an important task in competitive analysis. What is your competition doing or not doing well to rank in the search engines? Perform a full audit to identify any potential areas in which you can use to your advantage. Look at: url structure, page titles and meta descriptions, nav architecture, site speed, etc. Compare your findings against your own website to see where there is low hanging fruit or what you need to improve.

  • Analyze web traffic.

Analyzing your competitors web traffic is often very telling. If your competition is getting a lot of traffic in general, they are doing something right. Utilize tools such as: Compete, comScore, and HitWise to help you see this information. Although identifying which competitors are getting a lot of traffic isn't highly actionable, you can gain a great deal of insight by looking at who is losing ground or gaining traffic quickly.

The Takeaway

In the end, it's all about using your competition to help you propel your SEO and online marketing strategy by identifying areas of improvement or growth --not by copying your competition. If you want to beat out your competition you have to think about what you can do better to offer more value to your audience. At that point Google will start rewarding you with rankings as such!