5 FREE Ways for Spying On Your Competition’s SEO
It doesn’t have to be difficult or complicated to get started on an SEO journey.
Not knowing where to start is a normal feeling to have, and a lot of times can put you off from starting.
For starters, you have competition who likely motivated you to begin taking SEO seriously.
That means they have a head start on you.
Don’t worry – that’s excellent news.
Having competition who had a head start with SEO makes your life easier.
You should send them a thank you card for making your life easier. All you need to do now is emulate and improve on their strategy.
It’s easy to do once you have the right tools, and you know what to look for.
For our SEO Services, we use tools like ahrefs and SEMrush, which both start at $99 a month, and we pay way more than that.
We have to afford to do that because SEO and content marketing is what we do.
You don’t have to break the bank upfront to begin your SEO strategy. You can get started for free.
We’re going to explore how you can leverage free tools to look at your competitor’s strategy on each of these fronts:
- What Keywords They Rank For
- What Content Is Working Best
- What Search Terms Are Profitable
- How Often They Post
- What Titles You Should Use
If you were going to try to figure this out all on your own, you would be reading a handful of SEO guides and would likely be persuaded to buy unnecessary tools.
You would be getting conflicting advice and self-serving recommendations.
I was there when I was first learning, and I have to admit I likely lined someone else’s pockets because they pushed a tool that I didn’t need (yet).
I don’t want you to waste time or money I did.
That’s why I’ve created this guide to uncovering your competition’s SEO strategy with free tools.
#1: WordPress SiteMap
According to Whois Hosting This, 455,000,000 self-hosted websites are on the WordPress platform.
Odds are your competitor’s website is on WordPress also. Of those websites, they’re likely one of the 7,412,434 sites using the Yoast plugin.
What you can take advantage of is that Yoast has the same URL structure for every sitemap.
A sitemap is a blueprint that shows Google crawlers, where every page on your website is to help Google crawl your site faster.
We take advantage of this by quickly uncovering pages and categories a website uses.
The way to get to a website’s site map is to type in their domain like this:
You should see something like this come up next:
Looking at a sitemap could get overwhelming for a large website, but for smaller or local sites, it’s a great way to uncover service location pages.
Update: Ubersuggest is no longer a free tool but I made a concious decision to leave it on this list because despite being $10/month (likely less then what you spend on coffee in a week) it rivals tools that cost over $100.
I stand behind everything I’ve said below. Also considering that only 14% of users need the additional data Ubersuggest can provide, you can still use it for free to get actionable information.
I cannot speak highly enough about UberSuggest. UberSuggest is the tool I wish I had when I first began my SEO and Content Marketing Journey.
Before UberSuggest, I had to pay for tools like ahrefs and SEMrush (when I couldn’t afford it) and scraped by to get access.
Neil Patel put together a tool that’s 100% free to use and gives the services above a run for their money.
In case you don’t know, Neil is one of the world’s leading SEO/Content Marketers.
I learned the majority of my content marketing and SEO techniques by working directly with Neil and his team.
Some of the advice here actually comes straight from him (sorry, Niel :-P).
Ok, let’s get into the nuts and bolts of how to use UberSuggest to it’s fullest.
Steal your competition’s keywords
Take your competitor’s URL and paste it into the search bar on the screen.
The first thing you’re going to see is your competitor’s SEO stats like traffic, keywords, domain score, and backlinks.
Click on top pages to see what content is performing the best for them.
Once the page loads, click on view all under the Estimated Visits column, and now you’ve uncovered all of the keywords that page is showing up for in Google.
Now you can go through their best pages and start to place them into your keyword research document.
Now create content that targets these keywords and create something better than what your competition created.
Steal their backlinks
Backlinks are when a website cites your website for information. Think of it as a vote for your content.
These votes get tallied by Google to establish how trustworthy your website is.
Not all votes are created equal, though. The more relevant the citating website is to your niche, the more influential the vote.
How are you supposed to find relevant websites out of the 1.74 billion sites that exist on the internet, according to Web Hosting Rating?
That’s easy, under the backlinks column on the same screen, press View All and it provides you with a list of everyone who’s linked to the content.
You know the keywords already, and you’ve created content that is better than their content.
It’s time to approach the websites which are linking to your competitor and say something along the lines of:
“Hey, Website Owner – I noticed you are linking to an outdated blog post about XYZ. I recently expanded and updated that topic to be more current, and I think your visitors will appreciate the most up to date info.”
On the surface, this might not sound that exciting, but consider this.
Your competitor didn’t know who would link to them and likely reached out to 100’s of people to get those links.
They’ve done the hard work for you by finding these websites interested in the blog post.
If your content is better, up to date, and expanded, they have no reason not to link to you.
You’ve now successfully stolen a link from your competitor.
#3 Screaming Frog
This next trick will show you which pages are most important to your competitor.
We are going to use a program called Screaming Frog.
Screaming Frog is a software that crawls your website or your competitors in this case and gives you a bunch of information.
When you first see the information, it can be overwhelming because you likely won’t know what most of it means.
That’s ok because we want to gather the purposeful information.
In this case, the purposeful information we are looking for is what pages matter most to your competition.
Download Screaming Frog to your computer then launch and type in your competitor’s URL:
At the top of the list will be the pages that your competitors internally link to the most.
Think of your competitor’s site as if it were a museum or amusement park. Once you get in, you can’t get out without going through the gift shop first, where you might spend some money.
The concept is the same when it comes to websites. Your competition is going to do their best to guide their visitors to the pages where they can pitch their products.
Once you uncover these pages, you can see what their offer is and how they’re making the offer. From there, you can emulate their layout, sales angle, and calls to action.
How many times have you heard, “Google it?”
According to Hubspot, they estimate Google handles 5.8 BILLION searches a day.
Odds are you’ve likely heard the phrase once or twice a week. Well, keeping up with your competition is not different.
What we are going to show you is how often your competitor is creating content for their website.
Most people don’t know this, but You can dictate how Google performs your searches with special commands.
Here’s how you do it:
First type into Google’s search box, your competitor’s URL with “site:” in front of it.
Once the results come up, under the search bar, you can to click on the tools button.
Once you’ve done that, you’ll see two more buttons appear, “Any Time” and “All Results.”
From here, you have a few choices.
You can decide if you want to match, exceed, or do a little less than what your competition is doing.
There is no right answer here because, ultimately, frequency, along with quality, and many more factors play into Google rankings.
If you have the resources to meet or increase the frequency of your competition’s production rate, I would suggest it.
If you cannot, don’t sweat it. Just make sure you remain consistent and provide quality content.
#5 Ngram Analyzer
Ngram analyzer is an online analyzer that helps you take a handful of titles and find patterns.
What it does is it looks through the titles, and you ask it find strings of words that often go together.
Ngram Analyzer will provide you with is an idea of what type of content your competition is creating and how they are titling their content.
With the help of UberSuggest, we can export all of the top pieces of content to excel.
Copy all the titles from Excel and paste them into Ngram Analyzer.
I first start very narrow and use 4grams, which is a string of four words that are together more than once.
In this example, you can see phrases like “is transportation and logistics” and “transportation and logistics management” are important to them because they string them together a lot.
You can go further by broadening the criteria to 3gram and 2gram to see if you can gain any more insights.
You should see results like this, which are terms and the number of times they show together.
Bonus Tip – Use Netpeak Spider
This hack will show you which web pages are most valuable to your competitors.
We’re going to use a tool named Netpeak Spider.
Netpeak Spider is an SEO software that crawls websites (even the websites of your competitors) in several minutes and shows you various information regarding technical optimization.
The first time when you get all that information, it can be baffling because you possibly won’t know what most of that means (highlighted SEO issues depending on its importance like 4xx or 5xx errors, duplicates, redirects, and many more). Advanced issues description inside the tool is that thing that saves you time looking into it. Just select the issue, and you’ll find out info about that issue and tips on how to solve it.
Download Netpeak Spider to your computer or laptop then launch and enter in your competitor’s URL:
Go to the Database and select Incoming Links. And then you’ll get to what pages of its website your competitor guides its visitors and what offer they’re making to the clients.
Once you open up these pages, you can see your competitor’s strategy. From there, you can imitate their purpose, sales intention, and CTA.
You can sign up and get a 14-day trial for free. This is definitely the kind of tool you need to take your SEO work to the next level.
You may not be an expert in SEO, and that’s ok because you don’t have to be to develop a decent strategy.
If you know how to spy on your competitors for free, you can see what’s working for them.
Use the free tools we mentioned above, along with my strategies, and you’ll quickly uncover what they are doing right.