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When I started doing search engine optimization and Google Ads for other businesses in 2010, one of the things that business owners were really interested in was spying on their competitors. I thought it was just a fad, but I still get asked the same questions today.

Most business owners really want to know what their competitors are doing to get a competitive advantage. They also want to see how their website and online presence compares to their competitors’. If you’re a business owner and you want to do some spying on your competitors, here are some quick ways that professional SEO companies benchmark clients against competition on a daily basis.

Backlinks

The first metric to look at is the backlink profile of your website in comparison to your competitors. Search engines use backlinks as a way to measure a website’s popularity and relevance: the more sites like to a particular page, the more authoritative and credible it likely is. Tools like UpCity or AHREFS provide backlink data in graphical form so you can see your “link velocity”, or the rate at which you are gaining and losing links to your website.

Considering not only how your site gains links, but also how your site loses links is essential to developing a killer backlink strategy. Google also knows how fast links are built to any website and the best strategy is to build them slow and steady over time.

'Considering not only how your site gains links, but also how your site loses links is essential to developing a killer backlink strategy.' - Jeff Tormey, SEO Guru Atlanta Click To Tweet

Domain Authority

Google used to utilize a rating for website pages called Page Rank, which was, surprisingly, actually named after Larry Page, one of the founders of Google. Since they’ve discontinued Page Rank, some tools have tried to develop a replacement metric to help marketers better benchmark against competition. For example, Moz has “Page Authority” where they try to determine how “authoritative” a page is based on several metrics, including how many backlinks the page has, content, and other elements. Other companies like Majestic have their own domain authority metrics, so it’s important to benchmark against consistent data: Majestic DA scores and Moz DA scores can vary widely. These metrics help you understand which pages search engines consider to be the most important for a given topic. By analyzing the domain authority of your competition and looking at their top pages, you can build a more focused content strategy that directly leads to SEO results.

Remember to check the domain authority of your backlinks since links from high DA sites are more valuable than links from low DA sites. Every website will have a mix of high, medium and low DA backlinks. If your site only has links from sites with DA<20, you may want to put some effort into obtaining some better quality links to your site, especially to your most important pages. Getting links from popular websites with lots of traffic is a good idea, especially if the site is relevant to your business.

Keyword

Some of the most interesting competitive data can be found by analyzing your competitors’ keyword. Using a tool like SEMRush, you’ll be able to identify the top keywords for which your competitors rank as well as which of their pages are performing the best. With this data, you can begin to selectively target terms where you feel you can make the biggest impact in the rankings.

These are just a few simple ways for you to begin to spy on your competition and build a more strategic SEO campaign. But remember: don’t focus on your competition so hard you begin to follow them. Learn from their successes and from their mistakes, and do things in your own way.