The best way to win in business is to be one step ahead of your competition.
Easier said than done, right? Wrong.
Competitive research has never been easier than it is today. With the wealth of free data available online and new research tools popping up almost every day, you have more information about your competitors at your fingertips than you might initially think. Knowing how to leverage this information to identify your competitors, analyze their marketing strategies, and adapt your own marketing efforts will help you keep your business on top.
To help you get started, we asked our community of marketing research experts to share their favorite ways to conduct a competitive analysis. Read on and get your competitive research started today!
How to Conduct a Competitive Analysis: According to the Experts
Ultimately, effective competitive research requires spying tools. For organic search engine marketing (SEO), there are tools that allow you to see which of your competitor pages generate the most traffic and links, and where they are getting their links from.
You can plug yourself and your competitors into these tools, export the results into an Excel sheet and map your content onto theirs to get an exact comparison of what your competitors most popular pieces of content are that you do not have, and where their content is outperforming yours in terms of traffic and links.
This can give you a list of content pieces to create, and pieces to improve upon, either in terms of updating your content to skyscrape your competitors or to build more links than them to each piece. As you can see what pieces of content get the most traffic you can work out what to prioritize for maximum benefit.
I would add as a short addendum to this that excessive use of competitive research can lead to laziness in your content strategy where you base your content calendar around what your competitors have done. While there is a sense of safety in producing content that you know already works, you always want to stay one step ahead of your competitors, so ensure that at least some of your output comes from original ideas.
– Oli Graham, Marketing Manager, RightlyWritten
We use SEMRush to see how well their site performs. We enter our competitor’s URL into SEMRush, so we can see which keywords they are ranking well for and where they are getting their backlinks. Between this information, we can identify which backlinks we can also try to target, and we can find out which keywords we can avoid or target. It’s been a very useful strategy to grow our organic rankings.
– Jeff Neal, Engagement Officer, The Critter Depot
One of the tools we use for competitor research through one of our agency partners is SEMrush. It allows us to get a birds-eye view of what our competitors are doing across SEO, PPC, content marketing and digital PR.
We use the visibility measures to assess whether our competitors are improving their outreach, increasing spend, and also whether there are any new entrants to the market. From here, we often tailor our search strategies taking these insights into account.
It also proves an extremely useful tool in identifying new backlink sources for us based on features that other players in our market are achieving.
– Michael White, Co-Founder, houseof
Tracking your competitors on social media is a cost-effective method of competitive research that will help you establish your own KPIs and it will give you ideas for content creation.
The key is figuring out what kind of content your target audience holds most valuable. You can do so by checking what kind of publications on your competitors’ profiles generate the highest engagement and how they are received in general.
Analyzing your competitors will also help you establish how often exactly you should post on particular social channels.
– Kasia Majewska, Marketing Executive, NapoleonCat
Competitive research allows you to have a better look at the best strategies that work in your niche today. At the same time, it gives you an idea of what does not work. By seeing these two important factors, you can make the necessary adjustments.
Nowadays, it pays to check out the competitions’ social media activity. Not only will you see how they market themselves directly to their market, but you will also see how their consumers respond to their posts.
– Jack Wang, CEO, Amazing Beauty Hair
When we conduct competitive research at WallStreetZen, we do it from two perspectives: traffic generation and product positioning.
When it comes to traffic analysis, we think there’s no better tool than Ahrefs.com for doing a thorough audit of your competition. Clearly, I’m not the only marketer who thinks so, as they recently crossed $40M in annual recurring revenue and have been growing 60% year over year!
We run competitor sites through Ahrefs and analyze their backlink profiles to look for SEO and content marketing strategies we can learn from, low competition keywords that we can rank for, and we’ll use the content explorer to see what content has been performing well for our competitors.
The key is that once we’ve completed this analysis, we don’t just try to match what our competitors have done: we use it to inspire us to do better!
When it comes to product positioning, what we’re trying to understand is how users perceive our competitors, and how we can position our product as a better alternative – at least for a segment of those users.
We do this by running user interviews and usability tests on our competitor’s websites, the same way we do user research for our own product development. We try to understand what users like and don’t like about competitors, how they perceive them, what they use them for, what problems they are trying to solve, and where the product isn’t meeting their needs.
As a small fish in a very big ocean filled with some very big whales like Yahoo Finance and MarketWatch (publicly traded companies with tens of millions of visits a month) we definitely can’t beat our competitors head-on; however, what we’ve learned by doing user testing on our big competitors is where their weaknesses are from the perspective of real users, and how we can position ourselves as a better solution for the segment of users that care about those aspects of the user experience.
In our case, we can’t necessarily match our big competitors on the breadth of data, but what we’ve found is that for a segment of users quality and depth is more important than quantity. So, our marketing highlights our ease of use, along with features that help users make sense of data that can often be confusing and overwhelming.
We’ll continue to track how users feel about our competitors, so we can adjust our positioning over time as the competitive landscape evolves.
– Nate Tsang, Co-Founder, WallStreetZen
You want to create a distinction between every rival and your business, but it also helps to compare them with one another. Such businesses may be competing for the clients after all, but it doesn’t imply they’re working the same way. When you have collected all the details you can about these companies, compose comprehensive profiles that will help you to see how they are doing business and how big a challenge they may potentially present.
The best way to achieve this is by contrasting them side by side. Include the goods and services they sell, divisions of market, areas, target markets, methods of delivery, special skills, and everything else that will allow one company to stand out from the others.
– Dr. Vikram Tarugu, CEO, Detox of South Florida
The easiest way to conduct online research is to use a tool like Ahrefs, that will let you see which keywords your competitors are getting their traffic from to their websites.
You start out by gathering a list of your top 10 local competitors and a top 10 of your nationwide competitors, and you go through each of their websites using Ahrefs. It’s then a matter of figuring out which of those keywords you are able to compete and rank for, as well figure out if those terms have enough volume to be worth it. Generally for a term to be worth it, it needs to fulfill two of three criteria:
- have enough volume
- have low enough competition
- have a strong strategic purpose for ranking for that keyword
The most overlooked feature Ahrefs has is the Top pages feature that lets you see how much traffic a specific page gets, for which keyword, and it also displays the amount of referring domains to that specific page (a proxy for competition). If a page gets a lot of traffic with few links, it may be worth it for you to make a similar page.
– Thomas Jepsen, CEO, Check4Lead
Competitive research is a great way to identify opportunities in the market, influence your product roadmap, and beat your competitors. When done right, you can turn competitive intel into actionable insights that help your company improve its marketing strategy.
According to the Product Marketing Alliance, you should be performing a competitive analysis at least once a month. They also recommend that you ask a few questions to guide your analysis against your top competitors:
- What products do they sell?
- How do they position themselves?
- How much do they cost?
- What pricing model do they use?
- Who are their ideal customers?
- How do they differentiate themselves from the rest of the market?
Start by checking your competitors’ websites and pay extra attention to pages with information about their pricing, latest releases, and number of customers. If they have case studies, read them.
Then, look up your competitors on review sites like Capterra and G2. Read every review left by a customer in the past 6 months and make notes about positive and negative comments. This will help you identify patterns and give you insights.
Finally, check their online presence on social media and YouTube. A few questions to guide your competitive analysis during this step:
- Do they get a lot of engagement?
- What do they write about?
- What are their most popular videos on YouTube?
- How many employees do they have on LinkedIn?
Pro tip: LinkedIn gives you a breakdown of employees by department.
Once you complete your competitive analysis, work on your report to make it digestible to your teams. After all, you don’t want to overwhelm them with too much information. If your marketing budget allows for it, consider using competitive intel tools like Crayon and Kompyte.
– Thiago Neres, Product Marketing Manager, Vendasta
I am OBSESSED with competition research because setting yourself apart from your competition is one of the most important parts of owning a business and successfully marketing yourself.
The best way to go about competition research is, first, be thorough from the outset by researching who your competitors are, what they’re doing, what they’re offering, who they’re offering it to, what their website looks like, how their website performs on desktop and on mobile, how often they post on social media, how often they email people on their list and what do those emails say and offer?
Second, you have to find a way to stay up to date with your competitors moving forward, so I always recommend signing up for Google alerts with that business’s exact name and signing up for any and all email lists or newsletters they have so that those updates can come to you regularly rather than you going out and finding them.
And last, while this isn’t always limited to just online research, I HIGHLY recommend blind shopping your competitors: that is, going through the process of becoming a customer of theirs yourself so that you gain a full understanding of exactly how their business competes with yours from start to finish.
And don’t forget to do all of this about your own company; it’s vital you also experience your own business from the viewpoint of a customer too!
– Joy Gendusa, Founder and CEO, PostcardMania
With search engine optimization (SEO) tools like SEMRush and Ahrefs, you can gather a ton of valuable data from your competitors’ websites: an estimate of how much traffic they get from search engines each month, all of the keywords they rank for in the top 10 pages of Google results, an estimate on how much they spend on paid advertising, which countries their traffic comes from, and more.
To me, the most important data in that list is keyword rankings. If you understand what keywords (or phrases) bring people to their site, you understand what their customers are interested in. An example would be Salesforce vs. SAP competing on search terms around CRM. Salesforce ranks #1 in Google results for CRM system (searched 12,100 times per month in Google) and SAP ranks #53. If SAP can learn those insights over and over through thousands of keywords, a clearly laid out SEO plan develops.
– Henry OLoughlin, Founder, Buildremote
For me one of the most effective ways to conduct competitive research online is to run a link gap analysis between you and your competitors. A link gap analysis is identifying the quantity and vitally, the quality of the links that a competitor website has in comparison to your own.
There are lots of things you can do to match your competitors, you can have a fantastic website and excellent, engaging content but if your competitor has thousands of quality backlinks from a wide range of trusted domains and you only have a handful then you will always struggle to outrank them.
A link gap analysis will help you to identify the work you need to do and roughly how long it should take for you to get on level terms or even surpass them. It’s a scientific approach and a great foundation for any link building strategy as it takes much of the guesswork out of what is needed to rank well within certain niches.
– Stuart Cooke, Founder, Levity Digital
There are a few ways you may identify your competitors and focus on competing companies that occupy the space you want to enter.
You may monitor the social media accounts for these businesses. Platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn can provide insight into how businesses in your industry are engaging with fans, the initiatives that work, and those that do not.
Additionally, it’s also helpful to research and study industry reports. You can learn more about your overall industry through reports from Gartner and Forrester Research. This helps to better understand the specific niche your business can fill and what allows your company to stand out.
– Deborah Sweeney, CEO, MyCorporation.com
The best way to conduct competitive research online is to use a competitive research tool. Depending on your budget, the best options are SEMrush, SimilarWeb and SpyFu. These tools combine data from several sources including real internet browsers, scraping Google’s search result pages, Google’s API, proprietary web crawlers and third-party data sources to provide a holistic view of your competitors’ website and marketing tactics.
While performing competitive research, it’s ideal to understand competitors’ website traffic, traffic by channel, device, and geography, top traffic sources, most important keywords, amount of online ad spend, and actual advertisements used.
Using these data points and others, you can uncover the online marketing tactics being used by competitors. This can help you identify missed opportunities for your business, or give you confidence that you’re investing in marketing tactics that no one else is pursuing.
For example, you might find that your top three competitors get a material share of traffic from paid search ads, but you’ve never tested that channel. Or, you might be really excited about a new social media platform, and confirm that none of your competitors have a presence on the platform.
– Bruce Hogan, CEO, SoftwarePundit
One of the most effective ways to conduct competitive research online is through a tool called AHREFs. From a digital marketing perspective, this tool gives you an accurate look at the domain authority, backlink portfolio, and general marketing strategies a company uses. Using this data, you can recreate or discover better ways to build up your website presents instead of reinventing the wheel.
Additionally this can help improve your marketing strategy by determining which projects your competitors are working on or which relationships they have built up in your community. While you should not try to duplicate every project, this can sometimes spur an idea for a way to give back to your community, build links back to your domain, or create content silos in a new and creative way. Using this tool can help determine why a competitor is ranking above or below you, and thus how you can affect your rankings by implementing similar, but better, marketing strategies.
– Madi McMaster, Community Development Manager, BluShark Digital
An easy way to do competitive research is to check out your competitors’ Google My Business listings by doing a search for your trade in your town.
Do the businesses listed first have more images, a better description or more photos than yours does? If so, add more content to your page to boost your business. Add a concise but well-written bio, and ensure your contact details are up to date. Do they have more reviews than you? Is your website included, and are your social media links up to date? Customers are usually happy to provide testimonials so reach out by SMS or email to people you’ve worked for recently and include a link to the review page to make it easy for them to add one. Share positive reviews on social media as they will encourage others to buy from you or hire you.
Having a good Google Business listing is a great marketing strategy as searchers trust the companies they see on this listing and it appears above the main organic search results, meaning that more people are likely to visit your website as a result.
– Ali Richards, Website Builder and Content Writer, Summerley Digital
The most effective way to conduct competitive research online is to first know who your competition is and see what they are doing for online marketing.
When you conduct a Google search, who is holding the top position? Whose map shows up before yours? What site are you seeing the most in the query results? T
he best way to find these answers is to search the trending keywords for your query and conduct local searches as well. Online marketing tools such as Search Console and SEMrush can help with this too. You will also definitely want to check competitor backlinks, social media, and see what the competition isn’t doing right.
– Rhea Cassimire, Organic Search Specialist, Tandem Interactive
Competitive research is critical to understanding how competitors are positioning themselves and what channels and tactics they are leveraging. Perhaps more importantly, understanding what competitors are doing allows companies to find white space opportunities where competitors are NOT playing. These are the spaces that can often be pursued most efficiently as competitors are not driving up costs and competing for customer attention.
There are dozens of online tools that give detailed information on what competitors are buying, what audiences they’re targeting, and what creative they’re using. For paid search, key tools include SEMRush, SpyFu, and Ahrefs. For display advertising, Moat.com and SEMRush both show ads competitors are running as well as what sites the ads are running on. Social media is a bit more difficult given some of the privacy policies that have been put in place. Facebook’s Ad Library does show what paid promotions competitors are running on Facebook and Instagram.
Another way to understand what competitors are doing in social is to follow competitors pages and, when ads are served to you, click “Why Am I Seeing This Ad”. Doing so will reveal the competitor’s audience target and can provide insight as to which customers that competitor is interested in.
– Brent Bouldin, Partner, New Media Advisors
Keeping an eye on what other competitors in your market are doing is simply a part of any sound business strategy. An in-depth examination of the marketing, advertising, and operational elements of the top-performing competitors will offer your useful insights on ways you can catch some of their lightning in a bottle.
Identify the top ten competitors in your niche, and analyze the content of the top 3 or 4. Really pick it apart, and see where they are shining. Don’t copy their content, but feel free to use their page structure. Do keyword analysis to find out where your SEO efforts could stand to be improved.
– R.J. Michaelson, Director of Marketing, West & Willow
When I do competitive research online I search the keyword terms that I am looking to rank for and that I believe will bring in more clients.
I always look at the companies that are ranking in the top 5 results to see what kind of wording and layout they are using for their websites.
For example, we had a competitor ranking #1 for We Buy Houses Orlando.” I then did a keyword density search through tools.seobook.com/general/keyword-density.
I didn’t copy the competitor’s content, but I peppered those words found to be high-density keywords throughout my home page and I started to rank on the second page with a few weeks.
– Nick Bond, Marketing Director, Renovation 320
The first step to competitive research is to identify who your closest competitors are. You may have hundreds of competitors, but you only need to choose 4 to 5 of your most significant threats. The next thing you have to do (beyond Google Search) is to use special tools that could give you an in-depth insight into your competitors’ activities. Spyfu, for example, would give you a glimpse of the Adwords your competitors are buying.
Competitive research improves your marketing strategy, and you also get a better look at what your competitors can provide. After you figure this out, you have to identify where you stand in the market. Everyone has a unique position in the market, so ask yourself, what will yours be?
– Ron Evan, Digital Marketing Specialist, Thrive Agency
One powerful tool to conduct competitor analysis and to gauge how your own business stacks up is the SWOT analysis. SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. You can find dozens of SWOT analysis checklists for free online. To conduct a SWOT analysis, create a list of your direct competitors and gather the information about them that you deem important.
For example, this could include how your competitors brand themselves through their website, social channels and tagline. Are they the low-cost provider or the turnkey solution? How much social engagement do they get online? Which channels work best? Do they have an email list? How many blog posts do they publish each month, and how many shares or views do these posts get?
It could also include their offerings. What prices and products do they offer? Do they guarantee customer satisfaction through refunds? Where are their products or offerings distributed?
You can gather this data manually, via a virtual assistant, or through databases like Ahrefs (for their website) and Dun & Bradstreet Hoovers (for business data).
Once you have the data, run it through the SWOT worksheet to see where your competitors are excelling and where they’re weak. Do it to your own business also, then compare. After you’re done, you should be able to identify key areas where you stand to gain grown against your competitors, as well as areas where it might not be worth investing your time and resources.
– Daniel Caughill, Co-Founder, The Dog Tale
As we work in digital marketing, our biggest metric for tracking competitors is looking at how many new backlinks they are gaining each month, as well as looking at the organic traffic their site is getting.
We use Ahrefs software as this allows us to check every backlink they get. When we see what new links they get then we use this information to try and get a link from the same site, as they have history of linking to a particular niche.
If it’s a blog post they linked to then we make sure we write a more comprehensive engaging one and ask them to link to that too. If it’s a guest post, then we apply to write an informative guest post on their site for them.
Links are acquired differently so we go after the ones we can replicate. Piggybacking on their links in addition to getting our own helps us stay ahead of them on total backlinks and this translates into more traffic.
– Brett Downes, Founder, HaroHelpers
We utilize direct consumer survey targeting and feedback from online polling services, such as Pollfish. We have found this to be highly effective for competitive intelligence, brand measurement, and brand lift studies.
What do we look for? Distinctiveness.
As Dr. Byron Sharp, author of How Brands Grow, points out in this notable marketing article: while brand differentiation is a key marketing tenet, it is better for brands “to build up distinctive qualities.”
By conducting effective online marketing research, brands can hone in on what are the distinctive qualities that set them apart from their competitors. This gives them a very important means to separate themselves in densely-populated business categories. This important consumer data also provides a solid footing on which to formulate a unique and exceptional marketing strategy.
– Dr. Timothy Messina, Head of Research, Brandata
Effective competitive research online helps your business to create a robust marketing strategy. To see success from competitive research, there are a few ways to go about understanding your competition, locating unoccupied gaps, and recognizing new tactics that you can utilize yourself.
First, I would advise businesses to choose 3 or 4 competitors in their direct industry, serving the same service areas. Complete in-depth competitor analysis reports to better understand how the competitors are reaching the demographic and desired target audience. Are they utilizing specific keywords and ranking for local SEO? How are they targeting their organic content to the user, how are they providing value, and how are they writing blogs that satisfy consumer needs? What white-label downloads, guides, or resources do they offer on their website? What service details do they provide or unique features that your business could also provide in your own way? Locate any feasible gaps that are unoccupied by your business, and start moving in with your own custom marketing strategy.
I would also advise looking at backlinks, directory listings, engagement tactics on social media. Analyzing backlinks to your competitors’ sites show you opportunities for you to create content on your own site, pitch news outlets, or create a profile/listing on certain industry-related directories. Creating listings in local directories like
Yelp, Manta, Yellow Pages, Houzz, or others help you increase your online presence, gives your site authority, and allows users to find your business more easily. There are some unique marketing platforms, like Ahrefs or SEMrush for example, that provide helpful tools for analyzing your online marketing efforts and search metrics. Features of these tools include a content gap analysis, and a link intersect tool that allows you to directly compare multiple domains.
Social listening goes a long way as you’re reading what users on social media are saying about your brand or your competing brands. Read reviews, and try to get some insight into what your target demographic wants and needs. This allows you to see how consumers on social media feel about similar products or services on the market.
– Elizabeth Weatherby, SEO Specialist, Goodberlet Home Services
Creating—or updating—your understanding and analysis of your competition is an essential step before planning marketing efforts or defining the marketing budget for the next product release or quarter.
I recommend developing a list of the four (just four!) companies that offer similar products and services to your customers. Then, comb their website as a whole and conduct an extensive analysis: What’s the first impression of the site? Is the navigation intuitive to follow? How do you feel about the graphic design? What about website load time?
Next, it’s time to look under the hood at how the site is structured, then it’s time to conduct a more external analysis. Consult your own CRM, business info sites like Dun & Bradstreet and Buzzfile, employment sites, online reviews and the news media to develop this part of the analysis. A content analysis comes next: answer questions like: How do they use content to conduct inbound marketing for themselves in general and the product specifically? Follow that up with using a tool like SEM Rush to run some analytics like top organic keywords, PPC competition and the like.
– Mark Whitlock, Marketing Manager, Golden Spiral
Identify your competitors. The first step is to know who are your direct competitors. This will allow you to plan your strategy effectively because you know who to look for. This can also make you compare different strategies they are using that might be used in your brand as well.
Observe their social engagement. Check which content is effective and the impact of it to the audience. View their post as a customer’s point of view so you would understand the impact more. This can be the basis of your future social media ads but a more improved version.
Be a mystery shopper. This might be a little costly, but this is a sure-fire way to check how they deal with their customers. This can give you a better view of their customer service and will give you the chance to enhance it on your brand.
– Sonya Schwartz, Founder, Her Norm
The most effective way to conduct competitive research is the combination of manual research and using online tools. The manual part comes first: enter your keyword in Google, fire up MozBar or Ahref’s extension ,and measure the SERPs. You’ll be looking for two clues.
- Is the first page full with high authority sites like Wikipedia Amazon, Healthline, WebMD? What sites appear will depend on your niche, but in general these are behemoths that you should avoid competing against at all times.
- Are there sites of similar size and authority to yours ranking on the first page? If there’s at least one, you just found a rankable keyword.
It doesn’t stop there.
The next step is to go to Ahrefs or Moz’s Link Explorer and check the link profile of that page you wish to replace in the SERPS. It’s obvious they’re ranking because of links pointing directly to the page, because they’re competing against sites that rank based on their huge domain authority.
Finally, and this is a bonus step, use Surfer SEO to get valuable insights into your competitors on-pages SEO. Their on-page SEO and content analysis will give you hints on what you need to do to best them.
– Nikola Roza, CEO and Owner, Nikola Roza – SEO for the Poor and Determined
One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned about competitive research is that staying on top of your competitors’ social media posts and interactions is a must. It will help you and your company determine how they attract people and build relationships with them.
With this information, you will learn how to do the same, but in a more compelling way. Staying ahead of the crowd is how you succeed and this is especially the case if your business is online.
– Alina Allen, Web Developer, The Clever Sequence
The biggest tip I can give to improve your competitive research is to make sure you stay organized. At the minimum, you will need a list of competitors that you can add to over time as well as a template to follow when you are doing your research. If you plan on delegating the research then an SOP or documented process will be helpful as well. Finally, you will need a goal: why are you doing this research? How will you use it?
In our case, we use competitive research to inform our content strategy; our business is spread out across multiple categories so keeping informed on what the competitors are doing in each category can save us a lot of time when doing content planning. We use a template and tools (especially Ahrefs) to see what other websites have published, what their social channels are responding to, and what types of content is driving the most traffic compared to the last time we looked.
We then take this information and use it to outline the next 3 months of our content plan. Following this process not only ensures we save time with the actual content planning, but that we are focused on topics that research shows already drive results.
– Quincy Smith, Co-Founder, Test Prep Nerds
Competitive research will show you how your competition works. It shows you what they’re doing right and where you can do better than them. A SWOT Analysis will reveal your competition’s strengths and weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. You’ll be able to compare their strengths and weaknesses against your own. With this knowledge, you’ll be able to better position your company, and uncover areas for improvement inside your brand.
– Todd Ramlin, Manager, Cable Compare
There are great tools to track what your competitors are doing online.
Setting up Google Alerts on your competitors names is one of the simplest to set up and one of the most effective. Every time your competitor is mentioned in an online article you will get a notification emailed so you can easily track what they are doing in real-time.
Another one I like that not many people know about is using Facebook’s Page Transparency to view what Facebook ads your competitors are running. When you click on the Page Transparency button on the left-hand navigation of a page you go click on Go to Ad library and it will show you the ads they are running. An important caveat is don’t think just because they are running an ad that it means its working, but if there are new ideas you can add them as hypotheses to test out in your own campaigns.
– Steve Keighery, Founder, Home Buyer Louisiana
Although it’s often referred to as secondary research, using automated tools like SEMRush or Ahrefs that give you insights into your target audience’s interests and search queries and your competitors’ successes and missed opportunities gives you actionable ideas about how to approach the market.
One specific way that analyzing competitor data can help improve your own marketing strategy is that it can help show you how your target audience is reacting to your competitors.
Referrals and reviews are a huge source of new business for companies which is why assessing customer feedback is important and there are a number of tools that can help you analyze your competitors’ customer feedback to get a better idea of what customers want and find missed opportunities to capitalize on.
– David Adler, Founder and CEO, The Travel Secret
Staying on top of what your competitors are doing requires your constant attention and a complex strategy in place. At iGMS, we utilize different techniques and ways to keep up with the latest updates and developments of our competitors. Here are a few ones that have proven to be the most effective over time:
1. Using technology to analyze your competition
Such tools as Ahrefs and SEMRush give valuable insights on our competitors’ marketing strategies, SEO, advertising, and link building. They help us identify what points have been overlooked in our strategy and what aspects should be improved. For example, to enhance your website position on Google, thorough keyword research, and exploring competitors’ content types that attract backlinks are the first instances where these tools come in handy.
Finally, we use Alexa.com to see how we stack up against our competitors in terms of traffic and website performance to make sure we’re moving in the right direction.
2. Compiling a weekly competitive report
Once a week we put together a report that gives a brief overview of the latest competitors’ updates regarding their new features, pricing, or special offers they run. We want our software to be as helpful to our customers as possible. If we discover that some of the features that have been recently introduced by our competitors are missing in our software, we consider including them in our roadmap.
3. Staying informed by subscribing to competitors’ newsletters
This technique helps us save tons of time on conducting competitive research. By subscribing to our competitors’ newsletters, we learn about the most important updates just by opening the Inbox.
4. Keeping a close eye on social media
Another channel that gives us insights on what our competitors have been up to is social media. Not only we analyze their business pages on Facebook, but we also keep a close eye on social conversations in Facebook groups, LinkedIn, and relevant industry forums. By listening to what people say, you can learn about the current trends and users’ expectations. There are also software solutions like Buzzsumo, Brandwatch, or Brand24 that help track mentions of your brand and your competitors on social media and analyze customers’ attitudes toward them.
When it comes to assessing the value of conducting competitive research, it’s hard to overestimate its role for your organization’s success. No business is an island that exists in isolation and it’s not a secret that customers always compare different tools before making their final decision. By monitoring your competitors and conducting a thorough analysis, you can not only keep your business on par but be one step forward if you manage to transform your competitors’ weaknesses into your strengths.
– Inna Shevchenko, CMO, iGMS
Having a deep understanding of your competition can help you better understand your own business’s market niche. In other words, competitive research will help you identify what sets your business apart. This information can then be used to effectively market your business, drawing on your unique strengths and leveraging your competition’s weaknesses.
One of the best ways to conduct online competitive research is to subject yourself to the customer experience of your main competitors. This can be done by assigning someone on your team, or several people, to shop with your competitor. This will give you a good feel for what your competition is offering in terms of customer experience, which can deepen your overall understanding of their place in the market. You can couple this type of immersive experience with more standard research into public records. Depending on where your competition is located, there will likely be significant information registered with the relevant local authorities, for example, the SEC in America.
– Nikola Baldikov, Digital Marketing Manager, Brosix
In many ways, companies have never had as much freely available info as they do now to do competitor research online. The issue now is that there is almost too much data about companies online, and not all of it is as reliable as it seems. Here are some of the most common objectives and some free tools to use to conduct competitive research online:
1. Competitor SOV and Media Mentions
Want to know how much media a competitor is getting or how your company stacks up? With Google’s News search, it can become relatively easy and painless to find that out.
When using it, you want to make sure you use the “tools” offered to narrow your search results based on the type and set a specific time period that you want to measure. You can even supplement those searches by looking at the “News” section of your competitor’s website to see which mentions they view as the most impactful.
You won’t see all the times your competitor is mentioned in the news, but for a free service, it does a pretty good job of getting you the info you need.
2. Market Sizing and Market Share Data
Most industries have analysts that cover the market and produce regular reports highlighting trends, the main players and general market numbers. The downside is that most charge significant amounts of money for those reports, but many times you can still get meaningful data from the abstracts for the reports or the press releases that go out once a report is released.
Generally, you can get information on market sizes, growth trends and even estimated market share for the companies covered by the report. Industry and Trade Associations also publicly produce this information and will either publish it without a cost to review it or will be happy to answer questions about the data if you reach out to them.
3. Digital Marketing Metrics
Almost all companies of any significant size have a heavy online presence at this point.
How do you know which terms your competitors are using for their digital advertising or what terms are most important to the industry? You can answer those questions by using Google’s Keyword Planner. It will give you data that shows how many times keywords/phrases show up in search and it will also show you how much it costs to advertise with those keywords. You can use that info to update the content on your own website to help increase the efficacy of your SEO efforts as well.
Additionally, website traffic analysis tools can be freely used to show how much traffic your competitors are receiving to their website and where that traffic is coming from.
4. Marketing Tonality Research
Ever wonder about the types of terms your competitors are using or how they interact with their clients/prospects? Marketing tonality research can help answer those questions.
For this data, you need to do a deep dive on each competitor’s website and social channels and pull out examples of the types of marketing materials and the key phrases or terms that they use repeatedly when referring to their brand name, products and/or services.
Once you have enough examples, you will begin to notice some trends with the types of communications they use, the tone they take when talking with clients/prospects and even the types of channels they invest most with. When comparing that data to your own company or competitors, you will quickly see some areas that you could emulate or even marketing white space that your competitors haven’t found yet.
What good is all this data if you don’t know what to do with it, right? Mining the above data sources can give you a ton of useful info on your competitors, but many companies struggle to take that information and turn it into a marketing strategy. The SEO example above is a good tip on how to use a keyword planner to boost your own website’s SEO. Knowing industry trends from market sizing data should be used to generate relevant content for thought leadership, but can also be used to advise go to market plans and highlight key differences in your products. Media data is fantastic in not only showing what topics are currently relevant but also how your company can get in front of others by promoting the unique qualities of your products/service in the media as it relates to the most relevant topics of the day.
Perhaps the most impactful online data for marketing strategy are digital marketing metrics. With nearly all the company’s marketing efforts being primarily online now, understanding and adapting to customer/prospect preferences quickly is key to standing out from competitors. Monitoring digital marketing KPIs daily and shifting strategies based on the results of current ad buys or SEO/SEM metrics is the best way to ensure your brand’s marketing strategy is one step ahead of the competition.
– Matt Robbins, Vice President of Insight and Research, LEWIS
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