To stay ahead of the competition, you need to know exactly where your competitors are and how they got there.
Welcome to the complete guide on planning and executing a thorough competitor analysis.
In this in-depth guide, I’ll tell you how to spy on your competition with an easy step-by-step framework anyone can execute to gain the competitive edge when assembling their own business strategy for their target market.
Keep reading to learn:
- Why and when a competitor analysis is helpful.
- The framework to build your competitive analysis template.
- How to uncover every marketing tactic they’ve put in place.
- How to spy on their SEO, email, and marketing strategy.
- What tools can make your life easier when performing an analysis.
I’ve likely performed at least 100 analyses in the last six years, discovering every little secret of my competitors.
It’s time to start uncovering your competitor’s best-kept secrets… don’t forget to take notes. As you go through the guide, I’ll help you build your competitive analysis framework, and you can immediately dive into first-hand research!
A Competitor Analysis Framework In 4 Easy Steps
Marketing guides tend to overpromise, so I’m sure you’ve read the title of this chapter with a raised eyebrow.
How can you build a simple competitive analysis template or framework in just four steps? Let me guide you.
Over the years, I’ve performed many competitive analyses for both major competitors and small business owners and companies – For all their differences, they all still had something in common.
Competitive analysis can be as long as complex as you need it to be but, it comes down to having a set number of factors that you need to have to make it actionable. If you have time and resources, then you can go even deeper.
This guide will show you a simple analysis framework anyone can execute.
Curious? Let’s set some basis below and then dive deep into competitive analysis!
What is Competitor Analysis and how does it give you the competitive advantage?
The competitive analysis involves researching how your business and marketing strategies compare with other players in the space.
There can be many different types of competitor analysis, focusing on the strategies, product or service – or all at once. It can be an enormous job – but it doesn’t have to be.
With the competitor analysis framework that I’ll show you in this guide, you’ll be able to spy on your competitors efficiently and effectively.
What do you need to start? A computer for your research and your favorite tool to write down your annotations.
It can take the form of a single piece of paper, a complex spreadsheet, or even a PowerPoint presentation. You can use a competitor analysis framework like the one we’ll explain below and adapt it to your needs, adding or removing fields that don’t apply to you.
Why Should You Perform a Competitor Analysis?
Whether you are in the SaaS world or you have an e-commerce business, a competitor analysis can be helpful to keep an eye on what your competition is doing for several reasons.
- Understand the market environment and uncover industry trends. By researching other companies, their business model, and their achievements, you’ll grasp how the market you are operating on works and if there are any trends you can use to your advantage. The SaaS market changes in a blink of an eye – and this is something you can do to avoid getting caught off guard.
- Analyze how you compare. If you are starting or have never done a competitor analysis in the past, it can be challenging to find a baseline. If you’re only looking at your results, you may have a distorted vision of what’s happening in the competitors market. By comparing yourself with others, you’ll be able to benchmark your results and insert them into the bigger picture of your business environment.
- Find any gaps. We all know how important it is to find your niche, and a good competitor analysis framework can help you in this respect, too. By identifying your competitors products and competitors offer, you’ll be able to find a spot that they have not covered yet and locate your place in a crowded environment.
- Develop your own product or service. (not so fast!) Finding out about your competitions’ product or service they offer may tempt you to copy them and follow their lead, but they could be headed in the wrong direction! You need to Use your own customer interviews intelligence to develop your offerings – and use this research only to inform you of what the competition is doing.
- Market and sell more effectively. SaaS and e-commerce businesses alike will benefit from a competitor analysis framework that focuses on go-to-market (GTM) activities. Identifying the language used to describe new features and how the product is promoted on the internet can be essential to position your own brand.
A bit overwhelming, right? That is why we have come up with a simple competitor analysis framework that can help you identify the key factor you need to analyze to have something usable – and, even if expandable, can be used on its own.
Who Are Your Real and direct Competitors?
So far, we have covered the why – but how you’d find who your real competitors are? There are different theories about how you’d go and find the companies you’d need to focus on when building your competitor analysis framework.
The theory I think is the most useful is the one that identifies direct competitors, indirect competitors, and potential competitors.
The two crucial questions you need to ask when starting to compile your framework to identify your competitors are:
- Does company X have similar capabilities? Companies that have similar capabilities are usually juicy ones. They tend to have an overlapping business model – Like their technology stack and communication strategies, attract employees with similar expertise, and, to some extent, have identical know-how.
- Does company X have similar customers and needs? Digging deeper to find the low-hanging fruit is then identifying which are the company’s customers and needs. We’ll see how customer research can help you here – as the best option is always to look at what people say and how they behave in terms of purchase and company loyalty.
Once you have answered these questions, you can divide your competitors into three categories: direct, indirect, and potential competitors.
- Direct competitor – Your Direct competitors share capabilities and customers/needs. These will be easier to identify as they will be selling a similar product, have a similar business model, and market to a similar target audience. A classic example of direct competition is between 2 brick-and-mortar grocery stores, such as Tesco and Sainsbury’s.
- Indirect competitor – Your indirect competitors share customers and needs but not capabilities. They may have a different business model or use a different market strategy, but their product or service solves the same problem as yours and target the same group of people. i.e., indirect competition could be between Tesco and Amazon Prime Now.
- Potential competitor – You share capabilities but not customers and needs, and you may wonder why you need to add them to your competitor analysis framework. In an ever-changing online landscape, it’s helpful to identify companies with a similar business model that can expand to other verticals. For instance, Tesco may be expanding to B&Q territory and selling home and garden products.
This is all nice, but how many companies should you add to your competitor analysis framework?
To keep your framework clean and fresh, you don’t want to add everything there. Depending on how crowded is the market you’re operating in, you may want to have 4-7 competitors analyzed.
Focus on direct competitors, know your indirect competitors, and keep an eye on your potential competitors – and reiterate your analysis routinely (this is important!) The market moves fast, and you’d need to be on top of any changes in competitive intelligence to keep the edge.
Establishing your Framework and discovering the target audience
So far, we’ve learned why to perform an analysis and who are the competitors you need to spy on – we’re ready to disclose the 4-step competitor analysis framework we’ll be using in the following chapters.
- Establish a simplified SWOT Analysis Template. Firstly, we’ll go into how to use the SWOT framework to identify the Opportunities, Threats your company and your competition face, and your competitors’ strengths and weaknesses relative.
- Dissect your competitors’ marketing strategy. This chapter will go through how to analyze your specific competitors’ website, unique selling proposition, email marketing (including lead generation), online store, and social strategy.
- Analyze how your competition is using SEO and content marketing. Next, we’ll look at how you can identify which keywords they are competing for and their content marketing strategy.
- Find competitor ads and which advertising platforms they are hanging out on. Finally, advertising. Finding potential customers and retargeting existing ones can be tricky. Checking out your marketing tactics can give you a competitive advantage.
What guide would it be without a bonus? you can execute all steps of this framework with a bit of help – we’ll dedicate a chapter to all the tools you can use to make your spying endeavor a little easier (and fun!)
The ‘How To’s of Analysis
You now have all the pieces you need to build your framework; let’s recap them:
- (virtual) pen and paper – preferably a spreadsheet where to input all the information you’ll find in your research;
- A computer with an internet connection to search for all the information you need; online presence, marketing efforts, competitors pricing, secondary competitors, etc.
- A list of your competitors is already divided into direct, indirect, and potential.
A SWOT analysis can help you identify a competitor’s strengths and weaknesses and what opportunities and threats they are facing. It can be done at the company, project, or initiative level, and you can give it the complexity you need in a given situation.
In the context of an analysis framework, you can perform a simplified SWOT analysis to annotate how your competition compares in each of the four areas.
Strengths are strong points that come within the organization’s business model and help achieve the company’s overall goal. Some of the questions you can ask in this area are:
- What is company X doing better than you?
- What sets company X apart from the rest of the competition?
- Which internal resources does company X nail in terms of technology, assets, culture?
The company’s strengths and weaknesses could potentially be harmful towards reaching its overall goals. Some of the questions you can ask in this area are:
- What company doesn’t X have that you do?
- What do you do better than company X?
- Which internal limitations company X has in technology, assets, culture?
Opportunities are areas of the business a company has not developed yet, and they depend on the external market landscape and help achieve the company’s overall goal. Some of the questions you can ask in this area are:
- Is company X expanding its business to another vertical/area?
- Is company X tapping into new needs and/or target customer segments?
- How is press coverage for company X?
Threats are all the risks a company faces from the external environment, jeopardizing its success. As part of a framework, some of the questions you can ask in this area are:
- Is company X a threat in one/more areas of your brand?
- Is company X changing your market position?
- Which impact do these threats have on your customers?
Effective Marketing Analysis
Tons of (virtual) paper has been devoted to every aspect of your competitors’ marketing strategies you need to analyze to have them under your radar when it comes to marketing analysis.
In this chapter, we’ll see three main areas of marketing you need to focus on if you want to gain a competitive edge. :
- Website: including your competitor’s site structure, how they are conveying their unique value proposition, and what they are doing to convert those target customers into leads.
- Email marketing: including newsletters and which sequences your competitors have in place to move leads through the value journey and turn them into buyers.
- Social media platforms include how your competitors use social icons, which channels they hang out on, and how to monitor their share of voice.
At the end of each section, you’ll find a list of questions. Add them to your framework and compile each while examining your competitor’s strengths and weaknesses. By the end of this guide, you’ll have an accurate assessment for your analysis and be ready to apply it to your business plan!
Marketing Analysis #1: Website
While we’ll leave SEO-related and technical analysis of your competitor’s websites to the next chapter (take me there), there are several marketing strategies you can check directly on your competitors’ sites.
At this level, you want to focus on the look and feel of your competitors’ websites.
This is, of course, not to mime them but to have a look at how (and how much) they are investing in a polished and up-to-date website. This is important because, ultimately, the good design reduces bounce rates and improves user experience.
In terms of design, you can look at what kind of imagery your competitors are using, whether it’s stock images, illustrations, or polished and high quality. Also, check if the website is mobile-friendly and designed to be responsive (it’s a one-minute check, see below!)
Use the developer tools on Chrome to check if the website is responsive.
Unique Selling Proposition
A company’s unique selling proposition (or USP) makes a company different from any other. As you are likely operating in a crowded environment, you must have your setup – like, right now.
To help you with that, you must recognize your competitors’ USP. It is usually located on their website – there are several places where you can check: the Homepage, the About Us section, and any landing pages (in particular pages where an action is required, lead, or conversion.)
Netflix’s USP is right and center of its Homepage: they’re one of the largest subscription-based streaming services around.
Since USP is basically what your competitors have and you have not, what you can infer from this part of your marketing analysis is their products and services.
This is excellent insight when you are looking at how to position your products and services and understand how they differ from those of your competitors.
Website Lead Generation
Another key point you need to focus on when analyzing your competition’s marketing strategies is how they use their website as a lead generation machine.
Converting website visitors into leads is the first action you’d need to take to move them through the customer journey so that they become – hopefully soon – your clients. It’s also a key element of a zero-party data strategy.
There are many strategies that your competition (and you) can use to do just that. When doing a marketing analysis focused on finding lead-worth content, look for how much free content your competitors offer compared with gated content.
Scan their website looking for lead magnets: what type of lead magnet are they using, which is the format, what information they are requesting. They may be using pop-ups to entice users to leave their contact information (this is always a good idea, we talked about it here)
In-page pop-ups can be used to elicit action and convert more leads.
This will help you assess if you are offering too much free content compared to what they do and which topics they are looking at to be an authoritative voice.
Website Marketing Analysis: Burning Questions
To recap, when doing a website marketing analysis, you should ask whether your competitor website is:
- up-to-date and polished? (Y/N)
- responsive and mobile-friendly? (Y/N)
- showing a clear USP? (Y/N)
- if so, what is your competitive advantage over their USP? (open answer)
- offering more free content or gated content? (ratio)
- offering lead magnets? (Y/N)
- if so, what types of lead magnets? (open answer)
Marketing Analysis #2: Email Marketing
According to recent research, email marketing is one of the top strategies to acquire new target customers for small-medium businesses. If you don’t want to leave money on the table, this is something you need to focus on – and checking what your competitors are doing can give you a fair advantage.
The most obvious place to start to spy on your competitors’ email marketing strategy is to sign up for their newsletter. You can then analyze the email structure, scheduling, and whether the email focuses on product updates, building authoritativeness, or engaging their subscribers.
Suppose you don’t want to let your competitors know that you are executing an email marketing analysis. In that case, you can set up a brand new email using a generic name – though it’s very likely that your competitors are doing the same!
Alternatively, you can find services online such as ReallyGoodEmails that will show you a bunch of examples – you may be lucky and find your competitors there.
Email Marketing Series
Email marketing is not just a newsletter, though. If you want to take your email marketing to the next level, you’d need to follow your competitors’ flow. Meaning becoming a lead and then a customer.
It can be expensive – and time-consuming. And, depending on the market you’re in, also pointless. The free option is to become a lead (you can use the email you created for the newsletter) and record the emails you’ll start receiving after that.
You can record many factors in your email marketing analysis, such as subject line, CTA, delivery schedule, email template, triggered vs. broadcast emails ratio.
An essential factor in analyzing is the email’s purpose: inspect your competitors’ emails for signs that connect them to one of these five purposes to find opportunities for your email marketing strategy or gaps that you can fill in in your current email schedule:
- Indoctrinate: this is where your competitor will show their company values and educate their potential customers on who they are as a business.
- Engage: here, your competitors will try and get subscribers excited about their product or service with the end goal of turning them into customers.
- Ascend: in this email series, you’ll find what your competition is doing to turn a one-time buyer into a recurring one.
- Segment: here, you’ll be able to get an idea of the topics your competitors are using to segment their same audience and get them to raise their hand to re-enter the engage program.
- Win Back: this is where you can derive to which extent your competitors are willing to go to get an unengaged/churned customer back.
Email Marketing: The Burning Questions
To recap, when doing an email marketing, you should ask whether, in their email marketing strategy, your competitors are:
- sending a regular newsletter? (Y/N)
- if so, what is the email structure, scheduling, content strategy, primary purpose? (open answer)
- sending triggered vs. broadcast emails? (Y/N)
- if so, what is their schedule, email subject, CTA, template? (open answer)
- using purpose-driven email marketing series? (Y/N)
- if so, what are those purposes, and are there any opportunities for you? (open answer)
#3: Social Media
While we’ll see how to spy on your competitors’ digital advertising initiatives in Chapter 4 (take me there), we’ll now have a look at how to conduct a marketing analysis focused on social channels.
Social Channels and Data Gathering
The first step you need to take when doing a social marketing analysis is to collect qualitative data. This is because you’d need to learn which social channel your competitors are on and with what results.
First, check the main social channels like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Pinterest. Then, gather information on how many followers your competitors have (and how fast that number is growing), how often do they publish (and what kind of content), and whether they are using hashtags and how.
Another important factor is performance, as you’d want to understand which channels are working for your competitors and if you are cashing on them too. Specifically, look at the engagement rate, how many likes, comments, and shares their posts have.
The next step of your social marketing analysis is to benchmark these results against your own to find opportunities or gaps in your strategy you can take advantage of.
Protip: If you want to keep up to date with the latest news of your competition, in particular in the social media space, you need to streamline your social media analysis and run it regularly.
Social Media Monitoring
The act of monitoring (which you should always do for your brand in the first place) is scanning the internet looking for information about a specific brand.
In the framework of a social media marketing analysis, you want to identify areas like:
- Mentions of your competitors brand (direct and indirect),
- Hashtags related to your competitors and/or industry,
- Comments or reviews on social media,
- Customers’ complaints or praises.
Social Marketing: The Burning Questions
To recap, you should ask whether, in their social marketing strategy, your competition is:
- using social media? (Y/N)
- if so, on which channels are they active, what followers they have, and at what rate are they growing? (open answer)
- using specific hashtags (also industry-related)? (open answer)
- getting high/low engagement rates on their posts? (open answer)
- perceived positively or negatively (look at comments, reviews, complaints)? (open answer)
The concept of SEO analysis surely comes with a bad reputation. In the past, that could have meant using black-hat strategies to outperform your competition – but not today.
Yes, it will still include fierce competition, but that’s the beauty of it – you can exploit the intelligence you gather from your competitors to devise white-hat strategies and prioritize your SEO efforts.
In this chapter, we’ll see four key features of SEO you need to take into consideration when spying on your competitors:
- Keyword analysis: finding your competitors’ organic keywords, the difference between domain and page-by-page keyword research, and other factors to consider in your keyword analysis.
- Backlinks: including how to analyze link building, backlink growth, and how to find and exploit your competitors’ backlink gaps.
- SERP and user intent: including how to find out how to identify areas of the intention of your competitors’ users and understand how difficult it could be to outrank them in the SERP.
- The content analysis includes finding which of your competitors’ content is most popular and most linked and how to find gaps to fill in with your content.
At the end of each section, you’ll find a list of burning questions. Add them to your framework and compile each one while examining your competitors. At the end of this guide, you’ll have your analysis done!
Before diving into our SEO analysis, a brief note on identifying your actual SEO competitors.
Your True SEO Competitors
In the first chapter of this guide, I’ve described how you can identify your competitors, but we need to dig a little deeper for your SEO analysis.
This is because your business’s direct competitors may not coincide with the websites you will compete with. In the SEO landscape, it’s not enough to look at the competitor framework, and we need to rely on competitor data.
This is precisely what we’ll cover in this chapter. Let’s start!
#1: Keyword Analysis
When thinking about SEO, the first thing that comes to your mind is keyword research. Although it’s so much more, a good SEO analysis cannot disregard keyword research. However, you first need to consider your competitors’ overall position in the SEO landscape.
Your Competition’s Overall SEO Strength
The first step you need to take is assessing the competition’s general SEO health.
- Data you need to pull here, at the domain level, are:
- Organic keywords: this metric represents how many keywords your competitor’s domain ranks for.
- Organic monthly traffic: this metric represents how much (estimated) traffic the website gets.
- Domain score: this metric represents the website’s authority from 1 (low) to 100 (high).
- Backlinks – the number of domains that link back to the site.
Domain Keyword Analysis
Other information you can easily find that will diagnose how healthy are your competitors (and how you compare) are:
- Average monthly visits: how many visitors your competitor’s website gets in a given month.
- Pageviews, bounce rate, time on site: these metrics report the quality of traffic.
- Traffic by countries: which countries the most website traffic comes from.
- Traffic sources: from which sources traffic mainly comes from.
- Top referrers: external websites that refer your competitors’ website
Your Competitions’ Organic Keywords
When starting your keyword research, what you need to find out about your competitors are the keywords that work well for them and are not ranking for – but could.
Technically, look for 5 to 10 keywords that:
- Rank high for your competitors (ideally in the top 10): these are keywords that work for your competitors, so there may be an opportunity for you to outrank them.
- Have some search traffic: for the same reason, you’d need to exclude low-traffic keywords as they won’t give you an advantage over your competitors.
- Have a low to medium Keyword Difficulty (KD): KD is a rate that represents how difficult it would be to rank for a specific keyword – if that rate is high, ranking for it may be out of your league.
- Relate to your own business: Some of their keywords won’t apply to you even when looking at your competitors.
- You can outperform: consider only the keywords you know you could use to your advantage to create better content than your competitors and that you can outrank.
Once you have identified them, you should start getting an idea of the gaps between you and your competitors for those keywords and put measures to counteract them: a new blog article, refreshing some of your pages or updating existing ones.
Page-by-page Keyword Analysis
A suitable data-driven method to identify in which areas your competitors are outranking you is at the page level. Measure the pages where your competition is outperforming you for the same keywords, and you’ll be able to fill in the gaps.
When looking at a specific page, annotate the following are keyword-optimized:
- Intent (one per page and based on the keyword)
- Title tag (around 75 characters)
- H2-H3 subheadings
- Page headline
- Meta description (about 160 characters)
- Secondary keywords/variations
- Image alt attribute
Don’t forget to have a look at the page technical features, too; you may find some hidden gems to use to your advantage, such as:
- Page speed: if your competitor has page speed issues and you don’t, this can result in added visibility for your website as search engines, and humans don’t like to wait.
- Broken links: they can be an excellent opportunity for you. When you find broken links, what you can do is understand what the page’s content used to be, write similar (but better!) content, see the websites using the broken link and ask them to replace the broken article with your own.
Keywords: The Burning Questions
Quick recap – when doing a keyword SEO analysis, you should ask:
- which is the overall SEO health of your competition? (open answer)
- how well does your competition rank at the domain level? (open answer)
- which are the 5 to 10 keywords you can scoop from your competition. (list)
- which elements are your competitors using at the page level to outrank you? (list)
The next step involves backlinks. External links refer back to a specific website, and they generally vouch for the authoritativeness of the destination website and are a big part of the domain authority.
However, it’s not always true that the more you have, the better. When looking at backlinks, quality is of the utmost importance – let’s see how you can analyze your competitors’ backlinks and capitalize on them.
The action of link building is exactly that of getting backlinks, and it can be time-consuming and, frankly, frustrating. This is where competitive analysis comes in handy. By looking at your competitors’ backlinks, you can get insights into which backlinks help improve their domain authority score.
The good news is: they are likely competing for the same keywords, so the intelligence you’ll get will be even more valuable.
When looking at your competition’s backlinks, make sure to focus on:
- quality over quantity: nowadays, it’s not enough to have many backlinks; the Google algorithm will primarily look at quality, so select those with a higher grade, or it could backfire.
- follow vs. nofollow: nofollow links should not be ranked by Google, but don’t discard them altogether as they can still increase your brand awareness and ultimately bring benefits (and conversions.)
You can tap into some historical data to check your competitors’ link-building efforts over time. This can be useful to you as you may discover that a specific piece of content spiked backlinks, or if your competitor was the victim of a negative SEO attack, or if they are strategically using link building across their entire website.
With this data, you’ll be in the best position to identify gaps in your backlink strategies, in particular, if any domains heavily link to your competitors but not to yours. There can be an opportunity there as those websites link to content similar to yours.
To recap, when doing a backlink SEO analysis, you should ask:
- what is the overall website authority of your competitors? (number)
- which high-quality backlinks do your competitors have? (list)
- are your competitors growing in terms of backlinks? (Y/N)
- if so, which is the primary reason for their growth? (open answer)
- whether there is any gap in your strategy, you can recover from? (open answer)
#3: Google SERP
SERP stands for Search Engine Results Pages and are those pages you get after you search for a specific page on Google. But what has SERP to do with our SEO analysis?
Google SERP & User Intent and Context
If you want to rank high, you don’t only need the right keywords; you also need to understand the intent and context of the user that types in the keyword you want to target in the Google search bar.
To some extent, you can deduct a prospect’s intent and context with a simple Google search. First, you should make assumptions on purpose (what is the user searching for?) and context (why are they searching for it?) the searcher may have on a specific search.
When doing this in your SEO competitive analysis framework, look for patterns in the results that indicate which is the preferred format; it will feature heavily on the SERP. Also, look at which step of the user’s journey is most represented (top of the funnel “how-to” and “learn” pieces of content vs. bottom of the funnel “buy” and “shop for” ones.)
Other metrics you could check to see what it takes to rank high in the SERP are:
- page authority: page authoritativeness based on quality and quantity of linking domains.
- Domain authority: domain authoritativeness based on quality and quantity of linking domains.
- links redirecting to the page: how many links redirect to a specific page
- links to root domain: how many links redirect to the root domain page
Google SERP and Featured Snippets
Featured snippets are any SERP results that are not traditional search results. What does it mean? They can be the paid results box you’ll find at the top of the page or the “People also asked” one after the first organic results.
With an SEO analysis for featured snipped, you may uncover opportunities to outrank your competitors there as you you’d only need to be in the first 5 SERP to have a chance to be featured there.
Google SERP: The Burning Questions
To recap, when doing a Google SERP and user intent SEO analysis, you should ask:
- what is the intent and context of your competitors’ keywords? (open answer)
- are your competitors ranking for featured snippets? (Y/N)
- if so, are they opportunities to outrank them? (list)
#4: Content Analysis
The final stage we will cover involves examining your competitors’ content for opportunities to expand your content and find gaps in their content that you can take advantage of.
The key is that by analyzing your competitors’ content, you’ll be able to identify which one you can significantly improve and outrank them.
Type of Content
A first place to start is looking at your competitors’ type of content. In this analysis, you can look at:
- product pages (in particular for e-commerce)
- blog articles
- videos or podcasts
- help center
- live videos/streams
This can be useful to you to find opportunities you can exploit: say your competitors are not doing videos (or they are not very good at it) – if you know you can have higher quality content, you should invest in it.
Or, when analyzing your competitors’ content, you see that the average length of blog articles is way more than you do right now; you should consider writing longer pieces.
Most popular content
Most popular content often conceals long-tail keywords. With these keywords, you are likely to get less traffic, but it would likely be more qualified – so why not rank for some of those?
When looking at the most popular pages in your content SEO analysis, look for:
- estimated website visits
- number of keywords these pages are raking for
- referring domains (backlinks)
Search for top pages with many keywords with few referring domains to find soft targets.
On the contrary, most linked content would likely be more challenging to rank for. However, you’d still want to check those because you may find yourself in a situation where you can invest more in that type of content – or you know you can create better content.
In this case, after identifying the most linked content in your SEO analysis, your strategy would include:
- writing better content
- promoting your better content to the same people
- asking backlinks to replace your competitors’ links with your (now better) own
Content: The Burning Questions
To recap, when doing a content SEO analysis, you should ask:
- what type of content is your competition creating? (list)
- what are their top pages with few backlinks? (list)
- what is their most linked content? (list)
- Can you write better content for your competitors’ top pages and most linked content?
Devising a balanced advertising strategy can be tricky, and this is when a well-planned advertising competitive analysis can come to the rescue.
Knowing what your competitors are doing in the advertising field can save you a lot of time and money (yep, advertising campaigns can cost a lot!) – if you know what works and what doesn’t work, you’ll be able to focus on other essential tasks.
In this chapter, we’ll go through some of the most popular advertising platforms, and we’ll see what you’ll need to spy your competitor on each of them:
- Facebook Ads: advertising on Facebook is becoming increasingly complex (and expensive) – getting a competitive advantage on creative and targeting will ease (at least part of) your pain.
- PPC (pay-per-click): researching keywords, as well as ads performances over time, will help you gauge your competitors’ strategy for Google ads.
- Twitter: advertising on Twitter can look straightforward – or limiting. This is why it’s essential to learn what works and doesn’t, and your competitors can be your best allies.
- LinkedIn: looking at your competitors’ advertising initiatives on LinkedIn can help you understand how to reach professionals with high decision-making powers and spending availability.
We’ll discuss advertising competitive analysis tools in the next chapter – here; we’ll see why it’s important to pay attention to the advertising strategies your competition has in place in the different social channels.
Advertising: Facebook Ads
With 8 million advertisers in Q1 2020, Facebook is reigning social advertising. Undoubtedly, most of your competitors are – so why don’t you check what they are doing and with which results?
You can use many options to create Facebook ads, and the choice can be overwhelming. Which creative format is best? What difference can it make to have a different call to action? If you have no clue, you can do just one thing: test.
As exciting as testing can be, it’s also quite expensive… what if you could at least go in the right direction? A well-executed advertising competitive analysis on Facebook ads can give you great insights into what’s working for your industry.
When looking at your competitors’ ads, you can focus on many aspects:
- messaging they are using
- offers they are promoting
- ad format (such as static images, carousels, videos)
- calls to action (and where they are positioned)
- ad imagery (such as colors, pictures, illustrations)
- ad copy (text length, split testing)
- ad targeting (how broad, what kind of audiences, or if it’s the same audience)
To learn what’s working for your competitors, you should analyze over time to understand whether the elements they tested were successful – they would be used in the following version of the ad.
Facebook Advertising: The Burning Questions
To recap, when doing a Facebook advertising competitor analysis, you should ask whether your competitors are:
- running Facebook ads? (Y/N)
- split testing on one or more elements on their design? (Y/N)
- if so, which features and are there winning elements over time? (open answer)
- split testing on targeting audiences? (Y/N)
- if so, which audiences, and are there winning ones over time? (open answer)
Advertising Competitive Analysis: Google Ads PPC
Google Ads can be a ferocious competitive landscape to operate in, and being able to analyze (and steal) your competitors’ best keywords – as well as find ones with ample opportunities, is key.
There are three elements you need to take into consideration when analyzing the keywords your competitors are using for their PPC initiatives:
An excellent place to start is knowing which keywords they are bidding on.
Many tools will allow you to compare which keywords are used for PPC vs. which ones are used for SEO. This is important to understand which keywords your competitors are willing to pay for.
A step further to PPC keyword analysis is to identify the winning keywords. You can do that by looking at the ones running longer or that are constantly being used over time.
Another aspect you can focus on is the PPC ads – you can analyze both Search and Display ads and look for:
- ad copy
- ad images
- ad impressions
- ad targeting (countries)
- device performances
As for keywords, what you are looking for here is a pattern – search for long-running ads, which combinations are being repeated, and which device and cost per click performances stand out.
PPC Advertising Analysis: Burning Questions
To recap, when doing a PPC advertising competitor analysis, you should ask whether your competitors are:
- running PPC ads? (Y/N)
- using the same/different keywords for PPC vs. SEO? (Y/N)
- if so, which ones have been running for a longer time? (open answer)
- split testing on ads design? (Y/N)
- if so, which elements and are there winning details over time? (open answer)
- targeting different countries? (Y/N)
- If so, which ones are getting the best results? (open answer)
- targeting different devices? (Y/N)
- If so, which ones are getting the best results? (open answer)
Advertising Analysis: Twitter Ads
Twitter Ads are relatively straightforward – there are a few options to choose from compared with the other social platforms. This is why it’s even more crucial that you choose your settings wisely.
Working with limitations can be frustrating and exciting (who doesn’t like a nice challenge?). This is why checking your competitors’ solutions can spark your creativity too.
There are a few elements to take into consideration when looking at Twitter ads as part of your advertising competitor analysis:
- strategies used to convey the messaging within Twitter’s characters limits
- thumb-stopping images (or videos)
- compelling calls to action
- which ads triggered the most engagement in terms of hearts, shares, and comments
- best hours of the day and days of the week
This information will be available to you natively only for ads in the last 7 days, so our suggestion to routinely run your competitive advertising analysis is even more true for Twitter ads.
Update 01/01/2022: Twitter has decided to sunset its ads transparency page. Unluckily as of today, it’s no longer possible to spy on your competitors’ Twitter ads.
Twitter Analysis: Burning Questions
To recap, when doing a Twitter advertising competitor analysis, you should ask whether your competitors are:
- running Twitter ads? (Y/N)
- split testing on one or more elements on their design? (Y/N)
- if so, which features and are there winning elements? (open answer)
- using strategies to boost engagement? (Y/N)
- if so, which are there winning ones? (open answer)
Advertising Analysis for LinkedIn Ads
Interest in LinkedIn advertising increases as it represents the most extensive network of business professionals with high spending powers and decision-making. If your competitors are there, you should consider it too.
There is some information you can gather when doing your advertising competitive analysis on LinkedIn:
- if they are investing in LinkedIn ads: you’ll be able to see ads from 6 months so you can gauge whether your competitors are spending big money on their LinkedIn advertising
- What message are they using: are they focussing on their years of experience or any other professional advantage you may be better at?
- Which format is working better: if you see many ads with lead generation forms vs. boosting organic posts, you may infer the strategy that is paying off for them.
- Which ads are getting more engagement: you’ll find this information when clicking on the three dots on the right-hand side of the ad and then “copy link to post.”
LinkedIn Advertising Analysis: Burning Questions
To recap, when doing a LinkedIn advertising analysis, you should ask whether your competitors are:
- running LinkedIn ads? (Y/N)
- leveraging specific business idea/skills/experiences? (Y/N)
- if so, are there any of these on which you have an advantage? (open answer)
- using traditional formats or are experimenting? (open answer)
- which ads are getting more engagement? (open answer)
Best Analysis Tools
While as any internet savvy will tell you, “Google is your friend,” what you’ll find in this chapter is a list of the best competitor analysis tools that can boost your research – and save you a bunch of time!
Now that you know what to search for, it’s time to look at where to find it!
Depending on which step of the competitor analysis framework you’re in, you’ll find our favorite competitor analysis tools below to nail your research in no time.
Tools: Marketing Analysis Apps
If you are looking for an all-in-one solution to monitor your competitors marketing moves, many solutions can help you achieve that.
Are you looking for a solution with a free (limited) option? SimilarWeb can be right for you. They have different solutions for specific teams and industries, including competitive analysis, marketing, advertising strategy, keyword analysis, and generator for marketing teams.
If you focus on B2B marketing, on this website you can find an always up-to-date gallery of SaaS Examples. Here you can literally spy every aspect of your SaaS competitors, from the design of their top pages to their landing pages, apps, ads, and email workflows.
Competitors.app offers a free 15-day trial and plans to start from $10/month per competitor. The app provides a wide range of reports on your competitors’ websites, online store, email marketing, social media, keywords and blog, and ads.
A comprehensive solution for marketers that can be customized depending on your needs is Semrush. The tool includes SEO, PPC, social media, content marketing, and market research. Pricing starts at $99/month.
A more enterprise-driven solution, Crayon.co uses tons of data gathered across hundreds of millions of sources and combines them with human intelligence and AI to create reports and give actionable insights for your and your team.
Tools: Social Media
Facebook Pages To Watch
The pain-free first option you have is to add your competitors’ pages to the “Pages to Watch” in your Facebook Page Insights.
Pick your 5 top competitors and add them there to view the total number of page likes, the percentage increase/decrease of likes in the last seven days, and information on posting such as the weekly number of posts and engagement.
Setting up your Twitter social media monitoring can take a while – but Twitter offers two powerful tools to streamline your ongoing process and keep an eye on your competitors.
The first one is the ability you have to follow specific hashtags. You can search for a hashtag using Twitter advanced search and then save the research.
The second one is to explore lists or create your own. You can check existing indexes on the left-hand side menu or set up new ones. If you don’t want other Twitter users to see your list, you can also make it private – nobody else will be able to search for it.
You may need to allocate more time to spy on your competitors on LinkedIn as you’d need to cover your tracks and analyze profiles by hand manually.
First, you need to cover some of your activities in the privacy settings to prevent your competitors from seeing what you are doing. We suggest you do if only for the time you do analysis as these options will limit other LinkedIn functionalities. This can be done in two ways:
- shift your profile viewing settings to private mode – this will prevent your competitors from seeing that you viewed their profile.
- Turn off “Viewers of This Profile Also Viewed” – this will prevent your customers or prospects from seeing the profiles of the competitors you viewed in your analysis.
After you do that, you’re now able to start your LinkedIn analysis by checking their profile or choosing to follow them so that their posts will be featured on your newsfeed.
Depending on how secretive you want to be, you may prefer manually checking, because when you follow a company on LinkedIn, they will be notified.
If you wish to streamline this process, you may need to use one analysis tools apps.
Analysis Tools: SEO and Content Marketing Analysis
Remember when I said that Google is your friend? Well, it can be if you know how to use it. The first two analysis tools for SEO in this list are free.
Your first stop is an old fashion Google search… with a twist. Use advanced search operators to narrow down your search to your competitors’ URLs and find exactly what you are looking for.
Another great place to start your competitors’ keyword research is Google Keyword Planner. There, you’ll be able to search for your competitor’s website and find keywords and keyword search volume.
Another free option to search for your competitors’ domain, top SEO pages, targeted keywords, and overall traffic, as well as keyword and content ideas, is Ubersuggest.
If you’re looking for an all-SEO toolset, then Ahref is perfect for you. From keyword research to traffic growth and niche monitoring, you’ll be able to monitor your competitors and find gaps you can take advantage of.
Moz Pro is another of our favorite all-SEO analysis tools you can use, including several free types of research and tools. The full product is available starting at $99/month.
Competitor Analysis Tools: Advertising
Some of the competitor analysis tools described in the previous paragraphs can be used to spy on your competitors’ ads, particularly for PPC, and it may be worthwhile.
Native platforms are another (free!) option you have to dig in into competitors’ advertising strategies and preferred channels. In the previous chapter, we looked at advertising competitor analysis and what to look for when analyzing your competitors’ ads.
Let’s now see where you can check what your competitors are doing on those platforms.
Facebook Ads Tools: Ads Library and Audience Insights
On Facebook, you can search for a specific brand and look at the ads in the different formats they were created on. There are two places you can access Facebook Ads Library. If you are on a specific page, you can click on Ads Transparency on the left-hand side of the page.
Alternatively, you can navigate to the Facebook Ads Library main page.
A more direct approach is to like your competitors’ pages and follow them. Depending on their advertising strategy, you may end up being served their ads in your feed or on mobile.
If that happens, you can further spy on their targeting options by checking why you are seeing an ad from the ad’s options.
Another way to check your competitors’ best audience, is to analyze Facebook data in the Audience Insights. There, you’ll be able to check the demographics and interests of the target audience.
Twitter Ads Tools: Ads Transparency Center
Update 01/01/2022: In an effort to improve transparency (wink wink) Twitter has shut down their transparency center.
You can search for a specific brand on Twitter using the Ads Transparency Center. It will show if that company promoted ads in the previous seven days.
LinkedIn Ads Tools: Page Ads Tab
On LinkedIn, too, you’ll be able to check if a company created ads within the platform in the last six months. You’ll find it on the company page, under the Posts -> Ads tab.