How To Do Competitor Research Like a Pro
Watch the next lesson: Bonus Lesson – Leveraging Pre-publish Promotion
Hello and welcome to this bonus lesson on how to do competitor research like a pro.
Now, analysing competitors’ websites is something that as a professional SEO or digital marketer you’re going to be doing all the time. It’s something that I do every single week. And I thought as a business owner, you might like to know how the professional marketers go about this, so that you can do it for your business and gain some invaluable information that’s going to put you further ahead of your competition and give you even more leverage within your industry or your niche.
Now, when it comes to your competitors, as far as their content marketing is concerned, you can go onto their website and learn all you need to about the types of content they’re putting out there, how much effort they’re putting into their website, whether they have a local content marketing strategy or an authority content marketing strategy, or if they’re just churning out content for the sake of content. You can learn all of that by spending a few minutes analysing your competitors.
But what about taking it further? What about getting a good sense of where they’re getting their links from, where they’re getting their promotion, their brand mentions, their online PR? Who’s talking about them? Who’s excited about their business and their brand? How can you find all of that stuff out?
Well, often small businesses turn to digital marketers and SEO agencies to tell them this invaluable information that they can learn and then take forward and improve their business. What I’m going to do is give you a peek behind the curtain and show you how professional agencies go about this and you can too. And I’m here to tell you it isn’t half as scary or as daunting as you may think it is.
Now to do this, you are going to need a paid marketing tool. There is no way of getting around it, and I’m going to suggest we use Majestic. You can find this at majestic.com. Now they have various pricing and plans available, and the cheapest way for you to do this will be to sign up for one month at 44.99, their silver package. You see the minimum requirement, minimum subscription is one month, so it would cost you 45 pounds.
Alternatively, if you think you need a little bit longer, then the cheapest way is going to be to do it, is to do three months at 29.99. So it’s either going to cost you 45 pounds for one month, or if you think you need a little bit longer, you’ve got a few more competitors and you’re not sure how much time you’re going to be able to dedicate to it within a single month, or equally if you’re doing this alongside the SEO success course, then maybe the three months at a total of 90 pounds is going to be the best option for you. In the grand scheme of things, either of those options is not a vast amount of money for the information we’re going be able to glean from this talk.
So it’s one of the agency tools. Most marketers or SEO agencies will use this and other tools. But for this task, for competitor analysis, we don’t need the other tools. We’re just going to use this one, so you are going to need to purchase this tool.
Now once you have this tool, it can show you behind the curtain of lots of competitor information. And what I’m going to do is I’m going to use a hypothetical, and I’ve chosen an industry, I just thought, what about a florist in Oxfordshire. I’ve just looked down the list and I found this company here. Like I said, I have absolutely no connection with this company whatsoever. Joanna Carter Flowers.
The reason I’ve chose them is because they were a way down the page in the results. They were about here. They were around about position 15 in the search results. So crucially, they’re not on Google’s first page. So I’m going to say pretend this is a client, this is someone I’m working for. They’re in the middle of page two or page three or page four of Google. They’re not on that first page, they’re not in those top three or four or five positions, and I want to find out why. I want to see what are the competition doing that is making those guys top. And my client’s website or your website, why are you not there? Why are they ahead of you? And we’re going to do that with competitor analysis.
Now, like I say, we can go onto each of these websites, and we can look at their blog and their content and their website, and get a real sense of are they just absolutely putting in loads of effort into their website, or are they not putting anything into it. In which case is it the links and the promotion that they’re doing really well? Majestic can tell us a lot of this.
You’ll notice with certain searches you’ll have what’s called a map stack. This is the search map results, and you’ll see you get websites. So I’m just going to open up some of these and have a quick look at some of these, all three of those, because they’re in the map stack. So Google is clearly liking them. And I would imagine it’s in part due to the fact that they have a lot of Google reviews, which are really, really powerful. So if your business doesn’t have them, as we’ve already covered in the course, make sure you get those.
I’m just going to open up a couple of the top, say three results, and let’s have a look at these. So we’ve got Fabulous Flowers, we’ve got Daisy’s Flower Shop, we’ve got Oxford Florists, we’ve got The Garden Oxford. So we’ve got a whole bunch of different … so Daisy Flowers comes up twice, doesn’t it? There we are. So that one’s obviously ranking really well.
Let’s just go back. So we can see it’s Daisy’s Flower Shop there and they’re ranking their. So they’re doing very, very well. They’ve got a map listing and they’re third. So that’s very, very good.
So what we’re going to do is, in the first instance when it comes to competitor research, you can take a competitor’s URL and just pop it in to Majestic. So I’m just going to copy the whole URL into there and search this. Now what this will tell you … this is what you’ll see once you’ve created an account and you’ve logged in … and what you will see here is all sorts of information. The crucial things that you should be looking at is the trust flow and the citation flow.
Now, trust flow is how trustworthy the links that are coming in to this website are. The higher this number, the better. And this is the citation flow, which if you hover over them, they tell you what they actually are. But a citation flow is the number of business citations, so the number of times their NAP information, their name, address and phone number has been mentioned online on reputable websites.
Often, you will see the trust flow is lower, actually. This is kind of an anomaly. It’s quite rare. The trust flow will be lower than the citation flow. And generally what I say is make sure that the trust flow is as close to the citation flow as possible. In this case, the trust flow is actually higher, which actually means they must have some really, very good links coming into … they must be getting some great exposure and some great online PR, which will be one of the reasons it’s not too all too surprising on this initial analysis that they are the very first result in the map stack.
Now this graph here is another really good thing. This tells you … each one of these purple dots is showing you the links that they have and the quality of the sites where they are coming from. So what you are actually looking for is you want links as high up this graph as possible. If they were up here, they would be absolutely incredible links. So the links that are right down here at the bottom are the poor links, the bad links, and often you’ll see a real cluster around for pretty much any website.
The higher up this they get … So these ones here are the best quality links, and it will be these top half a dozen or so that will be a major part of why this website is ranking as well as it is. So this can just quickly give you … often, you can pop a URL in and very quickly see just at a glance at this, have they got any good links. Because often you will see a whole cluster here, and then one or two random links. And you think, “Well it’s because of those one or two links that is actually causing them to leapfrog me, and they’re beating my business in the search results.
Now this is all based within Majestic’s own algorithm and the way they crawl online. So it isn’t an extensive list. It isn’t every single link this website or a website is going to have, but it’s pretty good and it’s pretty good at estimating and judging a website’s quality. And I have found over the years and through the various tools I’ve used, the trust flow to be one of the most accurate measures of a website quality. Generally speaking, if a website has a good trust flow above 20 or thereabouts, it’s going to be a very, very good website.
Often, if you come into a website, and if you do this, you will see, you’ll come to us and you’ll have a citation flow of 25 and a trust flow of three or trust flow of four. If you see a big difference between the citation flow, it means … what that means if you saw this of 30 and this of say 5, what that would mean is that that website had gone out, they had built a lot of links and a lot of brand mentions, but the quality of those websites where they’re getting those mentions and things were very, very poor. So there’s a nice correlation there, you can see.
These 39, 30 means that not only have they got quite a lot of citations and mentions and brand mentions across the web, but they are on very, very good websites, which we can see because it’s this top half here are some very good quality links.
Now what you can see is, as we move on, referring domains, referring Ips. Referring domains is the number of different websites linking to this website. And this is the key one. This external backlinks doesn’t really matter, because you can have one website having a link to this website on every one of their pages, and if they have a hundred pages, that’s a hundred links. So this one doesn’t really matter, it’s this one. Because you’ve got nearly 4,000 links, but they’re only actually coming from 115 domains, different websites online.
Now what this tool will also do is it will highlight here … and it said, “Would you like to switch to the entire view?” Always worth doing that. So if I just select the domain in here, you’ll see this will change. So I see how all that data has changed. Really interesting, huh? But that is because what we’re now doing is we’re going back to the root domain. Before, we were using the WWW. By stripping it back to just the roots, what this means is Google is now only going to collate all the data for everything, for both the W version and the non-dub version, the HTT version … it’s going to collect everything together and combine it all. This is where it gets you get a much better overall sense.
So when you do that, you will quite often see the data drop, which we’ve seen here. But again, the numbers still correlate. This one is still higher. They’re still very, very positive numbers. They’re still very, very good. But you’ll also see the number of links has increased, and the number of referring domains.
This is where, when you take it to the root domain, where you get the most accurate sense from this tool as to how many different websites are linking to that competitor, and crucially the quality of. By looking at the trust flow, the citation flow and this graph here, you can get a real sense of the quality of those websites.
As we scroll down, there’s lots of other information here, backlink history. So how many links have come and gone. Backend breakdown is they followed links or no-follow links. This one’s not hugely important. This one’s interesting. The anchor text ratio. Anchor text is the clickable text. So that there, where it’s clickable and takes you to another website or another page, that is what we call anchor text. And what you’re looking for in here is related anchor text.
If you come in here and you see loads of random spammy words, or you see something that just doesn’t make any sense, or if you see a very high percentage with the exact anchor text. So if for example, I put in florist Oxford, if we came in here and we saw that 90% of this anchor text was florist Oxford, that would tell me that they’ve over-optimised, they’re trying to force Google to rank them for that exact phrase. It doesn’t look natural. Whereas this, this looks natural. You’ve got 7% of their links that this tool can find all have the anchor text fabulous flowers, which makes sense because that’s their business name.
You’ve then got a further 4%, which is their URL, including the ww. You’ve then got a smaller percentage where the word website … because often people say click to their website, and then it’s the clickable link, visit website. So you’ve got an … and this is maybe Gary Cooper, maybe that’s supposedly who owns the company.,Who knows? Read more. Eighty percent of their anchor text is a varied mix. So that is a really, really positive sign. That means they’ve got some good quality links that is completely natural.
When it comes to analysing your competitors, it’s not strictly a numbers game, as I’ve said many times before. However, to get a sense and a quick overview in terms of how visible they are, you can just plug another website. And because we now know that they’ve got almost 300 different websites linking to them, and really good trust flow and citation flow.
So if we do the same and we take this back to its roots, let’s just see if there’s a big difference. Look at that. So this is what I was talking about. Citation flow of 21. You’ve got trust flow of only 7, only 48 referring domains. So 48 compared to nearly 300, and look at where most of their links are. Again, right in the bottom here, and they’ve only got these two or three, and it will literally be this one and this one and this one, which I’m going to show you how you find that out in just a moment, exactly which links they are. There’ll be these links, which will be helping them rank as well as they actually do. But in terms of their visibility, they are leapfrogs behind these guys.
So let’s take a look at Oxford-Florists. And it’s where you can very quickly see. So again, these ones, this is looking pretty good. Citation flow of 20, trust flow of 25. Again, only 50 so they’re far behind as far as the number of different websites that are linking to them, very few what I would class as poor links, and more good quality links. All of these are very, very good. So this should be a big reason as to why their ranking as well as they are.
Now let’s take this supposed client, or our example, and let’s see how they stack up. So we have a citation flow of 21, we have a trust flow of 16, which that’s kind of standard, it doesn’t surprise me hugely. Referring domains, 106. So we’ve got more than some of the other websites that are ranking above them. There is quite a few poor links, and then a handful.
So there’s nothing here that immediately jumps out and says, well there’s a huge difference that’s very obvious. And often this is what you will see. So just by looking at that, I would say, well they’ve got more links than some of the people ranking above them. So why are they not outranking them? Why are they only on page two, and the others who have fewer links are ranking above them?
Well, it could come down to the quality of their links and where they’re getting them from, which is something we’re going to dive into right now, or it could go back to their content. And sometimes you would look at this and think, “Well they haven’t got more links than us,” or, “They haven’t got better links than us.”
We’re going to analyse the type of things they do have. But actually we just need to focus on our own page SEO, and on our content creation and our content strategy. If we do that, we know that links aren’t the driving force here. So every industry is different. It never ceases to amaze and surprise to me when I’m doing this work.
So let’s have a look here at the last one, The Garden Oxford. Trust flow 10, citation flow of 17, 53. So you see three of those competitors, this one, this one and this one, they’re all in around the same ballpark. They’re all got an okay amount of links. There’s always a handful that are the ones that are causing them to propel up the rankings, and they’ve all got similar kind of trust flows and citation flows. So it’s quite interesting.
I’m going to take this first one here that we started with. Let’s take this, we’ll put that back in. This is a strong backlink profile. So once you’ve had that initial top level look at all your competitors, we want to delve a little bit deeper into their backlinks. And actually just before I show you that, if you go into tools and into compare, and then into summary, what you can do here is this is another way of seeing basically what I’ve just shown you, but in a way where you can analyse everything in the one go.
So if I take our example client, and we’re going to take that out, and make sure it’s just their root domain. We’re then going to take this one as well. I’m just going to pop these in here quickly. We’ll do this one as well. And we will do this one. And lastly, we will do this one.
So you put your website and then to four of your competitors, and then we’ll search that. This is where the Majestic tool will actually go out and do that work we’ve just covered, but it’ll do it very, very quickly, and it will give us a good sense … a top level, it’s not going to tell you much of the real nitty-gritty detail, but it’s going to give you a top level, birds-eye view look.
So we can see here the trust flows across the different websites, the citation flows. We can see the referring domains, how many different websites are out there linking, the external backlinks. Again, we need not really worry about that too much. The indexed URLs, so that’s how many pages are within Google’s website.
So straight away, that would worry me, as in that’s 207 pages, they are going to have a huge duplicate content problem, which sooner or later Google was going to pick up on, because you can see this potential client site has 3,500, 2000, 6,000, 3000, suddenly 207. So that is an anomaly. That stands out straightaway. You will enter various other IP-related things as well.
These top few are the ones where you can get a real sense of how do I stack up against my competition and have I got … am I vastly different to my competitors, or am I fairly the same? There are various other … you can look at backlink history. So this will tell you again, it will take all five of the websites you put in, and it will give you a … You can download this data, you can do by topics, so it will tell you what types of topics, it breaks it down.
I personally haven’t found this to be hugely accurate. But it’s interesting nonetheless to have a poke around. You’ve got the Majestic million, the click hunter. This one and the backlink history are the main two you’re going to use, to be honest.
If we go back to here and we do the first website we started with, what I want to go into now is the backlinks. This is where you can actually download all the links that your competitor has that this tool can find. And there’s huge value in that. So what you want to do is you want to make sure … it does default to this.
There’s only one backlink per domain, to avoid that, if a website links on every single page of their website, say in the footer or the sidebar, you don’t want every single page of that website to be showing up. So one backlink per domain, export data, and we’ll just do it as an Excel export, 293 backlinks because it’s 293 individual domains that we have.
If we open this, what we can now see with this once it opens is all the different websites that are out there that are linking to this competitor’s websites. So you can get a real peak behind the curtain and a real sense of where are they getting their links from. So these are all the different websites that are linking to this competitor. This is the anchor text that they’re linking.
And then there’s all sorts of other information you’ve got. You can see the source, which is this website there, trust flow, there’s citation flow. It gives you the root domain. It gives you the domain trust flow and citation flow. It gives you all sorts of useful information. The majority of this you aren’t going to need. It’s only really these first few.
Often, what I would do, and what I do do, is I pull one of these files for all four of the competitors. I then copy and paste all of the data from all of the competitors into one file. So I would literally come in and copy everything like this, select all of the data, and then I would come into the next report, and then I would just pop it below. So I would copy and paste it. So I’d just create one long list til all the columns match up. Once you’ve got that, this first column here, column A, is where all the links from your competitors … where all your competitors are getting their links.
So then what you can do is you can start to organise these by the trust flow, and to get a real sense. So I’m just going to remove some of these because we don’t need some of the … we’ll keep the anchor texts. So I’ve got domain trust flow here, and I’m just going to put a line space just so it keeps the data nice and organised, and then I’m going to select this entire row, and I’m going to sort and filter largest to smallest.
Now what I’ve got is I’ve essentially now got a list of all the links that this competitor has, ordered by trust flow, which I consider to be the most accurate and reliable source of telling me how good the quality of that website.
So FeedBurner, you’re not gonna be able to get that one, that is a website. It’s not going to be possible. Then you’ve got myweddingfavors.com blog, so that’s clearly a blog post. You would have a look of and think, “Could we do a blog post for that? Is it worth contacting that website owner?”
You’re looking through here to see what local web links they’re getting. So this is clearly a local directory. I start to highlight the different ones, so I would maybe highlight the blog posts in green, and then I would highlight the … So this is another one, you can see June Bug Weddings blog post. You can see that potentially is another blog post. That’s another blog post. So you can go through … these are directories, directories, you can see they’re searching Abingdon, Oxfordshire. So you can start to highlight these, and you would just work through this list, cherry-picking out those links, and using it to tell you all this invaluable information.
Your competitors worked super hard to build up these links and gain these brand mentions, and in a few minutes you can go in, peek behind the curtain and actually go, “Right, well you’ve saved me the work. I know these people are potentially interested in having people collaborate or write for them or guest blog or work with them in some way,” or, “These are the directories that I could potentially list my business on as well, because you’re a local competitor. So if you can get on there, I don’t see why I can’t as well.”
And you can just cherry-pick. And this is what professional marketers do. They go through this, they cherry-pick the opportunities, and then they replicate them. And you can just do this again and again and again, and you can just work through this list.
If you have a member of staff within your team, or someone that lends a hand, maybe a junior or something, you could give them this list and tell them to review all of the websites and cherry-pick the best ones or the most well known websites or the most authoritative or whatever the case may be, and have them do the work for you. There’s so many options here. And you can see as we’re working down the list, the domain trust flow is decreasing all the time.
Now once you get to around … I wouldn’t go anything below 15. So I would stop the list around here. So I would put a few line breaks in, and I would say, “Right, you only work up to there. We’re only going to analyse this many websites.” And out of this, you might pull 10%, 15% that are worth replicating, and then you would you just go ahead and do that.
So you could then repeat that exact process for all of your competitors. And by the time you’ve done that, you end up building a spreadsheet where you then have 50 or 100 or 200 or more opportunities broken down by, okay, these are links and resource pages, these are blogs we can contact, these are other online resources, these are directories, these are local news websites, these are other related information based websites, whatever they may be. And you get a real sense …
And the big thing here, the absolute key thing to remember when you’re doing this, is you are analysing the backlinks of your competitors that you know are ranking above you, and you’re cherry-picking, you’re picking three, four, five competitors, and you’re then analysing all of their backlinks, you’re cherry-picking the best of the best, and replicating them from across all of your competitors.
Once you secure some of those things, you’re never going to get all of them of course, but if you can secure a percentage of those over the coming weeks, once you’ve done this process, you know that Google likes those links. If they are a directory link or they’re a links page or they’re a related blog or they’re an online resource, you know Google likes those links, because it is those things which is propelling your competitors above you.
There’s just so much to be gleaned from competitor research. And like I say, it’s one of the reasons why all agencies will use this exact process that I’m showing you.
I just want to show one more thing just quickly. The links that we found, if we go to the summary, that are these top three or four, they are going to be the ones with the highest trust flow, because that is what this is being based on. This is being based on trust flow and citation flow.
So the highest ones, these three or four here, are going to be these three or four here. So they’re going to be these websites. If I was actually doing this for real, I don’t know what that is, I’d have to check both of these and see what they are, but I would be 100% targeting these blogs here. So I would be getting their contact details, I’d be making that initial contact, that initial introduction, maybe following them on social media, introduce myself and be essentially highlighting where you could add some value to their website, engage their audience, what you could do for them. In return, you’re going to then get a brand mention and a link and some online press, some online PR, some online exposure for your business.
So it’s fairly easy process. I hope that all makes sense. There’s massive value to be gained from doing competitor research. And like I say, in order to do it, you just need one of these tools. And I think there’s many more things you can do within Majestic, but to save this lesson going on and on and on, if there is any other questions that you’re wondering if this tool can do it, if there’s anything that I haven’t covered, you think I’d love to know the answer to that, absolutely send me an email and I will gladly answer it for you.
Otherwise, if you’re prepared to spend a little bit of money and invest in this tool for a month or three months, you can use it to analyse all your competitors. And just quickly, don’t forget as well that not only can you do this for your competitors, but you can actually do it for your own website as well.
In module three, when you’ve been doing your content marketing and you’ve been an analysing your strategies and what content topics are going to work, what you can do is you can find content that is working, and if there are certain resources or certain blog posts or certain online websites that are ranking really, really well, you can take that URL, that blog post or that page of content, and you can pop the exact URL into here, find out which people are linking to that exact piece of content, and then it’s reverse engineering basically, competitor analysis. It’s very, very clever. It’s a real advanced strategy, but it just come to mind, and it’s something that I do.
You can reverse engineer to find out which are the websites that are linking to that exact piece of content. And then you can email them, you can go on their website, get their contact details and email that exact website owner and say, “Hey, so and so, I know a few months ago or a few weeks ago you linked out, you mentioned or you shared this person’s article on topic X. Well guess what? I’ve got an even better version, a more up-to-date version or whatever it is. And you can check it out here. I know you love that version. So you may love my version as well.”
It’s really, really clever. And it’s just another way that you can use a tool like Majestic. You can analyse your competitors, but then you can also analyse existing content to really help tell you so, so much.
I hope that’s really, really valuable, as a competitor analysis is one of those staple techniques that agencies use, something that I use all the time, and I thought it would be a fantastic addition, a little bonus material for my academy members. So I hope you found it really valuable and speak soon.