Preparing for the Battle: Identifying and Outperforming Your Competitors

In a growing market with more and more new products mushrooming around, the competition also grows massively. If your business isn’t absolutely unique – you probably have lots of competitors. You must be aware of the most notable and famous face-offs between Apple and Samsung or Pepsi and Coke.

Outrunning competitors must be one of the essential tasks for every entrepreneur. Online business is no exception. A great part of your SEM activities will be aimed at driving some traffic and visitors, of course, from your competitors. But first, let’s start with identification. How to find out who is your competitor on the market?

Types of Competitors

Taking it simple, businesses usually have two major types of competitors: offline and online.

Offline or real-world competitors are those retailers or service providers who run their business in one and the same business niche. It’s the aforementioned here: Apple and Samsung or even McDonald’s and Burger King. The latter are long-time real-world rivals who offer pretty much similar fast-food products to pretty much similar target audiences.

Among this type we can identify the following sub-types:

  • Direct competitors. These are businesses that sell exactly the same products as yours, like Coke and Pepsi.
  • Indirect competitors. These type of competitors usually have a broader range of products that also includes one that you’re selling. Remember when McDonald’s launched their McCafe? That day they became the indirect competitors of Starbucks.
  • Perceived competitors. These are pretty hard to identify. Perceived competitors usually sell different products from yours and are in a different business niche. But from a consumer’s perspective, they sometimes may occur as a nice substitution to your offers. Thus, Pepsi may face coffee stores as perceived competitors, especially in winter.

Online competitors may vary and sometimes belong to broadly-related businesses. They also may include all those offline sub-types mentioned above. But the main focal point here is the keywords they rank in search engines. And they can be in whatever niche you can imagine including Wikipedia or news magazines. In this article, I will focus mainly on this type and show you some techniques of traffic-stealing opportunities.

How to identify your competitors

To get to know your online competitors, you should first create a base of keywords you wish to rank for. Here you may use various approaches.

  • Google your keywords

Have you already done your keyword research? I’m pretty sure you have. You can do some research in Google, put your keywords in Google Search Console or use a tool that explores keywords. The main thing here is understanding what keywords bring you the highest ROI and you need to focus on them.

Then, you should analyze the SERPs for these keywords and thus you can identify your competitors and find out what their best content is. You then may analyze their content and see how they use keywords across the text, what is the content structure, etc.

  • Analyse your website with SEO tools

You may use other site exploring tools if you like. I’m just gonna show you the way of doing it with the tool I personally use. You just drop a site into Ahrefs site explorer and choose a Competing Domains tab from the sidebar. You’ll get a list of the domains that rival you for the same keywords.

Then you may check out each competing domain to find out what keywords this website ranks high on, what pages of this particular website get in Top-10 in Google. Thus, you also get a list of competitors for further analysis.

  • Steal traffic from your competitors

After you’ve got your list of competitors, it’s time to research their keywords and find opportunities to rank high in SERPs.

The most popular tactic here is a well known “keyword-stealing” process. When you already know who your competitors are, you may check out what keywords they already rank in Google’s SERPs and try to figure out how to outrank them using the same keywords in your content.

In Ahrefs you just put the competitor’s website URL into the Site Explorer tool, and then choose the Organic Keywords tab in the sidebar. Thus you will see all the keywords a competitor’s website ranks on in Google.

You can also filter that keyword by the Position from 1 to 10 if you wish to aim a little higher and get right to the top of SERPs (and I don’t know the reason why you would wish to rank lower).

Thus, you get plenty of keyword ideas for your website and its content. Just repeat this tactic for all other competing domains and you will get a nice list of keywords you may use for your own website. You may also go for the competing pages analysis to find competitors for specific pages on your website and see what additional keywords you may wish to use in your content. But don’t waste your time on pages positioned lower than 10 in SERP. You need only highest-quality stuff!

  • Review competitor’s backlinks

Backlinks are one of the main factors that impact Google rankings. Getting a lot of backlinks to your content will help it to rise to the Top in SERP. And in this case, you can also use competitor research to know where they get their backlinks from and piggyback them.

It’s easy to do using Google and your favourite SEO tool that can show you the backlinks to a particular URL. First, you just enter the keyword you wish to rank for in the Google search and copy the URLs of the top pages it shows. After that, I would just put each link into the Site Explorer and find out what pages are linking to this URL.

After you get such a list, you can start working to get backlinks to similar content on your website. This can be done either through outreach or guest posting. Just review a significant amount of such pages for your top-priority keywords. You will get tons of URLs to work out and a huge batch of information for further analysis.

Perform such research from time to time. Choose long-tail keywords for your content, try to rank for multiple keywords with one page or blog post – it will save you some time and efforts. And you will see your website or page climb higher in SERP.

Helens Stark
Helens Stark
Helen is a content marketer at Ahrefs. She explores new things every day to impress her readers with catchy stories. Apart from all that marketing stuff, Helen loves listening to rock music, reading and travelling a lot!
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