The competition is out there, ready to steal your customers if you give them half a chance. But just how close to taking your customers are they... and how worried should you be?
For a lot of online marketers, finding the answers to these questions amounts to a bit of guesswork. That's why we love HubSpot's competition tool. It gives you a fast, easy, and convenient way to not only check up on your peers, but to see what they've been up to and how you rank next to them on several factors, which can give you insights into their strengths and weaknesses (as well as your own).
If you're already a HubSpot user, you have access to the tool now. If you aren't, this could be a good time to see if their integrated tools might help you improve the effectiveness of your online marketing efforts.
Either way, the feature lets you track up to 10 competitors at once, which is usually more than enough. Typically, when businesses tell us they have more than 10 'realistic' competitors, it means they may not have focused on their marketing personas tightly enough. In other words, you might have a lot of other companies in your industry, but it's unlikely that so many of them are an exact match for the same customers in terms of price, service, marketing style, location, etc.
How HubSpot Evaluates Your Competitors
Using the HubSpot competitors tool is simple: You just add a competitor's URL (along with Blog, RSS, Facebook and Twitter information if you'd like), wait a few moments, and get a numerical score that shows you just how tough the competitor actually is in relation to your own site. One caveat: you need to do this within a HubSpot subscription.
[This chart shows KAYAK's local competitor scoring results. Note that scores change with competitive activity.]
If you're wondering where the resulting number comes from, it's a combination of a few factors, such as:
HubSpot's Marketing Grader - This analyzes the a site's search engine optimization profile, blogging platform and activity, social interaction statistics, mobile compatibility, and lead generation capability. In other words, a snapshot of what's on the website, the activity around it, and how well it's been built and maintained. Higher number are better. At KAYAK, we consider a score of 70 or better to be successful.
Traffic - Attracting visitors is always an important part of the online marketing process, and having a trustworthy website is an important first step for both you and your competitors. Referencing the Alexa rank, HubSpot displays a site's popularity. Lower numbers are better.
The number of indexed pages - Generally speaking, more content means more visibility and a stronger, more useful website. Competitors with lots of pages should be taken more seriously. Just be sure those pages have useful content as blog tags and categories, as well as thin content pages, and database files can be included in this number.
Inbound links - A strong link profile, with lots of healthy, natural links, suggests that a competitor's website is authoritative which is serious good news for 'their' rankings. That said, a couple years back, spamming links was a grey area of SEO practice. No more. There's a good chance that if a competitor's site has hundreds or even a few thousand links, they've very likely had some help in that area. If that's the case, those links may just backfire on them, which is good news for you. You may even decide to report the spam links to Google. Hey, all's fair in love and rankings. We're in it to win it.
MOZ score - based on the industry leading MOZ rank, sites are scored for their trustworthiness and influence. It works like the Richter scale where a 4 is 10x better than a 3. An everyday site with little movement will score in the high 2s and low 3s. A happening site will score in the 4s or higher. How long the site has been registered influences this score, so a very trustworthy site that's only a year old can still score low for the first bit.
Website construction - modern websites not only have those regular pages you'd expect, like About, Contact, Services and whatnot, but also offer pages, a blog and social integration for both sharing and connecting. When a good blog has engagement, such as sharing and commenting, these are signals to the rest of the 'net that it's a "happening" site. If a site does not have a blog, it'll never truly be a competitor attracting search or social traffic.
All of these factors (and more) get combined into a numerical score ranging from 0 to 100. The higher the number, the healthier your competitor's website and online marketing platform is likely to be. Once again, the minimum score for us to consider a site successful is 70 or above.
How to Use the Insights You Get From Analyzing Competitors
Obviously, there is some value in knowing who your closest competitors are and being able to rank them in terms of online marketing strength. The benefits of using HubSpot's competitor tool don't end there, though.
For one thing, the tool also allows you to benchmark your own website against the competitor sites, so you can see where you currently rank against them, and if you're either gaining ground or falling behind over time, allowing you to notice when they start to make a big surge in activity, or if they stop paying attention to their online marketing activities. One of my favourites times to check on them is just after an algorithm change to see which ones drop like an anchor - as you can see in this graphic, it happens!
[This chart shows KAYAK's local competitor scoring results from 2012. Two of the URLs have changed, but the sites are still being scored.]
As they say, keep your friends close and your enemies closer. With HubSpot's competitor tool, you can do exactly that until it's time for you to leave them behind once and for all.
If you are interested in seeing how you score against your competitors, simply pop over to KAYAK's competitor analysis form and we'll tell you exactly what's happening. For free.