Assess how the business can improve by using competitor research to uncover the strengths and weaknesses of businesses in the same market as you.
Sometimes referred to as competitor analysis, we call it “Competitive Intelligence” and present these findings to clients in what we term a CI report. This type of research is a tactic that can help keep the brand competitive and certainly must have some time commitment.
Competitor research allows a better understanding from businesses that are competing for customers. This form of research is more than simply taking a peek every now and then at a rival company’s latest social media posts. We’re talking about true war room tactics: Google reviews (volume, frequency, good, bad, and responses), website access, LinkedIn posts/profiles, auditing their site with tools (speed checks, content checks, gap checks, authority checks, etc), keyword research, link research, ads research, to name a few.
It is impossible to build a solid marketing campaign without real data (qualitative and quantitative). Guessing and hypothesizing can lead the business down the wrong roads as we find that business owners and marketers aren’t always downstream from the business offerings.
Instead, successful competitor research is a plan with goals and benchmarks that all work together to help benefit the business.
What is Competitor Research?
In its most simplistic form, competitor research is the process of analyzing the marketing strategies of a rival company. Through this research, you should be able to assess their strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats as well as discover gaps that the business can capitalize on.
The results of the competitor research should be compiled into a Google Sheet where all relevant team members can access the data. If the data is utilized correctly, the business should be able to innovate new ways to develop and grow within the industry.
A new insight will be gained with things like what drives traffic to the competitor’s website pages, what they’re doing to gain new leads, how they retain current customers, and much more.
Through competitor research, the business will be able to:
Understand The Market
Identify Gaps In the Market
Once the competitor research has been completed, it’s all about how to put it into action. Ideally, gaps will be found in the market that can be exploited.
These gaps can cover a wide range of information. Maybe a competitor struggles with employee retention (glassdoor or Indeed), has no social media presence (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram), uses YouTube or LinkedIn, doesn’t run ads on Google or Facebook, which your business can focus on excelling in. Whatever the research uncovers, it should help to create an actionable strategy for the business.
Plan for the Future
Changing markets can cause the business to be left behind, surpassed by the competition that better understands the internet, industry trends, current and future users, and future-use cases. Competitor research can allow the business to learn from the past mistakes of other companies within the same market, as well as see how they handled certain shifts in the industry. In turn, this data can help exploit successful strategies for future scenarios that might occur.
Steps to Competitor Research
ID The Main Competitors
First, decide which competitors should be researched. The analysis should include both the direct and indirect competitors, and local and regional (national, international, online, etc).
A business that provides a similar product or service, or operates in the same geographic area, is a direct competitor. An indirect competitor is a business that offers different products or services, but still fulfils a similar need or solves a similar problem for the customer.
Second, use the research to compare brands, form goals, and to develop marketing strategies that focus on the direct competitors.
Analyze The Competitors Digital Footprint
If the competitor’s website is outranking the business website in organic search, there has to be a reason. If they have a higher rank in the search engine results pages (SERPs), then it’s likely the competitor is also generating more impressions, clicks, leads and revenue from the SERPs. Uncovering details about their search engine optimization (SEO) best practices can help develop an effective strategy.
Aside from tracking the organic performance of a competitor in the SERPs, keep an eye on their pay-per-click (PPC) efforts. Otherwise known as paid ads, these are often found at the top of the organic results. While researching this, pay close attention to the search volume and cost per click (CPC) of the keywords used in the PPC ads.
Lastly, be sure to research the social media strategy of competitors. Platforms like Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook all allow companies to run ads. When clicking on these ads, users are then typically directed to a custom landing page on the competitor’s site.
- The competitor’s most successful keywords and organic rankings.
- What pages have the highest hits due to organic search.
- What socials and other directories they utilize, and how often.
- How they utilize CTAs.
- The keyword volume and difficulty score of keywords used by competitors.
- Loading speed of site pages.
- Who links back to their website.
- The overarching theme at the page level.
- The overarching theme at the website level.
- Performance of mobile version of site and how user friendly it is.
- Their value proposition.
- Their robots.txt.
- Their previous positions in the Wayback machine.
There is a vast quantity of other collectable data from competitors to supplement the research and to strengthen the marketing objectives.
To maintain a competitive edge on pricing, know the competitors pricing, discounts, and deals. Read all of their Google reviews and understand what people say they do well and what they are terrible at – and exploit this information in the ad copy.
Another vital factor to look at is whether the competitors offer online shopping and what their shipping costs look like. Nowadays, consumers prefer the convenience that online shopping offers. In 2020, around 88% of the adult population in the U.S. made an online purchase, and that figure is expected to climb. For example, if the biggest competitors offer free shipping, then offer the same cost-cutting feature.
How are the competitors handling the marketing of their products or services? Do they have a blog on their site? Are they publishing ebooks or case studies?
Other details to take note of include:
- Press Releases
- FAQs Section
- Content, content, content
Always pay close attention to the content strategy of the competitors. If a competitor has a blog, find out the following: how often are they posting, topics, lengths, formats (HTML, audio, video, images) they are using, frequency. These details are the benchmarks of your own content strategy.
Check Online Reviews
Use Market-Research Tools
- Google Alerts: Can monitor the web for specific phrases. This tool can track your brand name along with the names of competitors. Also, set alerts for unique industry phrases that might be relevant.
- Backlink/Content Checkers and Tools: This type of tool can view a competitor’s backlink profile, domain strength, successful content, and content gaps. This gives actionable insight into a competitor’s strategies and strengths and even potential lead sources.
- Quora: Often overlooked, Quora is a free forum-style site that offers valuable insight into what customers are thinking. By checking Quora, a lot can be learned about what customers are saying about the competition.
Track The Findings
All of the findings should be compiled into a single document (preferably Google Sheets) and then organize the data so that you can better visualize what has been learned.
Before comparisons are drawn, be sure to have a baseline established of your own business. Be sure to record all relevant information into the spreadsheet the same as you would the competitor. This will give a baseline to compare against the competitors.
Why Ongoing Competitor Research is Key
Keep in mind that the market is ALWAYS changing. If you’re not keeping constant tabs on it, there’s a risk of being unaware of a major shift until it’s too late. That’s why maintaining ongoing competitor analysis is key to success.
In the end, competitor research should allow a competitive edge by learning from and adopting a rival’s successful marketing strategies.