A Step-by-Step Competitive Analysis for Digital Marketing
A lot of times we forget to check in on our competitors, but doing so can be very useful. They’ve probably done their own research, experimented with different approaches, and are now sticking to the ways that work. So it’s definitely worth seeing what they’re doing. But also, this is an excellent opportunity to figure out how to do it better.
Competitive research analyzes a business’s competitors to identify their strengths and weaknesses and discover opportunities to leverage them within a marketing strategy.
In this blog post, we are going to go through competitive research in terms of digital marketing. You’ll learn to utilize online tools, review your competitors’ digital channels manually, and create a framework to analyze the results.
By the end of this blog post you’ll know how to conduct competitive research that will help you:
- benchmark your digital marketing activities
- recognize potential improvements for your current efforts
- identify new opportunities for your digital marketing strategy
- identify new ways to get ahead of your competitors
1. Analyze their organic search visibility
Google is the number one search engine, and it's no surprise that customers are searching for answers there daily. This makes organic search a very strong traffic source. So let’s check how your competitors are leveraging it.
For this research, you can use tools such as Semrush, Ubersuggest, Moz, etc. In their dashboard, you can check your competitors’ organic search visibility to understand their target keywords, content strategy, and traffic stats.
You want to find out their:
Monthly traffic. This will give you a better idea of the website’s organic performance.
Domain authority. You’ll determine how likely it is for your competitors to rank in the search engine result pages.
Most popular keywords. Aside from learning which keywords they’re targeting and investing in, you’ll get a better sense of your audience’s questions. In other words, the search terms you find indicate what your target audience wants to read about. This also means new topic ideas for you. So make sure to write them down.
Keyword ranking. You’ll get a better understanding of their position in Google on specific search terms.
Pages with the most organic traffic. They are the most visited pages for a reason. So check what works on those pages. Analyze the content and how it’s presented. You basically have the chance to identify good practices to learn from.
2. Analyze their paid search campaigns
The next step is to analyze your competitors' paid search campaigns. We’re all curious to see what our competitors are investing in. But, what’s important is to not stop only when your curiosity is satisfied. The real value of spying on your competition is to use that information to your advantage. And that’s what you’ll try to do in this section.
You’ll analyze your competitors' paid search campaigns to discover new keyword ideas, improve existing content and find ways to advertise better than them. For this analysis, you can use the same tools from before as well as Google Ads Transparency Center. Here you can find your competitor's ads by searching for their website or legal name. All ad formats are available - text, image and video ads.
Webflow's ads in Google Ads Transparency Center
What you want to find out:
Keywords they’re targeting. Make a list of all the keywords you find to get a better overview of the search terms they’re investing in. You might also discover potential new keyword ideas.
What’s the intent of the search query and how your competitors monetize it.
What their landing page looks like. Analyze their offer and CTAs to identify the campaign objective.
Ad copy. Analyze their headlines and descriptions to find out the ad value proposition.
How much they’re investing in search ads.
Their bidding position. If you are currently advertising for instance on Google Ads, you should check the Auction Insights Report to see your position vs theirs.
3. Investigate their backlink strategy
Backlinks have a powerful impact on the website domain authority. So it’s in every marketer’s interest to obtain as many quality backlinks as possible. So a sneak peek at your competitor's backlink strategy seems like a good idea, doesn’t it?
Once again, you can use the same tools as before - Semrush, Moz, Ubersuggest.
What you need to do:
Identify pages that are linking to your competitors' websites.
Analyze the content on those pages. Figure out if the linking pages are for instance directories, business partners, guest posts, or other sponsored content. This is how you’ll figure out their backlink strategy.
4. Find out which platforms they’re using
Have you ever wondered which online tools, advertising platforms, or mailing providers your competitors are using? Here's how to find that out.
Check which scripts are installed on their website
Use online tools such as BuiltWith (or if you’re code-savvy, you can check in the inspect tool in the browser). You’ll be able to see which scripts they have uploaded on their website. The most common are GA script, Facebook Pixel, LinkedIn Insights, HotJar, Mailchimp, etc.
Scripts in the browser's inspect tool
What you want to find out:
The scripts. These represent the tools, platforms and technologies they’re using. So if they have these scripts installed, they’re using the corresponding tools. This is an opportunity to find out if there are any relevant tools you should also consider leveraging.
Identify the platforms they're using to run ads
You can use Meta's Ad Library to check if your competitors are running ads on the Meta platform. If so, you will get a list of the ads they're currently running. You'll also be able to see on which platforms they're running their ads. For instance, Facebook, Instagram, Messenger or Audience Network.
Framery's ads in Meta Ad Library
To check the same on LinkedIn, you need to go to their company profile, click on the Posts tab and select Ads.
Another way to do it is by searching for your competitor in LinkedIn's Ad Library. You can search by company/advertiser name or by keyword. It's also possible to select countries and the date range.
Zapier's ads in LinkedIn's library
Just as described before, you can use Google Ads Transparency Center to easily find competitor's ads running on Search, Display and Youtube. Search for them by their website or legal name, then choose the timeframe, format and location. You should be able to see their ads if their account is verified.
Mailchimp's ads in Google Ads Transparency Center
What you want to find out:
If they are using LinkedIn, Meta and/or Google Ads for advertising. If they are not, it can mean an opportunity for you to do so. But before you decide to start, research your target audience to make sure they really do hang out on these platforms.
Their ad creatives and copy. What kind of visuals, terminology and CTAs are they using? What is their ad value proposition?
The ad formats they're using. Are they using images, videos or text ads?
Their landing page. Just like you did in the paid search campaigns research. So in short, analyze their offer and CTAs to get a better understanding of their campaign objective.
5. Explore their website
Eyes are the window of the soul. Or better yet, the website is the window of a company’s marketing strategy.
Not kidding, the website will uncover a lot about your competitor’s strategy. You just have to know where to look!
Head to their website and find out:
Their positioning. This is conveyed throughout their content, copy, and the language they use. You should be able to figure out who they’re speaking to, what value are they offering and how they differentiate.
Their messaging. Analyze their copy to figure out how they're trying to appeal to their customers. Analyze their choice of words and the features and outcomes they address in the copy.
Their CTA. Find out what desired action they want their customers to take on the website.
Their visual assets. Pay attention to their photos and videos. How do they present their product, company, or team?
What kind of resources they’re providing (newsletter, webinars, blog, whitepapers, case studies …). Analyzing these resources will help you get a better idea of their content strategy.
6. Explore their social media channels
Social media is a great way to connect with your audience. You have a chance to get in front of your audience, tell your story and attract customers. Also, you have an opportunity to develop and maintain relationships with your customers and ultimately grow your business.
So all of this makes social media an important marketing channel. And using it strategically requires a lot of planning and effort. Luckily, there’s a way for you to get inspired and discover new approaches. So last, but not least, let’s spy on your competitors' social media channels.
For this analysis, you can use tools for social media monitoring or you can do it manually.
You want to find out:
On which channels they’re present.
Their social metrics. Check their following and engagement rate.
What topics they're posting on. Usually, companies post educative, informative or entertaining content as well as company information (about their culture, company updates, etc).
What kind of content they’re sharing there (videos, photos, text posts, UGC…).
How often they post.
7. Use a framework for further analysis
Once you’ve gathered all the information, it’s time to interpret the results. For this, you can select a framework - e.g. the SWOT matrix.
The point is to present the research results in a way that will help you improve your strategy and marketing efforts. This way you’ll quickly identify possibilities for improvement or any potential challenges that need to be addressed.
So a SWOT matrix can be very helpful in organizing all the information you got from the research. What you need to do is to identify strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.
Keep in mind that the strengths and weaknesses are related to your brand and marketing efforts. They represent your strong suits and advantages as well as areas where you could do better.
On the other hand, opportunities and threats are based on the external environment. They represent external factors you should be aware of.
Competitive research is an often overlooked opportunity for marketers to improve their efforts and get ahead of the competition.
It’s an effective way to monitor your competitors’ strategies and look for gaps to fill.
By determining what they're doing right and where they're falling short, you can design a strategy for success.
- 1. Analyze their organic search visibility
- 2. Analyze their paid search campaigns
- 3. Investigate their backlink strategy
- 4. Find out which platforms they’re using
- Check which scripts are installed on their website
- Identify the platforms they're using to run ads
- 5. Explore their website
- 6. Explore their social media channels
- 7. Use a framework for further analysis