No digital marketing strategy operates in a vacuum. It has to rely on customer data and competitor analysis. It has to function within that space where it recognizes the needs of its audience while simultaneously filling a niche that competitors don’t. Yes, that’s a tall order, but it isn’t impossible.
By putting in some time to do proper customer research and competitor analysis, any business can design an effective marketing strategy. Delving deep into analysis and strategy isn’t as overwhelming as it sounds, and it’s worth the trouble. Take a look at how competitor analysis works and get step by step instructions on how to do it right the first time.
1. Identify Direct and SEO Competitors
In the world of digital marketing, SEO is king. Any business that’s looking to compete has to consider what their SEO competitors are doing because they’re essentially vying for the same space.
Keep in mind that an SEO competitor and a direct industry competitor aren’t the same things. A business ranking for the same keywords or phrases isn’t necessarily selling the same product or targeting the same audience. But they are targeting the same SEO keyword phrases.
How to identify an SEO competitor: Identify the keyword phrases (single keywords aren’t as effective anymore) related to the business. Search those phrases and list the websites that appear.
Every direct competitor won’t also be an SEO competitor. Just because they aren’t ranking high on SEO doesn’t mean they aren’t a threat, though. They may be doing well via social media, for instance, while neglecting their web presence.
How to identify a direct competitor: Search for companies selling the same product or service who is targeting the same audience. For example, a restaurant owner will look at something like TripAdvisor or Facebook groups to see which restaurants people are talking about in the area. These businesses are directly competing with them for those customers.
2. See What Content They’re Creating
There’s a lot that can be learned from the competition. How they’re interacting with their customers and vice versa, which content is getting the most engagement, and which growth strategies they use.
Put together, all of this paints a picture of which type of content, platforms, and growth strategies are the most effective. It can help a business identify new market segments that their competitors are filling but haven’t considered yet. On top of that, there’s the opportunity to recognize a space that competitors aren’t filling (like a helpful blog, maybe) or things they are doing that can be improved upon.
Hootsuite has a simple but handy social media competitor analysis template that can be downloaded and reworked as necessary.
3. Use Research and Analysis Tools
The web is packed with useful competitor research tools like SEMrush, Buzzumo, and Sprout Social, among others, that provide information like:
– Organic ranking history
– Paid search spend and bought keywords
– Other keywords they rank for
– Inbound clicks
– Audience demographics
Many competitor research tools also have free trials or features so don’t avoid them because of the perceived expense.
4. Check Competitor Backlinks
Backlinks are still a crucial part of building a healthy SEO presence. Checking competitors’ backlinks help identify important domains and potentially strong backlink partners. It can also help identify weak backlinks that should be avoided, which can weaken the website’s ranking.
After identifying the best backlink domains, take a look at their social platforms and blog policy. See whether they’re open to sharing any content other businesses create, or will collaborate on content, or allow guest posts. Working with these domains can give the business the SEO boost it needs to beat out competitors in the ranking game.
Again, there are plenty of helpful tools like Open Site Explorer and Ahrefs. Some tools even provide page metrics, showing which backlinks provide the most traffic.
Any business that understands its customers better than competitors do is winning because they’ll be able to provide them with better content. That’s why conducting a competitor analysis is a key precursor to crafting a successful marketing strategy. Not only does it benchmark the business against top-ranking competitors, but it also provides insight into customer behavior and market opportunities.