Reverse Engineering: What Can You Gain From Your Competitors

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Reverse engineering is the process of dissecting or dismantling an object for analysis to understand how it works, with the intent of duplicating the original object, or improving it for the better. This practice has been implemented in a wide variety of industries, old and new. It has been applied countless times over to computer software, where machine code is reverted to source code, and programmers use it to fix bugs, identify viruses, or simply optimize a program’s performance at a very technical level.
Reverse engineering has its place in online marketing as well, since there are many areas where these same principles can be implemented to help marketers improve sales. Marketing to an online audience can be very competitive and intimidating for those new to the game, but there are fundamental areas they can focus on to help improve their success.

As stated above, reverse engineering involves dissection for the purpose of analysis, and one of the first things to find out about your competitors is their target audience. When you arrive at their website, try to identify who their target demographic is. This can be done through fully understanding their products and services, and knowing what needs they address. For example, if your competitor is a tutorial website on how to create a website, consider all aspects of the target audience, including age, education, income, occupation, and other relevant details. Your goal should be to attract an audience that is similar to that of your competitors, and be able to communicate with and appeal to them.

Once you’ve identified your competitor’s audience, content is another factor that needs to be addressed. The content is the sole reason for their audience in the first place, and it is important for you as an online entrepreneur to understand everything about the content. For example, let’s say your competitor focuses on entertainment news and current events. Pay close attention to the website’s articles, titles, graphics, and links, and ask why they are present in the first place. Also take into consideration your competitor’s priorities by analyzing the content strategy the website owner had in mind. This can be derived by keeping track of the order that the articles appear chronologically, the phrasing or tone of the articles, keyword strategies, and any links that appear in the bodies of the articles. If there are any patterns or recurring themes to the content, you will be able to understand the content at a level that allows you to plan your own content and expect a similar degree of success.

The most crucial strategy in sizing up the competition is identifying those needs within your competitor’s market that are not being addressed. Take another look at their website and see whether there is anything missing, and take note of areas where you can outshine them. Aside from looking on-site, take your research to other venues. Perhaps there are online forums or other websites that contain criticism or negative reviews about your competitors. Surely these are things you as an online entrepreneur do not wish to emulate. These areas of inadequacy are opportunities for you to learn from their mistakes and save time by avoiding trial and error. By filling in the gaps of their model, you can improve upon their strategy for the benefit of your own business.

Reverse Engineering Your Competitor’s SEO
The appearance of your competitor’s website, including layout, organization, link structure, and page depth all contribute to the user experience. A good strategy to understand your competitor’s website structure is to conduct a crawl of their site via the “Tree” view on an SEO tool such as ScreamingFrog. This will enable you to visualize how the information architecture is designed. Other key factors of your competitor’s website is the page depth and take note of the proportion of pages that are at each level within the website.

Internal link structure is also important to analyze, because the link structure used by your competitor may have room for improvement. Again, there are several SEO tools that can perform this function. Get to know their strategy and find out how to make it work for you.

Aside from the user experience, content and site structure, link building represents another important facet of your competitor’s strategy that you can reverse engineer for your own website. Content that performs particularly well may enjoy exposure on social media and natural links. However, link-building strategies from external websites may contribute to your competitor’s SEO success. Look for spikes in the velocity of new links versus links that have been lost. This activity may suggest volatility in your competitor’s SEO activity, especially if your competitor’s website has suddenly ranked well for novel keywords.

Moreover, your competitor’s organic keyword rankings can also be analyzed using SEMrush. This tool lets you know what specific keywords your competitor actually ranks for. Of course, this level of analysis is far more detailed than overall performance, and carries much power for your web development strategy.

To analyze your competitor’s organic performance, you can conduct studies on organic search visibility using a tool such as SearchMetrics. Search visibility is measured by the keywords for which a website ranks, keyword volume, and click-through rate, and you can take this strategy further. Contrasting the organic search visibility between desktop and mobile devices can expose whether your competitor’s website is mobile-friendly, and you can make the necessary adjustments to your own site.

We’ve mentioned several tools for your reverse-engineering strategy, such as ScreamingFrog, SEMrush, and SearchMetrics. Aside from these tools, there are plenty of services at your disposal:

  • Google Trends
  • MOZ
  • Alexa
  • Majestic SEO
  • Ahrefs Site Explorer
  • Quantcast

These services provide vital information for you to understand your competition and run a successful website. Let us know if these reverse-engineering strategies helped you build your website by leaving a comment below.

Also if you don’t have a website you could always create one for your business. All you need is a good domain name, reliable hosting provider and an excellent website builder like Joomla or WordPress. There are lots of helpful sites with comprehensive guides and tutorial on how to create your own website that you could use to build a website.

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