What You Need To Know About Your Competition (And Tools That Can Help)
August 21, 2014 - Marketing
The strategy of understanding the competition is as old as marketing itself. For the new marketer, learning your competitor’s strategies and tactics may seem wrong or even downright underhanded. However, not only is there nothing wrong with understanding your competitors tactics, it is how the industry was built. The goal is to discover how your rival is succeeding and improve upon their tactics. This competitive spirit keeps marketing alive, fresh, and evolving at a healthy pace.
Competitive research may be one of the most overlooked strategies in web marketing today. Niche competition can be fierce and staying on top can be a real struggle. In many markets, there is usually a clear front-runner that is far and beyond the closest competition. What is this marketer doing that puts them so far in front of the rest of the pack? If you are in this type of situation in your niche, this is exactly what you need to find out.
- Keywords: Which are working for your top competitors and which are not?
- Social Media: Which social media strategies are getting the best results?
- Paid Advertising: What are your rival’s PPC/Paid budgets and targets?
- Link Strategy: Where is your competitions referral traffic coming from?
- Website Design and Format:What can you learn from Website design, landing page layout, CTAs, and other differences?
Where you are in the success hierarchy of your niche will dictate how many competitors you will need to look at. A good start would be to gather intelligence on three or more of your closest and most successful competitors. Keep in mind that you are not only studying their successes. Areas in which they show poor performance can help you to avoid the same mistakes.
Note: You can obtain a working list of top ranking websites in your niche by typing this address into Google to see whom you are up against…
You can also use Google Search to ascertain who is ranking with your successful keywords. See Google’s Incognito Mode to search without being identified hence avoid personalized.
Start with the Obvious… Keywords
How well you can rank for a particular keyword depends upon two things, the popularity of the keyword and the competition for that keyword within your industry. If you want to know what is working for your direct competitors… you are going to need some help. There are hundreds of Competitive Keyword Research tools out there from whichto choose.
For our money, SpyFu is one of the best. You can go back 6 years and see where your competition has ranked on Google, what Adwords keywords were purchased, a history of their organic rank, and much more. While you are checking them out, take at look at their relatively new SpyFu Kombat. It allows you to do a direct comparison so that you know what successful keywords you are missing.
SEMRush is also one of our favorites in that it is one of the few tools out there that includes Relevant Keyword Analysis. (This is huge!) You can find instant results on keyword difficulty; identify highly effective keywords with low competition, and enjoy fingertip access to detailed competitor analysis such as:
- Website backlinks, including the authority rank of referring domains and their geolocations
- Organic Research, including position changes of competitor’s domains, their most successful keywords, and the discovery of organic new competitors
- Advertising Strategies, including budget and competition in Bing Ads and Adwords
- Display Advertising, including views from a variety of devices, top publishers, and advertisers
- Analytic Reports that provide deep insights into your competition’s link building, paid and organic search, and display-advertising strategies
Are you losing the Social Media War?
When it comes to inexpensive marketing with almost unlimited reach, few opportunities have come along that can rival the raw potential of social media marketing. In its ability to reach out to hundreds of millions of potential customers, social media has no equal. Some web marketers do extremely well while others flounder or never really get into the game at all. As a new marketer, there are four pertinent questions you must ask yourself.
- Should my website be engaged in social media marketing?
- Which social websites are best suited to my particular niche?
- How can I build a social media followers?
- Should I hire a professional Social Media manager or handle the task in-house?
The answers lie with your competition
If your niche rivals participate in social media, you have to get involved or fall by the wayside. Of the top five rivals in your list, which social media websites do they all have in common? These are the social networks in which you should compete. Of the top five social websites, any that your rivals are not involved with present an opportunity for the cultivation of customers with little or no direct competition.
It is Time to Catch up to Your Competitors in Social Media Marketing
Building an audience on social media takes time. In order to learn what your competition is doing that works, you need to employ a tool that can track them and gather information.
Just as with keyword research, there are tools that will help you to dig up detailed reports showing exactly what your competition is doing and how they fare. A good for instance of these is Followerwonk, which provides a wealth of Twitter analysis on any website you plug into it.
Socialmediaexaminer.com allows you to learn how your rivals build and utilize killer profiles across a variety of social media websites. To enjoy unparalleled reports on social media and an extraordinary number of other activities, look into InternetRetailer.com. While you are there, sign up for the Top 500 Guide Database, which may well be the most comprehensive ecommerce database on the planet.
Before you consider hiring a social media management company, take a look at this incredible list of 50 top tools for management, analytics, and monitoring. There is bound to be several tools in this list compiled by Panorama that will get you into the social media race.
Digging into PPC Budgets and Targets
The impact on the web whenever Google changes the way its algorithms evaluate keywords in the SERP both paid and organic can be very detrimental. It often causes loss and setbacks that boarder on devastation. If you notice that your competition takes these changes in stride while you scramble to catch up, then it is time to look into your rivals PPC advertising habits. Ironically, it is Google that has the answer.
The Tools that can Help
The Google Keyword Planner can give you a pretty fair idea of what your competition is spending on their ads per click. You should also ascertain the current keyword bid prices and number of ad clicks. For this, use the Google Traffic Estimator. The tools mentioned above can also be of help (SpyFu and SEMrush)
Researching Competitive Link Strategies
Whether you sell products online or run an awesome blog, a solid link building strategy is a vital part of your success.Examples of link building can be any of the items on the following incomplete list.
- Guest Posting is a great strategy (although proceed with caution). It allows you to build quality links to high authority websites embedded in quality content. Guest posting is also a great way to build lasting relationships with people from whom you can learn and grow. Don’t spam!
- Conduct Expert Interview videos and allow them to post a link on their websites and share it with their social contacts. Neil Patel put forth this and other link building ideas in his post for Quicksprout
- Competitor Research allows to you to see where high traffic links lead and what is working well for tough rivals.
- Top US directories. Try Yext
- Web 2.0 like eHow, Wikipedia, etc.
- Press Release (only if you have news worthy subject)
- Infographic distribution
- Here is the full list of link building strategies http://pointblankseo.com/link-building-strategies
Research your most successful rivals and find out where they get their links. This will save you a ton of valuable time. However, it is important to check them and ensure they are coming from high authority websites that will not drag you down. You simply cannot be too careful.
Backlink Research Tools That Work
A fantastic tool for researching your competition’s links is Ahrefs. With their backlinks analysis generator you can obtain detailed reports of what your competition is doing.
Another excellent tool for backlinks is MajesticSEO. They claim to have the largest link index database on the planet but others think differently. http://www.seobook.com/comparing-backlink-data-providers
Basic Website Design Differences
Once you have familiarized yourself with your closest competitors and their websites, make a list of differences that are not as obvious. You do not need a tool to get a feel for what you like in design or format that they are doing and you are not.
- Are the images sharper or more noticeable than yours are?
- Do they use a magnifier or multiple images in a slideshow?
- What do you notice about the CTA button? (Call to Action)
- Is their website easier to navigate than your own?
- Page load speed: You can test it here.
- Is the color and design more appealing?
- Where are their social media links and share/like/Tweet buttons and how are they designed?
- Is their blog as informative and engaging as yours is?
In the Final Analysis
There are a thousand little things that you can discover from your competitors and test on your own website. The point is not to clone them. The question is whether you can take what you can learn and improve upon it, making it your own and making it work for you. There is an old adage about keeping your friends close but perhaps a more apt saying is one overheard a bit more recently. It is wise to learn from your mistakes, but wiser still to learn from the mistakes of others. Knowing how your competition operates can help you to avoid pitfalls, become more competitive, and advance the industry.