Break Down Your Competitors’ Online Strategy Using Just 2 Free Tools

What will it take to rank the site of a local attorney in local search?

Step 1: Find out who is ranking for the keywords we are targeting

We just launched a brand new site that has no backlinks.  As any good SEO knows, this site is going to need some links if it is ever going to rank for anything.  How better to develop a strategy than to see what has ranked some of the current top results?  But who are they?

For this, we’re going to go straight to Google.  We are going to check who is already ranking for the keywords that this client wishes to target:

  1. lawyers in mount holly
  2. workers compensation lawyers mount holly
  3. workers compensation lawyers south jersey

As you can tell, this client is a lawyer in Mount Holly, NJ that wishes to rank for terms related to worker’s compensation.

“Lawyers in Mount Holly”

After the local three-pack, we have a number of directory sites, followed by some local firms (several of whom are actually in the three pack).

Step 2: Uncover the linkbuilding strategies of the sites that are currently ranking well

We’re going to take these urls and put them into Majestic SEO.  Using the domain comparison tool, this is what we found:

Clearly, there is a reason that is outranking the rest.  While neither the citation flow or trust flow of the site is particularly high, the other sites have clearly done almost nothing in terms of SEO.  The takeaway from this is that even a modest SEO plan will rank our client for these keywords.

What has been’s approach to linkbuilding?

Tentative answer – Directory submissions

why is my competitor outranking me

As I scrolled through the site’s backlinks, they were mostly from low to medium-quality directories.  This is not the best approach to linkbuilding, but in the incredibly noncompetitive market that our client is competing in, this was enough to outrank everyone.

Don’t trust just one tool…

So this is what Majestic says.  What if it missed something?  We’re going to check the same site in Ahrefs.

ahrefs for law firm seo

linkbuilding law firm new jersey

Turns out that with the exception of a local real estate website, is relying almost exclusively on directory submissions to rank.  Outranking this website for “mount holly lawyers” should not be particularly difficult for our client, but let’s see what it will take to rank for the more competitive worker’s comp keywords.

What will it take to rank for worker’s comp-related keywords?

Step 1: Who is ranking for “mount holly worker’s comp lawyers?”

how to rank for workers comp lawyer in nj

We did not get a local 3-pack for the search “worker’s comp lawyers mount holly,” but we did get a smart snippet result (see image to the right).  We’ll have to keep an eye on what this site has done as far as local SEO and where it is ranking in the organic results.

results for seo analysis workers com











Step 2: What are these firms doing to build backlinks?

We now have the first local results (after skipping over the first three from Superlawyers and Findlaw).  Let’s throw these into Majestic and see what we find:

workers comp lawyers south jersey seo audit

Looking at these raw numbers, I don’t see a clear winner, so let’s check them in Ahrefs:

ahrefs seo analysis south jersey

What is clear from looking at the two tools is that clearly has many more backlinks than the others, and is the largest site (in number of pages and amount of content), but has links from the largest number of domains.  For this keyword, it will likely be more difficult to rank, but we already have three different websites ranking through three different approaches.  It would best serve us to look at the specific link sources for all three sites and form a strategy based on what we learn.

law firm using directories to rank on Google

As I scroll down the list, I come to see that the site is ranking almost exclusively through links coming from directories, similar to the firms that we saw for the previous keyword.  There’s nothing inherently wrong with this approach as long as the quality of the directories is high.  The problem with an approach like this is that it can be copied with a few hours of work.  A site that wishes to win the local SEO game needs to have links coming to it that a competitor cannot simply create a profile for.  This is not to say that we should forego creating profiles for the client, but this is not a throrough backlink strategy.

law firm in new jersey that finally started doing SEO

This is what it looks like when a firm wakes up and starts doing some linkbuilding.

As you can see, this firm just started doing some linkbuilding a few months ago, but let’s see what they have been up to.  Are they building links through guest posting?  Are they creating content?

more links from attorney directories to boost seo

Nope—more directory links.  In comparison to, it looks like they’ve submitted to more of these directories, but the other website’s directories duplicated many of those links, resulting in more overall from less submissions.  Between the two, it’s hard to say which one is more spammy; the one that has the lower quality links or the one that gives more links per submission.

I almost don’t feel like even looking at the third one, but I have to do my due diligence and see what they’ve done.

example of terrible backlinking

Spam.  Either this firm has a side hustle selling air jordans in Korea or they have paid a terrible “SEO guy.”  Amazingly, this was the firm that popped up in the local snippet.  WTH Google???

What I have learned

  1. It should not be particularly difficult to outrank these websites.  I’m shocked that any of them is even ranking well.
  2. Directory links continue to work for local SEO.  Although I am doubtful of this being a long-term ranking strategy, these firms are certainly generating business from this approach.  It is a matter of time before they call a firm like mine to handle the disavows once Google rolls out a new algorithm that smacks them for all of the directory links.
  3. is committing some egregious SEO sins, but they haven’t been penalized yet.  Honestly, I see backlink profiles like this all of the time and I have strong suspicions that Google’s propensity to penalize websites is greatly overstated.