Competitive research is the process of gathering and analyzing information on industry rivals. Competitive research can be conducted on specific companies or an entire industry, both advantageous in their own right. Furthermore, by intimately knowing your competition, you can more effectively identify new opportunities, monitor potential threats, and capitalize on market trends. It is beneficial to perform competitive research before entering a market; however, there is never an inopportune time to gain this valuable knowledge.
This article will cover the importance of competitive research in digital marketing. Below we detail specific strategies utilized at Mile High Content to gain an industry advantage for our clients. If you require digital marketing services, please contact Mile High Content today. We are a boutique digital marketing agency located in Denver, Colorado, and we only take on a specific number of clients annually.
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Competitive Research Helps Answer These Specific Questions
– What are my competitors’ strengths?
– Where does my competition have weaknesses?
– How can I use these insights to create a better product or service?
– Who are my competitors’ customers, and how can I get their business?
– What industry trends are occurring today or forecasted for the future?
– How do I increase my market share?
Competitor Organic Keywords
Keyword research identifies phrases and terms searched by your target audience on Google, Bing, and other major search engines. Often, companies only perform keyword research on industries and need to analyze their competitors’ organic traffic. This proves to be a costly mistake! By gaining insights into your main rivals’ keyword portfolios, you can reveal the types of content they produce, thereby understanding what resonates with your shared audience.
For example, you may be a local shoe store and wish to expand your regional digital footprint. You would benefit from knowing what keywords some of the largest shoe manufacturers in the world are targeting. Below is a screenshot of Nike’s most significant keyword position changes over the last 30 days.
Highlighted above are three keywords that could benefit a local shoe store to target based on Nike’s position changes. The first is a Spanish keyword, revealing a strong market for Spanish-speaking people searching for Nike shoes in the U.S. Perhaps it is wise to include Spanish in meta-information to optimize local search. The second keyword pertains to weightlifting shoes, which means likely weightlifting trends require further investigation. The third keyword is a longtail term for Air Jordan shoes, specifically “high tops.” This informs us that fashion is leaning towards high-tops over low-tops, and perhaps more content should be geared towards different types of high-top shoes, not just the Nike brand.
As demonstrated above, by analyzing a competitor’s organic traffic, you can gain insights you otherwise wouldn’t have been able to locate.
Competitor SEM Ad Copy
Search engine marketing (SEM) is the promotion of a website by increasing visibility through paid advertising on SERPs. Businesses running pay-per-click campaigns spend hundreds to thousands of dollars per month on advertising, so it’s imperative they have a strategy to avoid wasteful spending.
One clever tactic we implement at Mile High Content is analyzing ad copies of our client’s competitors to find trends. To clarify, if a competitor uses specific phrases and keywords month after month in their ad campaign, it indicates something is working. On the contrary, if they switch their ad copy frequently, they probably aren’t seeing desired results.
Above is a screenshot of Nike’s ad copy on women’s shoes from August through December 2021. Nike decided not to change their ad copy from August to October, as circled in red. However, in November, they changed their ad copy to a call-to-action about Black Friday, as circled in orange. This indicates their ad copy was probably quite effective, so they did not change it for three months, or at least until they had a reason for Black Friday.
So, how can this information be used to gain a competitive advantage over industry rivals? Returning to the example of a local shoe retailer, it would be a good idea to use exact or similar wording in their ad campaigns as Nike is using. What is working for the most prominent shoe brand in the world would most likely be effective for a local retailer, as well.
Link building is a fundamental process in SEO. Hyperlinks pointing back to your website from other sites help boost domain authority, thereby raising SERP keyword rankings. But where do we acquire such backlinks? One helpful strategy is to look at your competitors’ backlink profiles to find link-building opportunities. Below is a backlink profile of a local shoe retailer in Colorado.
If you owned a local shoe store and wanted to outperform other retailers in the area, the chart above could provide a roadmap for where to start. The left column represents the authority score, and the right column represents the website. For example, Westword has an authority score of 72, while Dansko has a 55. This means a link from Westword holds more SEO value than Dansko. It also means you will match your competitor’s top backlinks if you can get links on both sites. That is a tremendous competitive advantage!
Competitor Traffic Channels
Traffic channels are the funnels through which visitors come to your website. For example, if a visitor finds your website on Facebook, the channel is social media. The channel is considered direct traffic if a visitor comes to your website by typing in your URL. There are several standard traffic channels; you can customize your own based on need.
In evaluating which traffic channels will be most effective in your digital marketing strategy, looking at your top competitors’ channels is critical. Below is a graph of Nike’s traffic channels over the past six months.
The graph above reveals tremendous insight into Nike’s digital marketing strategy. Unsurprisingly, their largest channel is direct traffic, as Nike runs millions of dollars worth of ads to promote their brand. However, it is shocking their next largest channel is referral traffic. This implies they have affiliate links throughout the web bringing in visitors. It also is a bit unusual social media is their lowest traffic channel, even less than paid ads on Google.
This begs the question, how can a local shoe retailer use this information to obtain more business? By replicating Nike’s model, it could be suggested to increase brand awareness and affiliate links. Local TV and radio ads, or even billboards, could bring in more business. Also, as mentioned above, scouring competitors’ backlink profiles could reveal which affiliate sites are most lucrative.
How to Benchmark Against Competition
Benchmarking lets you understand how well your company performs compared to the competition. You can benchmark against websites in the same industry, in a similar size range, or across sectors. The question is not necessarily whether you should benchmark but how to properly do it.
Most companies must identify their key performance indicators (KPIs) before benchmarking. Start by determining your top goals. For example, two ultimate objectives are raising your domain authority score and growing your newsletter list.
Let’s examine the former first. This one is relatively straightforward because you can view any website’s domain authority score on MOZ or SEMRush for free. Therefore, benchmarking your domain authority score is simple and easy. However, evaluating your newsletter list versus a competitor might be difficult and not even possible. How are you to determine how extensive a competitor’s newsletter list is? Most third-party SEO software clumps Newsletter traffic into the direct traffic channel. You can set up a custom channel group for your own list, but certainly not for a competitor.
The lesson is benchmarking has to be taken with a grain of salt. Yes, it’s important to compare to competitors. And yes, it’s important to benchmark your success over time. But make sure your KPIs and goals are set before benchmarking. Also, bear in mind not every business has the same goals, is the same size, or even the same industry as you. So segment your competitors appropriately when benchmarking.