Andrew Shipp
Dec 05, 2019 | 14 min read

The most essential part of search engine optimization isn’t getting Google to like your website. Sure, it’s a big deal, but it’s not as simple as that. Ultimately, in order to succeed in the modern business world, search engines need to like your site more than your competitors’.

That being said, you must fully understand what, how and why your competitors are doing at all times across all verticals in order to outrank them for good.

On top of that, your competitors are a great source of ready-to-go solutions. For instance, if you don’t know what keywords to rank for or how to build links to your site, you can always look to your digital rivals for proven ideas.

But keeping an eye on a large number of competitors can be a difficult thing to do, right? Don’t worry.

With our SEO platform, you can easily cover all of your competitor monitoring needs. Here, I’m going to share with you how you can get actionable, meaningful insights into your online competition using SE Ranking. But first, let’s make sure you know who to spy on.

Find out who you’re competing with

If you don’t know who you’re going up against in the SERPs, you must first identify your top direct competitors. 

To do this, find the most popular keywords—as in those with the highest search volume—in your organic and paid campaigns. Preferably, take a look at both the generic and the branded keywords you are targeting. By generic keywords I mean the products and/or services that are offered by your business, and branded keywords are those that include the name of your business.

Then, see what competitor ads show up for your brand name if you’ve been around for a while, but make sure to also look at the top organic search results. This can easily be done with the help of our SEO/PPC Competitor Research tool.

Overview of Keyword Research

Alright, now that you know who you should definitely keep an eye on, let’s find out what exactly SE Ranking can do in terms of competitor tracking.

1. Always know competitor keyword rankings

Having an understanding of who you’re competing with in the SERPs is just one part of the equation. The other part is doing competitive monitoring, as in keeping tabs on their activities and knowing how well they rank for the same keywords you’re targeting in your campaigns. 

Doing so will help you see where you can really get an advantage over your competition and where you’re just wasting your valuable resources to bring no result.

Keep an eye on your direct competitors

When you are adding a website to SE Ranking, you have the option of hand-picking your direct competitors from a list of suggestions or manually adding them on your own, if you already know who they are.

Adding competitors to a project

You’re at liberty to add up to 5 rivals and, as a result, track competitor keyword rankings for the same keywords you’re tracking for your website. 

That way, you’ll be able to know the results of their promotional activities, compare them with that of your website, and, ultimately, make adjustments to your own efforts.

Rankings of competitors

To elaborate, with the help of this tool, you can see how one of the selected top 5 direct competitors ranks in comparison to your website for every target keyword. Moreover, find out how many keyword searches are performed each month on the selected search engine and how many search results there are in total for each search query. 

In addition, you can discover keywords that your competitors rank high for in the SERPs and you don’t, and vice versa. Plus, the tool helps you track sudden ranking changes—if one of your top keywords drops in rankings, it makes sense to see if the same happened to competitor rankings. 

Moreover, if you don’t see any of your competitors in the SERPs at all, then you should definitely reconsider the keywords you’re targeting and go back to the drawing board. You probably got it all wrong and need to target another set of search queries.

All in all, you can make a good assessment of your direct competitors’ SERP activities and work out a game plan to outrank them using the data provided in this tool.

Regularly check up on your SERP competitors

Another way you can monitor competitor activity is by exploring your SERP competitors.

Overview of SERP competitors

The SERP competitors tool provides you with insights into the top 100 search results—as in the top 100 websites—for every search query added to your project along with their ranking dynamics. 

Think of this tool as a way of always keeping a finger on the pulse of your entire keyword competition. Just select any of the keywords you’re targeting in your campaign and see how its search results have changed over time.

This way, you’ll be able to keep an eye not only on your top 5 competitors, but on every website that can potentially become your direct rival. 

By clicking on a search result, you’ll see how it’s ranking positions went up or down over time. Plus, to help you understand your competitors better, you can also see such website metrics as Moz Domain Authority that predicts how well a website will rank on SERPs, Alexa rank to give you a sense of the website’s overall popularity, and the total number of backlinks to understand its relevance and authority. 

With this data, you can grasp how a competitor website is growing and developing and whether or not it’s close to becoming your direct competitor. To make it easier to keep an eye on potential competitors, you can tag them and instantly see how their rankings change or even go back in time to see where they initially started out.

Find out how visible a competitor site is in search

Additionally, you can check your and your competitors’ website SEO visibility in every major search engine including YouTube. Plus, you get the visibility rating for all search competitors—not just your top 5—sorted by visibility score based on your keywords.

Search visibility is the share of impressions a website gets in a given search engine for a selected search query group. Putting it in other words, website search engine visibility shows the percentage of users who will see the site upon entering a particular search query into the search box.

Rating of competitor online visibility

Performing regular visibility checks can help compare the visibility of your site for specific keywords with that of your rivals, get a list of the top players in your niche, and closely study the analytics behind your site’s rankings to evaluate actual SEO results. 

Keeping a constant eye on your website’s visibility will not only enable you to predict your site’s traffic jumps and falls, but it will also help you filter out all of your indirect competitors and spot direct ones.

By comparing your website’s data with that of your main competitors, you’ll be able to set clear priorities regarding the keywords you want to rank for higher in search. To help you come to a more informed decision regarding a competitor site, you can also make use of the provided metrics, including Moz Domain Authority, Alexa rank, total number of backlinks and referring domains.

2. Borrow keyword ideas from competitors

Besides monitoring competitor rankings for the same keywords you’re targeting, you can also use the SEO/PPC Competitor Research tool to find out what keywords your competitors are ranking for and you’re not. That way, you’ll be able to expand your semantic core with relevant keywords.

Now, along with the general report that includes regional data on organic, paid traffic, and their estimated cost and volume, the tool also provides you with a summary of the competitor’s organic and paid keyword data in all available country databases.

Overview of Walmart

This will help you evaluate the promotional efforts the domain is pushing beyond a single country environment and show you how many keywords are being targeted in other countries. This data will ultimately give you a good starting point if you start branching out to other markets.

Now, back to “borrowing” competitor keyword ideas. Under the Keywords subtab, you get a list of keywords your competitor’s visible for in organic SERPs along with the ranking position, search volume, and other pertaining data.

Organic traffic research for Walmart

Under the Competitor comparison subtab, you can actually find out what keywords you have in common with your competitors, which ones are missing and which ones are unique. 

Just take any two competitor domains along with yours and compare the semantics. Now, since we’re looking to expand our semantic core, we’re not really interested in exploring the “All” and “Common” keywords tabs at the moment because they’ll only highlight the semantic overlaps. We, on the other hand, are looking for keywords that are not targeted by our campaigns.

Competitor comparison overview

By analyzing the search queries under the “Missing keywords” tab, you’ll be able to see what keywords are used by both of your competitors, but not by you. Although this is very valuable info, it makes sense to start by looking for keywords that are unique for each one of your competitors and work up from there. Sure, there may be a lot of data to go through, but you can sort each unique keyword by its search volume, cost-per-click, level of Ads competition, KEI, and total number of pages featuring in SERPs to understand whether or not it’s relevant for you.

With the power of this data, you can gradually go through each tab and expand your semantic core by “borrowing” relevant keywords that showed good results for your competitors and use them in your own campaigns. Once you finish, take several other competitors and repeat the process.

3. Monitor rival paid search campaigns

Not only does the SEO/PPC Competitor Research tool help you see what your competitors are doing in organic search, but it lets you in on their paid search campaign activities as well, providing you with competitor advertising monitoring capabilities.

To elaborate, you can see what ads your competitors are running on Google now and in the past under the Ads history subtab, and use this knowledge to put forward only the best ads for your business.

SE Ranking's Ads history tab

Essentially, you get a list of the most popular keyword ads along with their traffic volume, the share of traffic they drive to the site, the total number of ads the competitor’s running on Google, search volume, level of ad competition, and cost-per-click.

As always, you need to analyze the data to understand which ads will be most profitable for you. Ideally, you want to find keyword ads with a high traffic share, low level of competition and cost-per-click, but, as you probably know, it’s not that easy. Moreover, there’s no guarantee that running these ads will work for you, which is why you have to put your own spin on each one.

The best part is that you can see a preview of each ad that includes the title, URL, and description. You are free to analyze the ads and use the available info to create your own ads that will be able to put up a real fight for searcher attention.

4. Keep tabs on competitor backlinks

Backlinks are vital for SEO because search engines such as Google tend to give more credit to sites that have a decent number of quality backlinks. A higher number of quality backlinks indicates that the website is more popular than other SERP results for a certain search query. 

Just like in the case of keywords, you may also run out of link-building ideas and turn to your competitors for help.

Get a list of every competitor backlink

With the Backlink Checker tool, you can find all the backlinks of any domain, be it yours or a competitor’s, and, as a result, know what channels your competitors use to build up their search engine authority.

Overview of Backlink Checker

Here, you can find tabs that provide additional information on backlink referring domains, anchor texts, pages, IPs, and, most importantly, the backlinks themselves.

Under the Backlinks tab, you can see the list of every backlink of the given site along with its URL, anchor text, target URL, type (DoFollow/NoFollow), Domain Trust and Page Trust scores, Alexa rank, the date when it was first discovered, and the date of the last check.

As a rule of thumb, it’s useful to pay attention to the Domain Trust and Page Trust scores here as these metrics were specifically designed to predict how well a domain/page will rank in search. The better the score, the higher the chances the domain/page will rank high. In turn, this helps you understand what websites it’s better to reach out to.

You’re welcome to explore all the data and follow the backlinks listed here to get a better grasp of why they are relevant for your competitor and the donor website.

Backlink Checker's Backlink tab

At the end of the day, this data helps you understand your competitor’s strategies on link building and incorporate your own version of it into your website. As a segway to the next point, you can even easily mark the competitor backlinks you’re most interested in keeping an eye on and add them to the Backlink Monitoring tool.

How to add backlinks to the Backlink Monitoring tool

Track the status of competitor backlinks

Once you add the competitor backlinks you want to monitor to the Backlink Monitoring tool, you can get additional information on each backlink and monitor their status around the clock. 

Although it was created to help you monitor your own backlink profile, you can still get the following information on each competitor backlink:

SEO parameters in Backlink Checker

On top of that, if you don’t want to manually check up on each backlink, you can set up to get weekly reports on their status. That way, you’ll be able to stay on top of all competitor backlink building activities and react as soon as something happens.

5. Get notified whenever a competitor page gets updated

An additional way of keeping an eye on your competitors is provided by the Page Changes Monitoring tool. This SE Ranking tool detects any changes made to the pages you chose to monitor and notifies you once any occur.

Page Changes Monitoring tool in SE Ranking

With Page Changes Monitoring, you will always be aware of all and any changes happening to important competitor pages that you set to monitor. Effortlessly see if a significant change (or frankly any) has been made to competitor pages that you regularly look at to adjust your own strategy.

For example, you can add a competitor pricing page to the tool and get notified the second they update their pricing, so that you can react, if necessary. Or choose to keep an eye on their blog’s homepage, and be the first to know when they publish a new piece of content.

Viewing changes in Page Changes Monitoring tool

By the way, you can configure the tool to monitor only those page elements that matter to you the most, such as page title, description, keywords, headers, content, links, robots.txt file, HTTP code, search engine index status, and more. 

Basically, you can add every single competitor page to the tool and get notified via email whenever anything on the entire website changes. That way, you won’t have to constantly visit your competitors’ sites to know what they’re up to. Just add the pages it’s important for you to monitor and the tool will let you know of any updates.

BONUS: Analyze your competitor’s technical SEO setup

You can go the extra mile to learn even more about your competition and find out the technical SEO aspects of their sites by running an audit. This may even give you a stronger understanding of why their rankings may suddenly change in comparison to yours.

Website Audit preview

The Website Audit tool can show you how well a competitor website is optimized for search engines like Google and whether there are any errors. During the analysis the site is evaluated against every major ranking factor, and, as a result, you get a report with actionable recommendations on how the site can be improved. 

With this data, you can compare your site with that of a competitor and find out what’s working for them and not working for you. That way, you can figure out how to improve the technical SEO of your own website to be able to compete with your digital rivals.

And keep in mind that regular audits help you understand how your competitors change their site each week, which enables you to keep up with them on all fronts or even get ahead.

Now over to you

Monitoring and analyzing your competitors is essential to the success of any business, no matter if new or old.

By keeping tabs on competitor activities across all verticals, you’ll be able to make sure that your strategy is as strong, if not stronger, than the competition. The main issue here is being able to monitor every major competitor. But without the right tool, this can be a very daunting and time-consuming task.

With SE Ranking, you have all the tools you need to know what your competitors are doing 24/7—from tracking competitor keyword rankings to monitoring their backlinks. If you are still not an SE Ranking user, you’re welcome to try it for free for 14 days. Be sure to let me know what you make of it.

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6 comments
    1. Appreciate the comment, Ron! Reach out to our support team if you have any questions about any of the mentioned tools.

    1. Great question, Andres. Depending on the domain or keyword you’re analyzing, you can go back several years. This feature isn’t linked to the project creation date, meaning that you can analyze ads up to the date the SE Ranking was launched.

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