If you run a small business, one thing that you know for certain is that you will always need to keep a close eye on what your competitors are up to. As an SME, you are likely to face competition from other SMEs as well as the bigger brands in your industry. Of course, when you are selling in the digital marketplace, you might also find that your business rivals are not just in your local area but are on a global scale too. This is not necessarily a bad thing though. It helps to keep you on your toes and can encourage you to keep growing and developing as a business. Therefore it makes sense to know what your competitors are doing when it comes to their digital marketing and SEO and to capitalise on these learnings to support your own marketing proposition.
What is a competitor analysis?
A competitor analysis takes a detailed look at what your rivals are doing with the aim of using these key learnings to inform your business decisions and your understanding of the marketplace. It’s essential to look not only at what your competitors are doing well but also at what they are not doing or doing badly. In digital marketing, your competitor analysis should incorporate key elements such as their general website usability, traffic, their social media content and engagement. However you should also focus on a more in-depth analysis such as the specific keywords and phrases that they are targeting. Other things to look out for could be the events they’re attending, the content they’re producing, any PR activity, any paid online advertising campaigns they have invested in. in terms of identifying whether a competitor has invested time and resources into SEO, we would advise you to look at the title tags as a starting point. That is usually quite revealing as to whether SEO has been done and what keywords that are targeting. We would then advise you to look at what pages are indexed. Also take a look at what backlinks the client has – so use Link Research tools to see what their link profile looks like. These will all reveal great insights into your competitors’ marketing and SEO activity, or lack of!
Why should your business do a competitor analysis?
There are only a finite number of customers wanting to buy your product or service, and you want to be the ‘go-to’ brand. Therefore it’s vital to know what your competitors are up to and how successful they are online. Running a competitor analysis allows you to get ahead of the game and also to understand where your business needs to make improvements. Digital marketing is fast-paced and competitors will regularly be reviewing their online processes and activities, so it’s a good idea to schedule in competitor reviews across the year. This will ensure that you are always up to date with the market landscape and can execute effective and impactful marketing plans and campaigns.
Key areas of competitor analysis
Whilst it’s a good idea to have some clear objectives in mind when you begin your competitor analysis, you should also be open-minded as to what you might find! It makes sense to do your analysis under some key headlines of areas that are of importance to your digital marketing. We’ve listed these below, along with some of the online tools that you can use to help your research.
Like for Like Comparisons
One of the clearest ways to see how you compare to rival businesses is to make a direct comparison between the various strands of their online marketing strategy and your own. A great tool to help you with this is SimilarWeb. Their handy analysis lets you compare multiple areas of your business strategy against those of your competitors. What’s more, there is a free version of the tool which allows small businesses to begin their analysis without any heavy financial investment. Here are some of the comparisons that will help you to get the most out of a competitor analysis:
You can take a look at volumes of traffic to your competitor’s websites and where the traffic has come from. You can also see if it has gone up, down or remained the same during the last 6 months.
Traffic sources and referring sites
Of course, once you know how much traffic a competitor is getting, you want to know where it comes from. Are your competitors getting traffic from a paid affiliate scheme or perhaps from a well thought out social media campaign? If a competitor has high traffic coming from a channel that you are struggling with, take a closer look at what they are doing to achieve this.
Paid and organic keywords
You can get separate reports for each of these and it’s a great way to get new keyword inspiration, and also to get an idea of which keywords are working so well for your competitors that they are happy to pay for them.
Social media is becoming increasingly important for both the search engines and as a way for businesses to market themselves. Take a look at which social networks are driving the most traffic to your competitors. It’s then a good idea to follow and like your competitors online so that you can regularly review what they are posting and sharing and who is engaging with them. If you use tools such as Moz, you could use FollowerWonk to analyse your competitors’ social media authority too.
Competitor link building
Links from good quality sites can form a valuable part of your SEO strategy. Getting a backlink from a high authority site can confer a higher authority on to your own website. It can be very useful to see where competitors are getting links from and to do this, you can simply use an advanced search option in Google search. To do this you need to type “link:” and then the domain name of the competitor you are researching. It can be extremely interesting to see the types of sites that your competitors are getting links from and can help you to plan your link building strategy going forward.
As a small business, it can often be hard to find the right keywords for your business and of course popular keyword phrases can change and evolve over time. A useful tool for providing an in-depth understanding of your competitor’s keywords, including their organic keywords, is SEMrush. Although you do have to pay for this tool to get a more detailed overview, there are still some free reporting options. It’s helpful for you to understand which organic keywords are driving traffic to your competitors and you can then consider how you can make the most of these keywords on your website.
Keeping up to date
It’s important to keep up to date with any changes that your competitors are making to their digital marketing and you can use Google Alerts to help you with this. As well as setting them up for your own brand and keywords, you can also set them up for your main competitors to help you understand where they are getting links and mentions from online.
As you can see there is a wealth of online information out there to help you understand how your competitors are running their digital marketing. This information can be a vital way to make sure that your business can benefit from their online strategies – helping you to capitalise on your strengths and make the most of their weaker areas. Utilise the tools available to ensure that you have a detailed knowledge of how your business compares to that of your rivals. Analysis of their links, social media, traffic and their paid-for ads and organic keywords will enable you to keep one step ahead of your competition and to increase traffic and sales for your company.