To promote any product online, you need to know how your competitors are behaving and what strategies they are using. In the analysis, you are unlikely to be helped by the methods of classical marketing, which is not adapted to the digital reality. However, there are many ways and tools in digital that will quickly provide comprehensive information about competitors.
Why and How to Conduct Competitive Analysis
Competitive analysis shows:
- who is the real rival in the fight for the client;
- what strategy the competitor is using;
- what is the unique selling proposition of competitors;
- in which direction you should develop in order to increase market coverage and profits;
- how to show the uniqueness of the product and attract additional target audience.
Choosing competitors for analysis
You can use different methods to search for competitors:
Search for key queries in incognito mode.
Enter popular user queries and mark which sites are in the top positions. In incognito mode, algorithms do not take into account your search history and show the real positions of competitors.
You can create a survey and ask which brand products consumers prefer, why they choose this particular product, and what would make them pay attention to another brand.
Sales managers surveys.
Those who work directly with customers can tell a lot about the needs of the customers. Including managers who know with which brands they have to compete in the process of increasing sales.
You can search various company ratings and see who takes the top places. For evaluation, you can also use special services. Free access is enough to identify the main competitors.
Leave in the list only those sites that are in an almost equal position with you or overtake you. Choose your true competitors from the remaining sites. To do this, study each site separately, compare it with yourself and answer the following questions:
- Are your products/services targeted at the same audience?
- Do the goods/services meet the same needs?
- Do your potential customers see a competitor’s offerings when looking for a solution to their needs?
Leave in the list only those sites for which all the answers were affirmative.
Next, select the resources that:
- cover the region in which you work;
- have a similar product range;
- adhere to approximately the same price level.
Choose a maximum of five strong competitors for your analysis. This is enough to develop a strategy. Your task is not to research as many competitors as possible, but to get a reliable picture of the market.
Exploring competitors’ sites
Studying the sites of competitors will help you understand what to improve on your own resource. You can find working chips, spy on original solutions, determine your advantages and disadvantages.
When researching sites, we compare:
- assortment of goods/services;
- prices and their relationship to the cost of your products;
- geographical coverage (sales regions, offices and representative offices);
- methods of communication with clients (email, instant messengers, phone);
- primary communication option (subscription to newsletter, consultation);
- terms of payment and delivery;
- guarantees and loyalty programs;
- features of usability and design;
- availability of email newsletters;
- the length of the sales cycle (the number of stages from the first visit to the site to the purchase).
You may have additional criteria that are related to the specifics of the business. For example, when researching an online store, you can see how competitors design product cards. They may be showing product reviews or highlighting specific features.
You will receive the necessary information in the process of browsing and study sites. Record all collected data in the table.
SEO analysis of competitors will help you identify previously unused user queries, expand the semantic core, find potentially interesting sites for traffic, and improve the technical characteristics of your site.
In the process of SEO analysis, we study:
- search visibility;
- semantic core;
- traffic sources;
- user behaviour.
From the report, you will learn about:
- number of visits;
- duration of visits;
- number of pages visited;
- bounce rate;
- local SEO, geography and traffic sources;
- percentage of referral, organic and paid traffic;
- a list of priority social networks to attract an audience;
- audience interest categories;
- related mobile apps.
All collected data, except for keywords, should also be presented in tables. This will make it easier for you to compare results. Be sure to check your site along with competing sites.
Analysing social networks
By studying your competitors on social media, you can improve your promotion strategy. You will understand how to change the design, what content should be emphasised, what style of communication “hits” the audience.
Page design – First, evaluate the design of the channel (group, community): title, cover, description, widgets.
Availability of USP – Look at how the competitor positions itself, what USP it has, what advantage or benefit for consumers is emphasised.
Number and quality of subscribers – A large number of subscribers is not always an advantage. Open and scroll through the list of a competitor’s subscribers – a large number of empty or inactive profiles indicates an audience cheating. Also, estimate the ratio of the number of subscribers to the reach of posts (number of views). If the reach is very small, then this competitor is unlikely to be a serious contender in social networks.
Content quality + user reactions – When analysing content, look at post topics, quality of materials, posting frequency. The study of user reactions will show how the audience perceives this or that content.
Communication with the audience – Read the conversations under the posts and see how the community speaks to the audience. Check what methods of communication are used. Find out what contests and other activities your competitors are running.
Promotion methods – Explore visible ways to attract followers.
Record all data in a table to make it easier to compare them. We recommend that you additionally create a separate document for each competitor and save examples of successful posts and interesting content.
Study contextual advertising
Analysing the context of your competitors will help you create more effective advertisements. Look at what ads a competitor is using and why they are effective.
What do we need to know:
- list of keywords;
- content of ads;
- calls to action.
Be sure to thoroughly study the content of the ads: what they offer, what they focus on, which page they attract users to.
Analysing email newsletters
Evaluating emails will reveal their strengths and weaknesses. You can improve something in your newsletter or opt-out of something.
When analysing competitors’ email campaigns, you need to study several parameters.
Collecting contacts – Go to competitors’ sites and see how they sign up for the newsletter. The mechanics can be different: static subscription forms, pop-ups, a gift in exchange for an email (checklist, book, video instruction).
Content of subscription forms – See how a competitor requests an address or offers a subscription: talks about benefits, offers benefits, or uses only a call to action. Pay attention to the design and location of the forms, the number of fields.
Schedule for sending emails – Subscribe to competitors’ mailings. We advise you to do this at the very beginning of the competitive analysis. As you explore other areas, you will have enough emails to evaluate.
Determine the distribution schedule – To do this, enter the mailing sender’s address in the search line of the mailbox, and the mailer will sort all letters by date.
Content – See what competitors are writing about. Perhaps this is some useful information about the product, company news, customer stories, etc.
Specifications – See what email marketing services your competitors are using.
As in the previous steps, create a table and record in it all the significant characteristics of competitors’ mailings.
What to do with the collected information
Based on the analysis results, you will have:
- several tables with characteristics of competitors;
- semantic core of competing sites;
- semantics of the context of competitors;
- examples of posts in social networks and letters from the mailing list.
Do thorough work on all tables. Find out by which characteristics your business is stronger and by which it is weaker. Determine what parameters you need to work on and what indicators to strive for. This will help you draw up an effective promotion strategy and select areas that require special attention.
Compare the semantic core of competing sites with the semantics of your own site. Find queries you haven’t used before and use them to expand your semantic core.
Expand the semantics of the context by supplementing it with phrases from competitor data. Improve your ad content.
Adjust your email strategy. See what you can do to improve the design and content of your emails. Test approaches that work well for competitors.
Add alternative subscription forms.
Be sure to write down your strengths in a separate list in the document. Perhaps in the future, you will be able to position some of the strengths as a competitive advantage.
In fact, upon completion of the work, you will have a ready-made action guide to optimise your business promotion.
As you can see, competitor analysis can be a crucial part of your business development. The conclusions that you make after it will become the main theses of the strategy. You will have a list of actions to take. It remains to think about ways to implement these actions. Good luck.