Keeps your friends close, your enemies closer, and your digital marketing competitors in the palm of your hand.
God knows we marketers have no shortage of competitors.
Now, here’s the million-dollar question. Is competition a bad thing?
Well, it is to anyone without the drive to compete and win. But it’s hard to imagine people like that working in marketing in the first place.
Nah, we’re a relatively competitive bunch of people.
So, you’ll be happy to hear that you can harness the power of competition to improve your own rankings, score more organic traffic and, in the end, more sales.
The most successful online companies, like Intercom, know that their closest competitors are one of their greatest assets.
And they know how to leverage the competition to amplify their own success.
Today, I’m going to show you how these companies do it. (It’s much easier than you think.)
In this post, you’ll learn how to use competitor website analysis to:
- create more viral content
- turn more email subscribers into paying clients
- find opportunities to build high-authority backlinks
Competitor Website Analysis: 6 Ways to Turn Competition into an Asset
1. Find 10 to 20 of Your Closest Competitors
The obvious first step towards effectively analyzing your competition is finding your competitors.
This doesn’t mean searching Google with your industry or niche as the main keyword and jotting down the first 10 websites you see. While your audiences may overlap, those aren’t necessarily going to be your closest competitors.
For example, people who love Monitor Backlinks might also enjoy using tool like Mailshake for their linkbuilding outreach, but we’re by no means in direct competition with Mailshake. We’re technically in the same industry, but it’s not valuable to us to run a full competitor analysis on them.
Instead, you’ll want to be smart about your research. Focus on other brands and businesses that offer very similar content and services, and that are either (a) equal to you in terms of success or, preferably, (b) slightly more successful.
You should also look for close competitors who engage in content marketing. Look for sites with a prominent, frequently-updated blog.
The up-and-comers may pose a threat in the future, so you can keep an eye on those, but it’s more immediately valuable to focus on businesses experiencing success. This way, your competitor website analysis will turn up strategies that you know work.
In the case of Monitor Backlinks, we might look at all the big names in SEO and backlink monitoring for our own competitor website analysis.
How to find your 10 to 20 closest competitors
First, make a list of your known competitors.
It’s safe to assume you know of at least one close competitor, right? Maybe more?
Create a spreadsheet and add company names and websites:
Then, use a combination of these three tactics to find the rest of your closest competitors (between 10 to 20 total):
a. Use Google search string related:[domain name]
Search Google for sites related to your other known competitors by using the advanced search string related:[competitor domain name].
For example, let’s pretend we want to find potential competitors related to Backlinko. Here’s what that search would look like:
b. Find lists of the top (or up-and-coming) sites in your industry
This trick will help you uncover competitors you otherwise might never have considered.
Use Google to search for curated lists of the best sites in your industry or niche.
Here’s what I get when I search for “best internet marketing blogs”:
Then click on the results and take note of any standouts from the different lists.
Let’s pretend I’m searching for content-marketing-based competitors from the Writtent list of must-read internet marketing blogs:
All of these could be viable competitors worth looking into (depending on the current success of my content marketing business).
c. Search Google for keywords related to your niche
Another simple way to churn out a few more quick options for competitors is to search Google using some of the keywords that are most closely related to your industry.
For example, let’s say you offer mobile SEO services to your clients.
A good keyword term for you to search for in Google would be “mobile SEO guide”:
d. Let Monitor Backlinks suggest competitors
Head to the Competitors tab, click Add new competitor, then type in your domain and let Monitor Backlinks do its thing.
2. Find Competitor Content with the Most Social Media Engagement
It’s no secret that viral content is the gold standard for content marketing.
Produce a piece that captivates your audience’s imagination or shows them how to do something really well, and it can go viral and be seen by thousands (even millions) of readers. So naturally, this should be an important part of your competitor website analysis.
One way to increase your odds of producing a viral piece of content is to take note of what’s being shared the most on social media in your industry. To find this information, you can use BuzzSumo.
BuzzSumo allows you to type in the domain of your competitor and see which of their content is shared the most on a variety of social channels.
How to use BuzzSumo to find your competitors’ viral content
First, search the competitor’s domain name:
Next, review the top results that show up.
The default view displays the most shared content for the past year, but you can filter right down to the past 24 hours.
Take special note of:
1. The headline and keywords in it. How did they approach the post? What did they use in the headline? (Notice that four of the five headlines above include numbers.)
2. Social media sources that have the most shares. This will help give insight into which social channels you need to focus more of your promotional efforts on for a similar piece on content.
Also click on each link and view the top posts. What made them go viral? What, if anything, can you add to the topic of each post to improve it?
Let this info guide you when creating your own content.
But don’t copy what the competitor created. Make it different. More importantly, make it better.
My advice: Use the most popular posts as inspiration for new content that approaches the content topic with a fresh and innovative perspective. The Skyscraper Technique is one way to do this.
One of the easiest ways to do this is to take the keywords from the post headline and use them in a tool like UberSuggest.
3. Analyze Competitor Email Marketing Campaigns
In 2018, email marketing is still an extremely effective and profitable marketing strategy, and its popularity shows no signs of dying down anytime soon.
It’s a good idea to scope out your competition’s email campaigns and see how they’re using email to engage their audience, drive traffic to their site and increase their profits.
How to analyze competitor email campaigns
First, set up an email account you’ll use exclusively for competitor website analysis purposes. This helps keeps things organized and keeps your main email inbox free of unwanted marketing emails.
I personally prefer gmail, since it’s free and simple to set up:
Next, sign up for every single email newsletter you can find for each competitor. Go far and wide. Search for subscribe buttons, and any field that encourages you to enter an email address to receive something. They might not come out and say “you’ll get our newsletter,” but usually that’s what the email field is for.
This includes regular, run-of-the-mill newsletters:
And anything else produced by the competitor that lets you enter your email address in exchange for access to exclusive content.
After you’ve signed up for them all, schedule time each week to check your inbox, review the emails and ask yourself the following questions:
- Which emails stand apart from the rest?
- Which subject lines were most click-worthy?
- How often are emails sent out?
- Which ones seem to have the greatest positive or negative effect?
- How is each email formatted? Does it have lots of images, or is it text only?
- Which emails come across as too salesy?
- What does the CTA look like?
By answering these questions and studying and analyzing each email, you can brainstorm innovative ways to incorporate what you’ve learned into your own campaigns.
But just like everything else, make sure you’re tracking your results and testing different strategies side-by-side.
Pro tip: You could always use a service like Owletter that will handle all of this for you for a small monthly fee.
4. Find Valuable Link Building Opportunities
Link building is still one of the top factors Google considers when ranking sites in the SERPs.
You better believe your competitors are constantly looking for ways to get high-quality backlinks to their sites.
Why not take advantage of that fact and use their success to fuel your own?
How to mine competitor backlinks using Monitor Backlinks
The first method is 100% free and will give you a summary of the top backlinks (up to 300) that your competitor currently has linking back to their site.
First, visit Monitor Backlink’s Free Backlink Checker tool.
Next, enter your competitor’s domain name and click the enthusiastic CHECK NOW! button.
You’ll see an in-depth list of sites that are currently linking back to the competitor’s domain:
Notice that the sites are automatically ordered by their ACRANK.
The ACRANK rating is essentially the overall ranking of the source of the backlink. The higher the number, the higher the authority of the source site.
Next, you’ll use this information to find new high-authority backlink opportunities for your own site. After all, if they’re willing to link to your competitor, why wouldn’t they be open to linking to you? Especially if your content is stronger.
Note: If your results don’t display the full list of 300 backlinks, you can get them by downloading the CSV report via the Download CSV button in the top-left corner.
The second way to use Monitor Backlinks to keep track of your competitor’s backlinks is to use the full Monitor Backlinks SEO tool and receive updates every time one of your competitors gets a new backlink.
After you’ve signed in to your account and added your domain, click on the Competitors button in the top navigation menu.
This will take you to the Competitors screen where you’ll see your domain with an Add new competitor button at the bottom:
Click that button and the Add a competitor pop-up window will display. From here, add the domain of the competitor you’d like to follow and then click Add competitor.
And that’s it! Now, Monitor Backlinks will notify you every time a new backlink is directed towards your competitor’s domain:
You can use this info to find new backlink opportunities as well as get an idea of what kind of content that particular source tends to link to, and you’ll be better equipped to create a post that they’re more likely to link to.
And if you’re looking for even more backlink tips for your competitor website analysis, I highly recommend this article (click here).
5. Discover Every Type of Content on a Competitor Site
Never underestimate the power of Google Search. Especially when you have advanced search strings at your disposal.
I use it every time I need to find very specific information on a competitor and it never fails.
How to find everything on a competitor site with Google
a. Find any PDF document hosted on a competitor’s domain
Search Google using the following search string:
site:[domain name] filetype:pdf
For example, let’s say I want to see all PDFs currently hosted on Kissmetrics. Here’s what the search would look like:
That’s 56 results in 0.18 seconds! And the majority of them are useful guides on various internet marketing subjects that are hosted on Kissmetrics’ domain.
Now you can see what they’re offering in terms of PDF downloads and try to imitate that strategy, if it looks like it will be valuable for you.
b. Find all published content on a specific keyword
Search Google using this string:
[keyword] site:[domain name]
For example, let’s say I now want to find all infographic-based content that Kissmetrics has posted on their blog. Here’s what that search would look like:
1,300 results. Impressive.
Keep in mind that it won’t all be relative to your situation. However, there’s plenty of content gold to be found using this search method. What have they published related to this topic, and what are they missing?
c. Find all published content on a specific keyword during a specific time period
It starts off just like the specific keyword search above: [keyword] site:[domain name]
But then you’re going to click the Tools button underneath the search bar and click the first drop-down (should say Any Time) to bring up a list of date ranges to search.
What this does is bring up posts on MarketingLand that mention Google within the past week.
If you want to search a specific range of dates, you can do so by choosing Custom range… in the drop-down and entering the range you want to search.
d. Find all links to a specific page or domain
If you want to find all of the links pointing to a specific page, you can do so using this advanced search string:
link:[Page URL or Domain]
Let’s say I want to find all of the links pointing to this post from Backlinko.
I would go to Google and perform this search:
And here are the results:
These are all external links pointing back to this specific page on Backlinko.com. Pretty cool, right?
The only downside is that you’re not getting the same wealth of data you get on Monitor Backlinks, but this will work fine in a pinch.
6. Stay Up to Date on New Competitor Content
So we’ve covered how to search for a specific type of content on a competitor’s website and how to see which of their pieces are most popular on social media.
But what about the new stuff?
There’s a simple tool I use to stay on top of new content as it’s published, all without having to bog down my inbox with updates or manually check each site myself. Feedly.
How to use Feedly to be notified of new competitor content
First, visit Feedly and set up a free account.
Next, type in the competitor domain name you want to stay up to date on (I recommend adding all of them) and click FOLLOW next to the best results.
Then, click the New Feed button.
Finally, a new box will appear asking for the name of the new feed. Type Competitors into the name box and then click Create.
You now have a Competitors feed that will store every new post from Quick Sprout. When you follow the rest of your competition, you can add them to the Competitors feed also. This will keep everything nice and tidy for you moving forward.
One other recommendation, while you’re here. I’d consider creating a new feed for all of your industry’s top news sites. That way it’ll be easier for you to stay on top of the latest trends within your industry.
I’ve just showed you six simple ways to perform quick competitor website analysis that will get you actual results.
Now it’s your turn to put what you’ve learned into action.
Which are you gonna do first?
Do a quick backlink audit using Monitor Backlinks Free Backlink Checker Tool?
Use BuzzSumo to get a rundown of the most popular content currently being produced by the competition?
Start running Google searches to discover new content strategies?
No matter what you do, make sure you get a jump on this competitor website analysis soon. Who knows how many competitors are running their own analysis of your content strategy?
If you’re not keeping an eye on your competitors, you risk letting them get the upper hand.