Crack the Code on Your Competitor’s SEO Strategy — And Then Beat It!

Competitors are the worst. We can all agree on that, right? The world would be so much better off if they didn’t exist. Or at least your bottom line would be. Alas, as the Internet continues to grow (Fun Fact: Around 400 websites are created every MINUTE!!!) so too does the staggering amount of blogs, vlogs, forums, podcasts, memes, cat videos, and — sigh — competitors. But don’t let the neverending march of business rivalry get in the way of your success. Below are seven ways to crack the code on your competitor’s SEO strategy… and then beat it!

Here’s a breakdown of what we’re about to cover:

  1. Identify Your Competitors
  2. Use SEO Tools to Gain Insight
  3. Analyze Your Competitor’s Site Structure
  4. Evaluate Your Competitor’s Content Strategy
  5. Investigate Your Competitor’s Backlinks
  6. Reveal Your Competitor’s Target Audience
  7. Monitor Your Competitor’s SEO Updates

 

There you have it. Go forth and take back the Internet. Or better yet continue reading to find out how to best implement these strategies like an SEO champion and make your competitors rue the day they dared go up against the likes of you.

Why Competitor SEO Analysis Is So Important

Don’t get us wrong; creating original, high-quality content that speaks to your brand and engages your customers is always the best strategy. But you know what they say: the best defense is a good offense. After all, Michael Jordan didn’t become Michael Jordan by letting his competitor’s rank higher than him in Google searches. And neither should you.

If you want to be number one, you can’t just rest on your laurels of having awesome images, engaging copy, and sweet infographics. You also need to stay tuned in to the competition and use what you find to your advantage.

With a proper competitor SEO analysis, you can identify strengths and weaknesses to inform your strategy, figure out ways to incorporate and improve upon their methods for brand exposure, and beat them at their own game.

So without further ado…

A Winning Strategy to Reverse Engineer Your Competitor’s SEO Strategy

 

1. Identify Your Competitors

You can’t analyze competitor SEO if you don’t know who your competitors are. That’s just math. So, the question stands: Do you know who your competitors are?

We’re guessing you do. Or at least you know the main ones, aka your direct competitors. That is a great place to start. But don’t stop there, and please don’t say you don’t have any competitors because every business has a competitor, one way or another.

The Four Types of Online Competitors

  • DirectBusinesses that offer the same or near-identical product or service as you. McDonald’s and Burger King are direct competitors.
  • Indirect (or Substitute) – Businesses that offer different products or services but target the same market as you. Dominos sells pizzas, and McDonald’s sells hamburgers, but they both target fast food clientele.
  • Perceived (or Replacement) – Businesses that can offer different products or services and are not in the same industry, but can compete for the same client need. A good example is how mobile phones are slowly replacing digital cameras.
  • SERP – Websites competing for keywords that you want to rank for. You may be surprised to find that your direct market competitors are not always your SERP competitors.

Identify direct and SERP competitors through keyword analysis. Doing so will allow you to see who else ranks for your products and other target searches. Perceived competitors are probably the hardest to identify. Your best bet for locating those is audience research (such as customer surveys, consumer spending reports, Google Analytics’ Affinity and In-Market Audiences) to see where crossover interests lie.

Once you’ve gathered a list, narrow it down to four or five (a couple for each type) and start your competitor SEO analysis.

 

2. Use SEO Tools to Gain Insight

Imagine James Bond without his laser watches and fancy cars. Harry Potter without his wand and broom. Katniss without her bow. Iron Man without his armor. Detective Pikachu without his adorable hat. They just wouldn’t be as awesome or well equipped. And neither will you without the right SEO tools by your side.

To effectively reverse engineer your competitor’s SEO, you will need to gain insight and metrics about them. These will range from site structure to domain authority, traffic volume, domain age, backlinks, and indexing stats, amongst others. Tools like the ones listed below make doing so a lot easier.

  • Brightedge
  • Google Analytics
  • Google Search Console
  • SEMRush
  • Ahrefs
  • Moz
  • Alexa

These are just a few available to aid in your quest to conquer your competitors. (If you are a client of ours, TitanBOT serves this purpose for our team.)

We’ll reference some of these SEO tools in the sections below, but it’s worth mentioning them now so you can be fully equipped from the get-go.

 

3. Analyze Your Competitor’s Site Structure

Proper site code, loading times, mobile usability, and page intent all play a significant role in SEO. Notice how well your competitors are implementing the technical side of things across the pages of their site, then locate techniques you can improve upon or are missing entirely.

Begin by answering the following:

  • How are their URLs and onsite navigation setup?
  • Are they using HTTPS?
  • How are they tagging their page titles? Their headings? Their images?
  • What keywords are they using in their headings, meta descriptions, and copy?
  • Do they use Hreflang tags? If so, what languages and regions are they targeting?
  • Do they use categories and tagging for products and blog posts? How so?
  • How fast is their site?
  • Are they using Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP)?
  • Are they implementing any schema markup?
  • Where do they direct internal linking? What anchor text are they using?
  • Which calls-to-action are they using? Where? How often?
  • How are pages and blogs structured? In what ways do they focus on

the buyer journey?

Take what you find from your technical research and use it to strengthen your site structure beyond that of your competitors. Start by implementing title and header tag best practices, then optimizing images, and move on to boosting speed and improving navigation.

 

4. Evaluate Your Competitor’s Content Strategy

Content is king, hands down. But an effective SEO content strategy isn’t about going “viral”; it’s about building long-term loyalty using a well-rounded offering of high-value content.

The Three Types of Content

 

  • Hero – Large scale, few and far between, big-ticket feature pieces designed to be shared widely, attract new visitors and catch like wildfire; aka “go big or go home” content.
  • Hub – Regularly scheduled pieces that develop brand awareness, encourage engagement, and keep your audience coming back for more; think a series of guides.
  • Hygiene (or Help) – Informative pieces targeting specific keyword search terms that attract new visitors, but in a more gradual way than Hero content; think “How-To” articles like this one.

We’d love to take credit for coming up with the hero, hub, hygiene approach, but we can’t. Google developed it. You know, the guys who run the Internet and pretty much invented algorithmic SEO as we know it today. So it’s definitely a strategy worth noting. To better inform your own strategy, keep an eye out for how your competitors are (or are not) implementing these types of content.

But content isn’t only limited to articles and blogs. You should pay special attention to content on your competitor’s home, product, about, and other key business pages to ascertain the following:

  • How much content do they have? How often do they post/update?
  • How and where do they implement keywords?
  • How do they describe features, benefits, and pain points?
  • What kind of media do they use? Video? Infographics? How are they using it?
  • What is their writing style and tone?
  • Is their content data-driven? Where is that data coming from?

Perhaps most important is to find “content gaps.” These are keywords, topics, or products that your competitors rank for, but you do not (and vice versa).

SEMRush’s Organic Pages report can help you find content gaps by showing you the most popular pages for your competitors. Similarly, BuzzSumo can provide engagement and social share statistics. As a rule of thumb, create a few hero content, slightly more hub content, and then publish as much hygiene content as needed to cover all your key industry search terms. Try to close any gaps where your competitors have coverage, but you do not. Additionally, exploit the areas where you are ranking that your competitors are not.

While it’s okay to get ideas from your competitors, be sure to differentiate by creating unique content. And don’t forget to follow these essential on-page SEO content strategies.

 

Quality backlinks can juice up your SEO in the long term, but they are one of the most difficult, frustrating, and misused aspects of SEO. So taking care to review the backlink profiles of your competitors can save you a lot of time and effort.

While a lot can be gleaned from a competitor backlink analysis, the most prominent items are:

  • Content ideas
  • Linking opportunities
  • Forecasting consumer behavior

A backlink checker like Ahrefs can help you find this information.

The worst mistake a business can make is expecting that by merely creating something, others will automatically link to it. That is rarely the case, and more often than not, you’re going to have to knock on some digital doors to get people to take notice.

You can propel your content with social media, syndication, and guest blogging, but tread carefully – one bad link can do a lot of damage, so keep it WH (and by that we mean White Hat).

 

6. Reveal Your Competitor’s Target Audience

Your friends of your enemies are your friends. That’s how it goes, right? Well, when it comes to competitor SEO analysis, it does. That’s because if your competitors are finding success selling to a particular group of people, your business probably will too.

Audience analysis tools like Alexa and Quantcast can provide invaluable demographic, geographic, and lifestyle data about who, what, and where your competitors are concentrating their strategy. You might find they are targeting audiences you should expand into, or you’re successfully covering an area that they are not and might benefit from doubling down.

As we mentioned above, deciphering whether your competitors are using any hreflang tags in their site structure can also help highlight where and to whom they are selling.

Learning about the audiences your competitors are targeting will help inform where your business should focus its SEO efforts.

 

7. Monitor Your Competitor’s SEO Updates

By nature, SEO is about competition. And it all takes place on a dynamic playing field. That means it is always changing. So ideally, you will want to continuously keep tabs on what the other guy is doing.

Once you’ve reverse engineered the SEO strategy of your top competitors, you’ll need to monitor for updates, performance changes, content strategy shifts, and the like. A monitoring tool like Visualping can help automate this process by sending you an email when specific changes are made. Also, be sure to track the changes you’ve made in response to your competitor analysis (using tools like Google Analytics and Google Search Console) and refer back to #1 above for any new rivals entering the game.

Competitor analysis can easily become a fixation if you allow it to be. Just keep your competitors in your peripherals for any noteworthy changes with the occasional side glance or two, preferably in a non-creepy way.

 

Summary: Reverse Engineering the Road to SEO Success

Reverse engineering your competitor’s SEO strategy is a great way to keep one SERP step ahead. Identify the key players, decipher what they’re up to, determine how you can improve upon it, and compile an action plan to get results. Through a combination of best practices, the right tools, and continued monitoring, your competitor SEO analysis will prove an effective resource in the future of your business’s SEO strategy.

 

So we take back what we said at the start of this article: competitors aren’t the worst. They’re great! It’s actually a really good thing competitors exist. They illuminate our shortcomings, which helps us become even better. And at the end of the day, isn’t that what matters?

7 Perfect Holiday Gifts for Digital Marketers

Black Friday and Cyber Monday are upon us. And as you sit back, a full belly and full heart, social posts scheduled and seasonal marketing strategy deployed (or at least we hope so), you may have a little time on your hands to bask in the quiet of the holiday.

But who are we kidding? As a marketer, we know you’re still on your device checking emails and ad deliverability. So, we offer a segue, and a chance to get a little holiday shopping done at the same time. Take advantage of those Cyber Weekend deals and check out these seven holiday gift ideas for the digital marketer in your life.

1.     A Mug

Everyone drinks stuff, even digital marketers. So give a gift that lets them do just that while telling the world how wonderful they are.

Or you could use this opportunity to let them know how mediocre they are. But take it from us, no one will believe it because digital marketers are awesome.

2.     A Book

Ask any digital marketer who reads, and they’ll tell you that this is by far the best book on SEO that’s available on the market. From beginners to experts, there’s something for everyone in The Art of SEO. It’s the War and Peace of SEO strategy. Only a whole lot more fun to read.

And just imagine how well-rounded your digital marketer will look when they’re sitting around reading an actual book. Not a screen.

3.     A Premium Subscription

There are few things digital marketers love more than marketing tools. So if you’re truly looking for the perfect gift to give this year, why not get them the gift that will keep on giving.

Here are some of the best digital marketing tools you can sign up for on someone’s behalf:

 

  • Yoast SEO Premium – Because free WordPress plugins can only take one so far
  • Hootsuite – Post everything in a day and take the rest of the week off. They deserve it
  • HubSpot – They’ll be the envy of their friends with the Swiss army Army knife of marketing
  • SEMRush – At the top of every SEO specialist’s wish list to Santa
  • BuzzSumo – Give the gift of content marketing strategy
  • An eGift Card – To be used on wonderful things like Google Ad campaigns and CDNs, of course

 

4.     Glasses

Not just any glasses mind you — anti-blue light, eye strain prevention glasses.

Ask a digital marketer about their day, and they will unload upon you the woes of staring at a screen for 17 hours straight. Well, there is something you can do about all that glare and blue light shooting through the eyes of your loved ones.

While the jury may be out on the effects of blue light, it never hurts to be safe. Plus, glasses make people look sophisticated, and on top of that, our team loves them!

5.     A Stress Ball

The life of a digital marketer can be really hard sometimes. Especially when Carl from sales won’t get off their back about lead generation. But in those dark times, when open rates are low and Google refuses to show your ads, take out your frustration on a stress ball.

There are so many wonderful options these days for stress relievers that you’re sure to find one for your favorite digital marketer. Although, we have yet to find one with Google embossed on it…

Do you know what also relieves stress?

6.     A Puppy

Life is just better with puppies, especially when you’re a digital marketer.

7. Beard Trimmers (So You Can Look Like Rand Fishkin)

If you don’t know who he is (a) shame on you, and (b) he co-founded Moz and is currently the founder of SparkToro.

He also has the best facial hair the digital marketing world has ever known.

What better way to channel your inner link juice than by looking like an SEO Jedi on the outside? And this isn’t a gift just for the men. Women can enjoy it just as much because it will allow them to turn all the guys in their lives into Rand Fishkin look-alikes. Tell me what marketing-savvy lady wouldn’t want that?

Or we suppose you could just send them a link to Rand Fishkin talking about SEO in front of a whiteboard. Just as awesome, moustachey and informative.

 

Clicking Ads and Taking Names: How to Leverage LinkedIn Lead Gen Forms

Not only is LinkedIn an open door to prospective companies, it’s a proven lead machine for B2B companies.

At a glance, LinkedIn lead gen forms:

  • Do not cost extra to implement
  • Are available for both desktop and mobile
  • Are completely optional
  • Are easy to set up, and…
  • Are easy for users to submit

 

As with any form of advertising, conversions are the only true way to justify spend. One feature that helps boost conversion rates and leads is LinkedIn’s Lead Gen forms. These forms are as easy to set up as they are for leads to fill out and can help increase your lead pipeline.

What’s not to love?

What are LinkedIn Lead Gen Forms?

A LinkedIn Lead Gen Form is an add-on call-to-action for your LinkedIn Sponsored Content or Sponsored InMail campaigns. It acts as an in-app form that automatically populates LinkedIn profile information without having to type anything by hand.

When a user selects an ad’s CTA and a Lead Gen Form is connected, a pre-filled form appears using data from their LinkedIn profile. Users hit “Submit” and are greeted with a thank you page or are redirected.

Simple. Effective. Awesome. But you don’t have to take our word for it….

The Benefits of LinkedIn Lead Gen Forms

Let’s face it, people are busy. If things aren’t simple and instant, there is a good chance the form fill out will be abandoned. As marketers, we know that if we want a prospect to take action, we need to ensure that the effort on their part is as minimal as possible. LinkedIn understood that and did us a solid by offering Lead Gen Forms.

Traditionally, when a user clicks a LinkedIn ad they are directed to a third-party website or landing page. Once there, the user would manually fill out a form to complete an action like signing up for mailing lists, downloading eBooks, or contacting your company. Here’s the issue with the traditional method; it’s not efficient.

Lead generation thrives on two things: automation and simplicity. The less actions it takes to engage your prospects, the better. And that’s exactly what the Lead Gen Forms accomplish. It’s as easy as click and submit.

Why is this so sexy?

 

  • It makes it easier than ever for leads to take action
  • User experience becomes easier and simpler
  • More pertinent info is provided than traditional forms
  • User info is automatically stored for CRM integration
  • Improved lead and ROI tracking

 

As an added bonus, Lead Gen Forms are specifically designed for mobile use. This is a necessity given 80% of users interact with LinkedIn Sponsored Content using smartphones. Not optimizing for the mobile experience is one of the top two reasons businesses fail to create high-converting forms in the first place. The other is forms typically require too much work on the user’s part to fill out. LinkedIn’s Lead Gen Forms overcome both issues and streamline your lead generation.

Why You Should Use Lead Gen Forms

Generate High Quality Leads

LinkedIn is for professionals. While some people might use fake names, emails and profile pics elsewhere, most business professionals keep it real when signing up for an account on LinkedIn. That’s why the information gained from a LinkedIn Lead Gen Form is typically more trustworthy and relevant than traditional forms. Since these details are automatically pulled into the forms, incorrect data entry, partial data or spam is reduced.

Improve Conversion Metrics

Lead Gen Forms remove many of the barriers that keep users from converting. For example, having to click an ad, visit a page, fill out a form, open their email and click a download link is a lot to ask of a user. There are a lot of opportunities for a prospect to abandon the cause. But the automation and ease of use of Lead Gen Forms streamlines the conversion process. The potential upside is an increase in leads at a reduced cost-per-lead (CPL).

Gain Customized Data

When building a Lead Gen Form, there are over 20 fields to choose from. Each of those are tied to a piece of data from a user’s profile and will automatically generate. While we don’t recommend using them all, it certainly provides flexibility on the type of information you can collect with these forms. There is also the ability to create custom questions as well, though users will have to manually fill those out.

In addition, Lead Gen Forms are compatible with marketing automation tools like Zapier and Driftrock. This way you can automatically pull your lead data into your existing CRM in real time. For more info check out a full listing of CRM integrations.

You can also access performance reports for your lead gen campaigns right in your LinkedIn Campaign Manager dashboard. This will include KPIs like total number of leads generated, form completion rates, and CPLs.

Ok, so now that we’ve covered the what and the why of LinkedIn Lead Gen Forms. Let’s get practical and look at the how.

How to Create LinkedIn Lead Gen Forms

There are few ways to create a Lead Gen Form. You can do so while setting up an ad or you can create a form and attach it to your ads later on. Here’s a step-by-step on how to do both.

 

Creating a Lead Gen Form

 

1.Login to LinkedIn’s Campaign Manager

2.Select the Account Assets dropdown and choose Lead Gen Forms

3. Select Create Form

 

4. The first section is called “Form Details”. This is where the magic happens!

  • Form Name: Type a unique name for your form. This name will not be visible to anyone else, but used internally when connected your form with ads (as shown below)
  • Offer Headline: Enter your offer headline. This CTA could be anything you want to entice the user to fill out your form. For example, “Download My Awesome eBook” or “Signup for Our Awesome Newsletter” or “Learn How to Grow Your Awesome Business”.
  • Offer Details: Write additional text that will appear beneath the Offer Headline describing the offer and further selling its value
  • Privacy Policy URL: Provide a link to your website’s privacy policy page
  • Custom Privacy Policy: This is an optional field where you can outline in greater depth how a user’s information will be used

5. The second section is called “Lead Details & Custom Questions”. This is where you select your input fields.

  • Profile Information: As of writing this, there were 5 categories (Contact, Work, Company, Education & Demographic) to choose from. Each category has its own set of entries that you can select to appear on your form which will pull from the users LinkedIn profile.
  • Custom Checkboxes: Optional fields that you can insert into your form requiring a user select them in order to submit. Examples include an opt-in checkbox or privacy policy checkbox.

6. The third section is called “Confirmation”. This is where you create your thank you screen, select your CTA button text and URL. If using ‘Download Now’ or ‘View Now’ as your CTA, be sure to insert a direct URL to your content

 

7. The final section is called “Hidden Fields”. This is an optional field hidden from users that you might want to consider if you’re connecting Lead Gen Forms to a CRM. To learn more about it visit LinkedIn’s page on Hidden Fields.

8. Select ‘Create’

9. Congratulations! You’ve created a Lead Gen Form. Now you’re ready to attach it to an ad.

Adding an Existing Lead Gen Forms to Your LinkedIn Ads

 

1. Login to LinkedIn’s Campaign Manager

2. Select Create Campaign (if you already created a campaign skip to step #7)

3. Choose “Lead Generation” as your objective

4. Designate your audience, placement, ad format, budget, schedule and conversion tracking.

5. Either Create an Ad or Browse Existing Content

6. If you choose to Browse Existing Content or already have created an ad select the blue ‘Associate Lead Gen Form’ link directly beneath the ad and skip to step #8

7. If you Create an Ad from scratch, you will first have to set up your ad copy and media

8. Create a new form or select one you already created, as outlined above

9. You’re all set! Select ‘Launch Campaign’ and watch the leads roll in.

5 Tips to Create a Winning Lead Gen Form

It’s one thing to know how to create a Lead Gen Form, and something entirely different to create one that is successful. At the end of the day, although LinkedIn has made it easier than ever to collect quality leads, there is no substitute for valuable content. So, here are some tips to create forms like a pro.

Your Form is Only as Good as Your Ad (and Offer)

Use catchy visuals and copy to entice your prospects and offer them content they can’t resist. This might seem like a no-brainer, but always put the most effort into providing content relevant to your target audience. In other words, give the people want they want. We don’t care how easy your form is to fill out, no one is going to do so if the offer doesn’t blow them away.

Don’t Use Too Many Fields

It might be tempting to add all 20+ fields to your form since they’re getting auto populated, but hold true to the motto less is more. LinkedIn recommends inserting 3-4 fields in your form. While you can certainly add more, we suggest not overdoing it as it might scare away potential leads if it appears that you’re data mining rather than providing something of value.

Avoid Fields Requiring Manual Input

Automation is what makes Lead Gen Forms so sweet. Let’s not mess with a good thing. One of the main reasons businesses have trouble collecting leads is because they ask too much of prospects. The more work a user must do, the less likely they are to convert. So, stop making them use their thumbs and let the machines do all the work.

Double Down on the Thank You Screen

Ever hear of a “double conversion?” It’s the golden egg of conversions, and Lead Gen Forms tee you up perfectly to take advantage of them. By submitting the form, a user already converts as a lead, but if you play your cards right and strategically design the ‘Thank You’ screen that follows you can convert them again. This could include getting them to download a whitepaper, signup for an event, follow your LinkedIn page or any other number of actions you’d like them to take.

Go Forth and Test

Are you still here? We’d have thought by now you would be off testing Lead Gen Forms. We have seen some great results from our clients who have opted to integrate them into their sales pipeline and wanted to share this information with you as well!

There a lot of options out there when it comes to prospecting. But any that add on to services we are already love at no extra cost and a minimal amount of extra work are as good as it gets. If LinkedIn has opened the door to prospective companies, their Lead Gen Forms are the best way to walk them through.