How Competitor Research Can Improve Your Business?

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Whatever business you are developing – launching a new product, starting a blog or opening an agency – most likely there are a lot of companies that have a very similar goals and very similar target audience. And to win the market it is essential not only to take care about your own business, but also to research your competitors’ activity over web and social media.

By spying over your competitors and analyzing their tactics and strategies you will get some significant advantages:

  • It shows your missed opportunities

Competitive analysis will easily spot some overlooked opportunities and reveal low-hanging fruits that you can pluck immediately. Are your competitors more successful than you? You must have missed something. Are they much more successful? You must have missed something big!

  • It helps find gaps in your strategy and make better decisions

Doing a business one needs to pay attention to so many different factors, that there’s always a chance that something will go wrong. Analyzing your competitors will help you determine what is right and wrong with each step of your strategy. So instead of making the same mistakes again and again, you should analyze best practices. Then find the gaps in your own strategy and fill them.

  • It allows to predict competitor’s next moves and get ahead

By analyzing your competitors you will be able to understand their marketing trends and to anticipate their next steps. Aligning your strategy is the best way to bypass your competitors. Once you get on the right road, check your progress against theirs to make sure you are going in the right direction.

  • It helps better understand your customers

While spying over your competitors, you have a chance to find out the reason why your potential customers choose these companies over others, what makes these people buy from them and what strategies and techniques attract the customers most.

Now let’s start to nail down our competitors’ website activities and see what we can learn from them.

Organic search: what words do they use to speak to their customers?

Keywords are the lifeblood of many online marketing strategies. They are what customers use when searching for products and information. And therefore, they should be the first things to uncover in your competitor’s strategies.

When analysing competitor’s keywords, pay specific attention to the following metrics:

  • Keyword Search Volume – This metric reveals the average number of searches a particular keyword receives per month. You can use it to gauge the popularity of a keyword.
  • Rankings – You should also research your competitor’s rankings for the keyword. It could suggest how likely you are to overcome them in search.
  • Number of Results – This is the number of URLs displayed in organic search for a particular keyword. This metric is a good indication of how competitive a keyword might be.
  • Trend – Lastly, this metric will help you assess the searcher’s interest in a particular keyword and its seasonality in the last 12 months.

Here are some tools that will allow you to compare your keywords to your competitors:

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SEMrush Domain vs. Domain tool

Paid search: how do they conduct AdWords campaigns?

When it comes to money, analysis is simply invaluable. So after you’ve got an insight into your competitors’ organic strategy, assess their paid advertising campaigns.

Look at the following elements when performing your analysis:

  • Estimated ad traffic and cost. Most PPC research software can estimate both based on a domain’s keyword positions and average CPC. Knowing how much money your competitor spends on traffic and what they get in return can reveal a lot about their paid advertising strategies.
  • Changes in their ad spend. Are they increasing or decreasing ad spend? Knowing this could tell you how they might be developing their PPC campaigns.
  • Keywords. You should also investigate the keywords your competitors are targeting. When analysing their keywords, pay attention to position of an ad for a particular keyword.

The best tools for PPC competitor research are:

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Ispionage tool (image via blog.ispionage.com)

Backlinks: what websites link to them?

Backlink profiles have a huge influence on a website’s ranking in Google; so, don’t mess up by linking unreliable websites. Analyzing competitors’ backlinks will help you to find new trustworthy sources and create content plan.

Pay attention to these parameters:

  • The volume of backlinks
  • The number of unique referring domains
  • Anchor list and its usage
  • The number of backlinks for a referring domain
  • The dynamic of backlink growth
  • The quality of backlinks
  • The volume of sharing through social media

Among backlink analysis tools Ahrefs is probably the best one, having at its disposal huge amounts of data. Another great advantages: Ahrefs Domain Ranks, which allows you to estimate the value of the website right away and possibility to see the volume of sharing through social media.

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Ahrefs overview

Social media: how do they engage their users?

By now social media has become a powerful business tool, who dares deny it? Companies are striving to extend their outreach by means of social networks, struggling for followers, likes and shares. To win this battle it is essential to research your competitors’ social media activity.

When analysing your competitors’ presence in social networks, start with:

  • Number of followers

The number of followers is the easiest to measure, yet a very misleading metric. It is not always a sure sign of the effective strategy, but it’s still worth tracking. Significant increases or decreases of audience may indicate main strategy trends, fruitful ideas or serious mistakes. Tools like RivalIQ, Widlfire Monitor or TwitterCounter are ideal to quickly assess the audience size across various networks.

  • Engagement

As I mentioned already, audience size isn’t the best metric of social media success. Their engagement however is.  Start with simply estimating the number of likes, pluses or shares. By and large this will provide you with general understanding of the strategy effectiveness and whether it is worth borrowing or not.

Analyse how your competitors engage with the audience. How much content they curate? How responsive is the audience? Do they post anything that’s intended to provoke a discussion or the audience just naturally wants to connect?

  • Profile setup

Often a profile is what makes the first impression about your business, that’s why it is important to get it right. It might however be difficult if you don’t know what the audience expects.  Luckily this is another insight you can gain from your competitors. In particularly pay attention to:

  • Cover photos
  • Descriptions
  • Where they link from the profile

The best tool for complete social media competitive analysis is RivalIQ. It allows to compare your social media presence with your competitors, to see the size of their audience, publishing frequency and number of social signals.

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RivalIQ Cross-Channel report

It’s time to act

Analysis of the most successful strategies of your competitors provides you with knowledge about which tactics are effective and worth trying, and which ones should be left out. It also helps find out your own company weak points and “white spots”. Now it’s time to take action! Borrow the most successful ideas and pass them through the alembic of your own creativity.

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