How to build a leader position in a search engine? Reverse engineering in SEO

Author: Szymon Rozmus, SEO Specialist at Whites Agency

Every day, Google’s crawler bots scan billions of web pages – including yours and your digital competitors. They collect information about the structure, content and architecture of the information, and when deciding on the position of a website in the SERP, they take into account hundreds of variables. What factors ensure a leadership position in the results for specific user inquiries? How does an in-depth analysis of available competition data based on machine learning allow you to gain an advantage in building organic traffic? Reverse engineering adapted to SEO comes in handy. Below, I’ll explain what it is and what advantages it can give you.

Table of Contents

● What is Reverse Engineering in SEO?      

● What are the advantages of reverse engineering in SEO? Who are we conducting this study for?      

● How do we apply reverse engineering? A case study

● Summary      

The world is divided into people who set trends and those who follow trends. Those who first introduce original and effective solutions have a chance to stand out from the crowd – and maintain their leading position for longer.

The Internet and the digital marketing industry, as it is broadly understood, are guided by the same principle. However, humans are only part of a complex puzzle, and many areas depend, for example, on the artificial intelligence systems on which Google bases its search results. We can confidently say that Google is the most advanced search engine in the world, and it’s evolving more and more. Thus, the process of achieving the highest possible position in organic search, known as SEO (Search Engine Optimization), is becoming more and more advanced.

Whether you want to increase the visibility of a thriving business or increase your conversion rate as a niche leader – the way you achieve this goal can give you a long-term advantage. Therefore, I would like to introduce you to the reverse engineering process.

What is Reverse Engineering in SEO?

At first glance, Google’s search engine easily returns an answer to an asked question. Going deeper into the subject, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of smaller and larger niches – and twice as many ranking factors – taken into account by Google’s algorithms.

These factors are often very diverse. For some industries or groups of products, the number of characters in the header on a website will be less important, while for other groups, it may be essential, such that, with an inadequate number of characters, the website will not break through the maze of competitors who are also trying to position themselves as best as possible. For some websites, the loading time will be the most important factor; for others, a bit less. 

The process of determining which positioning factors are key in a given area, industry or product category, and thus preferred by Google’s algorithms, based on advanced competition analysis is called reverse engineering.

To do this research, we use the proprietary data-driven SEO White Dog technology based on machine learning, which is able to process vast data resources (big data).

What are the advantages of reverse engineering in SEO? Who are we conducting this study for?

Thanks to the study of reverse engineering, we are able to formulate hypotheses about the position of a leader in organic search and verify them on the basis of reliable and indisputable data.

Research and further analysis can be carried out regardless of one’s awareness of search engine positioning processes. However, the greater the researcher’s knowledge of ranking factors, the more useful insights he or she will be able to identify about a competitor.

The companies that offer very similar products or services targeted at the same market will achieve the greatest value from the research. On the other hand, company websites that offer different products or broad-spectrum services in different niches can still compete for highly similar keywords in order to meet the customers’ needs.

The conclusion is obvious and very simple, this study can be carried out for any company, regardless of its size. Years of market presence or the number of close or distant online competitors do not matter either, as direct competitors do not always create competition for search results.

How do we apply reverse engineering? A case study

Let’s take a look at the next stages of reverse engineering research based on the Sporticos case study – a website that presents football statistics, as well as the best types of results found on the Internet. The goal of our collaboration was to increase the visibility in search results, traffic and revenues from organic sources. The analysis included, among other things, verification of competition for the presented list of phrases. We took into account the English version of the website, and the location – Great Britain.

Step 1. We select a group of keywords

In order to conduct reverse engineering research, we focus on analyzing a narrower group of keywords. This allows us to create various types of word permutations, which we later use, for example, to determine the content gaps of a specific website in relation to its competition.

For Sporticos, the phrase set was defined by the customer. It included the following types of queries:

  • Team A vs Team B
  • Team A v Team B
  • Team A vs Team B prediction
  • Team A v Team B live stream
  • League
  • League of prediction

Step 2. We verify and test the content of top websites

After selecting the group of keywords that constitute the core of our analysis, we use data-driven tools to compare competitors, verify the content of the pages, and then make hypotheses. It is this stage that allows us to identify the factors that determine the position of a search engine leader. 

In the case of Sporticos, we examined the frequency of the occurrence of individual services in TOP30, TOP10 and TOP1.

The data showed us that Sporticos is the leading service for defined keywords, and the only player that stays ahead of them in the UK market is Sofascore. The competitor was better than our client in 2 out of 3 cases. At the same time, it generated approximately 20 times more search engine traffic on the British market than Sporticos. We decided to look at the phrases from our list again.

Two groups of phrases (one containing the word prediction and the other live stream) turned out to be particularly interesting. The analysis showed that Sofascore reigns on phrases related to live streaming and is the leader in phrases containing prediction. This allowed us to pose the right SEO hypotheses.

Step 3. We draw conclusions from the tests and formulate hypotheses

Data-driven analysis of the vast amount of data from Google leads to hypotheses regarding the advantages and weaknesses of positioning. 

What was the hypothesis for Sporticos? Live stream phrases are more frequently searched for, and have greater business potential.

According to our hypothesis, the coexistence of related keywords can positively affect the search engine position for the main phrase. Therefore, we analyzed phrases containing live stream and other keywords on the website (watch, online, video, livestreaming, live, stream, streaming). 

Our conclusions? For the top positions, these keywords are much more common. In the case of Sporticos, there were significantly fewer of them.

Step 4. We create recommendations and optimization recommendations

After going through the steps of analysis, formulating hypotheses and conclusions, we move on to SEO recommendations. Thanks to data-driven analysis, they are very precise and allow you to optimize only the key factors affecting the position of the website.

Based on our analyses, we created a set of recommendations to optimize Sporticos for phrases containing live stream, including:

  • Adding the word stream [previously there was only the word live] to the Title tag.
  • Adding the phrase live stream at the end of breadcrumbs in the desktop version.
  • Changing the anchor text in the link to the collective page presenting the list of broadcasts from a given day from TV to Live streams.
  • Harmonizing the content describing the live streaming proposal on the match page for multiple locations.

The results after implementing the recommendations from the study exceeded our expectations. They influenced not only the position in the search engine itself, but also the conversion – the conversion rate increased by 70% during the month.

We described the details in the Sporticos case study.


Google’s monopoly is primarily thanks to an advanced algorithm based on artificial intelligence. Constantly being improved, it knows the web better and better and understands different languages ​​from all over the world. Thus, there are hundreds of variables that are taken into account when determining the position of subpages for a specific query.

Would a few high-quality links or several dozen medium-quality pages be a better solution to get a high ranking on Google? Is it worth rebuilding the entire website, or is it enough to optimize it by taking into account a few key phrases? These and more questions will be answered by the reverse engineering of onsite and offsite ranking factors for each of the results. Additionally, adequate verification of the hypotheses is necessary, using a cross-section of the collected data.

If you want this data-driven SEO approach to take your business to the next level – let’s talk.