Your website is driving traffic and helping you generate leads.
But let’s face it – your numbers could always be better.
Plus, your competition might be on to some things you haven’t even thought of yet. Their traffic numbers and conversion rates could be miles ahead of where yours are.
The good news? Your competitors aren’t completely out of reach. You may be able to learn a great deal from them, and even take inspiration from and improve upon their strategies.
But how do you go about learning from competitors? How do you conduct competitive research when you’re interested in boosting the effectiveness of your site?
The Importance of Competitive Research
The online marketplace offers access to a virtually endless supply of new customers. But competition is also fierce. Most if not all keywords have major contenders vying for them.
Unfortunately, many marketers and entrepreneurs overlook competitive research entirely, despite how helpful it can be. Analyzing your competition could mean the difference between creating a product that no one buys and attracting customers from launch.
Using the right tools, you can uncover:
- What keywords your competitors are ranking for
- Where their traffic is coming from
- What their customer demographic is
- Who their main competitors are
- And much more.
This data can help you learn about both the strengths and weaknesses of your competitors. It could help you find keywords you could be ranking for, sites to guest blog for, which social media sites to put your energy into, and much more.
Since more and more people are searching for products and services online, not being competitive online could mean missing out on a significant chunk of business.
Determining Who Your Competitors Are
You may already have a good idea of companies offering similar products or services to yours. But are they truly competitors?
Without knowing who you’re truly competing against, you’re just taking a stab in the dark at who you think your competitors are, instead of being calculated and measured in how you go about outmaneuvering your peers. You could be wasting energy trying to compete against the wrong entities!
You can get a better idea of who your competition is by:
- Googling your products or services, industry, or keywords
This is essentially surface-level research, but it can help you uncover competitors you didn’t know existed and learn more about your industry landscape.
- Asking your leads and customers
There’s a good chance they’ve done some research and have found several alternatives to your offer. So, who do they see as being your competition?
- Asking your sales team
Since the sales team is in constant contact with your prospects, they may have a good idea of other products or services your prospects are considering.
Once you know who you’re up against, you’re ready to begin your research process.
Take Advantage of the Many Tools Available to Do Your Competitive Research
Many great tools allow you to spy on your competitors.
Although you can manually review or audit every site out there – and we will talk more about this – it can prolong the process and slow things down in the early stages. You can uncover a great deal about a competitor’s site with the following tools without ever having to visit their website.
Here are several tools you should keep at the ready when conducting competitive analysis. So that you know, there are many others out there that can assist in this process.
SimilarWeb offers detailed data on any website of your choosing.
Even with the free version, you can view:
- How much traffic a particular website has
- What their bounce rate is
- Traffic by country
- Traffic sources
- What sites are referring the most traffic
- Which social networks are driving the most traffic
- How they’re utilizing advertising channels
- Audience interests
- Other similar sites
- And much more
When you’re researching sites similar to yours, this is an incredible tool.
Alexa mostly offers traffic and demographic information on the sites you look up.
You can see: How a site ranks on a global scale, audience geography, what keywords they’re ranking for, sites linking to them, related sites, and audience demographics.
Alexa doesn’t offer a lot of detailed information on the sites you look up but is still sufficient in helping you construct a customer profile.
Unsurprisingly, SEMRush offers data on how a site is ranking in search.
You can view:
- How many backlinks a site has
- The keywords a site is ranking for, and in what position
- The site’s main competitors
- Referring domains
- And more.
With the paid version, you can access even more in-depth information and view a full list of keywords, competitors, domains, and so on, for any site you’re researching.
Using Ahrefs, you can analyze: Total referring backlinks, total pages crawled, most popular anchor phrases, most popular content, and so on.
You should have at least one tool like Ahrefs in your arsenal so you can analyze your competition’s SEO tactics.
BuzzSumo is a bit of a different tool compared to the others already mentioned.
While it doesn’t tell you as much about your competitors as the others, it does make it easy for you to find content opportunities. You can research any domain or keyword of your choosing and find the most shared content on a given topic.
This makes BuzzSumo an excellent place to start when you’re looking at what content to create next for your website, whether to outrank the competition or just make more shareable content.
Analyze Competitor Websites Manually
By using the above tools, you can get a good idea of how your competition is doing online. But if you want to take this a step further, you’ll want to take a closer look at their websites.
By analyzing their websites, you can: Uncover the exact language they’re using to generate leads and sales, study the design elements and colors they’re using, better understand the user experience they offer to their customers, and more.
As you evaluate websites, you should look at: How easy or difficult it is to navigate, how clean or cluttered their website is overall, what fonts and colors they’re using and whether they’re easy to look at, how easy it is to make a purchase and what their pricing strategy is, whether they’re using a chat box, and so on.
Now that you’ve evaluated and analyzed your competition, you should be able to identify multiple opportunities. Your approach may not change drastically based on your findings, but even small tweaks can sometimes make a big difference.
Here are several elements you’ve hopefully come away with having completed the research process:
- Keywords you could be ranking for
- Adjustments you could make to your content marketing strategy
- How your SEO compares to others, and ways in which you could better optimize your website
- Improvements you could make to your navigation
- Ways in which you could improve your checkout process
- Support elements you could add to your website
- How to improve your pricing strategy
- Language or copy you could be using to increase conversions
- Imagery, fonts, or colors that have become synonymous with your industry
- Opt-in offer ideas to help you build your email list
- Strategies for building your social following
- What social networks to focus most of your attention and resources on
- Potential guest blogging or authoring opportunities
- How to better utilize your header, sidebar, or footer areas
You may not have takeaways in each of these categories, and that’s okay. These are just the major categories you should consider.
Implement Changes Based on Your Competitive Research
You may have learned a lot through this process, but if you do nothing with it, it won’t be of much value to you.
Having done your research, you need to look for ways you can improve your site. There may be products you could create. There may be changes you could make to your navigation. You could also look at the long-term benefits of search optimizing your entire website.
You are now ready to make some changes. Try testing one or two changes at a time, and see what your audience responds to. It’s much easier to track fewer changes at a given time as opposed to many. Ultimately, you won’t know what works until you experiment and give it a try. But do make sure to track and measure how your changes perform.
Competitive research need not be complicated.
There are many tools out there, and many ways of conducting your research. But no matter what methods you use, keep things simple and take plenty of notes. Capture ideas before they’re gone.
Even if you can’t identify ways of beating your competition – especially since that can come down to personnel and financial resources available to you – you should uncover ways of making your online presence stronger, and that should be your primary objective.
Have you ever analyzed competitor websites before? Did you discover anything interesting?
Let us know in the comments below.