5 Ways to Use Your Competitors to Gain SEO Momentum

search engine optimization SEO seems like a solitary endeavor to many people. After all, most companies have one person or one small team dedicated to producing content, making onsite tweaks, and building external links, but the reality is that SEO actually relies on a vast network of relationships for success. Think about it; you rely on high-authority external publications to link to your website in order to pass authority. You rely on your social media followers to engage with your brand online and make your presence seem more valuable. You rely on your site visitors to stay on your pages for longer than a few seconds, and not click "back," resulting in a bounce.

There’s a fundamental piece of this network that most businesses often neglect: your competitors.

SEO is a competitive world. Your competitors are the reason you have to work so hard to build search engine visibility — if they rank even one position higher than you, they’ll likely get a greater share of traffic (assuming you’re both on the first page). It seems crazy to think that you can use your competitors, and sometimes actively work with them to lead your SEO campaign to success, but this is the reality.

Following are just a few of the strategies you can use to gain SEO momentum from your biggest competitors:

1. Link Profile Mirroring

One of the easiest ways to take advantage of your competitors is to learn how they’re building inbound links. These days, link-building is a tricky business — Google is sharper than ever, and its search algorithm is constantly scouting for businesses trying to use deceptive or unnatural links to manipulate their rankings. Finding high-quality sources in your niche can be a daunting task — which is why seeing what your high-ranking competitors are doing that has resulted in their high rankings. There are plenty of free tools you can use to research the link profile of your competitors. With these you’ll be able to see where your competitors are building links and what type of links they’re building. It’s not a good idea to copy your competitors’ link-building strategies directly, but you can use them as inspiration and borrow some of the same sources for your own efforts. For example, if they are guest blogging for a particular publisher, try reaching out to that publisher to establish a relationship of your own.

2. Content Insights

Similarly, you can look at your competitors’ content strategies and gain new insights about your audience and new avenues for your own content. On a weekly or monthly basis, review the types of posts you see on your competitors’ websites. What topics are they choosing? How well are people reacting to them? Are they attracting lots of comments and shares? Use these questions to guide you in your own content marketing strategy. For example, if you see a post on summer project ideas on your competitor’s site getting hundreds of shares, considering writing an alternative – and better — version of your own. The key here is not to duplicate what’s working well, but to gain broad insights about your audience and customize your strategy to appeal to that audience. With better topics and more direct writing, you’ll be able to rank higher for more relevant keywords.

3. Local Industry Articles

One of the best ways to gain rankings quickly for long-tail keywords is to write about your industry in your geographic location. With this strategy, you’ll have two major limiting factors — your niche and your region — which will give you a perfect competitive opportunity to rank high in Google. The key is to write objective, truly useful articles about the competitive landscape. For example, you could write a piece titled "The Most Trustworthy Law Firms in Dallas," writing briefly about your own law firm and some of your closest competitors. You might fear giving your competitors the additional exposure, but if your article is well-written, your site and your brand are what are going to come up in the search results.

4. Social Following Mirroring

Much in the same way that you can mirror a backlink profile, you can mirror a social following. Take a look at the demographics that follow your competitors’ Facebook and Twitter profiles, and reach out to them on an individual level. On Twitter this is quite simple; head to your competitor’s follower list and start following some of their followers. Since they’re already predisposed to following companies like yours, they’ll be likely to follow you back, giving you greater visibility and a greater audience on your social platforms. Alternatively, you can take a look at the types of people who follow your competitors and gain insights about your key audiences.

5. Regular Engagement

Finally, don’t be afraid to engage with your competitors directly, especially in a social context. Comment on their blog posts. Share and retweet some of their posts. Make jokes with them. They’ll appreciate the extra visibility, and they’ll likely respond in kind. This is only going to lead to greater exposure for both your brands and greater relevance in search engines’ eyes. In the context of SEO, your competitors are critically important. They hold new information about your target audience. They allow you to build your authority in your geographic region. They give you a platform for more backlinks, more interactions, and more engagements. The end result is that you’ll have far more domain authority and greater ranks, with a better understanding of who your customers are and how to reach them. You might give your competitors a bit more exposure in the process, but the long-term benefits of these strategies far outweigh that negligible setback.  
  • By Jayson DeMers