What Is A Competitor Analysis?
Competitor Analysis means very different things in different industries. For a Boxer it means pouring over hours of video tapes of an upcoming fighter, analysing his trainers and understanding his conditioning. In Digital Marketing a Competitor Analysis is an extremely multifaceted undertaking, looking not only at a competitor’s website, but their presence everywhere on the web, the actions they are undertaking and the techniques they use.
A proper analysis should be a thick and comprehensive document; for the purposes of this blog I am going to outline the key areas you should expect to be covered and why they are important for understanding your competition. The surface level analysis can often be done on your own, however deeper analysis requires tools and expertise that many people simply do not have as they don’t need them in the day-to-day running of their business, this is where a professional Competitor Analysis can be extremely useful.
This is the most obvious part of any Competitor Analysis. At the surface level it’s simply looking at their site, seeing what works well and what doesn’t. This can be a great way to gain ideas for your own website. Benchmarking against competitors is the perfect way to check if you’re doing better than them and can often help explain why you may have seen a sudden increase or drop in visits or conversions. If a rival has had a new website created that is slicker and easier to navigate than yours then it may explain why your conversions have dropped. Equally if you suddenly get a significant increase in conversions then you should seek out the answer as to why that is, if a competitor’s website is down then you know that this change in fortune may only be temporary and can factor that into your action going forward.
The deeper level of analysis encompasses things such as load times, server response times and overall website responsiveness. Pages that are picture heavy may look beautiful but load slowly, putting a portion of potential customers off. There are often integrations such as Map Apps on ‘find us’ pages that seem slick but can can double or triple page load times leading to lost customers.
Ensuring every page of a website is not only responsive to different screen sizes and browsers but friendly to them is another feature of a website check. It’s all well and good a page ‘responding’ to a different screen size but if that response is simply to make everything smaller and cluttered it is not ideal. If you know your competitors are not hitting these key checks then it can tell you that for easy wins focusing on the mobile using audience might be the correct way to go until your competition catch up with you!
This is not simply how easy you and your competitors are to find, but what is being found. A wide range of searches should be employed across multiple search engines. This is very simple to do but it takes a long time to understand the nuances of measuring Organic Presence to a useful degree. The results for ‘Company X’ ‘Company X Trustworthy?’ ‘Company X Legit?’ ‘Company X reviews’ ‘Company X product Y’ are all going to be different. Mapping relevant search terms across multiple competitors, products and locations is a time consuming process.
Identifying areas of improvement for your own business as well as areas of weakness in your competitors is a great way to increase your brand recognition and trust. There are a multitude of different factors that affect how Google ranks both your site and your pages, many of which are to do with the ‘back-end’ of your site that you might not be aware of, especially if you outsource your web development. Knowing if your competitors conduct backlink audits, have proper Sitemaps and ensure their pages are properly indexed can give you an insight into how reliable and professional their Digital Marketing is. If you find it to be consistently lacking it can be a signal that they will be slow to react to changes or problems that happen online. If you position yourself at the forefront incremental gains will come even without effort sometimes!
SEO is like PPC, everyone and their dog has heard about it, knows vaguely what it is and that’s about it. Identifying Keywords that are shared between you and your competitors is key, just as looking at the ones you don’t. Unfortunately there will be times when you simply may not be able to rank for a keyword you want to organically but on the flip side you can focus on bolstering those keywords you already show dominance in. Proper analysis of trends can allow you to gain and prove authority in ‘down’ periods for keywords that have predictable trends.
Having a thorough understanding of the Keyword terms targeted by your competitors along with maps of their search traffic will help inform both your own Organic and Paid Search strategy going forward. It is also once again an indicator of how seriously they take their Digital Marketing and the strategies they are employing. Cycles of focus and decay require one strategy to combat, continued authority/dominance around a few keywords requires something very different.
The key to strategic insight is the range of data looked at and the depth of the analysis. It is simple to see what Keywords your competitors are ranking for now. Teasing out what their strategy, or lack thereof, appears to be is a lot more difficult but in the long run can help inform a comprehensive SEO/Organic strategy that keeps you above them in the long term.
The rise of ‘near-me’ search terms have been well documented but even without them local searches make up a huge portion of product/service based search terms. After all, what good is simply searching ‘Self-Storage’ without some kind of location filter? Knowing whether your competitors are taking full advantage of all of the Local Directory Listings lets you know where there could be yet more easy wins.
The majority of businesses know by now that they should have claimed and completed their Google My Business (used to be Google Places) listings. Surprisingly very, very few business have engaged in any strategy to ensure their reviews are linked to these listings. A comprehensive review of all Local Directories will show where your competitors have left gaps that you can take advantage of in as little as a few minutes.
Paid Search Audit
This is difficult to do without the know-how and proper set of tools. With these tools it’s possible to find a lot of insight into the Paid Search habits of your competitors, estimate their budgets and understand the balance they strike between Paid and Organic Search.
Where either is neglected it’s your cue to push it!
This is another area that it is difficult to effectively analyse without certain tools the vast majority of businesses will not have at their disposal. On the surface level you can undertake actions similar to that of the Website Audit. Monitor the feeds of your competitors, see what they do well and what they do badly. Use this to inform your own Social Media Strategy.
On the deeper side of the analysis we can look at large amounts of data to ascertain levels of engagement of their fanbase, whether it appears they are using certain strategies and if there are useful findings such as optimum posting times for your target demographics that we could apply to your Social Media Strategy.
This is by no means an exhaustive list of everything that should be in a Competitor Analysis but hopefully it’s given you an idea of the things to consider. At WSI-eMarketing we offer a comprehensive Competitor Analysis service analysing up to 5 of your competitors and your own business complete with analysis and recommendations. If you’d like to find out more please click here.