How to Spy on Your Competition to Beat Them on Google Search

Even if you are consistently outranking your competitors for your main keywords on Google, if you don’t understand why you are performing better than they are, you likely won’t outrank them for long. In this post, we’re going to explore some methods you can use to scrutinize your own site as well as the sites of your competitors so you can develop a strategy that will consistently provide you with better search results over them and over time.

Step 1: Examine your site.

Using the Open Site Explorer tool from Moz, an SEO consulting company, type in the URL of your website in the search bar. You will see several metrics pop up; you need to concern yourself with these:

Domain authority -- a score on a 100-point scale that predicts how well a website will rank on Google and other search engines. This score is derived off backlinks, which is foundational to Google’s algorithm. While not the sole ranking factor, domain authority is a pretty accurate indicator to how well your site is ranking on Google.

Page authority -- same as domain authority, except for specific pages within a website.

Established links -- there are two categories here, root domains and total links. The number of root domains reflects other websites that are linking to yours. The total links is the total number of links from all sources -- internal, external, followed and nofollowed.

Inbound links -- a listing of all the inbound links coming to your website. The better quality and quantity of inbound links your site has, the higher you will rank in search.

Step 2: Examine your competitors’ sites.

Using Open Site Explorer, perform the same search you did for your site for those of your primary competitors. Moz only allows you 4 free searches per day; after that, you either have to wait another day or upgrade to Pro. Make notes for each competitive site’s domain authority.

Next, do a Google search using your primary keywords. For example, I would use something like, “dui attorney in Riverside, CA.” If you’re a family law attorney in Phoenix, then use “divorce attorney in Phoenix, AZ.” Compare where your site ranks vs. those of your competitors and then compare it to the domain authority numbers. If your competitor has a higher domain authority, they probably outrank you on Google search.

Basically, this exercise is useful in determining whether your competitors are doing a better job at SEO than you are. If you have a higher domain authority but are still outranked by your competitors on search, you should reach out to an SEO company for assistance in doing a deeper dive to determine why this is so.

Step 3: Build quality backlinks.

Link building got a black eye a few years ago when Google caught on to the fact that many companies were paying offshore entities to build links to their sites. Many of those links were low quality that degraded the user experience, so Google penalized sites for having them.

Today, link building is still important but you must have high quality links pointing back to your site to avoid penalty. This is best achieved by contributing content to quality sites, getting quoted by reputable news sources or being mentioned on sites with high domain authority.

In the Open Site Explorer tool, you can view links your competitors have obtained over the past 60 days when you click on Recently Discovered Links. This will show you where they have been mentioned and can also provide you with some ideas about where you might target your digital PR efforts as well.

One of the ways to get quoted in quality media outlets is to sign up for HARO (Help a Reporter Out). You receive queries every day from reporters looking for quotes from legal experts. You just need to be sure you can devote about 20 minutes a day to responding to any queries that make sense for you.

Step 4: Conduct competitive research.

The research you did in Step 2 was to discover your domain authority and that of your competitors so you can understand where you rank in comparison and why. You are probably wondering what a good benchmark is for domain authority in your target area. It depends on the size of your market.

For example, my domain authority of 20 for Riverside, CA is good enough to get me on the first page of search results. However, if I were practicing law in a larger market like Los Angeles, my site would likely need a domain authority of 30 or more to get on the first page of Google.

Sponsoring local organizations or event is also a good way to help your authority, as these groups will provide backlinks to you on their sponsor pages.

Step 5: Implement your strategy.

Once you have a better understanding of how to use domain authority to improve your SEO, you need to deploy the necessary resources to implement your improvement strategy. This typically consists of creating a target list of websites that you want to reach out to in order to offer content or provide quotes.

You will also need to create high quality content, either by doing it yourself or by hiring a writer to create it for you.

Finally, you need someone to manage this process as you forge new relationships. It is important to be consistent in your link building and digital PR efforts so you can continue to get media mentions and your content published on authoritative websites.


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