Use three quick and easy steps (plus a few secret SEO & marketing hacks) to research competitors online, learn what they are doing to succeed and how to grow your business faster.
Competitor analysis is a great way to understand where new opportunities lie and what gaps exist. Use it frequently to direct new marketing strategies and campaigns, or improve existing ones.
Competitor analysis provides information and insights about a niche industry that can be used to gain a competitive advantage, improve marketing campaigns and drive growth.
Using this quick and easy online 3-step process, everyone from individual bloggers and entrepreneurs all the way up to fortune 500 companies can gain invaluable insights and drive growth.
- Identify Direct Competitors
- Research & Track Competitors
- Take Action
1. Identify Direct Competitors
Identifying competitors online is pretty straight forward - provided you have done a bit of keyword research beforehand.
Keyword Research Hack
Keyword research is the process of identifying which keywords are the most valuable for your business.
Add a few potential search phrases you're interested in and let SEMRush's Keyword Analytics find related and relevant keyword ideas, with traffic volume and value estimates.
Discover new keywords and collate that data to understand the size of the organic search market in your niche.
Plenty of great search keyword analytical features also help you discover new, highly relevant keywords quickly and easily.
Search Google for your specific keywords and use the results to build a list of competitors.
Blogs and websites that rank on page one of Google (and Bing) for targeted searches you want to win can be considered competitors.
It's important to search for long tail keywords in addition to highly competitive ones. Long tail keywords are often more valuable because they are more specific and lead to higher conversion rates.
Around 70% of all organic search traffic originates from the long tail.
Long tail terms are any keywords or phrases that do not drive as much traffic as highly competitive, more popular search phrases, but they tend to convert better because they are more focused.
Chart by ahrefs
Using long tail keywords helps weed out indirect competitors, such as Wikipedia, that may rank for your targeted keywords simply because they are defining the word or phrase.
It's important to list the keyword, domain and page (URL) for each competitor, like this:
|gap in the market
|gap in the market
We'll use that information to analyze the competition at both the domain level (i.e. broad) and the page level (i.e. specific) in the next step.
2. Research & Track Competitors
Think of all the keyword data Google's Search Console provides about your own site.
Ideally, we'd want all the same data to research each of the competing websites in our list.
Fortunately, it's available and can be tracked over time using SEMRush.
SEMRush provides comprehensive domain, links, PPC, traffic and keyword analysis tools (50+ tools, all in one) to gather all the data we need from any competitor on Google and Bing, desktop and mobile, across nearly 30 countries.
While SEMRush has a limited free plan (and a 7 day risk free free trial), for ongoing usage you'll need a paid plan. Plans are affordable - especially considering the amount of time and effort you're likely to save trying to find, collate and analyze this data manually (if that's even possible).
SEMRush offers a completely free trial demo and training session that will teach you to do everything from anaylyze competitors to conducting a technical audit, creating content or analyzing backlinks.
For freelancers, startups and in-house marketers with limited budget
For freelancers, startups and in-house marketers with limited budget
For small to medium business and growing marketing agencies
For agencies, E-commerce projects and businesses with extensive web presence
In case you are not 100% satisfied with the service, SEMRush offers a 7 day money-back guarantee with no hidden charges or fees.
Depending on what type of business you have - whether it is a blog, an eCommerce store, or a traditional, bricks and mortar business wanting to drive growth online - there may be different aspects of a competitor's profile you're interested in.
Competitor Research Hacks
SEMRush offers a huge array of extremely valuable competitor data and insights that can be enhanced using a few pro tricks.
- Analyze competitor domains to learn their overall performance, marketing, PPC and SEO strategies.
- Analyze individual competitor pages to understand their backlink profile, rankings and organic traffic.
- Monitor traffic trends on an ongoing basis to keep tabs on shifts in market share.
- Understand that some data is based on estimates and should be used as a guideline only.
- Localize competitive data by using your country's database (if not in the U.S.).
- Compare performance against multiple competitors to better understand your niche market share.
- Use alerts to notify you of changes that may be important to your competitiveness (i.e. massive spikes in traffic, or jumps in rankings).
- Set up reports to streamline the competitive analysis process and save time going forward.
In general, gathering data in the following 8 areas for each of the identified competitors should give you more than enough data and insights to work with.
1. Keyword Analytics
Keyword analytical research doesn't only give you the general volume, value and variations of a given target keyword or phrase, it also indicates which domains and pages are dominating that keyword in the SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages).
This is extremely useful for discovering new competitors to add to your current research or include in subsequent rounds.
2. Traffic Analytics
Traffic analytics allows you to explore and directly compare the strengths and weaknesses of any competitor to learn where they are strong and where they have gaps. Learn everything about them, from who their audience is to which of their pages perform the best.
3. PLA Research (eCommerce)
PLA (Product Listing Ads) research shows a range of data about competitors paid product listings in Google, including information about the products advertised, traffic volumes and rankings.
You can also take things a step further by looking at who their competitors are in order to gain a deeper insight into the paid product listing market in your niche.
4. Organic Keyword Research
Organic keyword research shows traffic and ranking positions at both the page and domain level. This not only gives insight into how well a competitor is doing (in terms of driving valuable organic traffic to their pages), it is also useful for identifying new long tail keywords or keyword variations that may be highly valuable to you.
Monitoring changes on an ongoing basis is also a great way to keep tabs on when (and with a little extra research, why) a competitor experiences a sharp uptick (or downturn) in traffic.
5. Market Explorer
Market Explorer sheds light on who competes with your direct competitors and is vital for gaining a broader and deeper understanding of the niche, who the players are and how each business, website and page fits into the market landscape.
This data is presented in an easy to consume competition analysis matrix chart (shown above) that plots traffic growth against traffic volumes in your niche.
6. Backlink Analysis
Backlink analysis tells you virtually everything you need to know about how and why competitors are dominating the niche.
Gather information about where competitors links come from. When those links appeared and why. This can be used later to decide whether there are opportunities to make connections with valuable influencers who can generate buzz and raise the profile and visibility of your own venture.
There's even a useful backlink gap analysis tool that shows exactly where gaps in your backlink profile exist between you and up to three competitors at a time.
7. Advertising Research
PPC (Pay Per Click) traffic also forms part of the marketing mix for most businesses. While juicy organic traffic is free, paid advertising can deliver great returns and help grow your business.
Find out how much competitors are spending on paid traffic and where they are putting their money.
8. Content Analysis
While the first seven steps focused on gathering information about competing domains and pages, none of it actually tells you what the competing pages actually look like. This is something best done manually.
Take some time to look at competitors' pages and how they are using that content to convert visitors and make money. It may help to think about this in terms of the sales funnel.
Sales Funnel Marketing Hack
Learn how to make your own high converting sales funnels right now.
Understand how sales funnels can help drive conversions and increase earnings.
Quickly learn how to implement effective sales funnels for a diverse range of conversions, from email sign-ups to eCommerce purchases.
Are they growing a social media fanbase? Are they promoting newsletter signups? Are they writing in-depth articles, or white-papers. What about free eBooks?
Understand what is good about their content. What works?
Knowing this you can start to plan a better content strategy that takes advantage of their gaps and weaknesses.
3. Take Action
Having gathered a substantial amount of data about direct competitors, it's time to analyze that data to better understand:
- What content works
- What networking opportunities exist (i.e. influencers, blogs and media that linked to competitors might also link to you)
- What conversion techniques are being used (i.e. newsletter signups, deals, etc)
- What SEO gaps exist (i.e. what long tail keywords exist without great content or coverage)
- How much work is potentially involved in rising to the top of the SERPs (i.e. what type of backlink profile do competitors have that allows them to rank in Google)
- What paid advertising, PPC & PLA, strategies are being utilized
- What marketing strategies are being used (i.e. email marketing, social media marketing, etc)
With this information at your fingertips it's time to decide which strategies will work best - taking into account existing budget constraints, available human resources, in-house skills, and so on.
The Internet is a fast-paced, dynamic business environment that requires ongoing competitor analysis to surface new competitors as well as new marketing opportunities.
Most likely, content will play a significant role underpinning almost every other type of marketing you undertake. By understanding the sales funnels setup by competitors it's a lot easier to create content that contributes to your own powerful sales funnels.
How to Create High Converting Content
Make amazing content that attracts and funnels engaged traffic to well crafted conversion points for maximum ROI.
Make Money Blogging
Learn a new approach to creating game-changing blog content that drives high value traffic and funnels it to conversions, like a machine.
Learn to make conversions from your very first post.
Unleash your potential to radically grow earnings with online content using our free blog post business plan. Learn to differentiate your content from millions of competitors and dominate your niche.
Here are some additional proven marketing strategies that are effectively used in conjunction with the insights garnered from a competitor analysis.
The undisputed champions of inbound marketing are Hubspot who have plenty of great content, community and support for free - with paid plans available as you begin to grow and need pro features.
HubSpot offers free usage with paid plans from $400 per month.
64,500 customers in over 100 countries grow their businesses with HubSpot.
It takes a bit of time for inbound marketing to show returns. It's a medium to long term strategy that accumulates benefits over time leading to stable growth and sustainable profits.
AWeber offers a 30 day free trial with paid plans from $19 per month.
AWeber facilitates over 100 000 small business email campaigns.
AWeber is an incredibly popular email marketing platform because of it's slick, easy-to-use interface and wide range of integrations with 3rd party apps (such as your online store, blog, Facebook page, etc) that make growing a super valuable list relatively painless.
Make sure you grow a mailing list for an effective and sustainable sales channel in the years to come.
Social Media Marketing
Social media has quickly become part of the fabric of online business. Whether you are blogging or selling, the traffic and customers driving your profits can be grown using one or more of the major social networks. To run a social media campaign for business requires tools that help you understand the audience and create better engagement with them.
As you probably know, even the mighty Google has tightly integrated social signals into its results. As a result, businesses need to start building social influence in order to remain competitive online over the medium to long term.
SocialPilot offers a 14 day free trial with paid plans from $25 per month.
115,000+ businesses trust SocialPilot to manage social media, schedule social media posts, improve engagement & analyze results.
SocialPilot helps you to save time and effort by managing all your social media profiles from one convenient location. Plenty of tools and support help you get the most from social.
Search Engine Optimization
Obviously, we've covered SEMRush in quite some detail already but it's also a useful tool for analyzing your own content and search engine optimization.
SEMRush offers free usage & paid plans from $99 per month.
SEMrush serves over 6 million users and provides competitive insights into 810 million domains and over 20 billion search keywords.
Web traffic and visitors lie at the heart of your success online. Don't lose sight of this fact (it's easy to get distracted or bogged down in SEO or marketing and potentially neglect this vital component).
46% of people say waiting for pages to load is what they dislike most about browsing the web on mobile.
Page speed and performance are vital. At the very least you should be using Google's free Pagespeed Insights to highlight any bottlenecks that might be slowing pages down.
Leadpages offers a 14 day free trial with paid plans from $25 per month.
More than 40 000 small businesses optimize conversions using Leadpages.
Leadpages helps small businesses connect with an audience, collect leads, and close sales using fast, easy to construct landing pages, pop-ups, alert bars, and more.
Quickly work out who your audience is, what they want and what type of landing pages convert the best. All with one convenient tool that offers a suite of conversion rich features in addition to the standard graphical Web builder design interface.
So that, in a nutshell, is how to perform a quality online competitor analysis to arm yourself with the data and insights to make better marketing decisions.
Ultimately, the time and resources you expend learning about how your niche works, who the players are and where potential gaps exist can help you to grow significantly faster than you would otherwise.