SEO is a race to the top of Google’s search results, and as with any race, there are competitors all around you. Some of them have been at it for way longer than you and are already having a lot of success.
Have you ever wondered how they are doing it?
Well, don’t worry, with a little thing called SEO reverse engineering you can discover what they are doing so you can improve your SEO strategy.
Reverse engineering may sound like some hi-tech complex corporate espionage thing, but it’s not that complicated when talking about SEO.
To put it in simple terms, it just means analyzing your competitors to discover what SEO and content strategies they are using to get their current results.
Let’s go over some of the things you can reverse engineer, and what you need to do to improve your own SEO strategy.
Who to Reverse Engineer
Let’s start with who. When I say competitors, I don’t mean the shop across the street from you. I’m referring to competitors who are ranking on Google for your top keywords.
You can go as narrow or as broad as you like, but I would suggest you stick with the ones that are on the first page of Google. If you want to start with a smaller sample, do the top #3 ranking positions.
The first thing I would check for is which keywords your competitors are ranking for on the first page of Google. Knowing that is important because those are most likely the keywords that are driving the majority of the organic traffic.
Most SEO tools will tell you what keywords a specific domain is ranking for. Here’s how it’s shown in KatLinks:
What to do about it: Identify your keyword gap, in other words, make a list of the keywords your competitors are ranking for, but you are not (feature coming soon to KatLinks).
Once you have that list, create a content plan to cover those keywords so you can also start ranking for them.
Type of Content
When you have the list of organic keywords your competitors are ranking for (from the step above), check the URL of the content that is ranking for each keyword.
Next, check the type of content. Is it a blog post? A service/feature page? Something else?
What to do about it: Not all keywords work for all types of content. Some keywords are better suited for product-type pages, while others work best as long-form blog posts.
Compare the type of content you are trying to rank vs the type of content your competitor is using to rank. Make the adjustment where needed.
There are some content specs that you need to consider when doing SEO reverse engineering. Here are some of them:
✅ Meta tag usage: Check the page title and meta description of each competitor and find what they have in common. Are they including a specific keyword or topic?
✅ Heading tags: Analyze the headings (h1-h6) your competitors are using and the keywords they are using on them.
✅ Word count: Before you say it, yes, word count is not a ranking factor, but as I mentioned before in the Best Word Count for SEO issue, quality being equal, 4000 words of content have a better chance of ranking than 500 words of content.
✅ Visual elements: Photos, images, and videos also play an important role in improving your SEO. Do your competitors have images around their content? How many on average? Are they embedding videos? Are they showing comparison charts?
What to do about it: Start by matching what you see while reverse engineering your competitor’s content. Use the same or similar keywords in your meta tags, match the same heading tags and keywords usage and make sure to include the same amount of optimized images and videos around your content.
If you are trying to rank for highly competitive keywords you will need backlinks. A good place to start is by matching the backlinks of your competitors.
Don’t worry too much about quantity right now, focus on getting quality backlinks, ideally from the same sources your competitors are getting them.
You can use pretty much any SEO tool to discover your competitor’s backlinks.
What to do about it: Once you have a list of your competitor’s backlinks find the gap, in other words, identify the websites that are linking to your competitors, but not to you, and try to get those links.
In KatLinks we have a tool called Backlink Gap that helps you find competitor backlink sources that are not linking to you.
Some backlinks require a relationship with the referring website or a Brand flex you may not have but don’t worry, understand that you will not be able to match all the backlinks your competitors have, but with a little effort, you should be able to get many of them.
Website Load Speed
Website load speed is not a ranking factor, but User Experience is, and load speed has a huge impact on that.
What to do about it: Use Google Page Insights to compare your website to your competitor’s sites. Is your website loading slower on average? Optimize it and make it faster!
If you need some suggestions check some of the tips I shared back on issue #001.
Are there any specific topics you would want me to cover in the coming weeks? DM me on Twitter and let me know!
You need content to rank on Google, and as I’ve mentioned before, a blog post is a great way to share optimized content that provides value and helps you rank on search engines.
The thing is that setting up a blog can be a little complicated sometimes. You have to setup hosting, install a CMS, configure basic SEO settings, etc.
Wouldn’t it be awesome if there was a way to easily set up and manage your blog so you could just focus on creating awesome content?
Well, let me tell you about this week’s SaaS showcase.
Feather is an extremely simple to use, but very powerful blogging platform that uses Notion as your CMS. You can create a brand new blog in minutes!
And it has all the options you need out-of-the-box like SEO settings, custom domain, analytics, sitemap and more 🚀
Do you want me to showcase your SaaS or digital product? Click here to learn about our sponsorship opportunities.
Doing reverse engineering is not about copying your competitors, it’s about discovering what works and improving it so you can get better results with your SEO strategy!
If you found value in reading this, please consider sharing it with your friends and also on social media 🙏
✅ Want to improve your SEO? Start your free trial of KatLinks, the SEO tools for makers 🚀