Website operators pull out all the stops to try and guide visitors to their sites, through advertisements, links, or simply high-quality content. To measure the impact of different measures, Google Analytics tracks the behavior of site visitors and sums it up in detailed statistics. But how does Google do this and how can this be useful for your site?
Keeping an eye on the competition is an advantage for any business, and the importance of market research and market analysis shouldn’t be underestimated when it comes to online marketing. If, as an online business, shop, or blog owner, you follow your competition’s development and regularly analyse their moves and strategies, you'll obtain valuable information about which strategies are successful and which aren’t. With this newly-acquired knowledge, you can improve your own marketing campaign and avoid any mistakes that other businesses have made. Read on to discover which online activities and statistics you should take a look at and which tools can be used to carry out a competitive analysis.
Online competitor analysis – the most important points
For a competition analysis to be as successful as possible, you first have to identify your competition. When carrying out your observations and analyses, concentrate on businesses in your sector who offer the same (or similar) products or services to you, or attract the same audience. If the list is long, limit it to the most influential competitors and ignore companies that have limited or no online activity. When the appropriate parties are determined, the following areas should be included in the comprehensive online competitor analysis:
Search engine optimisation (SEO)
Find out which methods your competitors use to gain their high ranking in search engine result pages. Check how highly their pages rank for relevant keywords with a high search volume, compared to your own. What should also be of interest is analysing in which subject areas your competition has the highest frequency of keywords and why. At this point, it’s also recommended to analyse the content of the ranking subpages as well as the backlinks leading to them. Look at how other topics rank, even if they aren’t covered by your website, as these could be worth exploring at a later stage. Play around with the search results so that you can examine your competition’s rich snippets (such as reviews and product prices) more carefully. If the competition uses intriguing snippets, they will rank higher.
Search engine advertising (SEA)
Placing advertisements on the search engine results page is an effective way to increase awareness of your brand. The intended target group can be reached directly, especially if you use Google AdWords. This is why it makes sense to look at your competitor’s SEA measures and get some ideas for your own campaign. Find out how long they’ve been doing search engine advertising and when they’ve invested the most. Companies sometimes increase their budget for specific events (e.g. for Christmas, summer, etc.), which could be worth considering for your own project. You should also look at both the ad text and their booked keywords.
Good content is at the centre of every web project and a vital catalyst for success. It’s an important criteria for the search engine to be able to classify your site, and a magnet for new website visitors. This doesn’t happen overnight, but is the result of a long-term process. The risk of taking the wrong route can be minimised by carrying out a comprehensive competitor analysis. Collect an overview of which kinds of content your competition uses besides text and image content. These include, for example:
- PDF guidebooks
- Check lists
You should also examine the content itself, determine if it’s created or commissioned, what the topics of the texts are, and how the reader is addressed. The way that different texts are connected to each other should also be noted. A good starting point is analysing texts with good traffic or high-quality links.
Social media activities
Marketing in various social networks is an integral part of online marketing. These channels often represent a direct line to the target audience and need to be well maintained. From Facebook to Twitter, YouTube to Instagram; check which platforms are used by your competition and analyse their profiles. By doing this, you’ll get some ideas for your own social media marketing and learn interesting things about your competitors. Make sure to analyse the following points:
- The profile range
- How often new posts are published
- Content type (videos, images, links, etc.)
- Feedback (comments, likes, retweets, etc.)
Tools for a successful online competition analysis
An extensive competitor check including collecting and analysing the results is a long and tedious process, which can only be carried out with the help of various tools or services. Here is an overview of the best resources for undertaking a complete competitor check:
SEOlytics – all SEO and SEA data at a glance
The online service SEOlytics equips you with everything you need for an extensive analysis of your competition’s SEO methods. The service provides all key figures in a clear way with helpful diagrams to illustrate and compare data. Among other things, the online tool reveals the ranking of your keywords, the visibility of your website, and lists existing backlinks; SEA campaigns can also be monitored. SEOlytics checks your competition’s projects and informs you about titles, snippets, and advertising with product information. In addition to a free, limited starter version, you can purchase various packages with extra services.
visualping – keep your content up to date
It’s worthwhile keeping an eye on the content of other websites that have especially good traffic or many external links. The website visualping, which is also available as a Google Chrome extension, does the work for you, informing you by e-mail if any changes are made to the target URL. You can check the whole site or just a part of it, and also control how often the checks take place. You are able to examine up to two landing pages per day for free.
Alternatives: Versionista, Distill, and OnWebChange.
talkwalker – the comprehensive search index for social media
Although social networks such as Facebook and Twitter already offer some ways of comparing your competition, it can be worthwhile to use tools like talkwalker. The summary informs you when your competitors are mentioned in blogs, forums, and online news as well as on networks likes Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Google+. The service delivers real-time results on parameters like shares, likes, and retweets as well as coverage and followers. Talkwalker automatically creates a theme cloud that provides information on the topics and keywords covered by the different posts. Since the free version only provides limited results, a monthly package is recommended for an extensive social media analysis. Due to the steep price, you should consider whether the free talkwalker feature combined with each platform’s analysis options are sufficient for your purposes.
Alternatives: brandwatch and mention.
Your online project has nothing to lose from having a well-structured competition analysis. Knowing which strategies your competition is using in areas such as content, search engine marketing, and social media can help you develop ideas for your own project and know which mistakes to avoid. Make sure not to copy them, but use what you learn to incorporate successful measures into your own marketing strategy.