How to Use Sitemaps to Research Your Competitors

In today’s article, I’m going to be teaching you how to check out sitemaps to learn a little bit more about your competitors and see whether or not they are still actively updating their websites, or if they’re potentially leaving their websites dormant for you to start to take over that niche.

By the end of this article, you’ll have a better understanding of how to use this sort of more intermediate and advanced technique in order to do competitive research before assessing whether or not to enter a particular niche.

Tactic for today: Sitemaps

The tactic for today is to dig into the sitemaps of other people’s websites. In most situations, when you come across a niche site, you are going to be able to access their sitemap. The reason why is because sitemaps are the ways that sites are being able to be read by search engines like Google or Bing. They need to have sitemaps in order to make it easier for these search engines to crawl their websites and understand what these websites are all about.

We first need to do today is find a niche which it’s interesting to us. And we want to potentially learn a little bit more about that particular niche and the people that are sites on that niche.

In our example, today, I’m going to continue from the last article where we learned that the ultimate Frisbee niche is potentially a great place for us to build a website. We started to identify a few competing websites that were informational websites around ultimate Frisbee. Let’s go ahead and dig into a few of those websites.

Digging into a competitor’s website: Ultimate Frisbee

The first website for today is ultimatefrisbeehq.com. The last time that we looked at this website, it was just at a very high level, but essentially this is a website around information covering ultimate Frisbee.

To access their sitemap, most of the time it’s going to be /sitemap.xml so, in this situation, I’ve gone ahead and opened up their sitemap. And what you can tell here is that their sitemap has essentially been somewhat dormant. In fact, if I go ahead and zoom in here, you can see that this website was last modified in 2020. It has been several years since they’ve updated content on their website.

Questions to ask yourself looking at your competitor’s sitemap

And what I can also do is I can take a look at the post content and see just how old the content actually is and the first thing that you want to do as you start to look through a sitemap is what does it look like at a high level? Are they regularly updating posts or has it been some period of time since they last updated posts?

The reason why you want to ask this question is because if they haven’t been creating a lot of new content, then it’s probably something in which they let the website die. And at this point, it’s your opportunity to enter that niche as a more authoritative source.

In this situation, what you can see as I go ahead and zoom in here or zoom out rather so that you can see everything is that they have a few posts. But for the most part, these posts were all modified on June 4th, 2016. And then as I keep on going back, I can keep on going into their page section. And here you can see that they have a bunch of variety in terms of the last modified dates, but for the most part, what you can see here is that these were last modified around anywhere from 2014 when this website started to 2020 in August or so. And right after that, what you can tell from this is that this is probably not all that maintained as a website. And what this also tells you is that this is an opportunity. This is a big opportunity.

And the reason why I say that is because, in our last article, we saw how this website was still getting 4,000 monthly traffic visits just around the long tail keyword phrases that they’re still ranking for. So even though this all time chart has stagnated over time, they’re still maintaining some level of traffic despite the age of their content, which tells me that in this space, there hasn’t been all that much new content around this particular topic.

A few things to look for in a particular sitemap

When I’m looking at these particular sitemaps, I’m looking for a few key things. The first thing I’m trying to understand is how much content did it take for this competitor to actually rank for what they’re ranking for today? In this case we have about 3.5K monthly traffic. And what you can tell is that they have 31 URLs here.

And what that means is that there are 31 pages, including some things like the homepage and the contact page, but for the most part, there isn’t all that much content on this website. In fact, there are 11 posts and then there is in the case of the pages, there are 31. What that means is that maybe if I were to create a hundred posts around ultimate Frisbee covering these topics a little bit more in-depth, or even going directly after some of the ones that are already ranking for this website, that I would be able to overtake this website in due time.

As you go through these sitemaps, there are a few key questions and assumptions that you’re going through such as are they actively maintaining the website? Is it really easy to overcome their already existing moat? Or is it a space in which maybe they’ve got thousands of pages and in this situation, you can’t easily overtake them because they literally have their digital moat in which they have thousands of posts already have a head start, as opposed to you?

And that situation, what you would do if you were to see, for example, in this case, that this actually said 310 URLs, as opposed to 31, well, you’d have to make that sort of risk assessment as to whether or not it’s worth it for you to enter this niche, as opposed to finding another niche where you might be able to come up with something closer to 31 that you see here.

Those are some of the things that I’m trying to figure out as I go through the sitemap. How recent is the content, how much content actually is there, and what is the nature of the content? So I go through these particular pages, and what I can see is that for the most part, these content pieces are probably around a thousand words or so.

And if I were to guess right after that if there are 31 pages, well, that probably means that maybe there are around 50,000 words all in, on this website, 50 to 75,000. That’s super doable. That’s something in which with a couple of grand or if I were to do it myself and write it all from scratch, I would probably be able to overtake this website. It’s a really good signal in terms of the ultimate Frisbee niche.

Digging into another competitor’s website: theuap.com

Let’s go and take a look at the second example that we had from the last article, which was theuap.com. I’ve gone ahead and accessed their sitemap. And here you can see that it’s a little bit harder to parse this out, but what we can also do is we can go ahead and just copy this.

And we can go ahead and put this into a Google Sheet. When I paste this into a Google Sheet, that way you can get a better sense of how you might manipulate this on Google. Here, I’ve got my Google Sheet and what I’m doing is I’m calling this the UAP, and then I’m just going to go ahead and paste this.

It’s not going to be super pretty how I’m going to do this, but I’m doing it for the sake of showing you how you might do this yourself. I’m sorting the ranges so that it is an alphabetical order. And what that’s going to do is it’s going to isolate for me all the mumbo jumbo that I need to remove from this particular side of things.

And then what I can do is I can delete that and then I can go ahead and copy and paste the remaining stuff to the top here. Here you can see that essentially we are left with all of the respective pages as opposed to anything else. In this case, what do we see here?

Well, what we see is that in this situation, when we exclude everything here, we actually have about 307 pages. This is actually a perfect analogous example to the first case with ultimate Frisbee HQ because this is the 10X site. This is the site that’s doing way more than the first site in terms of content and what you can also see as you can start to try to understand what is going on in their particular pages.

One thing that’s catching my eye is that they have a subfolder around their blog in which they cover a lot of different topics. I’m trying to go through here. I’m trying to see if there are any ideas that potentially are inspiring to me, or potentially catch my eye for content that I would want to either create a better version of or create a more authoritative piece around.

In this situation, you can see there’s a lot of how-to content things like how hard is ultimate conditioning by the numbers, how to get open, even if you’re not fast and ultimate Frisbee and things like that. Right after that, what I’m learning from this sitemap is that it probably be a little bit more competitive than the first example at the same time though, to really confirm whether or not there’s potential in this space, the best way to do so is to go ahead and plug in this domain into SEMRush.

Digging into theuap.com’s SEMRush profile

Going back into SEMRush, I’m going to go ahead and search for theuap.com you can see in this situation, they really don’t do all that well in terms of organic search traffic. In this situation, they have 1.2K in organic search traffic. It’s entering all time highs, but for the most part, they’re not really covering a lot of ultimate phrases very well.

And if I were to guess the reason why is because they have most things behind the paywall or some sort of login screen. In this situation, you have to go to this login or to probably access most of this content. And this is something in which it’s not really easy for Google to actually scrape what is going on on this website.

The only things that are really possible is looking at things like this blog, or you know, in general, the free resources page and things like that. If this website wanted to take over more of the organic search rankings, what they could do is they could come up with a way to either publicly display more of the content that’s actually in their sitemap or come up with a way in which they might be able to make the pages crawlable, but still require login past a certain point.

You’ll see, that happens a lot on sports websites, like theathletic.com or just premium sports websites where you have to pay for the ranking. After doing some research and on both of these websites, what I’d probably take away from this is that if I wanted to make a pretty small to medium-sized niche website, I could go right after ultimatefrisbeehq.com

It’s probably a really nice niche in which you can make a couple of hundred bucks every single month from just the display ads. If I were to really take over this space that said the theuap.com has a lot going for it in which what they could do is come up with a creative way to open up more of their content. That way they could potentially rank more of their pages than what they’re ranking for right now.

Big takeaways

Some key takeaways for you though use the sitemap.

  1. Figure out when was the last time things were getting updated as well as how much content is actually on the website that you’re visiting to assess whether or not it’s worth it for you to go after them too.
  2. In the case where I wanted to go after theuap.com would I have to ask myself is how long would it take me to get to 300 pages? Is it something in which I could create 30 every single month and I could get up to their standard in 10 months or is it something in which it might take a few years in order for me to compete with them?

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