The 5 Things We Always Do in a Competitive Analysis Strategy
The internet is a big place. Rife within it are countless brands, all trying to guide as many people as possible through the digital funnel, from awareness to purchase to loyalty. Industry to industry, competition is fierce and ruthless, and having the best idea isn’t enough – you need to have the best marketing strategy too.
A key part of any brand’s marketing strategy is figuring out how to differentiate from the competition. To do this, you need to know exactly who your competitors are, what they’re doing, and how you can do it better. This is all part of a competitive analysis strategy – assessing your competitors’ strengths and weaknesses against your own as part of a larger effort to stand out from the crowd and attract more of your industry’s target audience.
There are multiple benefits to building and enacting a competitive analysis strategy, chief among them the fact that many businesses fail to do so. Garnering a clear understanding of your competitors –and your place among them – is a clear advantage in the marketplace, and worth the time it takes to complete. Better yet, it’s not all that difficult. Here at Brink Insights, we always do the following five things when we’re performing a competitive analysis for our clients. Read on for our tips, tricks, and general insight on learning what you need to know for a quick competitive analysis and a leg up on other brands.
1. Find out who your actual competitors are – not just the ones you think you’re competing with
Every brand marketer has an idea in their heads of who they’re up against, but until you take a moment to map out your actual competitors you have no way of knowing exactly where to place your focus. So open a spreadsheet and get to work determining who your competitors are.
To start building your list, ask yourself two key questions:
1. What are the target keywords for my brand?
2. Who is my target audience?
Your competitors are the brands within your niche industry that are also targeting the same keywords and the same audience. For example, let’s say you’re in the business of selling customized baby books. Target keywords that potential customers are typing to find this type of product include “customized baby book,” “personalized baby book,” “best-personalized books,” and “personalized baby memory books.” (This information, by the way, is easily discoverable by typing in one keyword phrase you know applies to your brand, scrolling down, and looking at the related search terms.)
Your target audience is made up of the users who fit your brand’s ideal customer profile. In this case, it’s primarily parents, as well as people who are shopping for gifts for children. To get an even clearer picture, look at the sites for the top search results for each target keyword and consider who exactly they’re trying to connect with.
Once you know the target keywords and target audience for other brands in your niche, figure out who you’re really competing with. On your spreadsheet list:
- Clear competitors (those you already know to be established in your industry)
- The brands that come up on the first page of search results for your target keywords (including those with pay-per-click ads)
- The brands in your industry reaching out to the same target audience as you
- The brands selling similar products as you on social media (both paid ads and organic posts)
- The brands advertising similar products in industry-specific publications
Put a star on your spreadsheet next to the biggest of these competitors, which can be deduced in part by looking at who ranks in the top three organic listings for each target keyword search, and who has the biggest social media following. These are the main ones to beat.
2. Find out what marketing technologies your competitors are using
A strong site starts with a strong platform. Dig deep into the backend of your competitors’ web pages to see what they’re built with and what functions they perform. BuiltWith is one of the more useful digital competitor analysis tools out there and can help you determine what technologies your competitors are using, as well as important analytics about these technologies.
If you dig around, every website is rich with data that can help you improve your own marketing strategy. Use what you learn about the foundations of your competitors’ sites to help inform your structure moving forward.
3. Find out what your competitors are spending on paid advertising and what their best performing ads are
A little spying goes a long way. Spyfu offers a service where you can enter a competitor’s website and find out what their most profitable keywords and ads are. Even if you’re not planning on engaging in paid advertising yourself at the moment, information like this is useful in helping you plan out what keywords you should be focusing on. And that’s not all. Spyfu can also tell you what your competitor’s most successful organic keywords are, what changes they’ve made to their AdWords campaign over time, and which keyword groups resulted in the highest conversion rates for them.
To be successful, you have to know what works for other people. And to know what works, you have to be able to dig deep. The more information you have about particular keywords, keyword groups, and ads that have worked for your competitors, the better you can concentrate on putting your efforts where the conversions are.
4. Find out what your competitors’ top ranking pages are
In the battle for top rank in the search engines, it’s not just your homepage that matters. Each site is made up of tons of web pages, each with their own URLs, their own distinct purpose, and their own perceived authority. A competitive analysis strategy is all about delving into the details to pin point the precise factors that make a particular site successful. Looking at a competitor’s homepage alone isn’t enough to go off of – you need to look at the pages within that site that are driving the most traffic.
Another of the great digital competitor analysis tools is Serpstat, which can tell you what the top ranking individual pages are for a website. Serpstat top page rankings are based on a number of metrics, including the number of keywords that the particular page ranks in the top 100 search results for, the number of times the page has been shared on various social media platforms, and the page’s potential traffic (how much traffic the page could have if it got into a coveted top search result spot for all high-ranking keywords).
So how can this information help you? Think about specifics. For each of a competitor’s top ranking pages, analyze the content, resources, products, and backend technologies that make it up. What keywords does it target? What is the target audience? Don’t be afraid to take this knowledge and use it to structure your own web pages. It’s not about who did it first, remember – it’s about who did it better.
5. Find out your competitors’ backlinks and referring domains
Link-building is an essential part of any SEO strategy, and one major advantage of knowing the details of your competitors’ link building structures is that it offers you a helpful template for deducing what links and domains have the most authority in your industry. One of the easiest ways to do this is to sign up for a free account on SEOprofiler, where you can gain access to useful information about your competitors’ backlinks and where exactly they are coming from.
The primary purpose of this step is simple: Find the referring domains that are linking to your competitors’ website and you’ll get an automatic list of the referring domains that should be linking to you. In addition, SEOprofiler can tell you what your industry’s hub sites are; that is, the domains that are linking to more than one of your competitors and helping establish relevancy within your industry’s online niche. Hub sites play an important role in determining how search engines categorize particular sites. If you know your industry’s hub sites you can work on getting backlinks from them and further establishing your site’s overall ranking.
Once you’ve got a clear idea of your competitors’ backlinks and referring domains, consider both the piece of content that holds the outward link, and the piece of content that holds the inward link (i.e., the content on the referring domain and the content on the competitor’s site), and use this information to guide your own content strategy. Most importantly, work toward getting backlinks on strongly authoritative sites that link back to one or more of your competitors. These links are incredibly valuable, especially when it comes to search engines ranking your site against others.
Taken all together, the knowledge you gain from a quick competitive analysis strategy provides you with a strong blueprint for what you should concentrate your resources on. In every step, think about the precise details that compose your competitor’s strategy, and then brainstorm ways that you can improve on those for your own purposes. And don’t feel like you need to be an SEO expert to do this right. The digital competitor analysis tools listed in this guide are all extremely useful, and well worth their cost. You’ll be able to better predict what your competitors are going to do and get ahead of the game at every turn.