Competitive research is critical to any growth strategy. What you benchmark depends on your business and audience, and how you action on the analysis depends on the strengths and weaknesses of the competition. But if you’re embarking on a push for growth, it’s important to know what you’re up against.
In this article, I will look at how to you can get a handle on your competitor’s strategy and monitor their set of tactics. This will help you spot gaps, take inspiration, and plan your battles.
1. Quantitative research
This is where the competitor research tools come in. The first step is to benchmark your own performance, as discussed in this article. After you assess your standing vs. competitors, it’s time to dig into their numbers. There are plenty of tools to help in this regard.
SimilarWeb allows you to see a competitor’s traffic, engagement, traffic sources, popular pages, and much more. It also shows valuable keywords for SEO and PPC. SpyFu is another popular tool for SEO and PPC keywords. Backlink analysis, rankings, and keywords can be done with Ahrefs. Another solid all-round tool for competitive analysis of digital channels is SEMrush. For paid channels only, WhatRunsWhere helps you monitor performance of display and native ads.
A combination of the above tools will highlight meaningful data about where your competitors are focusing their efforts, and where they are seeing return on investment.
2. Qualitative research
First and foremost, you can manually monitor marketing activities by digging into the content and social channels of competitors. This helps you get an idea for quality, themes, and focus.
You can automate social media research with BuzzSumo, which highlights a brand’s highest performing content and reveals the influencers who are promoting it. This will uncover deeper information about content and social strategy.
Set up Google Alerts to track competitor terms in Google News and Google Search. Track Google Trends to monitor the overall popularity of competitor brand terms. Brand sentiment on social media can be measured with tools such as Mention, or the less robust Hootsuite.
3. Sign yourself up
Go undercover, and get a view from the inside. Track your competitor’s onboarding process, and understand their retention tactics. How are they trying to convert you into a long-term customer? If it’s a free initial signup or mailing list registration, how are they attempting to onboard you into the paid plan?
Test their customer service support structure. Analyse how closely integrated this is with their sales and marketing team. Note their automation sequences and CRM setup. Are you getting personalised messages, and are they accurate and compelling? This inside analysis will provide critical information about what to copy, what to improve, and what to avoid.
4. Crawl their web pages
Crawling your competitor’s web pages has qualitative and quantitative benefits. Using a tool like Screaming Frog, you can get hold of every page and post on their domain. The tool will pick out their meta titles and descriptions, allowing you another view on which keywords they target as their core set. In addition, this crawl will give you the volume of content in numerical terms.
You will have your own mix of tactics to boost growth, and the weighting of each tactic is specific to your audience, goals, and value proposition. This isn’t about copying the competition. Indeed, competitive research will also highlight what not to do. That said, it is critical to get a handle on how the competition is performing in the race to grab market share. The tools and tactics listed above will give you fantastic insight.