One of the greatest things about SEO is that there’s always something new to learn. You can learn more about your audience to discover tactics that may draw in more potential clients; you can learn more about which keywords are most likely to rank for your niche. You can examine previous campaigns in an effort to learn more about improvements you can make for the next time around.
In fact, if you’re truly invested in improving your SEO game, you should be doing all of the above. SEO is a constantly changing landscape, and continuous efforts to learn more about what works to bring potential clients to your website are a key part of success. However, it’s crucial not to neglect one of the most telling sources of SEO information out there – your competition.
Why Examine Competitive Links?
You’ve heard the phrase, “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em – “and while this sentiment is perhaps a bit flawed (you can absolutely, with attention and effort, eventually outrank many of your competitors), it does speak to the importance of paying proper attention to those competitors that are performing well, and discovering the tactics they’re using to get there. While simply copying a competitor’s strategy isn’t the way to get ahead, there is much you can learn from what made others successful.
In fact, a competitive analysis of competitor marketing strategies can be the best way to learn more about the audience you’re trying to capture, and the shifts in the industry you occupy. For SEO purposes, a competitive link analysis of competitor backlinks can help you get a broad view of your competitors and help you inform your own strategies moving forward.
Steps for a Competitive Link Analysis
Of course, the process of analyzing competitive links – much like building an effective backlink profile – isn’t a one-time or set-it-and-forget-it task. However, we’ve compiled a few simple steps to help you get started on link analysis – once you get the hang of it, the process is easily applied to subsequent competitors.
- Use a tool to gather competitive link data. For these purposes, we like SEMRush, which has a dedicated report for locating competitors based on backlink profile. The Backlinks Competitor Report isolates the websites that have the most identical referring domains as our own site and is accessible via Backlinks Analytics. Once there, enter your domain and click on “competitors”. The resulting list reveals your top competitors so you can begin analysis.
- Analyze link sources. Now that you have a comprehensive list of the competitors with whom you share referring domains, it’s time to determine the nature of the site that’s driving each link. Are the links coming from major news sources? Blog posts and comments? Research institutions? Learning more about the types of sites linking to your competitors can reveal important information regarding the brand identity they’re striving to achieve and the ways they’re attempting to achieve it.
Scrutinizing the types of links your competitors are utilizing can help provide you with insights into ways you might improve your own strategies. If it appears they’re achieving a great deal of blog mentions and links, learn more about the context of those links. If they’re linked in many news articles or press releases, examine the events involved and determine whether a similar strategy (press releases, event sponsorships, and more) may benefit you.
- Find opportunities you can utilize. The second part of analyzing the sources of your competitor links involves how you can use them to inspire your own strategy. In short, find out which types of electronic publishers are frequently linking your competition and begin to craft your own list of potential publishers that may already be involved in your niche. While you can certainly save time and go about attempting to build backlinks on the same sites as your competition, identifying similar opportunities that may work better for your brand identity can benefit you even more.
For example, if you notice your competitor often posts guest blogs on an industry site, your competitive analysis has just revealed a potential source for backlinks. Endeavoring to place your own content on that same site is the simplest solution to build your link profile. However, finding similar sites of the same type that may be even more closely focused on your niche or product offerings can double the benefit.
- Identify the types of content driving competitor links. If you’ve already evaluated the types of sites driving competitor links and determined whether you might be missing backlink opportunities there, the next step is to evaluate the content that provided the links. Are your competitors utilizing blog posts? Case studies? Infographics? The answers to this question can help reveal the particular genre of content your competitors have found your shared audience responds to.
Then, dive even deeper: what types of content are your competitors utilizing? Are your competitors discussing research? Industry news reports? Listicles? Something else? What keywords are they targeting? This information can help you isolate the content types, topics, and keywords that are driving the most links for your competitors.
- Don’t lose sight of the audience. However useful, all of the data and analytics involved with creating a strong backlink profile can cause you to lose sight of your end goal – creating content your audience will respond to. Performing a competitive analysis helps you focus your attention on what your audience already likes and isolates what they’re currently responding to. Then, you have a great starting point for creating your own content to achieve similar backlinks.
Competitor information is already at your fingertips; with a few strategic tools and some careful examination, you can learn a great deal from what your competitors are doing well. From there, crafting your own link building strategy, content strategy, and keyword strategy is made much clearer with information about the who, what, and why of your competitors’ backlinks.
If you need help conducting a competitor analysis of your own, reach out to the team at Vizion Interactive. Call (888) 484-9466 or get in touch online to get started.
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