19.05.2023 - Digital Marketing

Digital Marketing Competitor Analysis: A Comprehensive Guide [with Template]

When was the last time you sat down and researched your competitors? For many, the answer will be a long time ago. Lots of businesses are guilty of neglecting to keep tabs on their rivals, but in the fast-moving world of digital marketing, this can prove costly.

Whether you’re writing a blog or researching a paid ad campaign, knowing how your competitors approach such activity can mean the difference between success and failure. Taking the time to research what they’re up to can help you adapt, adjust, and scale your own strategy, with the end goal being to ensure your site outperforms theirs.

To help you gain a grasp of effective competitor analysis, we’ve put together this comprehensive guide to the process, as well as your very own competitor analysis template to help you kick-start the process.

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What is Competitor Analysis?

Competitor analysis is any tactic used to research the strengths, weaknesses, strategies, and characteristics of competing businesses in your industry. Through considered analysis, you can gain valuable insights into other players in the market, and a deeper understanding of how well you stack up against the competition.

Competitor analysis is a must in digital marketing. In an arena where countless businesses are competing for clicks, impressions, engagement, and sales, keeping tabs on what other brands are up to and what’s working for them can give you a competitive advantage.

Think of competitor analysis not as a way to size up other brands, but your own. By identifying the strengths and weaknesses of competing businesses, you can identify gaps in your offering, and come up with creative, tactical ways to rectify them.

Why Carry Out Competitor Analysis?

If the above hasn’t convinced you of the need for competitor analysis, the points below further highlight why you should stay abreast of the competition:

  • To ensure you don’t slip behind – whether in Google search results or Instagram follower counts, performing regular competitor analysis lets you see what rivals are up to, so you can stay one step ahead.
  • Be the trendsetter, not the trend – reviewing competitor activity allows you to stay on top of best practice marketing tactics, with key insights to help you set trends in your industry; be the leader, not the follower.
  • To expand your marketing strategy – where are your competitors online, and what are they up to? By covering all bases, you can get inspiration for your own marketing strategy, and make sure your brand is present in the right places.
  • To avoid mistakes and no-nos – witnessing a competitor commit a digital faux pas may instil schadenfreude, but it’s important to recognise that it could easily have been you. Competitor analysis gives you a better sense of what works and what doesn’t in your industry, whether that’s in organic search or on social media.
  • To move the goalposts – when things change in your industry, there’s a need to adjust your short and long-term goals. Competitor analysis plays a key part in this, helping you to refine what’s important and scale your marketing strategy up or down in line with competitor activity.

When Should You Use Competitor Analysis?

It’s not enough to recognise who your competitors are and then forget about them. You need to keep both direct and indirect rivals in your periphery at all times, so you can monitor their activity and use it to inform your digital marketing strategy.

If you want to beat competitors in the digital arena, competitor analysis should be a pillar of your strategy. This means reviewing their activity on a frequent, tactical basis, across all core channels and platforms.

From display ads to site content, social media posts to PR wins, tracking where your competitors are and what they’re doing is key to gaining the upper hand. Make competitor analysis a regular part of your digital strategy, and you stand to gain valuable insights while spotting opportunities to jump ahead.

Identifying Your Competitors

Before you go about analysing them, you’ll first need to identify who you share market space with in the first place. In doing so, you’ll also be able to differentiate between your direct and indirect competition, which we can define as follows:

  • Direction competition: The companies who sell or market the same products that you do
  • Indirect competition: Companies who don’t sell or market the same products that you do, but still compete with you digitally through things like content and keywords

Identifying your competitors is a fairly simple process, you just need to know where to look. Carry out the following to shed some light on who your competitors are:

Market research

One of the best ways of working out who’s sharing space with you is by looking at the market for your product and noting who else is selling a product that would compete with yours. If you have a sales team, get in touch with them to see how often these potential competitors come up in their sales process.

Once you know who to focus on, you can take a look at their products, and what they’re doing to market these products, so you can create strategies to better them.

Customer feedback

Your customers can also be a great resource when it comes to identifying who your competitors are. Try asking them which other businesses and products they were considering before they decided to go with yours. This is a great tactic as your customers might sometimes reveal some unexpected competitors.

Social media and other online communities

Equipped with a few choice keywords, investigating social media websites, as well as community forums such as Quora or Reddit, also provides you with a bevy of insights into your customers’ buying options. What’s more, it also helps with discovering who your indirect competitors are too. 

How to Do Competitor Analysis: 5 Methods for Your Digital Marketing Strategy

Ready to start tracking competitor activity? Put these five methods to use, and get a handle on what your rivals are up to.

1. Site Performance and Rankings

The first place to start is with your competitors’ site performance and rankings in organic search – specifically how your performance compares. This is a crucial first step in identifying gaps in your own digital strategy, be it traffic, links, or keywords.

While Google Analytics provides an excellent view of your own site performance, you’ll need to lean on other analytics tools to glean insights on how competitors are faring. There are several tools you can use to explore the performance of a competitor site, including SEMrush Traffic Analytics and Ahrefs Site Explorer.

At Banc, Ahrefs is our preferred tool for taking an in-depth look at the organic health and performance of competitor sites. It provides a detailed overview of a brand based on their URL, with data including backlinks, keywords, traffic, and information on how they’re using paid ads.

From here, you can use these insights to inform your marketing strategy. For example, if a competitor has significantly more backlinks, this is an area to explore and prioritise as a means of gaining the upper hand. What’s more, Ahrefs allows you to see who is linking to their site, so you can go prospecting and come up with ways to attain similar links to bolster your backlink profile.

2. SEO Performance

Sitting pretty at the top of Google search results is a priority for most businesses, so knowing how your competitors got to the top can be an effective way to climb the rankings. Using an analytics tools like Ahrefs Site Explorer or SEMrush Organic Research, there are several KPIs which give a clear indication of your competitor’s SEO efforts, including total keywords, monthly organic traffic, and a score highlighting the health of their site’s SEO performance.

Say, for example, you want to optimise your site to rank for a specific long-tail search query. By looking at the keywords competitors are using to rank for a term, you can leverage these insights to optimise your site content, ensuring your content is valuable and relevant for a specific search query.

This is just an example of how analysing your competitors’ SEO efforts can help bolster your organic search performance. Such insights are an excellent way to optimise your digital campaigns to increase rankings and search performance, ensuring that all activity is focused on outperforming your rivals.

3. Explore Your Competitor’s Content Marketing and PR

However creative and strategic your own content marketing and PR outreach efforts, you can almost guarantee that your competitors are on a similar wavelength. That’s why, to gain a competitive advantage, analysing their content marketing and PR efforts can pay dividends in helping to develop an effective content marketing strategy that delivers performance wins for your site.

To see what rivals are up to from a content and PR perspective, you’ll once again need to lean on an analytics platform. There are a couple of tools you can use to explore where competitors appear online, and one of our favourites is SEMrush Brand Monitoring.

Using Brand Monitoring allows you to find and track mentions of words and phrases related to your competitors, their products, and their services. Simply input the term you want to track, and the tool will come back with a list of places where the word or phrase appears, either in the page content or as a link.

This is useful for a handful of reasons. Not only does it give you an idea of the type of PR approach your rivals are employing, but it also gives you the opportunity to build a prospect list from the sites that link to the type of content your competitors are putting out.

By monitoring where and how competitors are achieving links through their content marketing and PR, you can use these insights to target similar sites, with the goal being to offer greater value for their readers and, ultimately, earn a link yourself.

4. Research Where Your Competitors Are Spending on Paid Ads

Businesses of all sizes rely on paid advertising to gain quick wins and drive conversions on site. So, no matter how successful your rivals, you can learn a lot about their digital strategy by researching how they’re allocating their paid ad budget across all major marketing channels.

Analysing your competitors’ paid ad allocation has a two-fold benefit. Firstly, it can help you to define your paid ad strategy, so you can be sure you’re bidding on the terms that will bring the most value to your business. And secondly, it can provide valuable insight into what works and what doesn’t, so you can avoid making the mistakes yourself, and let other brands act as guinea pigs and make them for you.

With an analytics tool like SEMrush Advertising Research, you can see where competitors are allocating their paid media budget, how many keywords they’re bidding on, and the estimated traffic they can expect from their investment. This can be extremely useful when it comes to setting the parameters for your own paid campaign, with key insights into the most valuable terms.

5. Monitor Their Social Media Activity

Leveraging social media is a powerful way to boost engagement and conversions, so it’s important not to overlook this channel when carrying out competitor research. How do your rivals use social media to engage their followers? And is there anything you can learn from the type of content they post as a means of driving traffic and conversions to their site?

Analysing how your competitors use social media is an effective way to highlight opportunities for your social media strategy. By researching the platforms they use, how active they are, who their followers are, and the type of content they post, you can find new ways to engage with your audience and build your list of followers.

There are lots of tools you can use to monitor a brand’s social media activity, from in-depth analysis on SEMrush’s Social Media Tracker to a basic post-tracking platform like TweetDeck. Using tools to discover more about how rivals use social media makes it easier to determine the platforms that are most effective for them, and the posts which their audience are most likely to engage with.

Download your Digital Marketing Competitor Analysis Template

Ready to start researching your competitors? Check out our downloadable competitor analysis template workbook and get things in motion. Fill in our form and you can start carrying out the process using the five methods we’ve detailed above!

Free digital marketing competitor analysis template guide

We hope this comprehensive guide to competitor analysis proves useful in helping you develop an effective digital marketing strategy. If you’re looking for support in defining the right approach for your organic and paid marketing, call the Banc team today on 0345 459 0558.