Using ahrefs to research competitors, clients and employers

My background includes 25 years as a qualified accountant ACA/FCA but also 12 years running Search marketing and SEO companies my roles including Group Finance Director and Group Financial Controllerships and Director of Marketing. I’ve learnt as much about SEO in that time as I had finance in the years before, so I am an unusual animal an Accountant who is also an expert on Search Engine Marketing (SEM).

When I get a new client, or look at how my websites are performing compared to competitors or even for a potential new employer ( I work these days as a Portfolio Finance Director), then I use an SEO tool called ahrefs.com to help me understand how a website gets traffic, how strong and how established it is, and how much or little marketing the client has undertaken. The tool is great but you do unfortunately need to pay a monthly fee to use other than for a trial few days, that however may be enough time for you to gain insights into a website.

What can you learn from ahrefs? Well a lot!

For example the  report below shows how much organic traffic a site gets and how many keywords it performs for, which country it does best in. Plus over time if it’s results are improving or going backwards.  You can drill into the keywords and identify what volume they receive from which keyword, and even more helpfully and insightfully which pages delivery what traffic.

Once you understand the amount of traffic a site gets its traffic from you can then dig and understand how it achieves that.

Ahrefs also lets you compare 5 websites side by side and see by key metrics which site is the strongest.

In order to get traffic you need pages with text and keywords on, its then the rankings for those phrases that results in the traffic.   Not surprisingly page #1 brings the most traffic and being top of page#1 brings the most of all.

The rankings and therefore the source and ultimately the reason  for all traffic are backlinks,  backlinks meanlinks to a website from another site are the source of a domain names authority and therefore the amount of traffic it receives.

You can use the same ahrefs tool to research all of the links a competitors website has and reverse engineer them to your own site, at least to some extent.

The authority known as Domain Authority (DA) or Domain Reputation (DR) in the cast of ahrefs comes from backlinks which themselves are from high authority domains.   So usually its a small number of links which are responsible for the performance of a website.   Having a number of links from Amazon for example is likely to give your site a good boost in its authority whereas a link from a personal blogspot blog isn’t going to even register on the dial.

Digging into links usually reveals that a lot of time and effort has gone into marketing a website, usually it takes years of effort to build up a website and its reputation, so understanding how a website achieves its traffic and from what keywords and due to what backlinks is hugely helpful, if you are planning to replicate that for your own website, you still have to replicate all the work that has gone into the competitors marketing efforts in order to replicate their success.  However knowing what to do and what keywords to focus on is of course a huge advantage and will considerably shorten the time required to close down the gap.  Competitors do have a habit of responding to changings in their search niche, usually by stepping up their marketing.

There is another factor to consider, which is known as quality metrics.  Google now pushes down websites if they don’t meet certain criteria, which are designed to reward websites that give a good user experience and punish those that don’t.  So having the right text and good backlinks isn’t enough if your website is caught by one of these “filters”.  The metrics that are currently used, and more are added as Google runs and refines its algorithms are –

  • Time on Page – how many seconds visitors stay on each page
  • Bounce rate – what proportion of visitors arrive on a page then leave straight way
  • Click Through Rate – if a link gets clicked more frequently than others – because its text is written in a more appealing way than its competitors.
  • Web Page vitals – these are a series of technical measure which basically cover how fast a page loads, the faster the better, the slower then more there is of a problem.
  • Mobile friendliness – measured in a technical way again for example by the size of text and how readable it is.

These quality criteria cause a major issue and often its not apparent that there is a problem, as for example your own browser caches pages which gives the impression that they are fast, when for new visitors they are not.  If two website have similar text and similar backlinks but one has a fraction of the traffic of the other, then its likely to be due to quality filters acting to push down traffic from what the site ought to receive it it didn’t have performance issues.

As you will quickly realise these quality issues have two sides to them.

Technical issues – in that the code or server performance is holding back the site, and these once fixed will release the site to reach its potential.

Useability issues – this is more problematic and means that the layout, content and functionality of the site is not as good as its competitors and this therefore requires an investment in time and effort to close down the performance gap,  there are many specialists around the world who can help achieve improvements, user experience specialists and web interface specialists being two of the key disciplines involved.

Hopefully this blog post gives you a little insight into how the internet works and how someone with a lot of experience goes about looking at websites with a different perspective.

For example the above report shows how much organic traffic a site gets and how many keywords it performs for, which country it does best in. Plus over time if it’s results are improving or going backwards.

Ahrefs also lets you compare 5 websites side by side and see by key metrics which site is the strongest.

As backlinks (links to a website from another site) are the source of a domain names authority and therefore the amount of traffic it receives you can use the same tool to research the best links a competitor has and reverse engineer them to your own site, at least to some extent.

Hopefully this blog post gives you a little insight into how the internet works and how someone with a lot of experience goes about looking at websites with a different perspective.

If you have read this blog and are interested in recruiting an FD who has this level of Search Marketing knowledge, then reach out to us today we have specialists E-Commerce FD’s available.

 

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