COMPETITOR ANALYSISConsiderations, strategies and tools to best realise it
Competitor analysis, or benchmarking, is a necessary activity for today’s companies that want to position themselves strategically in the digital field. Analyzing competitors means studying the competition to understand the strengths and weaknesses of your product in the market.
Through online competitor analysis, you can clearly and easily identify competitors in your business sector. You will verify their traffic volumes and how they manage to rank at the top of Google’s SERP using some free or paid online tools. In addition, thanks to an analysis of competition via social media, you will realize how much your competitors focus on customer engagement and needs.
To apply an effective and winning strategy to surpass your competitors, it is essential to proceed step by step and analyze all these points calmly and thoughtfully, as competitor analysis should not be rushed; the concrete risk is losing the competition with our rivals by playing the game poorly. But how do you perform competitor analysis? At the end of the article, you will also know this: the techniques used, the methods, the marketing strategies devised by prestigious companies, and applicable to your own business.
If you think you’re up for this task but lack the basic skills, in addition to reading this article, I suggest acquiring them with a dedicated master such as the Digital Strategy Course.
What is competitor analysis and how to conduct it
A competitor to your product can be defined as such only if it can replace it by meeting the same customer needs. This concept is fundamental, and you should not underestimate it when setting up the competition analysis.
Let’s take a fast-food chain as an example. Competitors can be distinguished as follows:
- Direct: these are competitors that offer a very similar product, such as other fast-food chains;
- Indirect: those players who are part of the food and beverage market, but currently offer more sophisticated and high-quality products, such as restaurants;
- Potential: all competitors, such as restaurants, but not only, that do not currently sell competing products but may start producing them in the future.
It is therefore essential to define the target of your product and carry out constant research to highlight current and future competitors. But why study the competition?
Analyzing competitors can provide your business with qualitative and quantitative information, useful for designing the next steps. Studying your competition is also a way to identify new ideas to implement, whether they are products and/or services that you can offer differently from others. This way you can really take an additional step to differentiate yourself from your competitors.
This awareness will make you unique in the eyes of your customer or potential customer and will help you develop new strategies to make them your new strengths. And finally, it will help you put yourself in the customer’s shoes, offer the best solution for their needs, and understand how and what to improve to communicate more effectively what you produce.
The expert in competitor analysis is the SEO Specialist.
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Discover Your Online Competitors
Through online competitor analysis, you can easily identify who your direct and indirect competitors are, as well as access company documents and conduct market research. If you don’t know where to start, remember that Google is one of the main tools to use to approach competitor analysis and can provide a lot of information.
Based on the characteristics of your product, think of strategic keywords for which you would like to see your company ranked and perform an online search (a query). The results that Google returns on the first pages of the SERP (Search Engine Results Page) could represent your competitors, so verify it by exploring and reading these pages as much as possible.
Before jumping to quick conclusions, ask yourself further questions to conduct a correct and thorough
competitor analysis. Through this analysis, you will highlight the strengths and weaknesses of your
product on the market.
Here are five examples of questions that can help you:
- What services do competitors offer?
- What is their ideal target audience?
- How do they communicate and through which channels are they strongest?
- What are their strengths? Price? Communication? Service?
- What are their weaknesses?
Conducting a comparative analysis between you and your competitors
Now that you have identified your competitors, you have reached the last step: comparing yourself with them.
I recommend a business design tool called the SWOT matrix.
SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats.
This type of analysis gives you a clearer picture of where your business is now and what you can do to grow.
You will need to create a table like the one in the picture, where you insert your strengths, weaknesses,
opportunities, and threats.
Conducting a SWOT analysis on your competitors can be challenging. You need to ask yourself
the following questions:
- What do your competitors do best?
- What are they known for?
- What attracts their customers?
- Why do customers end up buying from your competitors?
- What do your competitors’ customers complain about regularly?
- What problems have you encountered when “buying” from them?
- What products or services should they offer but don’t?
- Are your competitors doing something that represents an opportunity for your small business?
- Have they stopped selling any products?
- Have they changed any of their services?
- Is your competition doing something that represents a threat to your business?
- Have they recently lowered their prices?
- Are they offering new products or services?
- Are they moving to a new location closer to you?
Sales and marketing strategies: the strengths of the competition
It is not easy to identify the sales and marketing strategies of your competitors, but there are questions that will help you do so:
- How do they organize the sales process?
- Are there any suppliers involved in the sale?
- What are the sales channels they use?
- Are their products often on sale?
- Do they have physical stores?
- Why do some customers not buy their products or stop doing so in some cases?
- Are they growing or not?
- Do they have sales collaborators?
This way, you can understand what they offer and how they are doing their job and from here evaluate if your company or startup can offer a better service than your competitors. On the other hand, if your customers start abandoning your business, then it’s time to understand what your competitors are doing better and more than you.
A different case is analyzing competitors’ marketing strategies. In this phase, it is essential to consider the website of competitors, take note of their URL for further checks and answer the following questions:
- Do they have a blog?
- Do they publish free or paid ebooks?
- Do they offer case studies?
- Do they use a podcast? Do they publish webinars and videos?
- Do they use infographics to present products or services?
- Do they seek collaboration with the press to launch a new product or service?
- Is there a section dedicated to FAQs?
- Do they write sponsored articles?
After answering these questions, it’s time to understand their SEO strategy: analyzing keywords, density, and content; checking if images are indexed and if they use internal and external links. In short, how they work to position themselves on search engines.
Analyze competitors’ content
Once the marketing and sales strategy is defined, it’s time to analyze the content, the frequency of release, and what they focus on the most. Taking into account all your competitor research, you can finally refine your strategy and offer your customer or potential customer a unique purchasing experience in your business.
It is essential to always put the customer at the center, offer them more quality content at the expense of quantity; otherwise, they will turn elsewhere where the information is better. So it will be useful to analyze:
- Are the topics useful? How in-depth are they?
- Is the article included in the introduction?
- Are there any grammatical errors?
- What is the tone of voice?
- Are the contents written by internal or external collaborators?
- Are the contents free or paid, creating an account?
- Are the contents easy to read?
- Are the photos customized, taken from free and/or paid archives?
After conducting this investigation, it’s time to understand if the strategy adopted by competitors is really working with customers.
At this point, you may have started to carry out a correct competitor analysis, but are you sure you have given the right answers to your questions? A concrete check can be carried out using the products of your competitors, thus discovering, from the user’s point of view, what satisfies you and what are the unfulfilled needs on which you can intervene with your product or service.
Therefore, you should pay attention to social listening: you need to learn to listen to your consumers. To do this, you can become a user of your competitor’s product yourself and, online, you could:
- Create an account to test the competing service;
- Subscribe to the newsletter to see the frequency of email sending and what updates are being communicated;
- Observe the social pages of competitors, activating notifications to see the frequency of their communication, the quality and content of their posts, and how much they are followed by users;
- Look for online reviews and ratings of those competing products;
- What are the defects and shortcomings of the competitors;
- How do competitors manage problem-solving? Are they attentive to user requests and problems with their products? How do they intervene? Are they quick and effective?
The analysis of competitors begins to become more structured and, to better focus on certain aspects, it will be useful and functional to use specific online tools to deepen research with safe and traceable data.
Online tools for competition analysis
Being well positioned on the main online search engine, Google, means making a difference compared to the competition, and that’s why carrying out a serious Google competitor analysis becomes essential. There are thousands of tools that can facilitate this work, but to make your monitoring easier, we recommend 7 online tools:
This is a freemium tool (some features unlock with payment) used for brand monitoring. Its peculiarity is that it gathers in a single page online updates that mention a certain keyword. It analyzes, more precisely than Google Alert, which does the same job for free: the queries that may interest you, the names of competitors, influencers. It is a software widely used by Digital PR professionals.
This is one of the most widely used tools for SEO Benchmarking. This tool is also freemium and is used to compare your website to that of a competitor. Once the domain URL is entered, it analyzes traffic, the most clicked queries, and the ranking position. It is the perfect tool for competitor analysis.
It allows you to analyze a keyword, a domain, or a URL. The tool presents statistics related to the trend of the website, its authority, the ranking position of a given page for some specific keywords and the relative traffic volumes allowing multiple comparisons with other competitors. The tool is freemium.
This is a freemium tool that provides web analytics services. Once the website URL is entered, it suggests competitor sites, the global ranking, the presence of advertising, and user types.
This is a paid tool for competitor analysis. It verifies the health status of a website from an SEO point of view and monitors external backlinks that refer to your site in a very reliable way. It is very useful for managing link building campaigns.
This is a freemium tool. It analyzes competitors’ domains, their authority, and traffic, which is essential for undertaking link building campaigns.
This is a freemium tool. It is a website crawler, which allows you to scan website URLs to retrieve key elements to start competitor SEO analysis.
If you are interested in deepening the topic of SEO, Digital Coach provides the SEO Course.
Being present and active on social networks is a crucial last step to consolidate a digital positioning strategy. In a previous paragraph, we talked about social listening, or paying attention to the needs and requests of the audience. Listening to your target audience. In this paragraph, the concept is expanded, and you need to ask yourself further questions about competitors:
- Do competitors use social media? Which ones specifically and why?
- How often are their social media profiles updated?
- How is user engagement quantified? How many followers, shares, and interactions occur on social media channels?
The Facebook competitor analysis is based on the number of fans a competitor’s page can have and the amount of interactions made by users. We indicate 2 very useful online tools:
It is used to verify the health status of a Facebook fan page. Just enter the URL of the page, and the tool will return a number from 1 to 100, like a vote. The higher the number, the better the performance. In addition, by improving the performance of the most challenging sectors resulting from the report, you can improve the score to try to reach the highest vote.
It is a paid tool used by professionals to carry out a more detailed competitor analysis than the previous tool. Fanpage Karma compares the numbers of the Facebook pages you want to analyze to improve your own page’s publication, target engagement, and audience reactions.
Instagram competitor analysis focuses on sharing page content, creating new hashtags, and continuously searching for related hashtags to reach an exponential number of target users. The online tools considered are:
It is a very easy-to-use paid tool. It allows you to study competitor profiles by entering the URL of the specific Instagram competitor page in the search bar. The result returned by the tool is a percentage that measures user engagement by averaging followers, likes, and the number of comments.
This online tool allows you to think strategically by targeting the keywords you want to position your Instagram page for. By searching for that keyword, you can order the profiles of the competitors found based on their value, user engagement, or number of followers.
Twitter competitor analysis is often underestimated, but precisely because of this, it can represent a strategic opportunity for your product compared to competitors. Being present could distinguish you, not to mention that you could carry out a different competitor analysis by comparing yourself with international business realities that have always been very active on this social network. Two tools are also considered in this case:
An online tool which, after entering your own social profile or that of competitors, returns a very significant amount of interesting data: daily tweet averages, user engagement levels, number of mentions, hashtags, and retweets. Twitonomy also allows for an interesting investigation related to influencers as it can select users who interact most with that particular social profile.
Another useful tool if you want to do an analysis of active competitors on Twitter. By entering the profiles of the competitors to study, the tool returns results regarding: the authority of the profile, number of followers, competitor keywords used in tweets, predominant follower gender, and user engagement levels.
To make your business stand out, you need a unique and innovative digital strategy
Competitor analysis, but how do you do it?
After collecting the data you need to conduct a competitor analysis, it’s time to put them together and process them.
The first thing to do after searching on Google and using the provided tools is to select companies or startups that sell similar products to yours, operate in the same geographical area, and have the same target audience as yours. To organize the collected data and compare it with yours, it could be advantageous to build a benchmarking table: a useful process to understand how your company is performing and whether it is better meeting customer needs compared to your competitors’ solutions.
In this table, it is appropriate to specify:
- The product (features, functionalities, price, benefits, technology);
- Company information (website, social media, funding, revenue, losses/profits);
- Marketing and brand awareness strategies (SEO, email marketing, social media, influencers, content marketing).
A second step is to create a Cartesian graph like the one used by Airbnb, back when it was called AirBed&Breakfast.
The axes of this diagram are the variables to consider for analyzing competitors, such as:
- High price vs. low price;
- High quality vs. low quality;
- Mass-produced product vs. niche product;
- Contemporary vs. traditional.
Simply put, after selecting your competitors, you need to enter them into the chart based on the chosen variables. Your company or startup should be positioned in the top right corner, indicating that your company is performing better in terms of quality compared to your competitors.
A third step is to analyze your Value Proposition, which is what makes your startup or company unique and valuable compared to the competition. Using proper advertising communication to make your product’s advantages known over those of your competitors is an important tool for your business. Where do you start? First, evaluate the following aspects:
- Points of Parity (POPs): what your company and the competition offer to the consumer;
- Points of Difference (PODs): the product features you offer that your competitor does not;
- Points of Irrelevance (POIs): features that customers are not interested in.
A successful step is the analysis of Porter’s Five Forces, which takes into consideration the threats and strengths of your business, considering the sector in which your company operates. The model considers:
- Suppliers: consider the number of suppliers and the quality they offer;
- Potential entrants: consider the economic effort of the competition to take your place in the market;
- Substitute products: evaluate if there is a possibility that your competitor will introduce a substitute product or service to yours in the market;
- Buyers: evaluate if your customers could go to competitors who offer the same service or product at better quality and lower price. Think about how to solve the problem;
- Industry competitors: define who your direct competitors are, the more you have, the more likely you are to lose customers.
Competitor analysis, as you may have understood, is an extremely elaborate activity to be carried out without haste, but by carefully and logically setting some guidelines to follow in order to perform it correctly. Only a periodic and careful analysis of competitors will allow you to emulate their strengths and meet the market needs that no one else has yet addressed. With the right tools, your product could more easily win the game.
Competitor analysis is pointless if you don’t improve your digital strategy afterward. Request more information on how to do it by filling in the form below