Let’s face it; we all have an itch to know what our competitors are up to. What keywords are they targeting? How much traffic your competitor is getting? Who’s linking to them? These are all questions that we as SEO’s, marketers, and business owners want to know the answer to. Perhaps your situation is different and you are looking to acquire a new online based company but would like more data before making an offer and going into a due diligence process. The answers to these questions can provide vital insight as to how well they are doing, how the market is doing, what marketing strategies they are using and much more.
Sometimes we spend a bit too much time obsessing over this or even a bit too much money delving into it. However with free tools, we can get the info we need for a fair analysis and much more in a relatively short amount of the time. In this post I will show you the free tools, and thought process I use to quickly dissect and analyze my competitors giving me a curiosity satisfying idea of their search engine strategy and traffic, and new ideas for my own strategy.
I focus on two aspects of interest.
- Keywords & Traffic: Simply put, how much traffic are they getting, and where is it coming from? Is it organic or paid? If competitor is getting organic traffic, for what Keyword they are ranking for.
- Backlinks: Analyzing the backlinks can give you great insight as to where you can get links, if they are actively doing SEO, and the quality and sustainability of their SEO efforts thus far.
Spying on competitors Keywords & Traffic details :
We all want to know how much traffic our competitors are getting. More than us, less than us – it’s a curiosity we can’t get rid of. Before I show the simple fast way to see this data it is important to note that these tools ESTIMATE traffic based on certain factors and should only be used to gauge trends and industry comparisons. In my experiences I have found these estimates to be about 4 times lower than the actually numbers but the trends to be in line
Start with SEMRUSH
To view a sites search traffic and keywords I use SEMRush (semrush.com). This tool shows you great data about sites’ search engine traffic based on estimates of keyword traffic and rankings. In its free form a user is allotted a few (I believe 5) uses per day, and limited information. However the data provided in its limited form is quite powerful.
Across the top of the page is a selector that gives you the ability to show data relevant to specific countries. This is a feature is often over looked, but provides some great insight, eespecially for those doing business internationally. This data could provide something as valuable as identifying a ‘goldy keyword’ in another language you may not have been aware of.
Underneath that SEMRush shows the top 5 traffic driving organic and paid keywords. It identifies such information as their average position as well as the exact match local search volume for the country chosen and a percentage estimate of traffic that keyword contributes relative to the site as a whole. Perhaps the most interest part of this free tool is the graph in the left column. This graph accounts for all estimated search engine traffic and can show you whether the site is increasing or decreasing in popularity, or whether it was hit by a Google algorithm update. Algorithm updates are usually indicated by a sharp rise or decline in traffic that coincides with published Google updates.
Paid Search Budget:
One other tool I like to use is KeywordSpy. While most of the data overlaps with SEMRush it has one feature that is quite nice for getting an idea of what your competitors ad budget is and the ads they are making. Keyword spy is also one of our recommended Keyword research tools.
Competitors Backlink status & are they organic:
Links are still the basis for SERP dominance. Even as social signals gain increased popularity the the SEO community, links are still the predominant ranking factor as indicated by Matt cutts at SMX Advanced in July 2012. That said, knowing who is linking to your competitors, how your competitors are building links, and if and when they are actively engaging in link building is something of value to you. The free tools mentioned here will have some overlapping data but they each present it to you in a unique form.
OpenSiteExplorer (OSE) digs up a sites backlink profile and even in the free view displays enough information to satisfy our spying efforts on competitor site. Most notable in my opinion is the anchor text tab, which displays the most prominently used anchor text.
This tool will display the most backlinks without paying a cent, however it leaves them in a poor format. Despite the fact that you may have to spend a few minutes skimming the list of url’s linking in, you have a good sample size to sift through for link opportunities and to analyze their link building methods.
This tool doesn’t display many links of a sites link profile but it does a great job of finding the most powerful back links. Link diagnosis’ strong point is their ‘strength’ (STR) analysis which accounts for the fact that a pages’ link value is a watered down with each external link.
Majestic SEO (majesticseo.com):
Usually the last tool I use, as soon as I arrive at the site I click over to the backlink history tool. In the back link history tool, you can see patterns in link building. The different setting can reveal sudden influxes of links at certain times of the year perhaps revealing when they focus on SEO.
In a recent article here at ShoutMeLoud, Harsh mentioned about this tool and it looks very promising. Not truely a free tool but with the backlink report you can generate with this tool, I’m sure you will not like to miss it. Like SEMRush they also offer few reports every day, which may be sufficient for many, but you can always opt for any basic paid plan and get extensive data report. You can check what all anchor text is being used by your competitor to get links to their site. How they are working on their link building process and how many backlinks they are adding every day. These are some of the features, which make this Backlink checker tool stand out of others.
With these tools you’re now fully capable of getting an idea of what your competitors are up to and how their business is doing – at least in an online sense.
Do let me know how often you track your competitors traffic, Keyword and backlink profile? How do you use this data to compile your next SEO strategy?