We all want to succeed, and sometimes that means learning to live with (and learn from) your competition. The same goes for your SEO strategy. Whether you are more successful at the moment or you are neck in neck, there are always different things you can learn by observing and researching a little bit into your competition. This has definitely been a long running topic in any industry, but if you’re just getting started you’ll find that completion research is actually a basic strategy that you should get started with right away.

However, as basic as this may be, learning from your competition is never easy. You have to make sure you’re finding the right information, analyzing it correctly, and never copying anything the competition is doing. Fortunately there are tips and tools to help.

What You Can Learn From Your Competition

Just about everything you can learn from your competition you can use to help improve your SEO. Below are some main themes in SEO and how you can turn to your competition for some tricks in the business:

Social Engagement

Consider this: If they are your competition, you should probably have similar (if not the same) target audiences. Look at their social media accounts and see what kind of content or posts are the most successful. Things you should look for are Likes or Re-Posts (or ‘Retweets’ on Twitter). Also look to see how many comments they get and what type of engagement they have with their audience. Remember never to copy completely, but if you want to try producing similar content on a different subject, or a similar subject with a different type of content, you can hopefully see a spike in your social engagement as well.

A breakdown of the top social networking things to consider: Likes, Reposts, What kind of content is most popular (infographics vs. video, for example), Audience engagement, and Brand Interaction.

What Type of Content You Should be Developing

Similar to looking at content on social media, look to see what kind of content they produce on their blog and other content platforms. Ultimately, understanding what types of content your competition is developing allows you to see what is successful so that you can employ that same strategy with your own company. Again, use a topic idea and take a different angle with a different content form, or use a similar form with a completely different subject matter.

Note: You should definitely pay attention to content types in general. Videos, surveys, infographics, articles—what is your competitor posting the most and what is the audience reaction? If they are successful, you can safely assume that through trial and error, they have figured out what works and what doesn’t. You, however, have to run your own A/B testing; this is just a starting point.

Potential Advertising Opportunities and Platforms

Look to see where your competition is advertising and what platforms they seem to be spending the most on perfecting. This is a really good way to re-frame your own marketing and find an opportunity you hadn’t thought about in the past. This should go beyond PPC ads—look to see if they’re on Amazon, eBay, advertising on popular publications, etc.

On-site Optimization

In competition, your goal is to rank the highest on search engines (at least in terms of SEO). So, what is your competetion doing or not doing well to rank higher in the search engines (if they are, of course)? The easiest way to answer this question is to perform a full audit. Look at: URL structure, page titles and meta descriptions, navigation architecture, site speed, and. Then, compare your findings against your own website to see what you may need to improve. Keep in mind that you may be performing better in some areas, so keep true to things where you are finding success.

Performing a content audit like this, however, you’re definitely going to need the help of a tool. Fortunately many website audit tools are free, including when you’re looking into your competition. You can see a full list of tools to help you “spy” on your competition here.

How to Look at Your Competitor’s Website for SEO Clues

The list above is not exhaustive by any means, but those aspects are some of the most obvious and important things you can learn. Your next step is understanding how to look at your competitor’s actual website for clues to improve SEO:

Keywords

When you are looking at your competitor’s website, see what kind of keywords they are using for their SEO ranking. Sometimes it is easier to identify than others (for example Meta tag is clearly defined), but in general by looking at title’s and headers you can get an idea of what terms and phrases they’re going after. If your competition is ranking higher than you on search engines, you should definitely consider some of the words they may be using that you are not.

Keep in mind, however, that your own keyword research is going to be a much better way to get ahead, but if you’re stuck and not sure why your data isn’t improving this is a good way to see if maybe you’ve been making bad keyword decisions.

Description

It is important to look at the Meta description of your competitor’s website. The Meta description is the piece of text that is commonly used on search engine result pages (SERPs) to display preview snippets for a given page. This may give you some insight about what kind of description you may want for your own website as well. What should your description look like when users type in a related search on Google? What is it about your competition that is drawing users to their site?

Take a look at their ALT text

It is good practice to embed a keyword or two into the ALT text of the web page images, which you can learn more about here. Is your competitor using certain embedded keywords within the ALT text of their URL? Or within their website’s sub pages? It may be a good idea to consider adding these to yours as well, if you do not have them already.

For a list of even more things you can learn from your competition, visit this article from Inc. Magazine or this article if you’re working with a franchise company.

The Takeaway

As you can see, there is a lot you can look at to size up your competition. Consider why they may be more or less successful in certain areas, and use what you can learn from these tips and tricks to your advantage. You can do this by identifying areas of improvement or growth and keeping an eye on the competition every few weeks.

Remember, do not by copy your competition, but take their own success as a way to improve your own website and social marketing. If you are in the same industry, there is going to be some overlap, but do try to remain unique. When you take all of this into consideration and do your best to improve, SEO improvements will follow shortly after.

What have you learned from your competition? How has it helped you improve your own online presence and what do you track? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.