A competitor analysis is strategic research that will provide you with competitive intelligence. Once you have an insight into the strategies that are working for other like-minded businesses, you can adopt them and improve them to achieve an advantage over your opposition.
• Analyse the topics, tactics and channels that are driving the performance of your rivals
• Gain an insight into the areas they are performing well in where you may be falling short
• Understand how your customers and potential customers perceive the competition
• Unveil opportunities to outperform your opposition
• If you plan to launch a new product or move into a new market
• To reposition your brand
• To differentiate your brand
• To create a benchmark in your field
• To produce an educated and viable marketing strategy
First things first, you need to know who your key competitors are. If you can’t list them, ‘Google’ your business type, your product ideas and the terms from your keyword list. You should analyse both direct business competitors and online search competitors. The information will make for a better overview of the activity in your industry.
Once you have your list of competitors, carry out a SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) of their online marketing activity. Your competitor’s digital strategy will include different marketing channels. Identify and analyse the strengths and weaknesses of each competitor. Your new knowledge will help you to develop your own strategy.
Research your competitors to find out which keywords they rank well for that your own website does not. Once you have this keyword list, assess why your competition is ranking well and how you can improve your rank position for those keywords. You should consider:
• Updating the site’s architecture
• Metadata optimisation
• Reviewing existing content
• New content that answers the specific search queries you’re looking to target
These are phrases made up of 3-4 words and are specific to the user’s search need that direct to optimized pages. Long-tail keywords may have a low search volume but offer valuable traffic to your site.
There are three important questions to ask yourself when analysing your competitor’s content.
1. How would you rate the quality of their content? (Low/Medium/High)
2. How often are they posting new or updated content?
3. How are they delivering their content?
Each question will present an opportunity that you may not have been aware of. For example:
Your competitor has created a blog post, which is ranking for one of your target keywords. The content is mediocre but it has received a lot of interest due to its subject matter.
Create a new blog post around the same subject with high-quality content.
Your competitor creates 3 high-quality blog posts a week but you post just one blog post a month.
Increase the quality of your weekly blog post. If you’re already producing a high-quality piece of content, increase the number of blog posts per week.
Your competitor’s blog posts regularly feature engaging content, such as videos/infographics/gifs which regularly gets shared on social media, however, you only use static imagery.
Take advantage of the range of content-types available to make your content more engaging. Your competitor’s engagement metrics indicate the audience respond well to this.
Google your search term to see what type of result ranks the highest. For example, you search ‘How to set-up Google+’. We have highlighted below the different type of results that rank on the first page.
• Blog posts
• Case Studies
• Podcast and audio recordings
• Checklists & Templates
• White Papers
A backlink profile is a list of referring domains. These domains provide links to your homepage or specific pages within your website. Google uses referring domains as a ‘vote’. A link from an authoritative and credible source is a vote of confidence that your site is also credible.
Create quality content that people want to link to. Links from high-authority sites are the most desirable as it indicates that you’re providing a valuable resource. Popular and trust-worthy site links have a positive effect on your SERP rank and visibility.
The aim is to build good quality links from authoritative and credible domains. There is an endless number of spam links that may give you a short-term rank boost. Be careful as these won’t withstand the test of time in the long run.
Save time and see which referring domains your competitors are using. There are online databases available to extract your competitor’s backlink profiles from. It can be a time-consuming task to review each link but you will uncover great links that you may never have found otherwise.
If you have more backlinks than a competitor and still rank lower, you may need to adopt a content strategy. If you are falling behind your competition with a lack of backlinks, then you may need to devise a link-building campaign.
Our Link Building & Brand Awareness in 2017 blog post goes into greater detail on how to conduct backlink research.
A site’s structure can be the difference between a good and a great website. The formatting of your website and its pages, and how they perform, will have an impact on user experience. Even the smallest change to the internal link structure of your menu, footer and on-page links can make a huge difference to performance. Look at your competitors’ websites and make a note of how they use:
• The page titles
• The URL architecture
• H1 Tags
• H2/H3 Tags
• Internal links
• Image Alt Tags
• Social Media Integration
• Call to actions
• HTML and XML sitemaps
• Customer experience
o Site speed
o Mobile optimization
For more on SEO structure, read ‘Building a Website with Strong SEO Foundations’
Compare your site’s pages to see what you are missing and anything that may be causing you to rank lower. Small changes can be very effective and may help to enhance the user's experience.
SEO results aren’t visible overnight. As you begin to make changes to onsite issues, a trend line should rise in your search metrics. This indicates that more pages are working their way into the engine’s results.
Identify how your competitors use social media and how it is integrated with their website. Don’t limit yourself to direct competition. You should gain an insight into key industry influencers’ social activity. This can present opportunities and ideas to give you a competitive advantage over your opposition.
Social signals are metrics used to record the human interaction on platforms like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. Likes, dislikes, shares, votes, pins and views are all kinds of signals that have a direct impact on your social account activity. This impacts your organic search rankings which improve your online visibility and brand awareness.
Your profiles are your offsite content engines. Compare your presence against theirs. If you are missing a social account, users will find your competition over you. Each social account creates inbound links that will help to establish the credibility of your brand.
Your blog is your onsite content engine. If you are only just introducing a blog section, start by aiming to blog once a week. Build a content plan with a view to increasing your postings to once a week. However, do not blog just for the sake of blogging. Your content should always be useful and valuable that people want to link to.
The more quality content your domain holds, the greater the opportunity to rank higher for related search queries, helping to build your inbound link profile. Lower bounce rates and returning visitors are a good indication that you are producing quality content. Strengthening the authority of your domain as a whole flags you as a credible and trustworthy source to Google.
Integrate your online and offline content. Include social “connect” and “share” buttons so that your readers can easily connect with your brand and share your content to reach more potential customers and increase brand awareness. If you have written a great piece of content, announce it across your social media accounts.
To summarise, brands with strong social media presence are more accessible and easier to link to. Social accounts should be used as an extension to your company’s website that, when used effectively, provides customer service to consumers. Purposeful quality content provides greater opportunities to build inbound links that in turn improve your online visibility and brand awareness.
Your hard work is measurable by different metric insights. These results help analyse what is working well, areas for concern, trends and areas of opportunity. Better informed decisions will lead to a more effective marketing strategy.
• Search metrics tell you how users are accessing your site. For example, direct navigation from typed in traffic, referral traffic from links across the web, or search traffic from search engines.
• Social signals allow you to see what’s working well and where. Use the metrics from your social accounts with referral traffic metrics to see how your online and offline content engines are running.
• Some SEO changes have a greater effect on how your business ranks with search engines. Identify the tactics that are proving to be successful to decide how best to focus your efforts.
• Regularly review your keywords to gauge your performance. You will be able to find keyword trends and identify terms that bring high-quality traffic that you may be under-optimized for.
• Strive to improve your conversion rate by identifying the keyword terms and phrases that lead to a conversion. Check your rank position for the keyword. Could you rank higher? Focus your efforts to improve your position to increase your number of conversions. Analytics will tell you the landing page that won you that conversion. Consider how you may be able to improve the users experience on that page.
Analysing your competitors’ online activity should be an ongoing process. Continue to track your competitors and maintain your awareness of the marketplace. Competitor analysis enables you to forward plan in anticipation of your competitions’ actions. Resources are available to keep you up-to-date with a competitor’s activity and industry news. As you begin to build a competitive advantage, you’ll be grateful for investing the time.