Lesson 4: Winning Organic Search Traffic from Your Competitors
Do you want to get more organic search traffic than any of your competitors?
But consistently coming up with great content ideas that will rank at the top of search engines isn’t easy. And why would you want to invest time and money to develop content when you have no idea whether it will get results.
A better plan is to look at your competitors’ content, see what’s already working, then try to outperform it. Let’s look at how Ahrefs can help you do just that.
Step 1: Make a big list of competitors
Most likely you already know who your main competitors are—the sites that rank on top of Google for the keywords you’re targeting.
But that list is usually short, and to win top positions in the SERPs, you need to know everyone you’re competing against.
Fortunately, discovering all your competitors is easy with Ahrefs.
Just put your website (or a competitor’s website) into Site Explorer and, in the sidebar, select the Competing Domains report:
This report helps you find your top competitors by listing the sites that rank for the same keywords as your target website.
For example, these are the competitors of ExpertVagabond.com.
And look at the information it gives you...
The second column, labeled “Common,” shows you how many keywords your target website has in common with the competing domain named in the final column.
The columns labeled “Unique” show you the number of keywords unique to the website—whether yours (in the first column) or your competitors’ (in the third column)—so you get a side-by-side comparison of your site and each competitor.
Now scroll through the list of competitors for sites that you want to research for content and traffic wins. You can export the list or just add your favorite sites to a spreadsheet. (Use the template we used for this lesson!)
- DOWNLOAD a copy of the Content to Replicate spreadsheet to record your findings in this lesson.
- In Site Explorer, enter the URL from your website or one of your top competitors.
- Open the Competing Domains report and review the results.
- Select 5-10 sites that produce great content you’d like to replicate.
- Add these domains to the “Competitors” column (column F) in the spreadsheet.
Step 2: Find your competitors’ best performing pages
It's no secret that the organic search traffic to a website is NOT evenly distributed among all its pages. Some pages get a ton of search traffic while others get none.
But you want to know which of their pages get the most organic search traffic. For that, you’ll turn to Ahref’s Top Pages report.
When looking for a site’s best pages, you might be tempted to turn to the Organic Keywords report. It lists the keywords each page ranks for and its position for each, as well as the search volume for the country you’ve selected.
But for this strategy, that’s not your best report because it organizes the information by keyword rather than pages. The Top Pages report gives you the information you need, sorted just the way you need it.
And from the Competing Domains report, here’s the quickest way to get there:
- Choose one of your competitors’ site.
- Click the caret beside the domain name.
- Select “Overview.” (Right click and open it in a new tab so you can easily refer back to your Competing Domains report.)
This takes you to your competitor’s Overview page, and you can select the Top Pages report from the sidebar.
Now you’re looking at your competitor’s best-performing pages—the pages that get the most search traffic plus the number of keywords those pages are ranking for.
In this example, one of the top pages is about “where to stay in Paris.” This one page ranks for over 500 keywords and earns more than 1,500 visits per month.
So rather than writing 500+ articles to rank for all those keywords, you can replicate this one page and potentially rank for all of them, generating backlinks and traffic with just one piece of content.
See why we like this strategy so much? Talk about efficient!
- Check the "Top pages" report for the competitors you selected in Step #1.
- For each, find the pages that have good backlink and traffic numbers and a top keyword that would be appropriate for your site.
- Add these pages to column A (Pages to Replicate) in the spreadsheet.
- Add each page’s top keyword to column D (Top Keywords).
Step 3: Check the backlinks of these pages
Replicating your competitors’ best pages isn’t that hard to do. Just review the page and look for ways to improve on it.
But if you want to outrank those pages, you'll need to build more backlinks than they have. Our research has shown that quality backlinks have a ton of weight for ranking.
So crafting a useful page that’s highly relevant to the keyword is just your first step. You need to build links too.
The trouble is link building takes lots of work. Which is why you want to know in advance how many backlinks a page has before you set out to replicate it—so you know how much promotion and link building the page will need in order to rank.
To find the information you need, you can use Ahrefs’ Site Explorer, looking up one URL at a time. But when you have a long list of URLs, our Batch Analysis tool is a better option.
You’ll find it under “Tools” in the navigation bar.
Then you only need to copy/paste your list of URLs into the box at the top of the page. The tool will pull the metrics for up to 200 URLs at once.
For this lesson, focus on these metrics:
- "Referring domains," which tells you how many different websites are linking to the page
- “Traffic,” the number of monthly visitors the page gets
As mentioned above, your page needs backlinks to rank as well as your competitor’s page. But as we discussed in Lesson 3, a high number of linking domains is more valuable than lots of backlinks from only a few domains. So we’ll track the number of referring domains rather than individual backlinks.
To be able to identify your best opportunities and quickest wins, you need to be able to see traffic and link data at a glance. Once these metrics are entered into your spreadsheet, the lowest hanging fruit will easily stand out.
- Copy/paste your list of “Pages to Replicate” into the Batch Analysis tool.
- Click “Start Analysis” to run the report.
- In the spreadsheet, fill in the referring domains and traffic metrics for each page.
Step 4: Go after the low-hanging fruit
So now you should have an amazing spreadsheet with the following information:
- Your competitors’ best pages
- The traffic these pages are getting from search
- The number of domains linking to each page
- The top keyword for each page
You always want to start with low-hanging fruit. So begin with the articles that have a lot of traffic but a low number of referring domains.
In our example above, that might be the third article, with traffic of 900+ and only 8 referring domains.
Then we’d likely progress to the 2nd article, with traffic at nearly 700 and 10 referring domains. We’d save the “where to stay in Paris” for later since it has more referring domains and would need more time and effort for link building.
- Review your spreadsheet and find the articles with high traffic but only a few referring domains.
- Prioritize the articles you plan to create.
- Then do the work: visit your competitor’s page so you know what you’re competing with, create a page that’s even better, and get the word out about it.
The Strategy in a Nutshell
Content marketing and SEO can be highly effective if they’re done strategically. But you can invest a lot of time and money into creating content that doesn’t perform.
By researching your competitors’ top content before you start writing, you can generate a huge list of content ideas that are proven to win traffic and earn backlinks.
Your goal will be to replicate ALL of these pages on your own website, but for quick results, you'll go after the easiest pages first.
And you can feel good about investing time and money into creating this content. You’ll know your ideas are winners even before you start writing.