Unless you run a lemonade stand, your business has to be on the internet; that goes without saying. On second thought, actually, no. A nice website would spread the word about your craft soft drinks enterprise, and squeeze more revenue out of the leads.
Compared to offline marketing methods, online you can gain much more visibility for far lower costs. That creates dense competition. Add in the fact that you will go head-to-head with the most unexpected foes since you are competing not for clients here, but for traffic.
To answer the question in the title:
Well-reasoned competitor analysis will structure your whole internet marketing strategy.
You will be spared repeating others’ mistakes, know the best practices to copy (no shame in it), and find ways for your brand to stand out. A side benefit is a better understanding of your industry and your clientele.
Let’s get into it and figure out all of the pieces that make up the most comprehensive assessment of your online competition . There is a lot to chew over, but first things first — to proceed with our ethical espionage we need to identify the targets.
Meet the Enemy
Start scratching the surface of the competition by googling your product or related keywords. In a few minutes, you can throw together a list for an initial analysis. Next step will be weeding out that list, eventually narrowing it down to four or five strong companies that are your real competitors. It is great to punch above your weight, but knowing your limits is important for success. So, compare your competitors to one another, rate them, and see how you fit in.
Websites stealing attention from you do not necessarily have a competing product; they may not even be in the same industry.
You can include companies outside your direct competition if they seem to have similarities or can provide ideas. But try to make your competitors list tight, this will make it much easier for you to figure out your advantages and disadvantages, see what needs improvement, and identify quick wins.
Know the Enemy
There are a whole lot of questions we need to answer to get a thorough, well-rounded competitor assessment. But don’t get obsessed, overanalyzing is not a good thing here. Figure out which part of the analysis makes sense for you right now and focus on it.
Another thing to keep in mind is that successful companies are not necessarily doing good job across all of the marketing channels, so spend your time on the best.
Our analysis consists of the following steps:
Content and PR
Let’s go over each step, pointing out important aspects, casually promoting our toolkit for Competitive Research along the way.
Big Picture Analysis
First of all, you want to get an overall view of the market. How active are your rivals? Who are their partners? How tough is the competition for the audience? Can you tell any regional or seasonal trends in the field? Checking the current dynamics, you can get an idea of what the mainstream in the industry is and where opportunities to grow lie.
Start with making a short list of websites that you need for benchmarking. Depending on your aim, they could belong to your competitors, potential partners or prospective clients. In any case, you will be able to observe their traffic volume and traffic sources and get a sense of their backlink profile and general performance.
Even if you know only one company in the researched niche, our Market Explorer tool will help you to complete the list. Compare the key metrics of top players to yours and get invaluable insights on audience overlap and user behavior.
Further steps? Record your assumptions and move on to more detailed analytics.
To be honest, unless you are in the top three search results, you will not see much of that sweet organic traffic. Everybody uses search engines to find things, but not all of the things out there are found.
While this can be irritating, your best option is to start learning: this step is about organic visibility, keywords, and backlinks.
Search engine visibility today is not only about the positions. Google keeps adding and tweaking SERP features, and you have to consider them to stay on top.
Mobile friendliness is important! Have you heard the news? Mobile-first index is upon us, and if your rivals’ websites are not responsive yet, you can get ahead quickly.
And, of course, the pillars of an SEO process—keywords and backlinks. They have been here since the beginning, and we are still talking about them.
Tired of working your socks off, but getting no results?
Welcome to the magic world of pay-per-click, where even the smallest effort is profitable beyond your wildest dreams!
An obvious and unfortunate lie on my part.
Launching an effective PPC campaign takes a lot of consideration, but in turn it becomes a very effective channel driving traffic to your website; or to your competitor’s site, hence the analysis:
The first step is, once again, to identify your paid competition.
Next, find keywords your competitors are bidding on.
When this is done, study their ad copy, see what they are offering, and dissect calls to action.
Now, analyze the pages that the ads are leading to, there’s a lot to learn. If you are planning to send paid traffic to your home page, while your competition uses well-crafted, clear-cut landings, you are losing before the battle begins.
And finally, make sure to take mobile PPC seriously. Having a specific strategy for mobile devices is no longer some marketing trend, it’s an absolute necessity. You are lucky if your competition is not on that page yet.
Content and PR Analysis
Blog posts, news, whitepapers, FAQs, case studies, infographics, e-books, videos, webinars, podcasts … Is that too much? I don’t know, let’s hear your competitors answer that.
Scan the competition for all types of content, and find where it is stored—it might not necessarily be on their websites.
Content Gap Analysis will help you explore how the content is categorized, if it is in a long or a short form; note how frequent the publications are, and how many are already out there.
Before you start looking for content gaps, evaluate the overall quality. A lot of topics might be already covered, but if they’re lacking quality or depth, you have an opportunity to do it better, and get higher rankings.
Pay attention to how well the SEO basics are handled. Titles, descriptions, headlines and URLs are always a part of the content’s quality.
Social Media Analysis
Most companies use social media for promotion, and those that don’t should. It’s a cheap and effective way to reach out to the audience, and establish your brand.
In a way, social media marketing is a continuation of content marketing; these two are deeply interrelated, but SMM has its own playgrounds with their own rules, strategies, and measures of success.
Anyway, let’s break down the social media competition analysis:
Find who’s active on social media.
Determine which platforms they are using.
Assess audience size.
See what type of content they post.
Are there non-promotional posts?
How often do they post?
Do they engage with the audience?
What tone are they using?
Answering these questions will create a picture of your competitors’ SMM performance, and the preferences of the audience.
Love the Enemy
I mean it — love your enemy. Collaboration is not always an option, but by completely dismissing it you can overlook some great win-win scenarios.
Competition itself is a great thing! It sparks innovation, betters your business, your product, and you (if you’re smart about it). And, after all, having a lot of competition means being in a lucrative market.