3 best practices of competitor SEO you should know


Updated on September 10, 2020
Topics:
8 min well spent

One of the lowest hanging fruits in SEO is to create content for “alternative” and “versus” queries. Some brands take it a step further and rank for use cases of their competitors. In this article, I highlight 3 examples of brands that are doing this really well for your inspiration.

Back when I worked at Atlassian, there was one move from our competitor Zendesk that put us in awe: the Zendesk Alternatives.

Zendesk went out to create a fictional band called “The Zendesk Alternatives” to rank for the query “zendesk alternative”. Crazy but it worked.

The "Zendesk Alternatives"
The “Zendesk Alternatives” (zendeskalternative.com)

They created the site, a video, a Twitter account, and even a MySpace account (yep, that’s how old it is).

The effort paid off. The screenshot below is from 2017 and shows that the site still ranked #1 for “zendesk alternative” at the time.

Even today, it’s on #2 (see screenshot below), which is rare to see because Google interprets the user intent for “alternative” queries in a way that prefers review sites (like G2).

Aaaah, the good ‘ol hacky days.

Does competitor SEO still work?

The short answer is “yes”. You should have to be smart about it.

To take a step back, “competitor SEO” describes the art and science of ranking for

  • “alternative queries”, e.g. “zendesk alternativ”
  • “versus queries”, e.g. “salesforce vs. hubspot”
  • competitor documentation
competitor seo

Ranking for such queries is so incredibly powerful because you catch customers in two central points in their user journey. The first is when they’re a customer of one of your competitors and you want to persuade them to become your customer instead. The second point is when a prospect evaluates your product against a competitor and you want to steer their choice in your favor.

Either way, you address users at the very end of their buyer’s journey and that’s where you want to be the most present. If you do nothing else, do this because you build a funnel or content strategy from the ground up. Once you got your competitor SEO strategy in place, you can create more content for earlier parts of the buyer’s journey (what used to be MOFU and TOFU).

Example of competitor SEO (Spyfu ranks for SEMrush alternative)
Example of competitor SEO (Spyfu ranks for SEMrush alternative)

So, let’s dive in to 3 example of brands that are killing it in competitor SEO

Example 1: Filmora

Wondershare Filmora is a software company for video editing software and they’re going up against a big incumbent: Adobe.

Adobe Premiere Pro is the #1 competitor product for Wondershare but they have a clever strategy to gain customers: attacking Adobe’s documentation.

Adobe Premiere’s product documentation is… thin and complicated at best. Filmora identified that gap and created how-to content for specific problems in Premiere Pro.

Example: https://filmora.wondershare.com/adobe-premiere/split-screen.html

An example of Filmora's competitor content
An example of Filmora’s competitor content

This page has 0 backlinks (yes, zero) but ranks for > 160 keywords.

Backlinks + organic keywords for one of FIlmora's Premiere Pro tutorials
Backlinks + organic keywords for one of FIlmora’s Premiere Pro tutorials

And yet, they rank for all sorts of keywords that Adobe should be ranking for but doesn’t.

Filmora add not only several CTAs for their own product throughout their competitor articles but also videos on how to do it in their own product.

Filmora created a whole content hub with many of such competitor tutorials under filmora.wondershare.com/adobe-premiere/, which ranks for over 8K keywords (see screenshot below)!

Organic keywords in Filmora's competitor SEO hub
Organic keywords in Filmora’s competitor SEO hub

Example 2: Convertkit

Convertkit did an interesting thing with competitor SEO: they created a blog article about why you shouldn’t switch from Mailchimp to Convertkit.

This is not reverse psychology but rather a play on reverse value, i.e. do you not want something better?

Convertkit vs Mailchimp
Convertkit vs Mailchimp

But what I like about this strategy is that ConvertKit ranks with 2 pages for “Mailchimp vs. convertkit” (position #2 and #3), a query with ~1,400 monthly searches.

mailchimp vs. convertkit
mailchimp vs. convertkit

In essence, Convertkit has three landing pages/articles for Competitor SEO against Mailchimp:

  1. https://convertkit.com/vs/mailchimp
  2. https://convertkit.com/5-reasons-switch-mailchimp-convertkit
  3. https://help.convertkit.com/en/articles/2502565-switch-from-mailchimp

Example 3: Wistia

I know what it’s like to go against Youtube, one of the largest tech platforms out there as a former member of Dailymotion.

What I find really clever (and meta) is that Phil Nottingham explained the pros and cons of Wistia vs. Youtube in a Wistia video and in a Youtube video (see below).

Wistia vs. Youtube

With the article, Wistia ranks #1 for “wistia vs. youtube”.

Wistia ranking for “wistia vs. youtube”

The video on Youtube has almost 20K views and surely benefits from the recommended videos feature on Youtube. Very clever.

Wistia video on Youtube

How to develop your own competitor SEO strategy

I probably shouldn’t write this because the competition is always watching but whatever. The point of Competitor SEO is to attack the weaknesses of your competitor as close to the point of conversion as possible.

Here’s how to do it.

Step 1: Find your competitors from a search perspective.

Versus queries

Those could be different from your perceived market competitors. So, make sure to google versus and alternative queries to identify a set of search competitors.

Step 2: Build a landing page for each competitor/alternative.

Show a detailed comparison of your solution versus your competitor. Don’t forget to add a CTA throughout the page and use videos if you can.

Note that you’re not limited to creating alternative pages for comparisons with your brand but also between two other competitors.

Jotform's list of Surveymonkey alternatives
Jotform’s list of Surveymonkey alternatives

Step 3: Identify weak points in documentation or landing pages.

Critically assess your competitors and look for weak execution of

  • product documentation
  • product landing pages
  • industry landing pages
  • product videos
  • Use case landing pages

There are probably even more opportunities to get traffic from your competitor depending on what vertical you operate in.

14 thoughts on “3 best practices of competitor SEO you should know<span class="wtr-time-wrap block after-title"><span class="wtr-time-number">8</span> min well spent</span>”

  1. Hey Kevin – Great write up! I see this common in the affiliate world, but haven’t looked for it in other brands like this.

    This is clever from convert kit too – convertkit.com/vs – build out a standalone hub.

    This reminds me of something I heard you say on a podcast sometime ago, about building mini sites for categories. Having each category with its own look and feel on the main domain.

    For example, would fitnesssite.com/calisthenics, fitnesssite.com/crossfit, etc, be a way to execute that vs building out a niche site for each subtopic?

  2. Thank you, Josh!

    And yes, I think /calisthenics and /crossfit could (should?) look distinctively different.

    The way I see it, the first step in scaling marketplaces, especially horizontal ones, is to get categories and product to rank decently. Then, in the second step, you bring it over the finish line by customizing categories as much as possible. I’ll write up a whole post about that ;).

    cheerio,
    Kevin

  3. I can see competitor SEO/marketing becoming a cottage industry, ha. Well done.

    Most biz owners are clueless on this and the savvy ones, jump all over it… maybe it’s just a competitive thing, like MJ.

  4. Thanks for the reply Kevin! I look forward to seeing the post and loving all the free content and Tech Bound!

  5. Fantastic article. We’ve had great success with the vs. strategy on our product types. We rank first or second for all the suggested searches and expanding to emerging products. It’s a little different for us, as our products are area based – but relevant none-the-less. Thanks for sharing.

  6. Convert Kit and Wistia both of them are using competitor strategies in a creative way. I have few ideas after reading this amazing article. Let’s see if i will be able to develop somthing like this.

  7. Hi Kevin, great post man!

    Btw I’ve a question, Is it alright for Converkit have 2 urls (/vs/mailchimp and /5-reasons-switch-mailchimp-convertkit) ranked for the same keyword on google. Isnt that keyword cannibalism? Can you enlighten me 🙂

    Cheers
    Angga

  8. Hey Angga,

    I’d say it’s fine because they both rank in the top 3 (last time I checked) and they occupy more real estate in the Search Results :).

Discuss!

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