For this you need to watch out for your three major competitors.
Direct vs. Indirect Competitors
Direct competitors offer the same services or products as of yours. For example: Google and Yahoo; Pepsi and Coca Cola; Burger King and McDonald's; Apple's iPhone and Samsung's Galaxy, Big Bazar and Vishal Mega Mart etc.
Indirect competitors provide the same products as of yours but specializes in different field. Let's take an example of the chain restaurants. Burger King and Domino's, both are chain restaurant but Burger King is a fast-food chain and Domino's is a pizza restaurant chain. So also, Keventers and Starbucks are indirect competitors as one serves coffee and the other serves milkshakes. It is easy to discover the direct competitors then the indirect ones.
Next comes the replacement competitors. It is difficult to identify those competitors. These competitors do not provide the same products/services as of yours, but they fight for the same customer base. To explain this, let me take an example of the smartphone and the digital cameras. The function of both the products is different. But with the advancement in technology, you can click good photographs even with the smartphone. So, the customers might replace digital cameras with the smartphone. Therefore, you must do audience research if you want to discover the direct, indirect and replacement competitors.
Now, let's come to the fourth category of competitors which are the ‘SERP competitors'. You might try to rank for some of the keywords on which your competitors are already ranking. Those are the SERP competitors. They are capturing the position where you want your website to be. They get more traffic and generate leads which you could get if you were on that position. Identify those competitors and get ahead of them. Open Site Explorer; the SEO tool will help you to understand how your competitors are ranking above you. Some of them even might pay for traffic. To take out the whole report of any website there are several tools which might help you to get the idea of how competitors are getting so much of attention online. SimilarWeb is one of those websites where you can put the URL of your competitors to get the whole report of their website like the targeted keywords, amount of traffic, their daily visits, bounce rate etc. After analyzing this report, you know need to analyze their strategies. There might be some keywords in which your competitors might not rank yet. Use the similar strategies to rank for those keywords.
Next comes the content strategy. You might have seen many companies who post new articles and blogs daily. If you follow the same strategy, you need to first make a list of the topics in which your readers might be interested. Only then a blog or an article will work wonders for you. Observe and analyze the content that your competitors are creating and you can use that to the list to create your own content strategy. Visit your competitor's site and get hands on the popular topics of theirs so that you can get an idea in which way you need to build your content according to the interest of your readers. You should also have a check on the number of words. In a study, it was found that blogs above 2000 words perform the best. So, you should publish content of this length to get better results. Count the words of your competitor's blog posts to get an idea of how many you should include in your post.
Have you heard of the Skyscraper Technique? Backlinko's Brian Dean created this technique which says that you need to create contents that turns into high quality backlinks. Earlier, I have mentioned that analyzing your competitor's content and following their topics will benefit you. But that does not mean that you need to write on the same topic to get traffic. Skyscraper Technique says that you need to look for new ideas and unique ways to create content for those topics which you have jotted down from your competitors but the message sent through the content will be same. Add new statistics, high quality image, and designs to your content. In this way, you will earn a link.
Use inbound links as they optimize SEO of your blog. When you put a link in your content which will take the readers to your blog site or any blog of your, it is known as an inbound link. Unique and quality content will help you to rank ahead of your competitor's. Create contents on which your readers might be interested.
Another great aspect of putting yourself ahead of all your competitors is the social media. Nowadays, all businesses use social media to reach out to their customers. Use social media to your advantage even if you don’t have an online store. It’s effective for all businesses. You should not only promote your products/services but also show your customers about the look of your business along with some useful tips for the customers so that they get attracted to it. Use poll system if you need an opinion from your customers so that you can serve them better.
Whether you want to steal your competitor's strategies and ideas or not, but it is always better to keep a track on them to stay ahead of them. At the same time, you should remember not to use the same content and plagiarize it. Make unique content, add facts and do some research before you start writing your blog.