Competitive Benchmarking Tactics & Tools
“Competition gives me energy. It keeps me focused.” – Conor McGregor
Conor McGregor fights more brutal battles than many of us could imagine, but his words are no less pertinent to the world of business. Competition makes enterprise excel. The constant hustle keeps us on our toes, and that’s a good thing.
It’s good practice to benchmark elements of your business against competition. Only by certain comparisons can you pick battles, planning attack and defence where required. The benchmarking techniques outlined in this article will help you stay ahead of the competition.
- Evaluate your own performance
Before you look at others, you need to evaluate your own performance. This will help identify the objectives for measurement in competitor analysis. These are the components that I suggest may need your attention…
Google Analytics insights: This is one of the key starting points for analysing the current performance of a website or app. Such is the wealth of data, it’s tricky to know what to review. This depends on the goals of your business. Without going into the nitty gritty, the most meaningful metrics are often in the following areas:
- Volumes of organic, paid, referral, and direct traffic
- Session duration, bounce rate, and pageviews (signifying engagement)
- Conversion data (if goals are set up)
- Trends over time in all of the above
It’s critical to determine which metrics are pertinent to your business. Standard best practice won’t always apply. This is where customisable goals come into play.
Backlinks: Links are still important, despite Google’s reluctance to admit this. Authoritative links are a key indicator of quality and relevance, and they remain an indicator for search algorithms. However, high-volume spammy approaches are dead and will get you a penalty.
You can use Search Console (Webmaster Tools) as a starting point, but tools like Ahrefs are much more robust. For a more affordable alternative, Unamo is a good option. When analysing your backlink profile, you’re looking for high-quality reputable links as a positive indicator, and checking for high volumes of spammy links, which have the potential to harm SEO performance.
Organic rankings: Whilst not the be all and end all, organic rankings are a great indicator of a website’s SEO performance. Track money-making and long-tail keywords with one of many ranking tools available on the market; SEMrush, Ahrefs, WooRank, Moz, SERPs, or Wincher. Most of these will allow you to track competitor rankings, too.
PPC and Display ads: Paid channels are a quick route to market, but they need to be watched closely. Wordstream has benchmarked the average performance of each industry, which is a useful starting point albeit not gospel. You need to benchmark your click-through rate (CTR), cost-per-click (CPC), conversion rate (CVR), and cost-per-action (CPA).
Social media: Follower count is a good indicator of popularity, but engagement metrics are also key. You might want to look at likes, shares, follower growth trends, follower vs. following ratio, active followers, and social traffic to your website. Social ties into content, especially with paid campaigns. Is your paid social promotion driving leads and/or sales? Are you meeting goals?
Stats on the social sites can be tracked using each platform’s internal analytics feature, or combined on a third-party tool. Get hold of the numbers that matter. Use social media listening such as Mention, BuzzSumo, or Brandwatch to track mentions and brand sentiment.
Content marketing: Is your content performing according to goals? In most cases, this can be measured with Google Analytics, plus a combo of backlinks and rankings tools. I can’t tell you how to benchmark the performance of your content, because I don’t know what your goals are. In terms of measuring the popularity of content elsewhere, BuzzSumo will highlight the most shared on any given topic. Use this to measure up against competitors.
Visibility: Use Google Alerts to track your appearances in the SERPs; particularly in the news media. Use the aforementioned tools to track brand visibility in social channels.
Quality and consistency: This is often an old-school manual task, driven by qualitative research skills and a “good eye”. Seek objective feedback about the quality of your brand assets; from the product itself to all web properties. You can access immediate user testing on platforms such as Usability Hub or User Testing.
- Benchmark against others by using tools
I hope to have given you guidelines for important metrics to track, and now let’s look at how to compare some of them against competitors to benchmark performance. Some of these tools have been mentioned more than once already:
BuzzSumo: In-depth content and social analysis, highlighting the best and worst performing competitor activity. Focus on who is sharing their content and why, the formats they use, and the influencers they have on board. This will help educate your future content planning, influencer targeting, curation, and overall social strategy.
SimilarWeb: This is a comprehensive competitor analysis tool that provides detailed insight into your website’s performance vs. your competition. A wealth of traffic and engagement stats are made available. You can also track which other websites visitors hit during the same browsing session, and much more. Combine with Ahrefs to monitor the backlink profile of a competitor.
iSpionage: This tool identifies your top Google AdWords competitors, and uncovers their estimated monthly ad budget. Used smartly, you can reveal the whole PPC strategy of each competitor. With such heavy global activity in paid channels, a tool like this will reduce the noise and inform your own set of PPC tactics. You can also use tools like SpyFu or WhatRunsWhere for similar purposes.
Regardless of the software you use, it is your ability to interpret the data that matters most. Then, to determine what actions to take with this data. Benchmarking is essential to spotting where you can make an impact. With this in place, you can track progress accurately.