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Site Dependence On JavaScript A Problem For Googlebot?

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In a recent Google Search Central SEO office-hours hangout, a question was submitted to Google’s Search Advocate John Mueller asking if it’s a bad for a website to be dependent on JavaScript for basic functionality.

Might this have a negative effect on Googlebot when it comes to crawling and indexing?

Mueller observed that it’s probably fine but also suggested things to do to make sure that both Google and users have no problems with the site.

Site Is Not User Friendly Without JavaScript

The person asking the question noted that a great deal of functionality of the site depended on JavaScript and was concerned about the impact on both user-friendliness and SEO-friendliness.

This is the question:

“Our website is not very user friendly if JavaScript is turned off.

Most of the images are not loaded. Out flyout menu can’t be opened.

However the Chrome Inspect feature, in there all menu links are there in the source code.

Might our dependence on JavaScript still be a problem for Googlebot?”

What the person means about the “Chrome Inspect feature” is probably the View Page Source code inspection tool built into Chrome.

So what they mean to say is that, although the links are not accessible when JavaScript is turned off in a browser, the links are still there in the HTML code.

Mueller Recommends Site Testing

Mueller’s answer acknowledged that Google could probably handle the site.

But what was left unspoken is the fact that the functionality of many sites depends on JavaScript and that the experience of the person asking the question is pretty much normal.

Visit most any site with JavaScript turned off on a browser and many images won’t load, the layout may become broken and some of the menus won’t work.

Below is a screenshot of SearchEngineJournal as viewed with JavaScript disabled:

Screenshot of SEJ as seen in a browser with JavaScript turned off

While Mueller hinted at this fact with his answer, it should probably be put to the forefront of the answer that most sites are user-unfriendly without JavaScript enabled on a browser and that the experience of the person asking the question is not out of the ordinary but is in fact quite common.

Mueller acknowledged that everything would probably be fine.

He said:

“And, from my point of view …I would test it.

So probably everything will be okay.

And probably, I would assume if you’re using JavaScript in a reasonable way, if you’re not doing anything special to block the JavaScript on your pages, then probably it will just work.”

Test To See How Site Performs

Mueller next encouraged the person to run tests in order to be sure the site is functioning optimally and mentioned that “we” have tools but he didn’t mention specific tools.

Presumably he’s speaking of tools available on Google Search Console that can provide feedback on whether Google is able to crawl pages and images.

Mueller continued his answer:

“But you’re much better off not just believing me, but rather using a testing tool to try it out.

And the testing tools that we have available are quite well documented.

There are lots of …variations on things that we recommend with regards to improving things if you run into problems.

So I would double-check our guides on JavaScript and SEO and think about maybe, …trying things out, making sure that they actually work the way that you want and then taking that to improve your website overall.”

User Friendly Site Experiences

Mueller next discussed the issue of user-friendliness because the person asking the question mentioned that the site is user-unfriendly with JavaScript turned off.

The overwhelming majority of sites on the Internet use JavaScript, W3Techs publishes a statistic that 97.9% of sites use JavaScript.

HTTPArchive, which uses actual Chrome user data from opted-in users notes in its annual report on JavaScript use that the median number of JavaScript downloads for mobile devices is 20 and as high as 33 first-party JavaScript and 34 third-party scripts for the 90th percentile of websites.

HttpArchive further points out that for the median average of websites, 36.2% of JavaScript forced onto a site visitor’s browser goes unused, it’s just wasted bandwidth.

As you can see, the issue is not about users with JavaScript turned off visiting a site, as the person asking the question was concerned about. Their concern was misplaced.

The real problem centers on users encountering a site that is forcing too much JavaScript on site visitors and thereby creating a poor user experience.

Mueller didn’t mention the nuance of how the person’s concerns were misplaced. But he did recommend useful ways to figure out if users are having a negative experience due to JavaScript issues.

Mueller continued his answer:

“And you mentioned user-friendly with regards to JavaScript, so from our point of view, the guidance that we have is essentially very technical in the sense that we need to make sure that Googlebot can see the content from a technical point of view, and that it can see the links on your pages from a technical point of view.

It doesn’t primarily care about user-friendliness.

But of course your users care about user-friendliness.

And that’s something where maybe it makes sense to do a little bit more so that your users are really for sure having a good experience on your pages.

And this is often something that isn’t just a matter of a simple testing tool.

But rather something where maybe you have to do a small user study or kind of interview some users or at least do a survey on your website to understand where do they get stuck, what kind of problems are they facing.

Is it because of these …you mentioned the fly-out menus. Or is it something maybe completely different where they’re seeing problems, that maybe the text is too small, or they can’t click the buttons properly, those kinds of things which don’t really align with technical problems but are more, kind of, user-side things that if you can improve those and if you can make your users happier, they’ll stick around and they’ll come back and they’ll invite more people to visit your website as well.”

Test For Users And Google

Mueller didn’t explicitly reference any tools for carrying out any of the recommended tests. It’s fairly obvious that Search Console is the best tool to diagnose crawling issues with Google. Search Console alerts publishers of how many URLs are discovered, for example.

As for user experience tools, one of the best is the free Microsoft Clarity user experience analytics tool. This GDPR compliant analytics tool provides insights into how users experience your site and can signal when they’re having a bad user experience.

So it can be very useful for diagnosing possible site issues that John Mueller discussed.

Citation

Watch John Mueller at the 10:23 minute mark:


Featured Image: Elle Aon/Shutterstock

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Everything You Need To Know

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Of all the many, many functions available in Google Ads, I have a few that are my favorites. And sitelink assets – previously known as sitelink extensions – are at the top of my list.

Why? Because they’re so versatile. You can do almost anything with them if you think through your strategy carefully.

For example, you can use the mighty sitelink in your advertising to:

  • Promote low search volume themes.
  • Push lagging products out the door.
  • Maximize hot sellers.
  • Highlight certain product categories.
  • Answer common questions.
  • Handle PR problems.

And that’s just a start! Sitelink assets can almost do it all.

Best Practices For Using Sitelink Assets Extensions

If you truly want to get the most out of your sitelinks, you need to think about your intention.

To help you with that, I’m going to lay out a few sitelink guidelines.

1. Get clear on your objectives. Before you start, you need to think about your goals. What are you trying to achieve with these assets? Are you advertising products or services? Will the asset work well with both branded and non-branded keywords? Your answers to these questions will help determine if your sitelinks are versatile and useful to the searcher.

2. Use sitelinks as part of your larger strategy. Don’t think of your sitelinks in isolation. You should also consider the accompanying ad, landing page, and other assets. Make sure they all work together in service to your overarching strategy.

3. Use a mix of sitelinks. Sitelinks can serve multiple purposes, so make sure you’re using a variety. For example, you don’t want to use every sitelink on an ad to promote on-sale products. Instead, use a mix. One could promote an on-sale product, one could generate leads, one could highlight a new product category, and one could direct prospective clients to useful information.

4. Create landing pages for your sitelinks. Ideally, you want to send users to landing pages that tightly correlate with your sitelink instead of just a regular page on your website.

5. Track sitelink performance and adjust. It’s not enough to set up sitelinks. You should also track them to see which links are getting traction and which ones are not. This doesn’t mean that all sitelinks should perform equally (more on this below), but it does mean they should perform well given their type and objectives.

Why it’s Better To Use A Mix Of Sitelink Assets

Let’s dive deeper into this idea of using a mix of sitelinks by looking at an example.

In a new client account, we created four different types of sitelinks:

  • Two sitelinks are product-focused (as requested by the client).
  • One sitelink connects users with an engineer to learn more about the product (“Speak to an Engineer”). It has more of a sales focus.
  • One sitelink allows users to learn more about the products without speaking to an engineer (“What is?”).

The “What is?” sitelink is outperforming the “Speak to an Engineer” sitelink when we measure by CTR. While we need more data before making any changes, I predict we’ll eventually swap out the sales-y “Speak to an Engineer” sitelink for something else.

The fact that the educational link (“What is?”) is performing better than the sales-y link (“Speak to an Engineer”) isn’t too surprising in this case. The product is a new, cutting-edge robot that not many people are aware of, yet. They want more info before talking to someone.

sitelink extensions - performance exampleScreenshot by author, January 2023

By using a mix of sitelinks, and assessing the performance of each, we gained a lot of valuable information that is helping to guide our strategy for this account. So going with a mix of sitelinks is always a good idea. You never know what you’ll discover!

Sitelink Assets Examples

Now, let’s look at some specific examples of sitelink assets in Google Ads.

Example 1: Chromatography

Sitelinks extension - Chromatography exampleScreenshot from Google, January 2023

Application Search: This ad is for a highly technical product that can be used in a wide variety of applications. (Chromatography is a laboratory technique for separating mixtures.) So putting “application search” in a sitelink here might make sense. It helps prospective clients find what they’re looking for.

Sign up and Save Big: A good sitelink for lead generation and potential revenue.

Technical Support: I’m not a big fan of putting technical support in sitelinks. Tech support seems more targeted to current users rather than prospective users. But who knows, maybe they really do want to help current users get tech support via their advertising.

Guides and Posters: Again, this sitelink is a bit unusual, but it might be appropriate for this product. Perhaps people are downloading branded posters and posting them in their workplaces. If so, it’s a great way to build brand awareness.

Example 2: Neuroscience Courses

Sitelink Extensions - Nueroscience courses exampleScreenshot from Google, January 2023

I love everything about these sitelinks! The advertising is using them to reach people in all phases of the buyer journey.

For people not ready to commit:

  • Study Neuroscience: This sitelink is broad and informational. It’s helpful to people who have just started to explore their options for studying neuroscience.
  • Get Course Brochure: This sitelink is also great for people in the research phase. And while we mostly live in an online world, some people still prefer to consume hard-copy books, brochures, etc. With this sitelink, the school is covering its bases.

For people getting close to committing:

  • Online Short Course: This is the course the school offers. It’s a great sitelink for those almost ready to sign up.

For people ready to sign up:

  • Register Online Now: This is the strongest call to action for those ready to commit. It takes people directly to the signup page.

Example 3: Neuroscience Degrees

Let’s look at another example from the world of neuroscience education: this time for a neuroscience degree program.

Sitelink extensions - neuroscience degree exampleScreenshot from Google, January 2023

In contrast to the previous two examples, the sitelinks in this ad aren’t as strong.

Academics Overview: This sitelink seems more appropriate for a broad term search, such as a search on the school’s name. If the searcher is looking for a specific degree program (which seems like the intention based on the term and the ad), the sitelinks should be something specific to that particular degree program.

Scholarships: Just as with the above sitelink, “Scholarships” doesn’t seem very helpful either. The topic of scholarships is important—but probably doesn’t need to be addressed until the person determines that this school is a good fit.

Example 4: Code Security

Next, let’s look at two Google search ads for code security products.

Sitelink extensions - code security exampleScreenshot from Google, January 2023

 

The sitelinks in these two ads look like typical assets you’d find for SaaS, cloud-based, or tech companies. They click through to a lot of helpful information, such as product plans and success stories.

I particularly like the Most Common Risks sitelink in the second ad. It leads to a helpful article that would be great for engaging top-of-funnel leads.

On the flip side, I’m not a big fan of the Blog sitelink in the first ad. “Blog” simply isn’t very descriptive or helpful.

Still, there are no right or wrong sitelinks here. And it would be interesting to test my theory that blog content is not a top-performing asset!

Sitelink Assets Are More Than An Afterthought

I hope I’ve convinced you of the usefulness and versatility of sitelinks when created with specific objectives that align with your broader strategy.

So don’t create your sitelink assets as an afterthought.

Because if you give them the careful consideration they deserve, they’ll serve you well.

Note: Google sitelink assets were previously known as sitelink extensions and renamed in September 2022.

Fler resurser:


Featured Image: Thaspol Sangsee/Shutterstock



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How to Automate Dull SEO Tasks

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How to Automate Dull SEO Tasks

Some SEO processes involve repetitively clicking things on a screen. Not the best use of your time.

With the right tools, however, you can automate various SEO processes—and free up resources for tasks that need more creative, human input.

In this post, I’ll share two examples of how I automate SEO tasks. 

Example 1. Record and email article assignments to writers

Imagine being able to record and email article assignments to writers in seconds using a simple form like this:

Airtable article assignment form

Let’s look at how to set this up.

1. Set up an Airtable database for your writer and article data

Sign up for Airtable and create a new database with a table called “Writers.” The table should have columns for your writers:

"Writers" table in Airtable

In the same Airtable database, create a separate table called “Articles.” 

Set up columns in this table for your:

  • Article titles.
  • Article outline links.
  • Article due dates.
  • Assigned writer (set this column up as a linked record to your “Writers” table so that Airtable can retrieve data on your writers from it).
"Articles" table in Airtable

You’ll also need to add a lookup field to pull the writer’s email address from the “Writers” table. 

Add Airtable lookup field

2. Create an Airtable article assignment form

Next, create an article assignment form for the “Articles” table. You’ll use this form to add new article assignments to the “Articles” table.

Create Airtable article assignment form

3. Set up a new Zapier automation with a “New Record in Airtable” trigger

When you submit your details on the new article assignment via the Airtable form, Airtable will automatically record the new article assignment in your “Articles” table. So that’s the first step of the article assignment workflow sorted.

Demo of how Airtable automatically records new article assignments when the article assignment form is filled out

Now, we’ll use the Zapier workflow automation tool to automate the next three steps in the workflow—namely:

  1. Create a shared Google Drive submission folder for the article.
  2. Create a Google Doc submission document in the shared Google Drive folder.
  3. Use Gmail to email the writer the article title, outline link, due date, and link to the shared Google Drive submission folder.

Sidenote.

Instead of Zapier, you can also use any other workflow automation tool, such as Make, as long as the tool supports the automation triggers and actions you’ll need.

In Zapier, create a new automated workflow (also known as a “Zap”) with:

  • Airtable as the trigger app.
  • New Record as the trigger event.

With this trigger, your Zap will start running when you add a new record to Airtable (such as by submitting your Airtable article assignment form).

Trigger step: New Record in Airtable

4. Add a “Create Folder in Google Drive” action step to your Zap

Next, add an action step with:

  • Google Drive as the action app.
  • Create Folder as the action event.

For the action step’s “Parent Folder” field, select the Google Drive folder in which the new submission folder should be created.

Also, provide a name for the submission folder in the “Folder Name” field. You can map the article title data from Airtable here to name your submission folder after the article’s title.

Action step: Create Folder in Google Drive

5. Add an “Add File Sharing Preference in Google Drive” action step to your Zap

The Google Drive folder created by your Zap will have its sharing permissions disabled by default, so let’s add an action step to grant folder access to anyone who has the link to the folder.

This action step should have:

  • Google Drive as the action app.
  • Add File Sharing Preference as the action event.

Map the file ID of the Google Drive folder created in the previous action step to the “File Id” field of this action step.

Map file ID of Google Drive folder to "File Id" field

In addition, set the “Sharing Preference” field to “Anyone on the internet who has the link can edit.”

Set "Sharing Preference" field to "Anyone on the internet who has the link can edit"

6. Add a “Create Document from Text in Google Docs” action step to your Zap

Now, let’s set up the Google Doc that the writer will use to submit their draft.

We’ll have the Zap create this submission Google Doc in the shared Google Drive submission folder. And since the Google Drive folder will have general access enabled, anyone with the link to the Google Drive folder—and this includes you—will also automatically get access to the Google Doc.

No more frustration over writers forgetting to grant access to their Google Docs!

So add a new action step to your Zap with:

  • Google Docs as the action app.
  • Create Document from Text as the action event.

Map the article title data from Airtable to the action step’s “Document Name” field, and the folder ID of the shared Google Drive folder to the “Folder” field.

You’ll also need to include some default text in the Google Doc, such as “Write your article here!”

Action step: Create Document from Text in Google Docs

7. Add a “Send Email in Gmail” action step to your Zap

Finally, we’ll get the Zap to use your Gmail account to email the writer the article title, outline link, due date, and link to the shared Google Drive submission folder.

Add a last action step to your Zap with:

  • Gmail as the action app.
  • Send Email as the action event.

Map the writer’s email address from Airtable to the “To” field for this action step. Also, map the article title, outline link, due date, and Google Drive submission folder link in the email body.

I also recommend adding your own email address to either the “Cc” or “Bcc” field so you get a copy of the automated email (and can confirm it’s been sent).

Sample text for automated article assignment email

Once you’re happy with your Zap, hit the Publish button to activate your automation!

Example 2. Finding and verifying prospects’ email addresses for link building outreach

Finding email addresses for link building outreach can be a massive pain.

After all, most prospects don’t advertise their email addresses publicly. And even if you’ve managed to dig up their email addresses (or guess them using trial and error), there’s no guarantee they work.

But using Ahrefs’ Content Explorer, you can generate a huge Google Sheets list of link building prospects that looks like this:

List of prospects in Google Sheets

Then as you fill out the “Approve?” column for each prospect with data—such as “Yes” or “Approved”—a Zapier automation will automatically do all these for you:

  1. Find the prospect’s email address using the Hunter email lookup tool
  2. Add the email address to your Google Sheet list of prospects
  3. Verify the email address using the NeverBounce email verification tool
  4. Add the verified email address to the Woodpecker.io email outreach tool so you can start sending customized outreach emails

Here’s how to set this up.

1. Get your list of prospects

Launch Ahrefs’ Content Explorer and search for link prospects. 

For example, if you recently published a marketing survey with unique insights and statistics, you may want to look for marketing statistics pages to pitch. To do this, simply run an “In title” search for “marketing statistics.”

Report of webpages with "marketing statistics" in their title, via Ahrefs' Content Explorer

Next, filter your results to show only webpages that are:

  • In English (unless you’re targeting webpages in another language).
  • Live, as it’d be weird to reach out and say, “Hey, I found you through [this webpage that no longer exists].”
  • On websites with a Domain Rating (DR) of 20 to 80 because you want to prioritize pursuing backlinks from authoritative websites but also that your chances of getting backlinks from super high-authority websites are quite low.
Filtering for live, English webpages on sites with a DR between 20 and 80, via Ahrefs' Content Explorer

Add a last filter to show only one page per domain (since you want to reach out to only one prospect per website).

Ahrefs' Content Explorer "One page per domain" setting

Click the Export button to export your list of prospects in a CSV file.

2. Clean up your list of prospects

As mentioned, we’ll be using Hunter to help us find our prospects’ email addresses.

Hunter uses the first names, last names, and domains of prospects to find email addresses, so we’ll clean up our list of prospects to provide Hunter with the exact data it needs.

Import your CSV list of prospects in Google Sheets and delete all columns in it except for:

  • Content Title
  • Content URL
  • Author

Also, some of the prospects in the CSV don’t have author names, so it’s worth removing these rows from the CSV. To do this, just filter for rows with empty author names and delete them.

Next, use the SPLIT formula to split the author names into their first and last names based on the space between their names.

Using the =SPLIT() formula in Google Sheets to split author names based on the space between the first and last names

Finally, add two new columns to the sheet:

  1. Approve?: Adding data to this column will trigger the Zapier automation we’ll be setting up next!
  2. Email Address: This column will store the prospect’s email address (if found).
Adding of two new "Approve?" and "Email address" columns to Google Sheets

3. Set up a new Zapier automation with a “New or Updated Spreadsheet Row in Google Sheets” trigger

In Zapier, create a new Zap with:

  • Google Sheets as the trigger app.
  • New or Updated Spreadsheet Row as the trigger event.

Map the action step’s “Trigger Column” field to your Google Sheet’s “Approve?” column.

Trigger step: New or Updated Spreadsheet Row in Google Sheets

With this setup, you’ll trigger your Zap whenever you add new data—such as “Yes” or “Approved”—to the “Approve?” column for any prospect row.

Adding of the word "Yes?" to the "Approve?" column in the Google Sheets list of prospects

4. Add a “Find Email in Hunter” action step to your Zap

Next, add a new action step with:

  • Hunter as the action app.
  • Find Email as the action event.

Map the “Content URL,” “First Name,” and “Last Name” columns in your Google Sheet to the “Domain or Company,” “First Name,” and “Last Name” fields for this action step, respectively.

Action step: Find Email in Hunter

5. Add an “Update Spreadsheet Row in Google Sheets” action step to your Zap

The next action step will update your Google Sheet with a prospect’s email address if Hunter finds it. Use:

  • Google Sheets as the action app.
  • Update Spreadsheet Row as the action event.

Map the Row Number of the updated row in the trigger step to this action step’s “Row” field.

Map the row number to the "Row" field

Also, map the email address that Hunter found in the previous action step to the “Email Address” field of this action step.

Map email address to the "Email Address" field

Sidenote.

This email address does not exist. It is for demo purposes only.

6. Add a Filter action that lets the Zap continue only if Hunter has found an email address

Next, set up a Filter action that lets the Zap proceed only if the email address data found by Hunter contains the “@” symbol.

That’s because all email addresses have the “@” symbol. If Hunter happens to find an email address value that doesn’t include this symbol, we won’t want to waste time verifying it.

Filter action: Only continue if email address contains "@"

7. Add a “Verify Email Address in NeverBounce” action step to your Zap

Now, we’ll use NeverBounce to verify the validity of the email addresses that Hunter found. Add a new action step with:

  • NeverBounce as the action app.
  • Verify Email Address as the action event.

Map the email address that Hunter found to this action step’s “Email Address to Verify” field:

Action step: Verify Email Address in NeverBounce

8. Add a Filter action that lets the Zap continue only if NeverBounce returns a “Valid” or “Catchall” status for the email address

When NeverBounce verifies an email address, it will return one of four status text codes: Valid, Catchall, Invalid, and Unknown. Email addresses marked with the “Valid” and “Catchall” NeverBounce status codes have the highest likelihood of being valid.

So we’ll add a Filter action that lets the Zap proceed only if an email address’s NeverBounce status text code matches either “Valid” or “Catchall” exactly.

Filter action: Only continue if NeverBounce status text code is "Valid" or "Catchall"

9. Add a “Create/Update Prospect in Woodpecker.co” action step to your Zap

Finally, we’ll set up the Zap to add the verified email address to Woodpecker.co.

Create a last action step with:

  • Woodpecker.co as the action app.
  • Create/Update Prospect as the action event.

Map the verified email address to the action step’s “Email” field, and your prospect’s first and last name (as obtained from Google Sheets) to the “First Name” and “Last Name” fields, respectively.

Action step: Create/Update Prospect in Woodpecker.co

Hit the Publish button to turn your Zap on.

Now, when you fill out the “Approve?” column for prospects in your Google Sheet, your Zap will automatically do the heavy lifting of finding and verifying their email addresses using Hunter and NeverBounce and adding the verified email addresses to Woodpecker.co.

You can then customize your link building outreach emails in Woodpecker.co for each verified email address and, hopefully, snag yourself some backlinks!

Slutgiltiga tankar

SEO automation takes some initial setup, but it’s amazing to watch your processes run automatically after that. It’s almost like magic.

And apart from the SEO processes we’ve shared here, there are probably plenty others you can automate.

Think of the apps you regularly use for SEO work. If you can connect these apps using Zapier or some other workflow automation tool, automating the workflows they support is likely more than possible.

Har du frågor? Pinga mig på Twitter.



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10 verktyg du kan använda för SEO-konkurrensanalys

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10 Tools You Can Use For SEO Competitive Analysis

A successful search engine optimization strategy includes competitive analysis. The tools available today offer incredible value at generally reasonable fees.

They help users accomplish more in less time, and many may find that the tools are so useful that they essentially end up paying for themselves. Here are 10 popular SEO competitive analysis tools, their pricing, and how you can use them to bolster the success of your SEO strategy.

1. Semrush

  • Pricing: Plans start at $119.95 per month.

Semrush not only offers good data for search results analysis, but everything functions the way you expect it to – it’s that easy to use.

There is no need to read a manual to use Semrush’s SERP analysis tool.

Every link, button, and heading has a tooltip that explains what it is so that everything makes sense.

Semrush Tooltip Explains SERP Analysis Tool Data

Screenshot from Semrush, January 2023

Semrush Tooltip Explains Jargon

10 Tools You Can Use For SEO Competitive AnalysisScreenshot from Semrush modified by author, January 2023

Semrush’s Authority Score is assigned to every URL listed in the SERP Analysis.

Like any third-party metric, the Authority Score is just a score based on factors like backlinks, traffic, and referring domains.

The metric makes it easy to make a quick judgment about a webpage without having to spend hours researching all of the factors for each webpage.

The research is already done; that’s what Semrush’s Authority Score is about.

That’s just one part of the Semrush SERP analysis, but it’s the part that is directly tied to competitor research.

Semrush is useful for researching competitor backlinks. The ease of use makes the workflow of researching links a pleasure.

There’s no need to read a manual. Everything is self-explanatory.

Starting an analysis consists of entering a domain name or an entire URL.

The resulting page shows various metrics that help you see the competition at a glance, literally.

There’s a graph that shows the growth of referring domains and also backlinks by year, which provides a quick idea of how aggressively they’re building links, organized by time.

10 Tools You Can Use For SEO Competitive AnalysisScreenshot from Semrush modified by author, January 2023

Beneath that graph, there’s another visual representation of the backlinks organized by the categories of referring domains.

The categories are the general niche areas that the backlinks belong to.

10 Tools You Can Use For SEO Competitive AnalysisScreenshot from Semrush, January 2023

When you click through a category, the tool presents a filter where you can add a word, a phrase, or a TLD, which means Top Level Domain (.net or .org), to find all the relevant links.

There’s also a drop-down menu for selecting “zones by TLD,” but I found that typing in the TLD works better.

Or you can get granular and click on the View Full Report button to see all of the categories in granular detail.

It’s easy to recommend Semrush because it truly is designed for researching competitors and for link building.

The tools for competitive research are easy to use and give a visual snapshot of their activities and offer a useful user interface for drilling down by category.

2. Ahrefs SERP Checker (Free And Paid)

  • Pricing: Free checker tool, then starts at $99 per month.

Ahrefs has a free SERP checker that shows the same SERP data as the paid version, only for just the first few positions.

The paid version has more data. But if you’re on a budget, the free version is a useful start.

Below is a screenshot of the SERP overview that lists featured snippets, people also ask, and the sitelinks enhancements.

This extra data gives a good overview of what the SERPs look like, plus page and domain rating metrics.

10 Tools You Can Use For SEO Competitive AnalysisScreenshot from Ahrefs, December 2022

Here is a screenshot showing more data from the SERP analysis tool.

All of the column headings show a tooltip that explains what each column means.

10 Tools You Can Use For SEO Competitive AnalysisScreenshot from Ahrefs, December 2022

Ahrefs is a solid choice for search results competitor analysis.

3. Serpstat

  • Pricing: Free version, then starts at $69 per month.

Serpstat is an affordably priced SEO platform that offers SERP analysis tools. It’s possible to sign up for free to test it out.

Serpstat is focused on analyzing the search results and is useful for Backlinks Analysis and Competitor Analysis.

4. SpyFu

  • Pricing: Free analysis tool, then starts at $39 per month (or $16 per month on an annual plan).

SpyFu is a very reasonably priced service that is dedicated specifically to competitive research and offers many useful features.

The benefit of the tool is that it generates all the data necessary for competitive research.

SpyFu basically takes the “research” part out of competitive research tasks and provides the data.

The SERP Analysis tool, which can be used for free, offers unique information, such as indicators that signal a website rises or drops in the search results.

10 Tools You Can Use For SEO Competitive AnalysisScreenshot from SpyFu, January 2023

Another interesting feature is that it offers a Ranking Difficulty score, data on whether .gov or .edu sites are ranking, and the number of homepages that are ranking in the top 100 positions.

10 Tools You Can Use For SEO Competitive AnalysisScreenshot from SpyFu modified by author, January 2023

SpyFu Backlinks Report

Another unique feature is how SpyFu identifies what it determines are the strongest webpages to get a link from.

Just enter a keyword phrase into the search box, and SpyFu searches the backlinks of the top 5,000 ranked sites, including for similar keyword phrases, and identifies all the backlinking domains that the ranked sites have in common.

Even better, SpyFu allows users to filter those webpages by backlink types.

The backlink types one can filter for are .gov/.edu/, sites with affiliate links, blogs, news sites, forums, and directories.

Filtering for forums reveals all the strongest forum backlinks, filtering for .edu domains shows the best .edu sites to get a link from, and so on.

Another cool feature is called Backlink Kombat.

10 Tools You Can Use For SEO Competitive AnalysisScreenshot from SpyFu, January 2023

This tool allows you to enter two competitor domains and then exclude your own domain. It will then show you all the links the competitors have in common that your site does not.

I like using tools in creative ways to get even more or better data.

What I would suggest doing with the SpyFu Backlink Kombat tool is comparing sites that aren’t your direct competitors. This can help you discover opportunities you might not otherwise.

So if your topic is plumbers in City X, compare roofers in City X.

Competitor backlink research with SpyFu is incredibly easy. I would like the flexibility to filter by keywords (like Favorite Sites) or by TLD (to find .org or .us domains).

A limited amount of this data is free, and the complete data set is available to paid subscribers.

SpyFu is an interesting tool because it takes the extra step of presenting the data while minimizing research.

It’s easy to use, specific to competitor research, and reasonably priced.

5. Sandboxweb.io SERP Analysis Tool

  • Pricing: Free version, then pricing starts at $19 per month.

Sandboxweb.io offers a SERP analysis tool that provides data on top-ranked competitors.

This tool shows the schema types, Core Web Vitals data, and word counts.

You can click on each competitor in the SERP to research further.

The free version of this tool offers a lot of information. But it’s limited to 10 keywords per month.

The data is somewhat limited, but it does offer a quick analysis.

6. Screaming Frog

  • Pricing: Free version and a paid version at $209 per year.

Screaming Frog has a SERP analysis function. It’s not easy to use, but it’s not excessively difficult.

I’d like to see Screaming Frog make it easier to run this kind of analysis without getting technical.

If you take the time to figure it out, Screaming Frog can scrape the SERPs and provide analysis.

It’s also useful for analyzing competitors one at a time to get a sense of what sites they link to, how much content they have, interlinking patterns, headings used across the site, and many other competitor data points.

7. Inlinks

  • Pricing: Free version, then pricing starts at $39 per month.

Inlinks is a content optimization-focused tool that can extract relevant data points from search results and competitors.

Inlinks features a SERP analysis function that offers multiple data points about the sites in the search results, such as semantically related topics and user intent data.

The user intent data and topic suggestion features are quite unique.

There is also a Topic Analysis feature that provides competitors’ related topics and other data that is useful for creating content.

Other SERP Analysis tools look at the top 100 through the top 5,000 for their analyses.

But in my opinion, what really matters most are the top 10 search results because not every site in the top 100 or even the top 10 is a competitor.

So, I really appreciate that Inlinks’ SERP analysis tool focuses on the top 10.

The Inlinks SERP analysis tool offers data on the following:

  • Topic density.
  • Internal and external link counts.
  • Readability scores.
  • List of H2 headings.

I asked one of the founders, Dixon Jones, to explain what Inlinks does regarding competitor analysis.

Dixon answered:

“Inlinks analyzes ten competing pages for any Keyword. It aggregates the combined number of times entities are used in the SERP and uses this to build a Knowledge Graph of entities related to a given search.

This is then compared to the entities in the content on YOUR competing page, highlighting material gaps in your content.

At a site level, Inlinks can build a knowledge graph of any site, but does not currently have many tools to compare whole sites.

We look at the verbs used to describe entities (in competing pages for a SERP) and cluster them into verb based intent.

This helps content publishers answer a genuine user query, rather than use words in the wrong context.”

Inlinks offers more tools; it’s more than just competitor analysis.

There is a free, pro, and enterprise level.

8. MarketMuse

  • Pricing: Free version and paid plans starting at $600 per month.

MarketMuse is an AI-based content analysis tool that functions within the entire content creation workflow, from research to content brief and more.

What I appreciate about MarketMuse is that it looks at the top-ranked pages and offers a keyword overview of the topics.

A key competitor analysis function in MarketMuse is called Compete.

The Compete tool analyzes the competition and suggests what to write about and ways to do better than the competitors, such as covering overlooked related topics.

Compete’s unique selling proposition, in my opinion, is that it is focused on helping users create content that is better than the competition.

My understanding of MarketMuse is that it’s not just focused on helping users beat their competition.

The tool streamlines the entire content creation workflow, with competitor research being one part of the process.

There is a learning curve to MarketMuse.

9. SimilarWeb

  • Pricing: Free version and paid plans starting at $167 per month for the starter package.

SimilarWeb is a unique competitor analysis tool.

It’s focused less on SEO and more on providing a clear image of the differences between the two websites.

There are multiple data points related to traffic, keywords, traffic share by country, and even a comparison of audience demographics.

SimilarWeb offers a free and paid version.

The free version offers a generous amount of data that helps users compare competitors.

10. LinkResearchTools

  • Pricing: Starts at $599 per month. One-week trial for $17.

LinkResearchTools is an enterprise-class link research tool.

It’s the most sophisticated and comprehensive link-building tool I’ve ever used.

One of the qualities I like most is that it feels like it has a comprehensive inventory of crawled links.

The tool makes it easy to find links with normal searching, like adding a TLD, but you can also find links multiple sites have in common.

Most of the functionality is geared toward businesses that want to disavow backlinks, which is useless for link builders.

I’d like to see a tool that does away with all of the link-disavowing-related features and just focuses on researching competitor backlinks.

One can subscribe to most of the other lower-priced tools and use their combined competitor backlink research features and still pay less than LinkResearchTools.

For most people, that’s more than enough.

But the data in LinkResearchTools is, in my experience, possibly the most comprehensive backlink data available.

Backlink Analysis

Backlink analysis is more than just poaching keywords from competitors.

It’s a way to understand what the barrier to entry might be, which means how easy or difficult it might be to compete.

Competitor links can be a starting point for building better links as well.

Sometimes a group of links might stand out, giving you an idea of a direction to take.

Doing solid link building requires a flexible backlink analysis tool.

Competitor Research

There are many useful SEO tools available today. They don’t do the SEO for you, but they make it easier to accomplish better results faster.

The tools also provide time-saving access to a huge amount of data that would ordinarily take days to compile.

Saving time, being more productive, and having the data to make informed decisions is the hallmark of all of these SEO tools.


Utvald bild: Paulo Bobita/Search Engine Journal



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