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How to Do Competitor Analysis and Improve Your Digital Marketing Strategy with SEMrush

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This post is in English
Elena Kozlova updated
This post is in English
How to Do Competitor Analysis and Improve Your Digital Marketing Strategy with SEMrush

Many companies do competitor analysis when they develop a digital marketing strategy and never get back to it. That is an oversight because, in many cases, a timely update on your rivals’ online moves could help you adjust your campaign mid-way and let it perform better in the end.

This article will show you the main points of a competitor analysis that should be revisited when your campaign has been running for a while. You will see the key metrics that we recommend tracking on each digital marketing channel and show you how to get them with SEMrush tools.

What Is Competitor Analysis?

Let’s start with the basics: the definition of competitor analysis. It is the process of researching and analyzing the marketing strategies and business characteristics of the companies operating in a given market. 

Competitor analysis is typically carried out to identify strengths and weaknesses of other market players, define your company’s standing in relation to them, highlight gaps, and estimate your potential and opportunities to fill them.

Who Should You Analyze as Competitors in Digital Marketing?

Competitor analysis normally includes your direct and indirect competitors — those providing the same (or similar) solutions to the same (or similar) audiences.

Online competitor analysis should cover them, plus one more group of rivals: your brand competitors that fight for the same users you do. They don’t necessarily need to sell them a similar product or service, but they definitely want to get their attention.

Douglas Karr

Douglas Karr

Marketing and technology strategist, founder of the Martech Zone blog, and CEO of DK New Media

Your competitors are often industry websites, directory websites, and social media sites. You are not just competing with other brands — you are competing with every site that wishes to disconnect you from your prospective buyer and then bill you to advertise to them.

This is a tricky challenge, but may the most intelligent competitor win.

Why You Need an Ongoing Competitor Analysis in Digital Marketing?

Your main competitors are most likely to stay the same as when you developed the strategy, but their positions and the general situation in the market may change.
Here are the key reasons to check up on other market players on a regular basis.

To Review Benchmarks

From monitoring your internal stats, you know which channels perform the best — but what if your competitors have managed to achieve even better results? You need to know it.

To Catch Up with Industry and Market Trends

There are some seasonal trends that reoccur every year — and there are peaks and declines in demand that you will be prepared for only if you monitor the competitive landscape. Make sure to stay alert.

To Learn the Best New Practices and Mistakes to Avoid

Sometimes it is better to let your competitors test new channels than go there yourself and waste the budget. Learn from other companies' experiences.

To Update Your Marketing Mix

From digital marketing campaigns, you can get some important news on your competition, such as a new product launch, and get ideas for your company’s development.

To Refine Your Goals

As the situation in the online market changes, you may need to adjust not just the strategy, but the objectives you previously set.

How Often Should You Review Your Digital Marketing Strategy?

Each industry develops at a different pace, so you may need to get updates more (or less) often. Normally, we would recommend doing competitor analysis monthly to keep tabs on growing trends and adjust your campaigns accordingly; and quarterly to get to implement bigger changes in your digital marketing strategy.

You can check and analyze other companies’ metrics frequently, or only when you’re ready to make adjustments in your campaign.

How to Do Competitor Analysis on a Regular Basis: The Key Points for Digital Marketing

Competitive analysis may seem like an endless task to marketers. To help you stay focused, we will walk you through its key aspects, and cover insights from the core digital channels.

1. Get Updates on Competitors’ Performances

If you want your online strategy to beat your rivals, you need to stay up to date on their latest digital marketing moves and your own performance compared to theirs. Analysis of their website traffic is a good place to start for competitive assessment.

Let’s take a home decor e-tailer that wants to catch up with its rivals’ online performance for our competitor analysis example. With five websites entered in SEMrush Traffic Analytics, we get to see:

  • If the leader of the competition has changed (in our case, homedepot.com has remained #1 in the list).

  • The fluctuations that have affected the competition in recent months.

  • How each rival grew (or lost) its popularity over the observed time.

SEMrush Traffic Analytics competitive research

Find out how other websites in your niche attracted their audience:

  • Which digital marketing channels performed the best for them.

  • Which countries proved to be lucrative in terms of traffic generation.

In the examples below, you can see who wins in traffic sources and who gets more traffic from Canada than any other competitor. 

SEMrush Traffic Analytics - traffic sources

Take note of any discrepancy from your initial digital campaign research — views of the niche, seasonal trends, and the most sustainable player.

For a better understanding of the market, you may want to check up on more than five players. In SEMrush Market Explorer, you only need to enter one website in the search field, and the tool will conduct complete competitor mapping for you.

SEMrush Growth Quadrant

With this tool, you can:

  • Map out the competitive landscape in a comprehensible form of the Growth Quadrant.

  • Qualify your competitors by their current audience size and market potential.

  • Switch from “Industry Competitors” to “Organic Competitors” and reveal your closest rivals’ online market shares and research their digital marketing strategies further.

Make sure to check out all the abilities of SEMrush Traffic Analytics and Market Explorer for market and competitor analysis.

Keep tabs on your competitors

with SEMrush Traffic Analytics and Market Explorer

Please specify a valid domain, e.g., www.example.com

2. Analyze Your Competitors’ SEO Efforts 

If other companies are outranking you in organic search, they may also be getting more clicks, generating more leads, and gaining more revenue. 

With the Organic Research tool, you can monitor a target website’s organic search visibility. We will continue our model analysis and see how homedepot.com is doing in organic search:

SEMrush organic research

At a glance, you can discover:

  • The target website’s total number of keywords with organic positions (in the Google Top 100), presented visually.

  • Expected monthly organic traffic from those keywords.

  • Estimated price of the given organic keywords in text Google Ads.

  • Estimated branded and non-branded traffic.

You can get into more detail on your rivals’ keywords that let them take top positions in organic search:

  • Discover their most successful keywords.

  • Get an idea of consumer behavior based on search frequency.

  • See the most popular pages that users found with organic search.

  • Outline initial ideas on how you can optimize your campaign to increase your rankings and conversions.

SEMrush Organic Research - positions

There are two more ways to gain a deeper understanding of competitors’ SEO:

  • Find gaps in your rivals’ coverage with the Backlink Gap tool. You can analyze their root domains, subdomains, or URLs. A good way to use this intelligence would be to reach out to the resources that are linking to your competitors, but not you.

  • Enhance your content marketing strategy with Keyword Gap. The tool allows you to perform a side-by-side competitor comparison in terms of keyword portfolios (be it organic, paid, or PLA) for up to five domains at once.

How to Do Competitor Analysis and Improve Your Digital Marketing Strategy with SEMrush. Image 6

If you want to gain more insight into your rivals’ organic performance, we have a dedicated guide on how to do SEO competitive analysis here.

3. Get Marketing Ideas from Their Recent Online Ads

There is still no universal formula for success in advertising. Still, there is always something to learn from looking at your rivals’ strategies, like which to adopt, which to avoid, and what you may have forgotten.

 To analyze any advertiser, use the Advertising Research tool. Switch tabs to reveal:

  • The number of keywords the domain is bidding on.

  • The estimated traffic coming from these keywords.

  • Paid traffic cost estimation.

  • Other websites your target rival competes with.

  • Historical data to uncover your competitors’ seasonal preferences in advertising — this may be especially interesting if it has been quite a while since you checked up on competitors’ ads.

We decided to dig deeper into our model research and clicked on a blue cell in the Ad History report. We got to see an actual ad of Home Depot's, which was run at a particular point in time. A possible step would be to adapt this ad to our business, let it run, and see how it performs.

SEMrush Advertising Research

You can focus on Google Shopping or display ads in your competitor analysis and use PLA Research and Display Advertising accordingly. In PLA Research, you can see the product listing ads other market players promote in different countries. In Display Advertising, you can analyze the distribution of a company’s GDN ads around the globe and measure your rivals’ advertising activity to understand which markets you should be targeting and how.

Among other things, look at the actual Landing Pages from your competitors’ campaigns and analyze important specifics like which ads pointed to each landing page on their site at a particular time. This is a good way to discover your rivals’ focus items, and it can encourage you to start a dedicated competitive product analysis.

With this step of competitor analysis, you will be able to analyze the pricing in the target segment by PLA ads and optimize your ad creatives (in terms of keywords, titles, and pictures) and ad spend for maximum ROI. 

4. See What Your Rivals Have Been Doing in Content Marketing and PR

This step can let you invest less effort into researching relevant topics and respected media that can mention you or place your backlink.

Track online mentions of any word or phrase related to your rival’s brand name, product name, product category, motto, or anything else. You can research all of these with the Brand Monitoring tool. The report can help you:

  • Find mentions on the web, forums, Twitter, or Instagram.

  • Estimate reach for each mention and determine the platform with the largest coverage.

  • Highlight the strength and popularity of the mentioner’s domain (Authority Score) and website traffic (Traffic: Low/Medium/High in the tool).

As in previous steps, we researched each of these aspects for The Home Depot.

SEMrush Brand Monitoring tool

If you are interested in the traffic driven by referrals, go to Traffic Analytics for insightful research.

  • Study your rival’s backlink profile in detail and monitor their new and lost backlinks.

Use Backlink Analytics reports to see the the pages that link to your competitors’ (source URLs) and the actual pages that received traffic from these backlinks (target URLs). Also, consider Authority Score in your analysis.

How to Do Competitor Analysis and Improve Your Digital Marketing Strategy with SEMrush. Image 9

In your research, you could filter mentions by their type (follow/nofollow, sponsored/UGC), format (text, image, form, and frame), as well as if the backlink is new or recently lost.

There is one point that you shouldn’t ignore either for your or your competitors’ articles: assessing the content performance. Connect your Google Analytics to Post Tracking to answer these questions and stay up-to-date with how the metrics change:

  • How much traffic did a particular post get?
  • How many shares and mentions did it receive?

SEMrush Content Analyzer

As you may notice in the screenshot, two metrics are missing for The Home Depot research example: Referral Traffic and Estimated Reach. Referral Traffic becomes available only when you connect your Google Analytics to the tool; Estimated Reach is taken from SEMrush Traffic Analytics, and “n/a” means there is not enough data to calculate the metric.

5. Check Up on Your Competitors' Moves on Social Media

Social media is a standalone digital space requiring an approach and strategy of its own. Crafting such a strategy can be daunting, but you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. You may find a bunch of good ideas by just reviewing your rivals’ social media accounts.

Here is your to-do (and to-answer) list:

  • Find who has been active on social media.

  • Determine which platforms they have been using.

  • See if their audience has increased or decreased.

  • Learn what type of content they have been posting (are there any non-promotional posts?) and how often.

  • See if there is anything new in their audience engagement and communication;

  • Highlight your own opportunities in social media ads.

Social Media Tracker will help you in this part of competitor analysis so you can highlight your own opportunities with social media ads.

SEMrush Social Media Tracker

6. Review the Findings with Your Own Goals and Strategy in Mind

After moving through the above the key points of recurring competitor analysis, you now need to make sense of your findings.

Assess how competing businesses’ actions and your marketing ideas correlate with your initial strategy.

You may find out that a long-term campaign that you started six months ago doesn’t correspond to the current market trends and needs. It is better to find out now than another six months later.

Filter out any ideas that don’t comply with your company’s offering, positioning, ultimate goals, and strategy.

No matter what brilliant insights you have found by looking at your competition, if they don’t align with your brand idea or roadmap, it is better to push them to the back burner. And this is when the next point becomes crucial:

Communicate competitive intelligence data to other departments.

Competitor analysis can reveal insights that are not yet actionable for the marketing team but will be appreciated in the sales department, for example. Needless to say, any intelligence is invaluable for executives.

Think of those colleagues who could benefit from your findings and don’t hesitate to share your competitor analysis report with them.

More on this Automated Competitor Monitoring and Reporting with SEMrush Post Elena Kozlova

Encourage and initiate changes in your marketing plans and strategy (if needed)

If you are halfway through your marketing campaign, and, compared to rivals, it isn’t producing great results, don’t be afraid of making tweaks or even rethinking the entire strategy. This is why you do competitor research: — to discover greener fields and move to them as quickly as possible.

Equip your team with intelligent tools

Try the SEMrush Competitive Research Solution

Please specify a valid domain, e.g., www.example.com

Elena Kozlova

Getting here is not easy at all!

Online researcher, offline traveler. Passionate writer and story listener.
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