Why you should spy on your online competitors
You probably know YOUR business well but:
Do you know your competitors?
You’re probably wondering:
“Why my competitors have more online success than me, even though I’m producing great content?”
“Why my competitors have more followers on social media, more visitors on their website, and more leads?”
Knowing your competitors is crucial to your business. One of the biggest mistakes a company can make is denying that competitors exist in their own market. In a world of high-speed everything, missing just one post or one trend can your opponent a leading edge.
After reading this complete guide on spying on your competitors you will be able to:
- Identify who your online competitors are
- Identify what channels are the most successful for them
- Determine the ranking keywords of your competitors
- Determine their weaknesses (that you can capitalize on to your advantage!)
Free Bonus: Download our free spreadsheet template to guide you through the process. Get it here.
Step 1 – Identify your online competitors
If you don’t know who your competitors are, here’s the best way to start. Also, if you think you know your competitors already, this is a good exercise to find others that have not yet caught your attention.
Before you start looking for your online competitors, you need to identify your marketing niche in your industry. Marketing niches are small subsets of your entire market.
There are several places where you can identify your exact niche markets, such as forums, Quora, Wikipedia’s table of contents, or Alltop.
Once you find the niche, you will be able to proceed with identifying your competitors. In this guide I’m using only several (almost always free) tools, but if you want to get further information and find tools that suit your needs, here are tools for spying on competitors.
Before you start analyzing SERP, install this extension on your browser.
Activate your MOZ Bar extension.
So let’s say that your marketing niche is tennis sportswear. Just go to Google and type in:
And scroll down to check out the results:
When you analyze your online competitors, you should consider those two parameters I highlighted for you, PA and DA.
- PA – Page Authority tells you how this particular page is “strong”. Pages with a higher number will be be placed on the top of the SERP. One of the most important factors is the strength of your backlink structure.
- DA – Domain Authority tells you how the whole domain is strong. If this number is higher it can help you get placement, even if your PA isn’t that high (the Google algorithm will consider you as an authoritative page).
More about PA and DA here: https://moz.com/learn/seo/page-authority
Back to our research. On the Google results page, scroll down where you can find closely related searches for your keywords.
Another source of your keywords or niche markets is in your Webmaster Tools. There you can find keywords for which you are already ranking. Analyzing SERP for those keywords will provide you with a great, juicy list of your competitors.
It’s easy. Go to your WT and click Search Traffic >> Search Queries.
Then click on the column with Impressions or Clicks to order the list and go through all of the important keywords for your business growth.
Investigate those related searches and create a list of at least 30 online competitors. That’s how you get an idea of who your opponents are.
Step 2 – Start monitoring their mentions
Why you should even bother to monitor your competitors’ brand mentions?
There are several reasons why:
- Discover and access your competitors’ backlinks
- Keep track of the keyword mentions (and outreach asking for backlinks if it’s relevant)
- Monitor social media and help your competitor’s unsatisfied clients, or to answer the unanswered questions from potential customers
For the first two options, you can set up a simple Google Alert. It’s free and easy.
On Google Alerts you can track also your competitors’ keywords instead of brand mentions. If you find anything that’s relevant to your business and you think you did it better than your competitors, it’s the right time to reach out for a backlink.
Step 3 – Spy on their organic traffic
You’ve probably wondered what are your competitors’ most visited websites from search engines. Those pages are driving traffic and they are most likely important for their rankings because those are pages that also have most of the website’s backlinks.
I’ll show you how you can identify these pages quickly on UberSuggest.
Into the Website URL fill out your competitor’s domain. Click the “Search” button, which will redirect you to the keyword results page.
Listed on the left you can see the keywords that have brought them the most traffic.
Sometimes, you will be able to find real treasure in the form of a keyword with low keyword difficulty and high commercial demand.
Step 4 – Spy on their PPC (paid) traffic
Now for the paid traffic, let’s spy on competitors’ traffic, which is paid.
There are plenty of tools that can help you do the research, however, most of them are paid.
Usually, tools can analyze top keywords and ads that are used for those keywords. So let’s go to https://www.ispionage.com/.
Enter the domain (or keyword) of your competitor.
And on the results page click on Ads to see top ad copies for PPC campaigns.
Click the tab called PPC Keywords to get the 5 top keywords of your competitors.
This data could help you get an insight into what your competitors are doing and what they are paying for. The KEI parameter stands for Keyword Effectiveness Index, which measures how effective this keyword is for that cost per click.
And always compare ad copies, because sometimes you can find something inspiring. For the same purpose, you might want to use https://semrush.com (especially if you need to check competitors in different countries than the US).
Step 5 – Check out your competitors’ backlinks
Where do your competitors get their backlinks? Why you should know that?
Imagine this: You find on your competitor’s website a blog post that has a lot of good, related, quality backlinks. You believe that you can create something better than theirs. Now you can ask for a backlink since you’ve updated the content of an older post.
Knowing where are your competitors’ backlinks come from, you’ll be able to find and adopt new ideas for your own backlink strategy.
There are plenty of good tools, most of which have more advanced functions through paid subscriptions. But there is always a free version that can show you the first five links, for example in https://ahrefs.com.
Head over to Ahrefs and type in your competitor’s URL. On the results page, there are a lot of things to discover. To find backlinks hover over Inbound Links and click Links. There you’ll see:
The next step is to go to your inbox and wait for the email. It could take some time. Download the CSV and upload it to your Google Drive. Now you’ll be able to see all the backlinks and anchor text tags.
Step 6 – Discover their most popular post
You should also know what the most popular content that your competitor produced is. You will get valuable insight into your competitor’s work and you’ll see directly what they achieved in their content marketing efforts.
A really cool tool to discover the most shared posts and content marketing strategy of your competitors is Buzzsumo.
On the homepage of Buzzsumo, just fill in your competitor’s website. And this is what you should get:
You can filter the results to see what is most shared by an individual social network.
Step 7 – Spy on your competitor’s social media and connect with your competitor’s most valuable followers
In this last step, I’ll show you how you can spy on your competitor’s social media, find the most engaged followers, and connect with them in a really smart way. You can also identify the most used hashtags and times of the day when your competitors are posting. In doing so, you can find times when they are not active to adapt your strategy and provide content during those empty hours.
Let’s start by analyzing the Facebook Fan Page with FanPageKarma. Find your competitor’s Facebook Fan Page and insert its name into the text box.
On the results page scroll down to Success Rate by post type:
This will tell you what post type worked in the past for your competitor. In this case, the page type I discovered as the most successful post was “Picture.” Even though there are only 41 posts with pictures, they receive more average likes than every other post type combined.
Next thing. Go to the Fan Post tab. Scroll down to Service level.
Your competitor will most likely delete or ignore any postage on their Fan Page. This could lead to only one thing… Go to their Fan Page. Scroll down and on the left side, you’ll see Posts to Page.
You can start creating relationships with unanswered visitors by providing value to them. It’s not wise to start promoting your Fan Page right away, as this could lead to a ban from the Fan Page admin. Build the relationship slowly, organically.
And then there’s Twitter. Most of today’s businesses have a Twitter account. It’s a total must for building brand awareness and getting new leads. It’s also probably the easiest way to find people interested in your product.
For checking your competitors’ Twitter activity we will use Twitonomy.
Enter your competitor’s Twitter handle and wait for the results. Scroll down to see Users Most Retweeted, Most Replied, and Most Mentioned:
Those are the users that you should be interested in.
Those people have questions from time to time and you can, for example, add them to Twitter Lists and start monitoring their tweets. If there is anywhere that you can provide value, do so. You can create relationships that could get you new followers, leads, retweets, etc.
Also, check out your competitor’s most retweeted posts. Can you find some pattern in the most retweeted tweets?
In this example, you can see that Brian Dean’s most successful tweets are posts with numbers (36,282 readers, etc) for extensive lists or guides.
Free Bonus: Download our free spreadsheet template to guide you through the process. Get it here.
Spying on your competitors is practically a must if you are in a competitive niche. You can’t escape competition (unless maybe you created your own market like Uber or Airbnb). Getting to know your competitors will help you to discover their strengths and weaknesses.