Competitor analysis is a key element in any effective digital marketing approach, providing insight into how your competitors have addressed similar marketing challenges to your own, and what's worked (and what hasn’t) within their process.
Analyzing your competitors can help you better position your products and services within a specific niche, or compete head-to-head with messaging that plays to your strengths. And if you want to maximize your marketing, performing a competitor analysis is essential whenever you launch a new product or enter into a new market space, industry, or vertical.
In this post, I'll go over six key elements of competitor analysis that will help your marketing efforts win out.
What to Look at and Tools to Use
But first off, in order to effectively analyze your competitors' digital marketing performance, you need the right tools.
Within this, you need apps which will:
- Examine website traffic, traffic growth, backlinks and their most popular pages
- Analyze content on their website, blog, as well as what they publish on social channels
- Provide an overview of their ad content on both search engines and social networks
- Highlight keywords on their website, in their content, and used with their campaigns
Some great, powerful tools that cover these elements are:
- SEMRush - For SEO and website audit, backlink, and keyword research. SEMRush also offers traffic analysis and competitive intelligence add-ons that enable you to perform much deeper research. Other good tools here are Ahrefs and Raven Tools.
- BuzzSumo - For content research. BuzzSumo can help you identify how your competitors’ content has performed, and how they’re taking part in digital question and answer sites.
- FanPage Karma - For finding content and engagement information about your competitors, including which content has been most popular with their audience, what channels and posting times get the most engagement, what topics have been most popular, and identifying questions and issues their audience has which may provide opportunities for your brand. FanPage Karma is a powerful analytics tools in this respect.
Here's how to use these tools within your competitor analysis process.
1. Insights from Traffic Analysis
The first element you want to look at is web traffic, and how people are discovering your competitor sites - SEMRush can help with this.
You should analyze the traffic to competitor websites to discover how many visitors they have, unique visitors, pages per visit, visit duration, and bounce rate, which tells you how much traffic your competitors are getting, if visitors are finding the site content useful enough to stay on the site, and which content is most popular.
You can also see how visitors are finding their way to your competitors' websites.
TIP: Identify source domains to inform decisions about investing in search engine and social media advertising, as well as influencer outreach based on what’s working for your competitors.
One of the most important things you can learn here is which of your competitor's website pages are most popular.
Seeing which landing pages are working best for your competitor can tell you which products and services have a successful online presence, and which don’t. That can inform your approach to marketing products and services, and to how to run your campaigns.
TIP: For a campaign designed to go head-to-head with a competing product or service that is popular, dissect the messaging on that page and find ways to differentiate your products and services. Consider promoting those messages using aggressive demand generation, such as search and social advertising.
Backlinks help to build your domain authority and improve your rank for topics that other sites link to. Your brand’s SEO efforts should include a link-building component, and tools like SEMRush and AHRefs enable you to perform a backlink gap analysis to domains linking to your competitors, but not to you.
This will inform and improve your link-building efforts.
3. Social Media
Analyzing your competitor’s social media activity can tell you which channels they use for promotion, how they’re positioning their products and services, and what content and messages have received the best reception from their audience.
It can also help you find gaps in their promotion strategy which can provide an opportunity for your brand.
Tools like Fan Page Karma can provide competitive intelligence on competitors’ social media activity.
You can see the channels they’re using for promotion, how active they are, the growth in their presence on the channel, and how actively they’re engaging with their audience.
TIP: If you’re targeting the same audience as your competitor, consider focusing your activities on channels that have worked well for them.
You can also see the content they’re publishing, the topics they’re talking about, and which of those topics is of most interest to their audience.
TIP: This information can help you identify the topics that are of greatest interest to the audience, questions they have, and issues you can discuss to position the value of your products and services. Use this information to refine your content strategy, messages, and value proposition.
One of the most important things you can learn from your competitors is what keywords they’re using, and which they’re ranking for.
Your website and campaign content should be focused around a core set of keywords that will help your target audience find your site and content when looking for the solutions you’re selling.
Your competitors will also be using, and trying to rank for relevant keywords.
TIP: Examine the keywords used by your competitors to find industry-specific keywords that you might be able to rank higher for in your site and campaign content, and to formulate long-tail keyword variants that you can rank for, and that differentiate your products and services from your competitors.
Another great feature offered by SEMRush is the ability to report frequently asked questions related to keywords and domains.
TIP: Develop lists of top questions about problems you solve, and the products and services you sell and create content that answers those questions. You can also take a more interactive approach and actively participate in Q&A sites and forums like Quora and Reddit and answer questions relevant to the products and services you sell, and post links back to your website content for additional information.
5. Advertising information
Analyzing your competitors' advertising information can save you a lot of time researching and formulating critical campaign elements like keywords and ad copy, and help you position your products and services more effectively.
SEMRush can show you traffic estimates, keywords, and cost estimates for paid search traffic, display advertising, and product listing ads.
TIP: The keywords used by your competitors are a great starting point for the keywords you can use for your brand and campaign. You may be able to compete successfully for core keywords, but you can certainly use this information to choose long-tail keyword variants that work well with the value proposition of your brand, products, and services.
You can see position changes for keywords used by your competitors.
You can even see competitor’s ad copy.
TIP: Seeing how your competitors are promoting their products and services shows you how they’re positioning their offerings, enabling you to construct website and ad copy to position yourself differently, by going after a slightly different niche.
6. Content Analysis
When analyzing your competitors' best content, you can see if similar topics are a good fit for your brand, and assess the types of content that their audience likes to consume.
You can also discover gaps in content coverage, and frequently asked questions which your brand can then address in its content campaigns.
Look at their poor performing content, too, and try and determine why it didn’t resonate.
TIP: Analyze competitor’s content with the goal of finding the best way to differentiate your content and messages to favorably stand apart from the pack. Do deep analysis to find trends and see if the audience prefers, longer or shorter content, fundamental or deeper analysis, conceptual vs. how-to content, graphics, videos, images, etc..
Regular analysis of your competition is important, because it’s like looking at the other team’s playbook before you go out onto the field. It enables you to develop a campaign strategy and messaging that differentiates your products and services, accentuates your strengths, and positions you to win against the competition.
If you haven't undertaken a competitor analysis, it's worth taking a look, and these tools and tips will help.