No matter how niche your product might be, no ecommerce store exists in a vacuum. There will always be another company out there who is selling what you’re selling. Learning what they’re doing right and what they’re doing wrong is part of knowing how to improve your own business strategies.
While you obviously want your own business to be unique and stand out, if there’s something that other companies are vastly outpacing you on that you're not aware of, you could be dramatically hurting your chances of success.
That’s where a competitive analysis comes in. Competitive analysis refers to the process of gathering data about rival businesses. This doesn’t just mean knowing what they sell, it also refers to doing more in-depth analysis of their content and general internet presence using other tools available to you.
In this article, we’ll go over where to find information in your own competitive analysis, what to look for, and what to do with the competitive intelligence you gather.
Find Your Main Competitors
The first step is to find the businesses that you consider your most direct competitors. Depending on your product, you may be competing with hundreds or even thousands of other businesses selling something similar, so try to focus on around ten or so. These should be companies whose target demographic closely resembles your own, who utilize similar strategies to you to gain leads.
There may be a few businesses that instantly come to mind for you. If not, there’s a couple things you can try to try to generate some ideas.
You can try a series of Google searches for similar products to yours to find some of your most prominent competitors. If you’re still stumped, try using an SEM tool to check what other companies are ranking for your keywords.
Find and Examine Your Competitors’ Content
So you’ve made a list of your most prominent competitors - now it’s time to take a closer look at their content and compare it to your own to see where you might be lacking.
The content on your competitors’ websites should be pretty accessible - but there’s a few things you’ll want to do to be sure you get the full breadth of their content. Start with the site’s navigation bar, clicking through each section until you have a good idea of the scope of it. Also check the home page - scroll all the way down to be sure if there’s other content housed outside of the navigation bar, or even in the bottom navigation section.
After you have made a list of URL’s where content is housed, you can begin digging into it at your leisure.
What type of content are your competitors putting out? Blog posts? Videos? Free ebooks? If they’re utilizing an email campaign, what kind of emails are they sending? What’s the visual content of their website look like? How are they presenting themselves? What sort of calls-to-action are they using in their landing pages to draw in new leads?
It’s important to figure out not only the type of content, but also the quantity of content corresponding to each specific subject. Knowing how much content has been generated on whichever topic will give you a better idea of just how much effort will be required to equal or surpass them. The frequency at which your competitor updates their website with new content will also obviously factor into this, as well.
If your competitor is putting out content at a much faster clip than you, consider stepping up your own efforts to keep up. The internet is a crowded place - you have to stay updating constantly and always pushing out new content if you hope to be seen in the fast-paced world of online marketing.
These are just a few examples of what you should be looking for - but really, any part of the website that you feel is eye-catching or unique is something to keep an eye out for. If there are aspects in which you feel your competitors are doing worse than you, that’s something to note as well as you can use that to your advantage. If there are opportunities your competitor isn’t capitalizing on, that’s something you can take advantage of.
Try to evaluate the quality of their blog posts or other content. Is it in-depth and detailed, or aimed at people new to the subject? Is it rife with spelling and grammar errors? How many contributors do they have? Is it structured in such a way that it’s easy to read and understand?
Pay special attention to which articles get more shares from the audience. This will help you find which topics people are most interested in.
Once you’ve evaluated the quality of their content, try giving them a “grade” based on your own subjective scale. A picture should start to form in your mind of how you stack up in comparison. The specific aspects of their marketing that you isolated earlier should give you a good idea of what areas you could stand to improve, and what qualities make your own brand unique. From here, you can develop a plan to put in more effort and resources to improve these blind spots.
For example, if one of your competitors is doing much better than you drawing in business on and email marketing campaign by by doing special offers or raffles to new subscribers, consider whether something similar could be appropriate for your business, or even ways you could make the concept better.
Analyze Your Competitors’ Use of Keywords
The success of your competitors’ content may not be simply a result of its quality. You’ve got to take a closer look at their choice of how they use keywords and where.
Analyzing the SEO structure of your competitors could give you a valuable clue as to why their content brings in the number of leads that it does. Focus on where they use keywords - on the page title, the URL, or in the content itself.
By looking at what keywords they’re using, you can start to put together a list of keywords that you can target on your own website. Keep a special eye out for lower volume keywords, usually longer phrases, that will be easier for your site to rank for.
Check Out Your Competitor’s Social Media
It’s important to know the degree to which your competitors have integrated their social media presence into their marketing.
First, see if they have profiles on all the major social media sites and determine the extent of their presence. Check all the major sites, even if you feel that they might not be relevant to your business. Just because you might not be utilizing LinkedIn or YouTube doesn’t mean your competitors aren’t - which means they have a distinct advantage over you in those areas.
Then again, you might also find that they’ve taken the time to set up profiles but never actually use them for much of anything. This could also be a huge boon for you as well - you can take advantage of their lack of engagement to get ahead.
If they do actually use their social media accounts, pay special attention to how many followers they have, how often they post, and what sort of content they’re promoting. If they get a lot of engagement with their posts, note what sort of content they’re posting. Are they doing lots of giveaways to people who tag their friends, special Facebook-only promo codes, etc.? Also, do their websites put their social media front and center with social media follow and share buttons?
Find the profile on your competitor list with the most successful social media presence and take notes. Learn from the foremost influencers in your product niche and you can start applying these lessons to your own business.
Apply Your Newfound Knowledge and Make Improvements
Now that you’ve gathered the information you need, it’s time to compare it directly to your own online marketing to see how it stacks up. Hopefully, you’ve gained a better idea of what needs to be improved on your end, as well as what sort of content you need to generate in the future.
Take an honest look at your current website’s content in light of your newfound knowledge of your competitors. Is your competitors store of content a result of a large team working for years, something that you just don’t have the money and resources to achieve? Or are they just active on social media and investing more time in sharing their content, something you could do with a little time and effort?
When you know what your competitors are doing better than you, that gives you insight into a path forward, and allows you take to specific steps to deploy your resources wisely and remedy your shortcomings. Whether you’re getting a better idea of what content others are putting out, learning some good keywords to implement on your blog, or gaining some ideas for ways to drum up engagement on social media, it’s always good to keep an eye on the competition.