Ever wanted to know how to evaluate websites and perform competitive analysis so you can reverse engineer successful competitors results for your own benefit?
I’ve got you covered because that’s exactly the purpose of today’s guide.
In this article, we are going to take a look at analyzing other websites authority, backlinks, content, keywords, site speed and the technologies they are using on their website.
Authority & SEO Analysis
The most essential skill to master when trying to build a successful online business, website or blog is to learn how to analyze the authority of your competitor’s websites and domains.
This list of services provides you with the best tools available for breaking down every little detail about your competitors, their traffic and how they got there.
SEMRush is one of the best overall SEO and content marketing tools available for several reasons. Firstly there’s a limited access version for free users, which is far from comprehensive but it’s better than nothing, especially when not so many SEO tools offer a freemium business model these days.
Secondly, it is one of the best and easiest to use tools for finding out what content is driving the most traffic and moving the needle for your competitors and allows you to order the results by a wide range of criteria including % of total traffic so you can see what to replicate and what to ignore.
You can also use it to get an idea of your competitors PPC ad spend, social media and more. SEMRush is a toolset that contains 30 different tools and the ability to analyze over 3 billion keywords and 4 trillion backlinks.
So with SEMRush, you can:
- Find your competitors BEST keywords (The ones driving lots of traffic and revenue)
- Discover new competitors to analyze
- Reverse engineer successful strategies
- Find out who’s spending money on Google Adsense and Bing Ads
- and more features are being added all the time.
As mentioned there’s a limited version you can use for free, then there’s a 14-day free trial and premium options in different tiers, Pro, Guru and Business, all offering a different level of features and data usage per month.
If you are starting out and can only afford one paid for marketing and SEO tools you should try SEMRush.
Moz is one of the longest-running SEO tools and has a strong reputation as a toolkit that can let you do just about anything related to SEO research and analyzing both your own and your competitors’ websites.
Moz is a great tool for evaluating your website and tracking your rankings however over the years other tools have come about that are better at specializing on certain aspects, an example is Ahrefs, which is hands down the best tool for tracking backlinks.
Moz has a couple of free tools like their Keyword Research tool called Keyword Explorer that gives you 10 free searches per month and their Open Site Explorer that allows you to dig a bit deeper into a website to find backlink data for free. While this tool is very good for a free tool it’s not as comprehensive as some of the alternatives and often seems to miss backlinks that others will find.
If you need another free tool though, you should definitely be trying out Moz.
UberSuggest is a free keyword research tool that has been around for a little while and recently got a massive upgrade that made it extremely useful.
You can search for a keyword and get data like the monthly search volume and trend over the previous 12 months, keyword ideas and suggestions, and see a breakdown of the search engine results pages for the keyword along with criteria like the estimated number of visits each result is getting, number of social shares each has received and the domain authority score of each result.
For a tool that is completely free, this is a very good feature set and ideal for beginners who are just starting out and don’t have the money to invest in premium SEO tools.
UberSuggest is still in a sort of beta phase and there are more tools like “Content Ideas” coming soon but it’s already well worth putting to use for your content marketing campaigns and finding out who your competitors are for target keywords.
If you have a budget then you might want to consider using Ahrefs. Why? Because it’s hands down the best SEO analysis tool and far ahead of the competition when it comes to backlink analysis, there’s isn’t a free version so that’s why I have put it last on this list, that said they do have a 7-day free trial you can use.
Ahrefs is one of the most powerful SEO tools with a comprehensive feature list including:
- Backlink audit – The most comprehensive backlink data online, track your backlinks and find out when you are generating new exposure. The best tool for taking an in-depth look at your own link profile
- Find Link Prospects – Monitor your competitor’s links over time and reverse engineer them for yourself
- Validate keyword ideas and analyze the competition
- Tracking and researching individual keywords
- Track organic visibility.
- Brand management – Ensure you have alerts for each time your website and brand is mentioned online.
When you want to reverse engineer your competitors backlink profiles and find out how they are ranking so high for specific keywords, Ahrefs is by far the best tool for doing so, especially when backlinks are the most important factor responsible in most cases.
You can find out the exact keywords your competitors are ranking for and using to drive the most traffic from the organic search results and understand how much traffic this is generating.
Then you will get a better idea of the content your rivals are creating and sharing and know what you need to work on next.
With backlink data that’s updated daily and crawls over 4 billion web pages every 15 minutes nothing else rivals Ahrefs when it comes to measuring this metric.
SimilarWeb is a handy tool for quickly seeing how much traffic a website is generating as well as what the main sources of this traffic are by website and traffic categories like search traffic, direct traffic, and social media.
SimilarWeb has a handy Chrome Extension which is a nice and quick way to find the data for a website you are currently browsing though won’t show much data for websites with low to medium amounts of traffic but for larger sites pulling in 50k or more visitors a month it’s extremely effective.
The Chrome Extension can be used for free and shows a limited amount of information, however, they also have a paid service you can sign up for to find out much more.
This tool collects raw data and then organizes and processes it with its own algorithm to present you with lots of useful information.
If you want to discover emerging trends and potential opportunities from your competitors, partners or leads then it’s definitely worth adding to your list of Chrome extensions.
SpyFu which was previously known as Googspy is a unique tool in that it allows you to find the keywords websites are bidding for on Google Adwords. This helps to reveal the “money” keywords that are obviously generating revenue for your competitors and a valuable way to find monetization opportunities for your own website or blog.
It shows the list of keywords, the amount being spent and every ad test they have been running.
It also gives you information on their organic rankings and lets you find out how they are ranking their content and you can then look into the backlinks that are helping them achieve their SERPs positions.
SpyFu performs web scraping that refreshes monthly giving you an overview of SEM and SEO trends rather than real-time data but is extremely useful nonetheless, in fact keeping up with real-time ranking changes on a daily or weekly basis can result in you spending a lot of time chasing your tail so taking a holistic view of things can often make a lot more sense.
Learn from your competitor’s failures and successes without having to invest in a large ad-spend yourself.
Google AdWords Keyword Planner
Google AdWords Keyword Planner is a free tool from Google (Though you have to sign up for an Adwords account, you don’t need to spend any money) that allows you to do research on your competitors PPC (Pay-Per-Click) campaigns and specific keywords you want to rank for and potentially pay for Google’s Ad placements on.
While most people just use it to plan their PPC campaigns and find out the prices of keywords you can also do this for competitors and find LSI (Latent Semantic Index) keywords that you could also rank for.
Don’t overlook this free tool from the Big G when you are doing your keyword research and trying to find out what’s working for your competitors.
The speed of a website can greatly impact both search rankings and also conversion rates so it’s often good to compare your own site speed with that of your competitors for any keywords you are ranking for so you can test whether that is something that is letting down your site.
If you notice all of the websites ranking above you on page on for a specific keyword have lightning quick website and your’s is dragging itself along like a snail in comparison or just slightly behind it will be worth testing if this is holding you back upgrade to a high speed hosting company for several months and track your progress.
We recommend WPEngine or Kinsta if you run a WordPress website or blog if you want the best speeds and reliability.
These are the best tools to test the speed of any website, and we advise using several tools because they can often reveal different results.
GTMetrix is my number one tool for speed testing a website. It gives your website an overall “PageSpeed” and your YSlow score, it will give you the time it takes to load the page, the total size of your website in megabytes and the number of requests your website needs to make to completely load.
Then shows you a detailed and categorized breakdown of what you are doing right and what needs improvement and each item on the checklist contains actionable tooltips that will help you understand what they all mean and how you can attempt to fix.
One limitation is that the tool seems to only test from its server in Vancouver Canada, so if your website is hosted on the other side of the planet then this may add an additional delay to your website speed test results.
Pingdom Speed Test
The website speed test from Pingdom is another tool that’s worth using and has one added benefit that it allows you to ping your website to find the loading times from 7 different servers located around the globe. Pingdom currently supports speed tests from Tokyo (Japan), Frankfurt (Germany), London (UK), Washington DC (US – East Coast), San Francisco (US – West Coast), Sydney (Australia) and São Paulo (Brazil).
Pingdom has it’s own “Performance Speed” score with slightly different but largely the same criteria. It also breaks down all of your response codes and the loading times by content/media types.
I like to use this tool and repeat the test from several locations to see how it varies between being close to the same websites server and testing from the other side of the planet.
Ideally, you are hosting your website in the location of your target market or largest market if you are targetting everywhere.
Google Page Speed Insights
When it comes to speed tests and the fact it can lead to Google ranking your site based on this factor it makes sense to also consult Google’s “Page Speed Insights” tool.
One unique feature of Page Speed Insights is that it provides you a test speed from both the perspective of loading over a mobile connection vs a desktop connection.
The only pitfall is that I have seen the tool show some false positives even after you have optimized certain aspects already.
Analyse Tools & Software
Sometimes you find a website and think, “How do I find out how they built this?” well with these tools, you will be able to find out what software, tools, code, and technologies any website is using so you can replicate their success or copy features you like.
BuiltWith.com is a fantastic tool that allows you to scan any competitors website to see what tools and software they have used to build and operate their website.
Simply put in the web address and it will generate a list of different tools that have been detected so you can break down the recipe your competitors use.
In the screenshot above where I am testing it on my own site, you can see it’s listed Google Analytics, WordPress plugins and various other services connected to my domain or running on the site.
This is a lot easier than inspecting the source code to find out what themes your competitors are using as well as other ingredients in their secret sauce.
In my case, it sniffs out the theme, several plugins (but not all), the programming languages that are in play, my CDN, media queries, webmaster registrations and more.
Wappalyzer is another great tool to evaluate the tools that are being used by a website and only recently came on my radar but has a very attractive user interface and from the few tests I have done is very accurate though it didn’t bring up quite as much detail as BuiltWith it did find a couple of items that BuiltWith missed.
My recommendation when trying to find out how a site is built and what technologies it relies on is to try both of the above tools.
Social Media Analysis
Over the past 10 years, websites and online businesses have leverages platforms like social networks to generate more influence and traffic to their websites and offers, as such it’s important to do some social media analysis to see how much this is helping their business and how you can replicate their results.
While I’m a proponent of SEO and generating organic traffic from search engines many businesses have used social media as a springboard to massive success without relying solely on search traffic.
There are many social media management tools but this list is specifically for helping with competitive research.
BuzzSumo is one of the best social media analysis tools, especially if you are coming from a content marketing research angle.
Simply type in a topic, keyword or website into the search box and BuzzSumo will give you a breakdown of the most popular posts based on shares on social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Reddit as well as other factors.
You can use a scaled-back version for free which doesn’t include all of the available tools and shows a limited number of results or their premium offering with all of the extras and much more data.
It can also be used for finding influencers or if you upgrade or start their free trial you can also benefit from their monitoring service to track how content is performing on social media over time.
If you want to find out what’s going viral and SEO is unlikely to work for you this is one of the best tools you can have in your arsenal.
FollowerWonk which is also owned by Moz allows you to optimize your Twitter accounts to help you boost your social growth.
This service will help you analyze and optimize your social prowess by digging into Twitter analytics and helping you understand what works on the platform and what doesn’t.
Discover influencers to partner with in your niche and follow actionable visualizations to compare your social graphs to those of your competitors.
You can use it to analyze your own Twitter account as well as your competitors and use the data to improve your own Twitter marketing strategy moving forward.
You can also analyze your followers with the followers of two other Twitter accounts to compare and see where they overlap and how they differ.
In short, this is one of the best tools to use if Twitter is a big part of your strategy for reaching and influencing more users.
Socialblade is a Chrome Extension that allows you to track the statistics of YouTube channels as well as Twitch, Instagram and Twitter and is a great way to find out how your competitors are doing if they are using these platforms as well as reporting on your own accounts.
They offer both a free and premium version of their tool which unlocks a lot of additional features.
Social Blade makes tracking analytics, growth, and trends extremely simple to understand and allows you to break things down on an account level and by looking at specific videos, posts, and even trending terms.
You can also find out some estimated financial stats and earnings of other creators and all with lots of attractive and intuitive charts and graphs.
I won’t go into a lot of detail about YouTube specific competitor analysis but since many websites also operate a YouTube channel to leverage video marketing via explainer videos, tutorials and other types of video content it’s worth considering some tools so you can see how effective this is in their overall strategy.
VidIQ is a Chrome Extension that provides a very detailed optimization report that helps you replicate what the best video creators are doing to generate traffic and success on YouTube.
VidIQ has its own scoring system for helping you understand why videos are ranking so well for certain terms and the chances of videos getting listed in related searches and recommended videos sections. The tool also provides data like the average watch time of a video, the velocity (views per hour), the number of comments and other social media mentions across sites like Twitter, Facebook, and Reddit.
TubeBuddy is another great tool for analyzing your competitors YouTube accounts and videos but also acts as a complete channel manager and toolkit for helping you optimize your own video content, for most YouTube creators this is an essential tool for both reasons.
TubeBuddy supports a find and replace facility bulk update features and even helps you optimize and customize your thumbnails to make sure they are professional to help give you an edge.
If you don’t run a YouTube channel yourself then this extension may be overkill and VidIQ might be preferable but if you’re also a video creator then this is an essential tool to have in your wheelhouse.
If you want to succeed online it’s imperative that you keep your eyes on what your competitors are doing.
The next time you are wondering how your competitors websites are doing so well and what you have been missing you have no excuses, work through some of the tools mentioned above and you are sure to uncover most of their secrets and if you want to achieve the same results you can reverse engineer what’s working and do it yourself.
Whether that means copying another websites backlink strategy, social campaigns, copying content ideas or finding other loose ends like site speed issues that you need to improve on, these tools will help you get to the data you need and help you solve them.
While some of these tools aren’t free, you have to consider how costly it is if you aren’t monitoring your most successful competitors. Never forget the opportunity cost that is associated with doing nothing.