“If you know the enemy and know yourself,
you need not fear the result of a hundred battles.
If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained
you will also suffer a defeat.
If you know neither the enemy nor yourself,
you will succumb in every battle.
~ Sun Tzu, The Art of War”
Other websites often hold the key to getting more traffic for your own website. Their collection of traffic sources and links is one that you can appropriate for yourself when you are trying to build more traffic and links.
Assuming that there isn’t a huge gap in topics covered and content quality, websites that link to your competitor will generally be willing to link to you as well.
If the competing sites in your niche are older and more established, their backlink profile might just reveal the traffic sources you need to grow your own website.
Competitor analysis may lead you to websites you have never heard about and will also show you what type of traffic sources you need to cultivate to be successful in the long run.
Three Ways to Perform Competitor Analysis
These collection of web tools and sites will help you to find out what websites are referring traffic or linking to your competitor.
I’ve not included any keyword-based or SERP research tools because I’m not focusing on organic search traffic but rather, defensible traffic sources.
1. Search Engines
Several search engines will allow you to see who is linking to your competitor, while showing the approximate audience size/traffic of the linking website. You can use these two search engines to roughly determine which referral traffic and link sources you should be developing.
* Alexa’s search engine allows you to see which sites are linking into a specific website and displays the Alexa Rank of each linking site as well. This statistic is compiled from Alexa when it crawls the web and is updated no more than 6 times a year. This is probably the reason why Alexa does not record incoming links for some websites
To use this search engine, just type in your competitor’s website URL in the Sites Linking In search box. While the Alexa Rank is flawed, it offers a general indication of the size of the websites linking into a specific site.
* Technorati is a search engine that easily allows you to examine which blogs are linking to your a blog in your niche. You can either search by typing in the blog URL or by using the name of your competitors website. In general, the authority rank of the linking blog indicates the size of its audience.
It’ll might be more worthwhile to target sites with mid to high levels of authority. If you’re intent on following the progress of your competitor, I highly recommend subscribing to the results feed which will allow you to keep track of sites that are linking to your competitor.
2. Backlink Tools and Analyzers
Backlink tools allow you to find out who links to your competitor’s website. Bear in mind that the sites linking in might not actually send traffic so you will need to visit each website for greater detail. These tools will also allow you to build up your link profile by placing your link in some unexpected web pages.
* Yahoo Site Explorer offers the most comprehensive list of backlinks for any website and gives you the option of exporting the backlink list into a more readable list.
* BacklinkWatch will give a list of approximately 1,000 backlinks along with the PR and anchor text for some of the links listed. It also tries to indicate if the link is nofollowed as well.
* iWebTool’s Backlink Checker functions similarly as Backlinkwatch but instead of returning the anchor text, it displays the title of the webpage where the link is placed.
3. Public Traffic Stats Counters
Some websites display open Sitemeter or StatsCounter buttons which will allow you to access their traffic statistics easily. You can then examine the referral urls for the website and find out which websites often link to and send traffic to the website in question.
4. Niche Top Lists
Top lists are public ranking lists which rank sites according to the amount of daily traffic or votes they receive. Bear in mind that the traffic figures you see on these lists are not always accurate because these top lists only track pages with a specific image, which means that if it is displayed only on the homepage, the top lists will only track homepage hits.
* BlogTopList.com ranks blogs according to a figure which combines unique visitors with the number of votes each site receives. Unique visitors are displayed for each blog but no other traffic statistics is made available.
* Blog Top Sites is a website which tracks the number of unique visitors which visit a blog and then ranks them according to the number of unique visits they receive each week. I would generally recommend using Blog Top Sites over BlogTopList.com because they provide more detailed traffic statistics.
These two and several other industry-specific top lists can be used as a reference tool when you are performing competitor analysis on sites within your niche. Visit the category which your site falls into and scan through the blogs listed. Look at the traffic stats and if you’re interested in examining further, check out their website.
Some of the sites will display their traffic stats publicly and you can click on their stat buttons to find the source of their traffic. If they don’t display any public stats, you can try using the backlink tools mentioned above to find out who links to them.
Long Term Competitor Analysis will Help Your Website
I’ve been using the term competitor throughout the article but do note that I’m referring to similar websites within your niche, regardless if you consider them to be an actual competitor or not.
Keeping tabs on similar or more established websites within your niche allows you to examine what they are doing to build links and traffic.
Doing so will give you ideas on how to implement a similar traffic generating strategy for your websites and online businesses.