With a challenging economic environment in most sectors there has never been a more important time to seek out that little extra edge in outfoxing the competition and procuring the much vaunted top ranking spots in your field. SEO plays a huge role in this and of course, the primary concern should be auditing your own SEO and coming up with a consistent, sustainable and measurable SEO strategy, but being able to see what the competition is up to will certainly give you a foot up!

Spying on your competitors is not merely a satisfying power trip, nor does it represent some devious plot to bring them down through infiltration – this is not a movie – it is rather a way of finding out some very useful metrics that can be implemented in your own SEO strategy, refined and improved upon in the race for rankings and improved conversion rate.

Why is it important to spy?

First of all it might be helpful to think of this research as ‘competitor analysis’. In business, understanding what the competition are doing is always important and this holds true in SEO. If you have a solid grasp of your competitors’ SEO strategies you are able to use their weaknesses, but also their strengths to your advantage. First of all, you need to identify your competition. A competitor analysis may even identify some direct or indirect competition you were previously blind to. You can also try to identify some websites that they are linked to. Affiliate links are an important part of SEO strategy and just a little research can help you find out where you are missing out.

A major part of competitor analysis in terms of SEO is keyword research. Discovering the long-tail and short-tail keywords used by your potential customers plays a pivotal role in successful SEO marketing strategy and determining your competitors’ keywords is a very useful tip when it comes to integrating them into your site’s content and sometimes its metadata. Spying on the competition can certainly play a major role in overhauling your digital marketing strategy and revealing hitherto unknown information about the market in which you and your consumers belong.

The tools

No great spy succeeds in isolation from the tools of their trade. Just ask James Bond – or maybe Q how large a role his spy kit plays in his success in MI6! In the SEO game there are a number of amazing “Qs” who have developed a plethora of sensational pieces of software designed to facilitate this fascinating spy game. Let’s take a closer look at how they can help you come out on top of the rankings by best understanding the competition.

One of the very best SEO marketing tool in existence is SEMrush – especially in the context of spying on the competition. By registering with SEMrush you will be able to pinpoint the best-performing pages of your competitors and use the information about them to improve your own site. You can identify their best-performing keywords and analyse data about the paid traffic of the competition, thus tweaking and optimising your own ad campaign.

Another very fine SEO tool to look into is Ahrefs. Ahrefs has a number of simple, but extremely clever features to allow you to take a close look at your competitors’ sites. You can use their Site Explorer function to reveal paid and organic traffic metrics, while being able to reveal the specific pages that drive the majority of their traffic then reverse-engineer what works for them. They also have keyword tools. Others to look at include Majestic, which is a very nifty tool that allows you to delve into the backlink profiles of specific pieces of content on your competitors’ sites or blogs.

Spying on the competition does not always need paid tools, however. One of the key foundations of SEO today lies in social media. The chances are that if you have a competitor that is thriving, their social media platforms are too. Spending time looking at their social platforms, analysing the patterns of their posts – right down to time of day and type of content – is a completely free piece of research that could help you to play catch up. You can even run paid ad campaigns on the likes of Facebook, targeting the fans of your competitors to try to get them to jump ship!

SEO and SEO espionage are fast-moving fields and there are new tools and methods popping up all the time, so following blogs and setting alerts for articles from trusted sources can also be an important weapon in your armoury when it comes to staying ahead of the game and in your goal to obtain those premium ranking spots.