I’m sure you’ve heard the term competitor analysis. Or maybe you’ve been asked to run a competitive analysis report for your marketing plan? Whether or not you’ve heard the term, it’s important to understand why you should research your competition and how to properly perform a competitor analysis if you want to strengthen your position in the marketplace.
George Matthew Adams, a well-known newspaper columnist once wrote of competition, “There is a tendency among some businesses to criticize and belittle their competitors. This is a bad procedure. Praise them. Learn from them…. take advantage of them.”
Well said, Mr. Adams.
Savvy marketers gain an edge by researching the competition, and it is a critical part of your marketing strategy.
Why perform a competitor analysis?
Not just knowing who your competition is, but learning as much as you can about them gives you a host of advantages:
- Improve your SEO rankings with additional keywords
- Helps you grow your industry knowledge
- Identify gaps in the market
- Save time and resources by learning from their mistakes
- Understand what gives you the edge—your USP (unique selling proposition)
Having this information can help you create, implement, and adjust your marketing strategies to improve their effectiveness and increase your ROI.
This thorough competition research is done by running a competitor analysis.
What is a Competitor Analysis?
A competitor analysis, also known as a competitive analysis, refers to an assessment of your competitor’s strengths, weaknesses and strategies in order to better your own company and position it strategically in the marketplace. In order to get a holistic view of the competitor’s business, many different types of research can be done.
It is important to use a consistent approach and uniform framework for each competitor to guarantee a fair comparison. Either a competitor analysis chart or template would be a great tool to ensure that consistency.
Before you start any analysis, you first need to identify your competitors.
How to identify your top competitors?
There’s a good chance you can name a couple off the top of your head, but here’s how you can dig deeper:
- Ask your customers – Using anything from a formal emailed survey to a post on social media. You can ask your customers which other brands they usually consider when buying a product like yours. Because they need to make this decision on a regular basis, they know who else is out there.
- Analyze Google SERPs (Search Engine Results Page) – This one is quick and easy. You simply Google-search what a customer would in order to find businesses like yours and see what companies come up. (Example: “plumbers in Rhode Island”). And voila! The first five companies you see on the search results page, including those shown in the ads, will likely be your top competitors.
- Social media and forum searches – With the popularity of social media, places like Facebook, Reddit, Quora, Twitter, and other media outlets allow you to discover your direct and indirect competitors. Searching your keywords will help you to learn about your ideal audience’s buying options.
Now that you have your competitors, time to do the analysis.
How to do a Competitor Analysis
Run through these five steps to perform a competitor analysis and record your findings using this competitor analysis chart.
- Study their online presence: Analyze things like the social media platforms they are using. How often are they engaging with their audience? How easy is it to connect with them? How easy is it to buy from them?
- Check online competitor reviews: By visiting sites like Google, Yelp, or Facebook, you can read customer reviews for your competitors’ products or services. Negative reviews can help you determine what your customers pain points are and help your brand prevent similar situations. Positive reviews can help you understand targets to hit, key product features to include, customer likes/dislikes, and areas in which you need to improve.
- Talk to your competitors’ customers: Use the reviews and comments to identify consumers who may have had a negative experience with your competitor. Reach out and talk with them directly to find out who they are, what they need, and more about their bad experience. You learn about what you should NOT do, and may even earn a new customer in the process.
- SWOT analysis: Identify what you believe to be your competitors’ strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Use this information to improve your own business by focusing on areas in which you can capitalize.
- Use competitor research tools: Performing analysis on your competitors is crucial, but can be tedious and time-consuming. That is exactly why a number of online research tools were created. Tools like Ahrefs, Semrush, SimilarWeb, BuzzSumo, SpyFu, and Owletter help you identify competitors, track their content, and analyze the results.
How to “Steal” Your Competitors’ Keywords
Part of doing a competitor analysis is finding out what is working for them and using it to improve your business. This includes their keywords.
Knowing what keywords your competitors are ranking for takes the guesswork out of your keyword research. As a bonus, once you know their top keywords, you can use them to improve your SEO and beat them in the search results.
Let’s look at how to investigate your competitor’s top keywords.
- Start with an SEO competitor analysis. (We recommend the free tool from AIOSEO). Use the tool to analyze your site first and then that of your competitors. You can check things like basic SEO, advanced SEO, as well as your competitor’s website performance.
- Check for and “steal” your competitors’ keywords. There are many keyword analysis tools out there to help you identify and ethically “harness” their top keywords. (We recommend Semrush). With only a few clicks you have identified your competitors’ keywords and can start using the keywords relevant to your marketing strategy to build content that will rank for the keywords crucial to your business!
- Go to semrush.com and sign in (or create a free account).
- Click “Organic Research” found under “SEO” in the side bar menu.
- Enter your top competitor’s domain and click “Search”.
- Review the “Top Organic Keywords” section for the top 7 keywords driving the most organic traffic to your competitor’s site. This is how you can find keyword gaps: keywords that your competitors rank for, but you do not rank for yet.
- Check out the “Top Pages” section to understand the pages your competitor drives the most traffic to and analyze those pages.
- Review the “Main Organic Competitors” section to see who their top 5 competitors are and also the “Competitive Positioning Map” to understand where they rank against their competitors.
- Also run a competitor profile report using SimilarWeb’s free Website Analysis tool which can provide data such as target industry, year founded, monthly website traffic, geographic targeting, audience insights, marketing tactics and more.
On the semrush.com free plan you’re only permitted to run a certain number of reports per day, so choose wisely or upgrade to a paid plan.
Expert tip: Under a free Semrush account you can create one project for your domain, integrate it with your Google Analytics and Google Search Console for better insights and reporting, run a site audit, track organic traffic insights, and keyword rankings (to name a few). You can compare your domain’s insights to your competitor’s insights to understand where there are gaps and opportunities.
Unless you happen to be in an extremely unique niche, your company has competitors. Finding out who they are and what they are doing well, and what they’re not, can help you grow your business.
Make sure you perform a competitor analysis as part of your marketing strategy.
Need some help? Get in touch with us today.