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If you’re trying to figure out what your competitors are doing to drive sales and push their products, then you’ll likely want to conduct a competitive analysis.
This strategy will allow you to determine how your competitors are succeeding in fields that you may be having trouble with. However, even a successful site can benefit from a competitive analysis from time to time to ensure that it’s kept at a competitive level.
Why a Competitive Analysis May Be Necessary
There are many benefits to conducting a competitive analysis. Here are some of the major ones:
Figuring out a future strategy
Determining where you lie in the market
Figuring out where you need to improve your campaigns
Going over key market trends
Keep in mind that competitive analyses don’t necessarily exist so that you can copy exactly what your competitors are doing, as some may assume. Since every company is different, it’s hard to directly equate one company’s strategy to another’s. The info gleaned from one of these analyses will allow you to figure out where your company stands and how you can enhance where you stand.
This kind of analysis is truly only useful for a larger campaign that has plenty of competitors to contend with.
Clients love to see competitive analyses because they see that you’re delivering on your promises and actually putting work into improving their marketing approach.
How a Competitive Analysis Works
Here are the three main steps involved in a competitive analysis:
Performing the analysis
Going over the gathered data
Compiling a report of future steps
Performing the Competitive Analysis
This first stage is crucial because it will determine how well your competitive analysis proceeds. You’ll need to start by finding the right competitor and gathering info about what they’re doing. Here are the three parts of this phase of the analysis:
Find Some Similar Competitors
The very first thing you’ll need to do is select the right competitor. You want to be sure that this competitor is comparable to your business because there’s no sense in comparing yourself to a business that is ten times larger because they likely don’t have the same objectives.
This is because the information that one of these analyses uncovers for you will not be actionable, and that essentially means that it won’t make it easier for you to scale your business.
That’s not to say that any info you get from a larger competitor is entirely useless. If you just so happen to come across some data from a larger company, you can store that away for future use as your business grows.
You also don’t need to conduct an analysis of every one of your competitors since that would be a huge waste of resources. You’ll need to identify your main competition and then analyze them since they’ll be the biggest threats to your business.
Figuring out your threats is a matter of experience and knowledge. If you’re conducting this analysis for one of your clients, you’ll need to have an in-depth interview with them to figure out what audience they’re targeting as well as which services and products they’re trying to sell.
During the interview, word your questions as if you were a customer looking for that product or service since that will make it easier for a client to point out their main competition.
You can also use our Keyword Finder to figure out where there is some keyword overlap with the competition. This will allow you to compare the keywords to the amount of traffic that your client and their competitors are getting.
If you’re on the hunt for keywords, don’t hesitate to use Ranktracker’s in-depth Keyword Finder tool.
You also want to know which area of the business you intend to conduct an analysis of and ensure that your focus is entirely on it instead of taking a scattershot approach.
An example would be avoiding software sites if you’re trying to conduct a competitive analysis for an agency. Many businesses offer multiple services and this means that you’ll need to conduct multiple analyses for every one of these services.
Using the Ranktracker Keyword Finder, you can also conduct a keyword search to weed out the competition. If you’re working with a client, figure out their main keywords and then run them through the software. This will allow you to see competitors and their rankings.
This makes it easier to determine which of the competitors you or your client needs to be worried about. Go through the sites manually to ensure that they actually are in the same sector.
Fill Out Your Audit Template
Your next step will consist of filling out the audit template with the info that you’ve gathered over the course of your search. Make sure that you enter all of your data into the right tabs to ensure a clean and orderly audit. Your tables will consist of the item, the tool used to find it, as well as the kind of company it applies to.
To conduct a speedy audit, we’d recommend using Ranktracker’s audit tools, which are designed to be easy to use yet powerful.
Some of the info that will be featured on your audit template will include the company’s age, the URL of the site, the business’s name, and how many employees they have. You may also wish to gather info about the company’s mission, ethics, and its workplace spirit.
This info will usually be available on a site’s About Us page, so you’ll likely need to gather it all manually. You can also use certain plugins to find information more easily.
Once you have determined some basic info about the company you’re looking at, you’ll want to take a closer look at their site. Doing so will allow you to see the kind of content they’re uploading, includings its quality and how consistent it is. Pay attention to how frequently the site is uploaded as well as the level of engagement.
You may also wish to see the company’s presence on social media and potentially even sign up for one of their newsletters to see its quality.
However, don’t solely resort to the company you’re scouting for information. You can also check out third-party reviews of their services.
Glassdoor is another excellent resource because you’ll get some info about a company’s inner workings directly from the people who used to work there.
Keep in mind that the columns you fill in on the template should only relate to the kind of company you’re scouting. For example, an ecommerce company should have the ecommerce fields filled in but you can ignore the local business and lead gen sections.
Thankfully, these templates are easy to work with and tell you everything you need to know up-front, even if you’re a complete beginner.
Outsourcing an Audit
Due to the tedious nature of much of the info gathering work, many firms decide to outsource the first part of their audit to virtual assistants. This allows you to get all of the info you need while better spending your time elsewhere. Once the info is ready, you can go over it yourself.
The second step of the competitive analysis consists of actually analyzing the data that you’ve collected. Like the first part, there are three steps involved in this process as well.
Going Over the Audit Template
Take a look at the template to figure out more about what your competition is doing.
In case you used a virtual assistant to compile the report, you should also confirm that all the fields are filled out and that there are no issues with the info.
Outline Points of Interest
Next is the time-consuming part. Go through the information with a fine-toothed comb to figure out what your competition is doing and compare it to your business. Anything that catches your eye should be highlighted for later viewing.
For example, are your business objectives the same? What about your clients? How is the company reaching its goals? Is it adopting a more reasonable pricing scheme than your own? Keep all of these questions in mind as you go over the info.
As we mentioned earlier, reading reviews about a company will allow you to learn more about them, and combining this with the data you’ve gathered can tell you a lot.
If you notice that a competitor is doing better than you, take a look at the number of people they have working for them. If they have more workers, it usually means that they’re devoting more money to their business. Obviously, it isn’t always possible to inject more money into a business, but take this into account when presenting your findings to one of your clients.
You should also look at areas that have significant discrepancies between you and your competitors. This is usually where you find the most helpful insights.
If your competitors are doing better than you despite you having more leads, it’s likely that they’re beating you in terms of pricing. If this is the case, you may wish to lower your prices or improve another part of your business like your customer service or your shipping.
You should also compare ad traffic cost, search engine traffic, domain referrals, and domain authority. Be sure to explore the areas that you’d like to improve and also the areas that your client has requested improvement in. This will allow you to better strategize for future campaigns.
Fleshing Out Your Insights
Take notes of everything you’ve noticed while performing the analysis and keep them in a special part of the sheet for insights. This will let you find the info with ease when you need it later on.
Performing a Crawl Search
Search engines use machines known as crawlers to go through websites to determine what kind of content they have and to show those sites on search results pages.
Keep in mind that you don’t have to crawl all of your competitors, especially the ones you don’t want to look too closely at. This resource-intensive technique is only necessary for your closest competitors that you would like to learn a little more about. Crawling resources include SiteBulb or DeepCrawl.
You shouldn’t look too closely at the technical aspects of a site, since that’s what a technical audit will accomplish for you. However, you’ll want to look at why they’re beating you in key areas.
For example, take a look at how fast your competition’s site loads, how their site is structured, how many pages are on their site, and other points of interest.
You should also start taking a look at your own site to compare it to the competition at this point. This will make it easier to integrate some of the things you noticed that your competition was doing better.
Keep in mind that competitors with varied niches will require a bit more effort to parse out. You should only look at the results that pertain to the industry or niche that you work in because looking at other products or services will end up skewing your results dramatically.
Analyzing Competing Keywords
Analyzing your competition’s keywords will allow you to figure out how your top competitors are implementing their keyword strategies.
This will make it easier to develop your own keyword strategies but it will also allow you to see where the competition is lagging behind you. This makes it easier to capitalize on the opposition’s weaknesses.
Using our Keyword Finder, you can then perform a gap analysis to figure out the differences in keywords that you and the competition are using.
To use these tools, put in your competition’s URL as well as your own and then see how each of you ranks.
This will let you know which keywords you need to start using so that you can improve your business’s results, so send them to the content team as soon as possible.
Taking a Closer Look at Backlinks
Backlinks are a crucial part of ensuring that a business ranks on search engines because more links means that a site has a higher authority level. By performing a backlink analysis, you’ll be able to learn more about the sites that link to your competitors. You can do this using Ranktracker’s backlink tools, which are coming soon.
Start by looking at the number of backlinks that your competitor has. Keep in mind that the links will have to be of high quality. Google will penalize a site that is populated with low-end links.
A better way to determine the quality of the links on a site is the number of unique links that are present on it.
To ensure that your website is of the highest possible quality, you’ll want to make sure that you have a relatively even amount of external and unique links, though it’s pretty likely that you’ll have at least a few more external links.
To more closely examine the links of your competitors, you can simply click the links and see where they lead. For example, if you notice that your competition is featured on a blog, you can then get in touch with the person running the blog and potentially get your business featured there too.
This will also let you determine whether the links are genuine or if they’ve been paid, which is a good bit of intel to know about the competition.
What to Do Next
Once you’ve gone through all of the data and analyzed it, you’ll finally be ready to put it all into a report so that it can be more easily understood by less specialized people in your organization. Be sure to make the report as concise as possible, and try to outline a recommended course of action in it.
Finding Insights for Your Overall Plan
If you have a client, you should provide them with a summarized form of your findings that they can use to figure out what the most crucial data in the report is.
You should also break down why the competition is succeeding in areas that the business is not and some of your ideas about why this might be the case.
Using graphs and other visual aids, you can then go on to showcase the main points of your report. Don’t be afraid to go into further detail when doing this. You’re better off providing more info than less of it.
Always start by explaining the most important aspects of your findings first. Also, go over how you found out the info that you did.
You should also explain the differences between the client and the competition so that the client will be more aware of what will need to change to match them.
If you notice that the competition has quality content, for example, you can show the client a piece of that content and outline exactly why it’s getting the competition results. Point out insights that your client can gain from the analysis of the content so that they will start implementing those insights in their own strategies.
Also, remember to conclude your presentation with the salient points of your analysis.
Disseminate the Report
Once the report has been compiled, you’ll need to send it to the right people. This will either be your client or your boss. This will allow them to see that your analysis has succeeded but it will also give them the strategic overview that they need to make the business a success.
Keep in mind that a competitive analysis shouldn’t take up a huge chunk of your time. Make it quick and sweet and you’ll be sure to see good results out of it.