Doing A Competitive Analysis
Do you know why competitive swimmers like to swim right next to their fastest rival? Because it pushes them to swim faster and harder when they can see their competition. Like the swimmer, you need to know where your competitors are during the digital race.
Probably one of the most important parts of doing a competitive analysis is benchmarking both your business and your online competitors’, after you’ve identified them. Benchmarking is not a set and go process, it’s ongoing. You’ve got to be able to see your rival.
Not every benchmark process follows all the same components. In fact, you should focus on the metrics most relevant to your industry or geographical location. This allows you to form a meaningful analysis against your competition. Back to that swimmer, someone swimming the butterfly can’t gauge how well his butterfly stroke is, if he’s swimming against a free stroke swimmer.
Once you have established those meaningful and measurable metrics most important and
relevant to your industry, you can compare apples to apples industry wide. Creating this environment also allows you to identify gaps between competitors, perhaps even industry gaps that will allow your business to be the standout with the most effective action plan to fill those gaps and provide what your competitors do not.
Competitive benchmarking means ongoing monitoring. At least quarterly, competitive analysis needs to be done to produce reliable benchmark results.
As mentioned before, there are key metrics specific to your industry and those should be included in your competitive analysis, however we have some general metrics that should be included as well.
There are many diagnostic tools on the market allowing you to check the health of your website. Some of these tools allow quick comparisons of the major web components. Components like:
- on-page factors
- off-page factors
- technical aspects of a site
WSI has a great tool, Webscan, we use that allows for direct comparisons of various websites and checks web benchmarks from various angles. In less than an hour I can tell you what has changed on your competitive landscape.
A good measure of content quality and depth is a periodic benchmarking check of your competitors’ content changes. Some free tools, like Google alerts or Google site index check, can provide immediate insights into your competitor’s content changes.
Content Discoverability Benchmarking Brand content discoverability is reflected in the ranking coverage for each particular domain. Basically this is a measurement of targeted keywords relevant to your industry and business goals. This measurement is very volatile and can change from day to day due to content updates as well as search engine algorithmic updates. In a competitive analysis, knowing the competitor’s ranking development versus your own property is much more important.
Paid Advertisement Benchmarking
A constant finger on the pulse of your competitors paid advertisement campaign can pay you big dividends for your efforts. Pay-Per-Click (PPC) is a powerful, instant and much more dynamic than any other form of digital marketing. Do not neglect knowing what PPC activities your competitors are engaging in.
Social Presence and Activity Benchmarking
Google has definitely indicated that social engagement is going to become increasingly important in determining the value of a brand. This is an activity just about all businesses badly neglect. Which means, if you engage, it could become your secret weapon. As important as you taking full advantage of social technologies, is knowing if your competitors are or not. Social benchmarking can be as simple as becoming a follower of your competitor’s brands, or just monitoring their social activity. Ongoing monitoring is tremendously beneficial, as you may uncover a competitor’s hidden weaknesses.
Although the number of inbound links is not weighted as much as it once was, Google still finds the backlinks a valuable ranking factor. In fact, the quality and reputation of links pointing back to your domain may be one of the deciding factors for your overall search engine visibility. Creating a benchmark during a competitive analysis educates you about the inbound links your competitors have that you may not. This can improve your efforts by uncovering new potential referring domains to earn your new quality backlinks.
Other General Considerations:
- Check overall changes in visual appearance of your competitors’ web properties (web and social)
- Monitor changes in marketing messaging, which may indicate strategy, product, or service changes
- Constantly look for new products, new services, and new price announcements
- Be aware of any seasonal promotions
- Any business expansions or changes in your competitor’s geo-target
- Any changes to key personnel executive team
- Any additions to their project/case study portfolio
- Any new inbound/outbound advertising and/or corporate communications
Benchmarking as part of a competitive analysis you discover what your competitors are doing or not doing so that you can do it better.