How To Reverse Engineer Your Competitor's SEO

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- So what do you do with all this information? You've done your research.
- So what do you do with all this information? You've done your research, you've seen that your competitors are beating you on content, number of pages, number of links, type of links, they've got all this great stuff, how do you go about prioritising it? Well, the first thing I would do is. (video rewinding) I've talked before about the kill list. Those businesses that you just look at their rankings and you think, "How are they doing it?" They're taking your business, they're making it difficult to survive and you think, "Do you know what, "we're a better company than them, "we should be outranking them." in this video, I'm gonna show you how we reverse engineer our clients competitors SEO, so that we can dominate them in the rankings, ha. So there are many different ways of doing competitor SEO research. I'm gonna show you some of the basics, and I'm gonna show you some of the areas that you might wanna put some more attention in to have a bit more of a deeper look as well. But the stuff I'm gonna show you now is a really good approach that you can use to get a handle on what any site is doing. Now I'm gonna be using a tool called SEMrush, it's the tool that we use at Exposure Ninja. Now SEMrush is a paid tool, but you can use it free of charge, but if you did wanna use the paid version, there's a bit more extra functionality. You can actually get a free 30-day trial. If you go to So that's not publicly available, but we managed to negotiate it for you because it is the best tool for this type of competitor research and it will save you loads of time and gives you load of data that you wouldn't otherwise get. So, we're gonna be doing a demo competitor analysis, not for a client, but just for an example business. Okay, so I've picked a search term that's fairly competitive and has a reasonably high profit per client. So flight delay compensation. So lots of businesses would be competing for this type of search, and they'd be looking to process compensation claims on behalf of travellers. So we've got four Google ads at the top, if we just search for this term, we got four Google ads at the top which shows that there's fairly high competition. We've got a featured snippet at the top of the search results here, that just tells us a bit
Of information.
of information, so that immediately tells us that this is both a commercial search because we've got the ads, but also an informational research search. So what we've got to do, is we've got to have a look first at the types of websites that are ranking. If we're doing a bit more of a wider analysis and then we'll go deep on looking at a particular competitor so we know that people are gonna be searching for information because we got this featured snippet and then we've got related questions. Then we can see that some of the sites are forum sites, for example Money Saving Expert is a forum site, information, so there's not really any commercial intent there, although they are making a fair amount of money from it. Then we've got CAA, Civil Aviation Authority, then we've got Which, so we're still in the informational websites here. Then we start to get into the flight claims websites. So,, again,, and so on and so on. Let's do this site here, So I'm gonna imagine that we are that business. First having a look and seeing where we stand in this search so a bit of benchmarking, so I've opened up SEMrush here and I've just stuck in and you click search and this is what you're gonna get. So just explaining some of what we're looking at, we can see some benchmark metrics here. So these are estimates, for example, SEMrush is estimating, estimating, SEMrush is estimating that this site is picking up 19,500 searches per month. What it's doing to work that out, is it's looking at where the site is ranking for each different keyword and it's saying, what would average click through rate be in that position? And then it's multiplying that average click through rate by the average estimated search volume for that term. So we've got an estimate versus an estimate, so it's not an exact number at all, but it's a useful reference number, particularly for high volume keywords. We've also got a bit of information about the PPC that they're running as well, so we can see how much they're spending on PPC per month. An estimate of $21,000, we can just change that to British pounds, so it makes a bit more sense. 16k in PPC, we can see their backlinks as well,
Which we'll be looking at later on.
which we'll be looking at later on. We can then see the top organic keywords that they're ranking for, so these are the phrases that people are typing into Google, where they're showing up for those, number of times those phrases are searched per month and how much they'd have to spend to advertise for that term if we click view full report, we'll see all of those keywords in more detail, but I'm not gonna do that right now. We can then see their top organic competitors, so these are the businesses that are ranking for similar sorts of terms. We can see these on a map over here which basically shows the number of keywords that each of them are ranking for, versus their visibility and estimated traffic. So it gives us a bit of a, you know, everyone likes blobs in different colours right? We can see how many people are searching for their brandname we can see the paid phrases that they're targeting, so the Google ad terms that they're targeting, they're main paid competitors, and competitors again. More blobs, different colours, everyone's a winner. Then we can see some of the ads they're running. Then we can see some of their links. Then we can see some of the anchor text used in those links, then we can see the referring domains, so these are the different websites linking to this site, then we can see their index pages. So loads and loads of data. So the first thing that you'll want to do when you're running your competitor research, is you wanna get a bit of a benchmark for what's going on with your website. So have a look at this, make sure that you understand everything that's happening with your site. Next though, we're gonna have a look at our competitor. So let's just choose a competitor from here. Let's go for, as they've got a couple of different pages ranking here. So we're just gonna click on the site, grab the URL, and we're gonna head back over to SEMrush, and I'm gonna stick that one in. So what we're gonna go do. What we're gonna do, we're gonna reverse engineer how they've got the visibility that they have, so we've just done the exactly the same search here, and we can see they're doing a bit of Pap per click, not a huge amount, but really is their organic traffic which is the main driver for them. So the first thing that we're gonna do is just have a look at the different keywords that they're ranking for. Now with a URL like, they are not a generic lead generation website. They are purely about flight delays. So we're expecting to see a pretty focused group of keywords around flight delay compensation and maybe some different brands here as well,
Which is a good strategy for them. We've even got flight checker.
which is a good strategy for them. We've even got flight checker, we're even ranking for flight checker which is really interesting. I'm just gonna talk you through this table, then I'm gonna get stuck into having a look exactly at what's going on here. On this table we can see the keyword that they're ranking for, we can see the position on Google, and how that position has changed over time. For example, they were positioned six for flight delay compensation, now position seven. We can see this phrase is searched for an estimate of 27,100 times per month. We can see that we'd estimate them to be picking up about 7.86% of all that traffic based on their ranking. We can see how much that keyword costs to advertise for and we can see the URL of the page that's ranking. That is really, really important and we're gonna come back to this in just a minute. So the first thing we're gonna do is get an overall feel for the sorts of phrases that they're ranking for. Exactly as we'd expect, they're ranking for a wide range of flight delay compensation terms. So we've got cancelled flights, delay checkers, is my flight delayed, cancelled flights. Really interesting how they're targeting cancelled flights for particular brand names. For particular airline names, because obviously that would be someone who's a bit concerned and there'd potentially be a claim later on. So it's great to see that they're targeting that, unless you're an airline. Now what's really interesting here, is they'll actually going for really ambitious strategy, where they're starting to get pages ranked for things like Gatwick arrivals, which, I mean, is just absolutely crazy isn't it? 165,000 searches per month. It's gonna be a very low intent on claiming compensation for that sort of term. It's gonna be people looking for directions, people looking for timetables, that type of thing. But still, interesting that they're targeting that phrase, because there are gonna be small percentage of those people that could be interested in claiming compensation. If we go over here, we can have a look at the page that's ranking, so this is, I'm really curious to see what they're doing here to get ranked for this phrase okay, basically they've just linked through to the Gatwick Airport page though, there's no attempt to give any live information there at all, and then they've just got a bit of content on that page
About delays and cancellations and then some claim compensation calls to action.
about delays and cancellations and then some claim compensation calls to action. This is a pretty well laid out page on the whole, because we've got check your compensation, we've got tell me if I'm entitled to compensation which is a great call to action. No name or email address capture at this stage, so I imagine what you do is you put in your flight number, give it your date, and then you probably say check my flight and then it takes you through to an email capture, yeah there we go. So really what it's doing, is it's email capturing but it's not trying to get your personal data at this stage, it's trying to get you engaged so that you're invested in the process so that you feel that, the soul some costing, you've already put the time in, so you may as well continue. Really, really interesting strategy. So very, very broad, this shows us that they're very aggressive with their SEO. Let's have a look at some of the top ranking pages then, so particularly flight delay compensation. That is a very important term. Let's have a look at that one. Flight checker, along the similar lines of Gatwick arrival, isn't it, a very, very broad term with a low commercial intent for what they're offering, so let's have a look at that page as well. And what we're really looking for when we're looking through these pages, is we're looking at things like how much content is on these pages. Do these pages really make sense to rank for this term? So flight checker, well, this looks okay. Loads and loads of information, we've got links to all of the departures and arrivals of pretty much every different airport you can imagine. It looks pretty solid to be honest. It seems to be a well written page. It seems to do a fairly good job. So if you see this sort of thing on your competitors sites, you know you're not up against slouches. This is a business that has invested heavily in SEO. Now what's very interesting to me is then this page is the ones that's ranking for flight delay compensation, when there's actually very little text content on this page. So we're gonna have a look at some of the links to this page later on 'cause I suspect the reason that this page is ranking is 'cause there are a lot of links targeting this page. So overall we're getting a really good feel of what this sites doing and how well it's performing. We can see that it's ranking for some pretty good terms and we can also see that their strategy is basically to target flight delay compensation key commercial terms,
And then also different airline terms as well.
and then also different airline terms as well, and then we've got our kind of outer layer of general flight delays, flight departures, arrivals, much broader, broader terms which don't necessarily have any commercial intent for their business at all. But could be interesting because they're likely to be searched by people going on flights. So we can get a sense for what this business is doing just from having a look at this. The next thing that we're gonna do is have a look at the most Important pages on this website. Because if you've got a very small site, or you've got a site that's much smaller than your competitors, this is a great shortcut to see, okay, which of the pages do I need to build first in order to compete with these? So this page is gonna show us a list of all the different URLs on this site and estimates of how much traffic each one of those is getting because we're looking at the number of keywords that that page is ranking for. So for example, on this site we can see that the flight status page, let's just have a quick look at that, is picking up an estimated 2.8k visits per month, and driving about 20% of the websites traffic, now that is an estimate. The reason it's driving so much of that traffic is because it's ranking for almost 200 different keywords. We can also have a look at the number of links that page has so it has 10 links coming in, so not a huge number of links, but if we have a look at this page, what we will see is that there is a fair amount on content on this page and this is gonna be a really useful tool for people, it's gonna take them straight to the page that they need, so it's likely that this page might have quite good engagement metrics when it does rank. Now the other thing that we can see from this is that these branded pages, so for example, the easyJet page, the Flybe page, the Tui Airways, and the Flybe Virgin Connect page, the Ryanair, so we can see that these branded pages are really, really important to the site, because not only are they ranking for a lot of key words, but they're also picking up a good amount of traffic. So what I would do, is if I was competing with this site, I would be setting up competitors to each of these pages, and going even heavier with content. Making sure it's really useful.
I'd probably include some case studies of easyJet customers...
I'd probably include some case studies of easyJet customers that were entitled to compensation. I mean, you can see there's a lot of information on this page about their easyJet compensation service, but I still think you could go even heavier with this. You could look at getting videos in there, you could get more images in there, anything that you can do to show Google that the engagement on this page is really good, and then, of course, it'd be about building links. Another thing that you might wanna do to beef up this page would be to go a level deeper. So for example what you could do is target easyJet Stansted flight claims. easyJet Luton air claims, or whatever it might be. So going a level deeper, and creating subpages targeting each of those different airports with this brand name. Now all of those individual pages would sit as child pages underneath this main page, and they would link back to this main page, because what we're really showing Google there is that this page is the absolute don for these types of terms. So you're just looking at ways that you can win against a good page like this. This is a great page, it deserves to rank well and it deserves to get a lot of traffic. So we're not gonna beat this with hash, we gotta beat this by going completely over the top with content and making the most useful page that we possibly can. Now if we go back over to our pages tab and we just click on the number of backlinks here for that easyJet page for example. So let's just click on that 40, and it's gonna us the links that are driving to this page. Now from this screen, we can see that although there are 40 links to this particular page on the website, there's actually only three referring domains and one of them is the flight delayed site itself. So how they're building links to this page primarily is that when they write a blog post, for example this one here, they're linking to their easyJet page through the word eaayJet, so if we just have a look and see where that link is coming from, there we go, so that's then linking through to that easyJet claims page. So they're building up the authority of their core commercial page, this one here, by using anchor text internal links from their own site. Does that make sense? You can't answer, hopefully it does.
Let's have a look at this submit a claim page.
Let's have a look at this submit a claim page. So we said earlier that it's quite likely that they're building some links to this page because it's ranking with hardly any content on, so if I was gonna try and beat that page, I would put a title that said claim flight compensation, had a bit of information about it as well as that submit the claim form on it. Now we can see there's 982 links to that page, so lets just have a look and see what they might be. So we got 12 referring domains this time, so we've got more websites linking to this page than we do to the easyJet page, where we only had three different domains. Let's have a look and see what sort of links these might be. So we've got a whole bunch of different metrics that we can see here we can see the number of external links that page has on it, so this is the number of other websites that are being linked to by this page. And also the number of internal links on that page as well. We can see whether this is a text link or whether it's an image link, and we can also see if it's follow or no follow. If there's no attribute, then it's follow. There's no such thing as a do follow link, but if there is a no follow attribute, then it will be shown there. We can also see links that have been lost. And lost links can actually provide some useful snooping because you can then potentially go back to this site and say, "Hey, we notice you got this article "which doesn't link to anyone anymore. "Maybe you might wanna link to our website instead." Ding, okay, so let's have a look at some of these links and let's have a look at the context that they sit in, so I'm gonna have a look at this one as well, even though it's been lost. So first up here, Now what do we see immediately about It looks exactly like, doesn't it? Exactly like it, so what it looks like they've done, is they've set up a sub site, probably just to drive links and drive traffic over to So let's just go over to and see what this is all about. Okay, so it's basically exactly the same site. Now if I was seeing this as a competitor, I wouldn't necessarily copy this strategy, there are easy ways to do what they are doing,
But it is very interesting.
but it is very interesting. They're basically setting up sub brands that offer exactly the same service on essentially identical websites, there could be a number of reasons that they're doing this, maybe they want to dominate search results by getting lots of different sites ranking, maybe they wanna run Google ads for multiple different businesses and they wanna have multiple listings in the Google ads, they might be trying some, and I don't know anything about this site yet, but they might be trying some naughty stuff with one of these sites, that they can test and then if it gets deleted, or destroyed or, doesn't matter too much. But it's a very interesting thing and it shows how competitive this space is. So flight delayed used to have a link from, so let's just have a look and see what sort of context that link might have taken. So it looks like we've got a bunch of different blog posts here so it's unlikely that a link from one of these blog posts would necessarily be showing up in SEMrush as a link from this page, so it could be that they used to pay to advertise for this term, on this site, and they used to have a link from it. Or it could be that they were featured in some of this text here, we don't really know. But if you wanted to compete against a site like this, then you could reach out to and see what sort of advertising opportunities they had available. So what we're really looking at here is we're looking to see what sort of link building strategy are they using? And remember, we're only looking at a single page here. So we're only looking at the compensation form page, 'cause that was the one that feels a bit strange with it's ranking because there's not really much content about that page. We can see they've got a Spanish site as well, so obviously that's all linking straight through to their main site. So it looks to me like the claim form page is mostly ranking because of those internal links and 'cause of the links from the other properties that they own. The next thing that we're gonna use is keyword gap analysis. Not to be confused with tooth gap analysis. This allows us to see the keywords that your site is ranking for, and the common keywords that your competitors sites are ranking for as well. We can compare many different sites,
Here we've got bottonline which is the site that we're pretending that we're working with...
here we've got bottonline which is the site that we're pretending that we're working with in this example. We've got which is the competitor site that we're looking at. Let's just pick up another one. Just gonna add in a third one there,, and that's gonna show us a bit more info, then we click on go, make sure we're in the right country, make sure we're using either desktop or mobile and then that's gonna show us the shared keywords okay? So we know that there are 836 keywords that are shared between all three sites. The bottonline is ranking for 4,624. Bottonline and flight delayed share 1,166. What we can see now is the rankings for each of these keywords, for each of the different sites. So you can immediately start to get a sense of where your site is maybe lacking compared to competitors. You could also set this up in projects and then you could track these over time. But if you don't have that stuff in place, you can just do this as a very quick way of getting some data. The next tool that we're gonna use is backlink gap, so once you've had a bit of a dig through your competitors link strategies, you can stick all of your competitors in this backlink gap tool and it's gonna show you some of the opportunities to get links which they are making the most of, which you aren't. So I've just put in bottonline, flight delayed and to have a look and see what the split is. Now, we're gonna get these sites ranked in authority score, so this is basically the highest authority websites in order and what we can see from this immediately is that the reason flight delayed is outranking bottonline is 'cause flight delayed has links from all these high authority sites. Like Wikipedia, Huffington Post, Huff Post, Economist, Foursquare is just a kind of directory site these days so it doesn't matter too much. But they've got some really good quality sites as well as some absolute random stuff which probably isn't the sort of stuff that anyone would build in 2020. The ironically named safe link checker, I mean, look at the number of links that they've got compared to these other sites. So they've got over 40,000 links against bottonlines 3,000
And claimflights 2,521. So this is not to say that you know.
and claimflights 2,521. So this is not to say that you know, the more links the better, although generally the more links the better, as long as they're good quality and as long as they're relevant to the business. So certainly links from sites like Wikipedia are a massive vote of confidence as are links from Huff Post, Economist and those kind of media sites. So what do you do with all this information? You've done your research, you've seen that your competitors are beating you on content, number of pages, number of links, type of links. They've got all this great stuff, how do you go about prioritising it? Well, the first thing I would do is focus on the content of your website. If your website is seriously lacking in content against these competitors, that's something that you're gonna need to fix first. It's very difficult to outrank a competitor that has more and better content than you. So that is step one. Step two would be to make sure that you're getting the sort of good quality links that your competitors are getting. So doing content marketing and digital PR is a great way of doing this. The other thing to say is that you're not gonna beat high ranking, massive authority websites really quickly, it's gonna take time. And what you should be doing in the short to medium term is identifying longer tail, less competitive phrases which maybe they're not putting so much energy behind, so that you can start to pick off those. If you imagine that you're a lion and you're creeping up to a herd of gazelle, what you don't wanna do is try and get all of the gazelle and eat them all at once. What you wanna do is look at the back, and see, well that one looks a little bit weaker, little bit slow, then go and grab it, and gobble it up, and use that to give you strength to go and get the next one. Bit of a brutal metaphor, but you get the idea. So that's how I would approach it if you're up against competitors that are doing a lot more than you. The other thing of course, it's a very good idea if you're up against big competitors, is to request your free website and marketing review from Exposure Ninja, we will take a look at your site, your digital marketing and also your competitors and we'll outline a plan of priorities that you should be going through, in order to improve the visibility and the volume of leads that you're getting
Through your website. So to request this free review, go to
through your website. So to request this free review, go to, click that big fat button and we will get that review sent over to you A-S-A-P. But I hope you found this competitor review process useful, we've had a look at what sort of keywords your competitors are ranking for. We've had a look at the pages and the content on their website, we've also had a look at their blogging strategy, and the sort of posts that they're writing. We've had a look at their links and we've also run keyword gap, and backlink gap analysis to find out what are the difference between your two sites. That should be plenty for you to get your teeth into, and get deconstructing your competitors so you can crush them into the ground. Off you go, don't forget if you like this video, click the like, click the subscribe button, click that little bell, and then leave us a comment so that we know we're not just making these videos for Russian bots that are crawling YouTube. Also, don't forget to check out the Exposure Ninja podcast, you can look on your favourite podcast app, and if you type in Exposure Ninja podcast, you should find us. Until the next video, see you soon.

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