Competitive marketing research is more than studying your competitors’ websites and their social media pages. You must also uncover the threat your competitors pose to your financial wellbeing and identify ways you can enhance the customer experience.
Competitive research begins with a growth mindset and the right tools
To fill in the missing pieces in a competitor’s marketing strategy, leverage the power of a competitive analysis. The right tools take the guesswork out of your assessment.
Keep in mind, tools only play a small role in a complete competitive analysis. It’s still critical to visit each website and determine the key strengths and weaknesses. Look for trust signals and conversion paths.
It’s also important to note that the tools below only provide data. It’s up to you to determine how to interpret and use the data to create actionable strategies to out-class your toughest competitors.
Building a useful competitive analysis
We’ll use our client, Mike’s Auto Body (https://mikesautobody.com/), to illustrate how to use each tool.
First, to set up a competitive analysis, create an Excel document to track how your metrics and observations compare to those of your competitors.
5 Free Competitive Research Tools (my favorites)
1. I Search From (http://isearchfrom.com/)
This tool allows us to replicate a Google search from a specific city. In this example, we are simulating a search from Walnut Creek, CA for the keyword “auto body shop near me.”.
Below you can see what a simulated search looks like. Take the time to note where your website ranks in relation to where your competitors rank. Are you dominating the search results or is it likely that the majority of the leads are going to your top competitors?
2. Website Grader by HubSpot (https://website.grader.com/)
This tool provides a simplified overview of some of the important website elements. It only covers each topic at a very high level. For example, the SEO test only shows the most basic SEO fundamentals. Thus a perfect SEO score doesn’t indicate a comprehensive SEO strategy is in place.
3. Spyfu (https://www.spyfu.com/)
Now that we understand who our toughest competitors are in Google’s search results, we can analyze their search engine marketing focus using SpyFu. This will help us understand what keywords they are focusing on; and, how much priority they are putting on Google organic search vs. Google paid search.
We can also see which keywords they’ve done a good job optimizing and how many searches they get based on those efforts.
Play close attention to non-branded keywords that show buying intent (e.g. auto body shop near me). These are the most valuable because they are likely to convert into paying customers. How do your keywords compare to those of your competitors? Who ranks the highest for the non-branded keywords that show buying intent?
4. Moz Link Explorer (https://analytics.moz.com/pro/link-explorer/)
After using SkyFu to understand which keywords you competitors are ranking for, Moz Link Explorer can help you understand a few of the components that help them rank well. One of the biggest external influences are the number of other websites that link to your website. Moz identifies these websites, and based on their authority, it calculates the authority of your website. Although authority is not the only factor that influences rankings, generally the more authority your site has, compared to your top competitors, the better.
A significant difference between competitors is +/- 10. A competitor with a domain authority of 28 is performing substantially better than a competitor with a domain authority of 18. If you are deficient in this area and are struggling to compete well in Google searches, you need to bring in an expert to help.
5. Moz Local (https://moz.com/local)
Local directories, citations, and data aggregators play a key role in how well a local business ranks in the local organic results. This is the three listings that shows up in a local search below a small map (also referred to as the local pack, three pack, or snack pack). Moz Local shows where you or your competitors have complete profiles. If both you and your competitors have a score, above 80%, you will need additional analysis to help understand how you can out-compete them for local searches. It’s necessary to run this test for each individual location.
Important note: None of these tools provide an effective way to analyze on-page SEO, which is by far the most important, and easy to fix, element of SEO. For more information about on-page SEO please see our blog, Essential On-Page SEO Techniques.
Other Free Competitive Analysis Tools I Like
- Ubersuggest – This is a tool that Neil Patel acquired and is now available on his website. It’s not a competitive analysis tool. I’ve included it because it is a very helpful tool for identifying keywords that you need to rank for on Google. Just type in a keyword and it will give you a list of suggested keywords. Find the ones with buying intent and check those on I Search From as well. I recommend sorting by the largest search volume.
- SEMrush – The first step in your competitive analysis is actually finding your true competitors. Just because a brand offers a similar product as you doesn’t mean they are your true competitor. SEM Rush is a great online tool that lets you see which sites are ranking for keywords that are relevant to your business. With SEM Rush you gain insights into your competitor’s website traffic, where the traffic is coming from, and how you stack up against the others.
- BuiltWith – Ever wonder how your competitors were able to implement that fun widget or feature on their site? With Builtwith you may be able to find out. Enter your competitors URL to gain a wealth of information including website services, analytics tools, and advertising networks. BuiltWith isn’t just used to look at your competitors, you can also gain insight into your existing leads technology usage.
- Buzzsumo – With Buzzsumo you can see which brands are ranking highly for the content topics that are relevant to your brand. Buzzsumo shows the engagements of blog posts and other content types to show you what’s performing well and what isn’t. You can use that knowledge to build your content marketing around topics that are resonating well with your audience. You also identify the top influencers in your industry and reach out to them for guest posting and influencer marketing.
- Similarweb – This shows you how many unique visitors your competitor’s websites are generating each month and which channels that traffic is coming from. If your competitor’s traffic is coming from social media, for instance, then you know you can either beef up your social presence to attract a chunk of that traffic; or, you can focus heavily on SEO to gain an untapped share of the market.
Performing a marketing competitive analysis is an essential part of developing a highly effective marketing strategy. Remember, these tools just provide the data. To make the data valuable, it must be interpreted and developed into a clear, actionable marketing strategy.
Contact us today if you need help conducting a competitive analysis.