Many companies do competitor analysis when they develop a digital marketing strategy and never get back to it. That is an oversight because, in many cases, a timely update on your rivals’ online moves could help you adjust your campaign mid-way and let it perform better in the end.
This article will show you the main points of a competitor analysis that should be revisited when your campaign has been running for a while. You will see the key metrics that we recommend tracking on each digital marketing channel and show you how to get them with SEMrush tools.
Who Should You Analyze as Competitors in Digital Marketing?
Competitor analysis normally includes your direct and indirect competitors — those providing the same (or similar) solutions to the same (or similar) audiences.
Online competitor analysis should cover them, plus one more group of rivals: your brand competitors that fight for the same users you do. They don’t necessarily need to sell them a similar product or service, but they definitely want to get their attention.
Marketing and technology strategist, founder of the Martech Zone blog, and CEO of DK New Media
Your competitors are often industry websites, directory websites, and social media sites. You are not just competing with other brands — you are competing with every site that wishes to disconnect you from your prospective buyer and then bill you to advertise to them.
This is a tricky challenge, but may the most intelligent competitor win.
Why You Need an Ongoing Competitor Analysis in Digital Marketing?
Your main competitors are most likely to stay the same as when you developed the strategy, but their positions and the general situation in the market may change. Here are the key reasons to check up on your competitors regularly.
To Review Benchmarks
From monitoring your internal stats, you know which channels perform the best — but what if your competitors have managed to achieve even better results? You need to know it.
To Catch Up with Industry and Market Trends
There are some seasonal trends that reoccur every year — and there are peaks and declines in demand that you will be prepared for only if you monitor the competitive landscape. Make sure to stay alert.
To Learn the Best New Practices and Mistakes to Avoid
Sometimes it is better to let your competitors test new channels than go there yourself and waste the budget. Learn from other companies’ experiences.
To Update Your Marketing Mix
From digital marketing campaigns, you can get some important news on your competitors, such as a new product launch, and get ideas for your company’s development.
To Refine Your Goals
As the situation in the online market changes, you may need to adjust not just the strategy, but the objectives you previously set.
How Often Should You Review Your Digital Marketing Strategy?
Each industry develops at a different pace, so you may need to get updates more (or less) often. Normally, we would recommend doing competitor analysis monthly to keep tabs on growing trends and adjust your campaigns accordingly; and quarterly to get to implement bigger changes in your digital marketing strategy.
Note that some of the tools featured in the article provide updates even more often — for example, SEMrush Organic Research shows new stats daily. You can check and analyze competitors’ metrics frequently, or only when you’re ready to make adjustments in your campaign.
How to Do Ongoing Analysis of Competitors’ Digital Marketing Strategies: the Key Points
Competitor analysis may seem like an endless process, but we have a quick list to make the process of collecting insights easier for you.
1. Get Updates on Competitors’ Performances
If you want your online strategy to beat your competitors, you need to stay up to date on their latest digital marketing moves, and your own performance compared to theirs. You want to start with an analysis of their website traffic.
Let’s imagine a home decor e-tailer that wants to catch up with its rivals’ online performance. With five competitor websites entered in SEMrush Traffic Analytics, we get to see:
If the leader of the competition has changed (in our case, homedepot.com has remained #1 in the list).
The fluctuations that have affected the competition in recent months.
How each rival grew (or lost) its popularity over the observed time.
Find out how your competitors attracted their audience:
In the examples below, you can see who wins in traffic sources and who gets more traffic from Canada than any other competitor.
Take note of any discrepancy from your initial digital campaign research — views of the niche, seasonal trends, and the most sustainable player.
For a better understanding of the market, you may want to check up on more than five competitors. In SEMrush Market Explorer, you just need to enter one website in the search field, and the tool will outline the rest of the field.
With this tool, you can:
Map out the competitive landscape in a comprehensible form of the Growth Quadrant.
Qualify your competitors by their current audience size and market potential.
Switch from “All Market” to “Narrow Focus” and reveal your closest rivals’ online market shares and research their digital marketing strategies further.
If you feel like you need to get updates on competitors’ website traffic in more detail, make sure to check out all the abilities of SEMrush Traffic Analytics and Market Explorer.
2. Analyze Your Rivals’ SEO Efforts
If competitors are outranking you in organic search, they may also be getting more clicks, generating more leads, and gaining more revenue.
With the Organic Research tool, you can monitor a target website’s organic search visibility day by day. We will continue our model analysis and see how homedepot.com is doing in organic search:
At a glance, you can discover:
The target website’s total number of keywords with organic positions (in the Google Top 100), presented visually.
Expected monthly traffic from those keywords.
Estimated price of the given organic keywords in text Google Ads.
Volumes of branded and non-branded traffic.
You can get into more detail on the competitors’ keywords that let them take top positions in organic search:
Discover their most successful keywords.
Get an idea of consumer behavior based on search frequency.
See the most popular pages that users found with organic search.
Outline initial ideas on how you can optimize your campaign to increase your rankings and conversions.
There are two more ways to gain a deeper understanding of competitors’ SEO:
Find gaps in your rivals’ coverage with the Backlink Gap tool. Competitors added can be root domains, subdomains, or URLs. A good way to use this intelligence would be to reach out to the resources that are linking to your competitors, but not you.
Enhance your content marketing strategy with Keyword Gap. The tool allows you to perform a side-by-side comparison of all of the similarities and differences between keyword portfolios (be it organic, paid, or PLA) for up to five competing domains.
3. Get Marketing Ideas from Their Recent Online Ads
There is still no universal formula for success in advertising. Still, there is always something to learn from looking at your competitors’ strategies, like which to adopt, which to avoid, and what you may have forgotten.
To analyze any advertiser, use the Advertising Research tool. Switch tabs to reveal:
The number of keywords the domain is bidding on.
The estimated traffic coming from these keywords.
Paid traffic cost estimation.
Other websites your target rival competes with.
Historical data to uncover your competitors’ seasonal preferences in advertising — this may be especially interesting if it has been quite a while since you checked up on competitors’ ads.
We decided to dig deeper into our model research and clicked on a blue cell in the Ad History report. We got to see an actual ad of Home Depot’s, which was run at a particular point in time. A possible step would be to adapt this ad to our business, let it run, and see how it performs.
You can focus on Google Shopping or display ads in your competitor analysis and use PLA Research and Display Advertising accordingly. There, you can analyze the distribution of a competitor’s GDN ads around the globe and measure your rivals’ advertising activity to understand which markets you should be targeting and how.
Among other things, look at the actual Landing Pages from your competitors’ campaigns and analyze important specifics like which ads pointed to each landing page on their site at a particular time.
With this step of competitor analysis, you will be able to analyze the pricing in the target segment and optimize your ad creatives (in terms of keywords, titles, and pictures) and ad spend for maximum ROI.
4. See What Your Rivals’ Have Been Doing in Content Marketing and PR
This step can let you invest less effort into researching relevant topics and respected media that can mention you or place your backlink.
Track online mentions of any word or phrase related to your rival’s brand name, product name, product category, motto, or anything else. You can research all of these with the Brand Monitoring tool. The report can help you:
Find mentions on the web, forums, Twitter, or Instagram.
Estimate reach for each mention and determine the platform with the largest coverage.
Highlight the mentioner’s reputation (Authority Score) and website traffic (Traffic: Low/Medium/High in the tool).
As in previous steps, we researched each of these aspects for The Home Depot.
If you are interested in the traffic driven by referrals, go to Traffic Analytics for insightful research.
Study a competitor’s backlink profile in detail and monitor your rival’s new and lost backlinks.
Use Backlink Analytics reports to see the source and target URLs and analyze specific pages in terms of importance (volume of links pointing to this page) and trustworthiness (number of links coming from trusted domains).
In your research, you could filter mentions by their type (follow/nofollow, sponsored/UGC), format (text, image, form, and frame), as well as if the backlink is new or recently lost.
There is one point that you shouldn’t ignore either for your or your competitors’ articles: assessing the content performance.
- How much traffic did a particular post get?
- How many shares and mentions did it receive?
The Post Tracking tool can help you answer these questions.
As you may notice in the screenshot, two metrics are missing for The Home Depot research example: Referral Traffic and Estimated Reach. They become available only when you connect your Google Analytics or Google Search Console to the tool. This means, when you have finished competitor analysis in Post Tracking, you can compare the results to your own content performance.
5. Check Up on Your Competitors’ Moves on Social Media
Social media is a standalone digital space requiring an approach and strategy of its own. Crafting such a strategy can be daunting, but you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. You may find a bunch of good ideas by just reviewing your rivals’ social media accounts.
Here is your to-do (and to-answer) list:
Find who has been active on social media.
Determine which platforms they have been using.
See if their audience has increased or decreased.
Learn what type of content they have been posting (are there any non-promotional posts?) and how often.
See if there is anything new in their audience engagement and communication.
Social Media Tracker will help you in this part of competitor analysis.
6. Review the Findings with Your Own Goals and Strategy in Mind
After moving through the above the key points of recurring competitor analysis, you now need to make sense of your findings.
Assess how competitors’ actions and your marketing ideas correlate with your initial strategy.
You may find out that a long-term campaign that you started six months ago doesn’t correspond to the current market trends and needs. It is better to find out now than another six months later.
Filter out any ideas that don’t comply with your company’s offering, positioning, ultimate goals, and strategy.
No matter what brilliant insights you have found by looking at your competitors, if they don’t align with your brand idea or roadmap, it is better to push them to the back burner. And this is when the next point becomes crucial:
Communicate competitive intelligence data to other departments.
Competitor analysis can reveal insights that are not yet actionable for the marketing team but will be appreciated in the sales department, for example. Needless to say, any intelligence is invaluable for executives.
Think of those colleagues who could benefit from your findings and don’t hesitate to share the report with them.
Encourage and initiate changes in your marketing plans and strategy (if needed)
If you are halfway through your marketing campaign, and it doesn’t show brilliant results (compared to competitors), don’t be afraid of making tweaks or even rethinking the entire strategy. This is why you do competitor analysis — to discover greener fields and move to them as quickly as you can.