How to conduct a competitor analysis
Why are your competitors outranking you? What are their strengths? What are their weaknesses? What marketing strategies are they following? Which keywords are they ranking for? What countries are they targeting? Competitor analysis will answer these questions, and more. Learn from their strengths and exploit their weaknesses. Gain the advantage, launch your competitive marketing strategy today!
Reporting on your competitor analysis, presenting it to your manager, is a vital part of the process. To show you how great your reports can look - you can download three simulated Talkwalker reporting templates.
Let's talk about competitor analysis. I don't mean a quick scan of their social media accounts when you arrive at work. That is NOT good competitive analysis. That's just being nosey.
Good analysis harvest valuable insights that'll help you make informed decisions about your brand's marketing strategy. Good competitor analysis is performed regularly and helps you outsmart your competitors.
It’s a start, sure. A quick look at what they've posted, customer engagement, support issues. But reading the occasional blog post isn’t enough. A competitive analysis should be an in-depth study of your industry and its members - their strengths and their weaknesses. Only then will you be able to identify opportunities for improvements within your marketing campaigns - targeting, SEO, content, etc.
Think you know everything there is to know about competitor analysis? Are you sure? This guide must have a place in your marketing library.
Prepping for your competitor analysis
Be objective... be probing... be honest
First draw up a list and create a profile of your company’s competitors. The biggies, plus those that compete indirectly with yours, and potential competitors that could enter your market. Those that offer products and services that are targeting the same market as you. Also, include information on start up companies that will emerge in the coming year.
BTW - I realize it’s hard, but you’re going to have to take a step back and analyze the market, honestly. You can’t afford to be precious about your company.
Highlight competitors that will pose the biggest challenge.
- Look at them as a customer
- Look at them from their point of view
- Learn from them
Competitor analysis should be performed on a regular basis - and I don’t mean once a year. It should be an ongoing process, and with the abundance of martech tools, there’s no excuse. Including competitive analysis in your marketing plan demonstrates to investors that you’re aware of the competition. That you have a clear picture of the marketplace, along with plans in place to compete at the same level as established brands.
Throughout this guide, I've used Quick Search - Talkwalker's social media search engine - to demo how competitor analysis should be done. Some might say I'm biased. Some might say I recognize a good tool when I see one.
"Quick Search provides such an easy and user-friendly opportunity to deep dive into your competitors' social sphere; letting you harness their strengths and weaknesses to improve and cultivate a winning marketing strategy. For a specific breakdown of the importance of this, you should definitely check out Talkwalker's latest article on the necessity and implications of competitor analysis for your business and brand."
Marketing Media Maven | @RoanokeMaven
BTW - if you need help with setting up a comprehensive marketing strategy, I've just the thing for you - From marketing strategy to marketing plan - your complete guide. It walks you through reporting on last year, generating new ideas, choosing your strategies, setting your goals, and structuring your plan. There's also an exclusive eBook you can download for free.
It can be complicated and it is time-consuming. If you follow this guide you’ll understand how to identify, analyze, and determine what’s important. The guide provides real life examples, templates, and tools in action.
Table of contents
- What is a competitor analysis?
- Why do a competitor analysis?
- Different types of competitor analysis
- How to conduct social media competitor analysis
- Perception of your brand compared to competitors
- Best competitor analysis tools
- Competitor analysis template
Competitor analysis definition => identifying and evaluating your competitors, their strengths and weaknesses. How they compare to your business.
This information should then be used to improve your company’s efforts and take the advantage. It has to be an essential part of your marketing plan. If it isn’t, you’re working in the dark. Without it, how will you know what makes your product unique?
BTW - Check it out, if you don't think there's a difference between competitor analysis and competitive intelligence!
Your competitive analysis should include:
- Identifying your competitors
- Obtaining information about your competitors
- Brand awareness - the % of your target market that are aware of your competitors
- Pricing - cost of your competitors’ products and services
- Financials - share prices, earnings reports
- Products - strengths and weaknesses of their products
- Customer experience - standard of customer care
- Intellectual property - copyrights, trademarks, patents
- Marketing - their campaigns, events, promotional activities, social media
- Risks - competitive strengths/advantages
- Opportunities - what they’re doing badly, that you can do better
- Company culture - old school or start-up?
- Distribution - the regions, countries they cover
- Evaluating their strategies
- Determine their strengths and weaknesses relative to your brand’s
- Predict their behavior and make informed business decisions
“You meet the nicest people on a Honda”
Harley, Indian, Triumph - big, throaty bikes ridden by leather-clad guys - dominated the American market. Honda, wanting to expand its motorbike business in the US, analyzed the competitive market and found an area in which it could excel - small bikes. Back in Japan, Honda’s success meant that it was able to increase output, while reducing costs. Honda’s larger bikes couldn’t compete with the likes of a Harley, but its smaller bikes were a hit with younger buyers looking for a cheap alternative. Competitor analysis won the day!
Because if you don’t know what they’re doing, what strategies they’re following, you won’t be able to outsmart them.
A competitor analysis will:
- Help your team build better marketing strategies
- Identify opportunities in the market that are currently under-served
- Help you take advantage of your competitors weaknesses to grow market share
- Allow you to make informed decisions about your strategy and ensure you can create sustainable competitive advantages
- Help you plan for future investments
Competitor analysis is market research. Finding opportunities and risks associated with various strategies, such as a product launch.
Compare and analyze competitor content
Once you’ve identified your competitors, you can dig deeper and gain a better understanding of what type of content they’re publishing.
Analyzing their content will show you the direction they're taking and whether consumers are engaging with it. What types of content creation do your competitors focus on? Are you providing the same, or missing opportunities?
- Blog posts, white papers, case studies, eBooks, newsletters
- Videos, podcasts, webinars
- Paid ads
- Press releases
Once determined, you can check out the quality and how it compares to yours. Look for how often they’re blogging, where they're guist posting, adding and updating new content, as well as what topics they’re discussing.
- Are they doing anything you aren’t? Fill in the gaps
- Are they publishing more posts per week than you?
Don’t just blog because you want to add more content or you're looking to play the SEO game. It won’t generate more traffic if your content isn’t remarkable, and doesn’t resonate. And, Google isn't stupid.
Analyze SEO structure
Competitor analysis is essential if:
- You’re going live with a new website and want to study your industry and competitors
- Your paid promotions are failing, and you’re lagging behind the competition
- Your business is successful, but static, and you want to jump on industry trends
Your competitors are posting at the same rate as you, with similar content. Why are they ranking higher in search engines? What are they doing differently to you? This is when you need to explore their SEO strategies. Find out what keywords they’re using, how they’re managing links, etc.
Your goal? To outrank them in SERPs. Here’s what you should be checking.
Where are your competitors using keywords?
- Page title
- URL architecture
- H1 and H2 tags
- Internal links
- Image alt text
- Meta description
- Social media
Check the following:
- Domain authority
- Root linking domains
- Sitemaps - HTML, image, XML, video
- Page templates - how well a site is designed. Are their sites responsive, optimized for mobile devices? Is yours?
- Analyze their backlink strategies - which websites are linking to their sites? Are they linking to yours too?
- Blog topics and frequency
Not only should you check the SEO structure of the content but also what types of keywords your competitors are using. It’s called keyword gap analysis and it’s to determine which keywords your competitors are ranking for, that your website isn’t. Part of your competitor analysis is to find where they rank in SERPs, and earn a higher ranking.
Once you have the results of your keyword gap analysis, you’ll be able to remodel your site. Look at the metadata, the site architecture, repurposing existing content that’s ranking badly, and writing new content that incorporates the missing keywords.
If the new keywords have high search volume, look for keywords with lower search volume - usually, long-tail keywords.
- Long-tail keywords
A keyword like books, although a popular search term with consumers, has high competition and is difficult to rank for. It’s a generic keyword that doesn’t tell us anything about what the consumer is looking for - fact, fiction, biography. If you target the long-tail keyword/phrase, US travel books, there’s more information. If your website sells US travel books, it’s a phrase that must appear on your site. It has to be one of your long-tail keywords. Also, use keyword variations to increase the number of searches - e.g., travelling in America, touring the US, exploring the United States.
Think like a human, not like a search bot!
- Trending keywords
Are your competitors using trending topics in their marketing strategies? Jumping on a story that’s just hit the headlines - newsjacking? If they are, and you aren’t, you’re missing an opportunity to outrank them in search engine results pages. Jumping on a trending topic helps your content get found. The content is more likely to show up in the Google News section above the organic rankings. It may also get quickly picked up in Google’s organic rankings. Google’s algorithm is constantly searching for content on trending topics and pages that were recently updated.
Jump on a topic, and be original!
How do you find trending keywords/topics?
Take a look at your keyword analytics, specifically the search queries that have resulted in your organic traffic. Pull out the following information:
- Keywords that are relevant to your business, but you don't have relevant content
- Keywords you’ve used in content, but there’s more you could say
- Keywords that are similar to existing content, but you haven’t targeted
Using Quick Search, I’ve done a search for social media listening. The results below, show keywords/phrases trending in the industry which can be checked against your list of keywords. Any missing, create content and get them on your website - fast!
Quick Search reveals keywords and phrases trending in the social media listening industry.
It doesn’t have to be an industry search. Enter a product name, for insights on all the surrounding themes.
In the example below, I’ve searched for the BlackBerry Motion, a smartphone launched in 2018. With this data, BlackBerry has the top keywords being used in consumers’ searches. By incorporating them into its SEO strategy, ranking well in SERPs is more likely because the website contains searched phrases and keywords.
BlackBerry competitors performing the same analysis, will find keywords and phrases that consumers are using when they search for the BlackBerry Motion. To grab these consumers during their searches, competitors should include the keywords in the content on their website. Again, their websites will hold the answers to consumers' questions.
Yep, it's a battle of the keywords!
When searching for BlackBerry Motion, consumers are using keywords that include: battery life, security updates, anti scratch, energy efficient.
Social media presence
The next step of your competitor analysis should be to determine how the competition are using social media. Their activity and the social media landscape as a whole, in your industry. The results of this analysis will help you improve your own social media strategy.
- What social networks are they using and which are working best for them?
Are you using the same?
- What are their engagement metrics? Retweets, shares, comments.
This will determine how successful they are on each channel and whether their strategies are worth copying.
- How often do they post?
If their engagement is high, are you posting at the same frequency?
- How many followers do they have and how fast are they getting more?
How does this compare with your growth?
- Who are they following?
Should you be following them too?
- Are they proactive in responding to customers’ support issues? Do they have a separate account dedicated to customer service? Are they helpful or aggressive? Do they personalize responses?
You could gain points by offering this service, if your competitors are lacking.
- What are they doing well? Newsjacking, promotions, customer engagement, ads?
Are you doing the same, achieving the same results?
- What are their weaknesses? Bad response rate, inactivity, spelling mistakes, irregular posting, lack of engagement, poor imagery?
Look for opportunities where you can jump in, if there are unanswered questions being posted
Knowing what’s working for your competitors and what isn’t, will help you plan your brand’s social media presence. Once you’ve analyzed and found areas that you can exploit, shape them to suit your brand and your audience.
Of course, you have competition - local, national, or international, your brand will be competing with other brands.
Once you’ve established who the competition is, you need to get started with your competitive intelligence or research - collecting and analyzing data about your competitors.
You’ll be looking at data that’s available to the public, so nothing dodgy - annual reports, company profiles, product brochures, press releases. Check out reports published by companies like Hoover’s and Dun & Bradstreet. Local newspapers are also packed with valuable insights. Access online databases such as the US Securities and Exchange Commission and Standard & Poor’s.
I’m guessing you’ve a rough idea how many Facebook followers your competitors have, how frequently they tweet. It’s a start, but you must go deeper. Social media listening brings deeper, more valuable insights. With the right tool, you’ll understand how consumers feel about your competitors’ products and services. You'll also identify emerging trends, and discover new brands arriving on the scene.
Unlike reading published reports and online databases, a social media competitor analysis means you’re seeing results in real-time. Finger on the pulse, your reaction time will be fast.
Your social media competitor analysis report should answer the following questions:
Maybe I don't have any competitors?
In your dreams!
For example… you’ve just opened a restaurant in a small town, where there doesn’t appear to be any immediate competitors.
What about the bar around the corner, the cinema opposite, the hotel just out of town? What about the online pizza delivery website?
Knowing who your competitors are, what products they offer, prices, opening hours, customer service, etc., will help make your business stand out. Once you’ve established strengths and weaknesses, you can attack vulnerable areas with focused marketing campaigns, flexibility around your products and services, tweaks to prices or hours.
Compare your strengths and weaknesses with those of your competitors. Find areas you can specialize in, focus on, exploit.
Friendly, lively, good customer service, pub grub
Cheap, fast food outlets, noisy atmosphere
Good quality, expensive, cold customer service
- Pizza delivery
Cheap, deliver to door, low quality
What products or services are they offering?
Dig deep into your competitors’ products and services. What features do they have, that your product doesn’t? What value does it give to consumers? How are they developing and marketing their products?
- There’s been negative feedback about the opening hours of the restaurant. Closing at 10 p.m. means that some late arrivals are dining at the bar, or ordering pizza. Is it financially viable to keep the restaurant kitchen open until 10.30? Would the extra wages be justified by the potential increase in revenue?
What are their strengths and weaknesses?
Don’t go soft on me, this is where you have to be brutally honest. I know you love your brand, but if you’re not objective, any results you get, will be worthless.
List your competitors strengths and weaknesses. Should you be threatened by their strengths? Which weaknesses can you exploit?
Strength - friendly, relaxing
Weakness = rowdy Friday/Saturday night crowd
Strength - wide variety of food choices
Weakness - fast food, noisy atmosphere
Strength - top quality menu
Weakness - service is slow and unfriendly
- Pizza delivery
Strength - cheap, convenient, opens late
Weakness - no menu flexibility
Competitor analysis spreadsheet
Now you know the things you should be looking at, an easy way to compare is with a competitor analysis spreadsheet. List your competitors on the left. At the top, list the target market, price, USP, social media presence, distribution method, sponsorship, influencers, etc. Below, to show you what I mean, I’ve started a comparison between Coca-Cola and its top competitors.
Competitor analysis spreadsheet for Coca-Cola and its top competitors.
What should you be comparing?
Share of voice - SOV
How much people are talking about your brand, in relation to your competitors. A strong SOV isn’t necessarily a good thing, if a high percentage was caused by a crisis situation. But, these insights will give you a clearer picture of your brand awareness, compared to your industry.
I’m going to use Quick Search to compare Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Dr Pepper, Red Bull, and Gatorade - for a period of 13 months.
Competitor analysis - Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Dr Pepper, Red Bull, and Gatorade over 13 months.
While Coca-Cola is the king of fizz, Pepsi hit the headlines in April with 2.5M mentions. In a competitor analysis study, Coca-Cola should ask - what happened to cause this peak? Should we be copying this tactic to increase our brand mentions?
All becomes clear when we dig deeper.
This in an example of when a strong SOV was caused by a crisis situation.
Playing devil’s advocate - Pepsi should have immediately dusted off its crisis management plan.
Hey, if you're concerned about the best way to deal with a crisis situation, I've written - Crisis management | Planning for the inevitable social media disaster. It demonstrates what you should do before, during, and after a crisis. It's worth a read, it's gonna save your life and your business.
Sentiment analysis - you and your competitors
Sentiment is the next biggie. The feelings expressed in comments about your brand. Again, it’s you vs your competitors. It’s important to track sentiment over time. It will help you understand how your marketing campaigns are affecting consumer perception of your brand, in comparison to your competitors.
Quick Search sentiment analysis of McDonald's vs Burger King over 13 months.
Looking at the sentiment towards McDonald’s and Burger King over a 13 month period, McDonald’s has 62% negative sentiment compared with 40.5% for Burger King.
The cause can be identified if I dig deeper with Quick Search. McDonald’s suffered a slump on October 9, when a YouTube video was published that ridiculed the brand.
While Burger King peaked with a positive tweet from someone you may have heard of.
— Kim Kardashian West (@KimKardashian) October 21, 2017
Words & phrases associated with your market
Taking a deeper dive into sentiment to discover what’s driving it. Look at the key topics of the conversations to identify what consumers are saying about your brand, product, or services. Uncovering the words and phrases that consumers are using, will give a better understanding of where your brand fits. It will also open up opportunities where you can position your brand and join conversations, previously unheard.
First past the chequered flag - Red Bull!
Looking at the top themes - mentions over 13 months - surrounding our five brands, remembering who’s the king of fizz, Red Bull beat Coca-Cola - 99.6% to 99%.
As leader of the pack, Coca-Cola has to identify why it’s lost out to Red Bull and what’s missing from its marketing strategy.
Hmmmm, sponsor a Formula One team, maybe?
Demographic of customers
Who are your competitors' customers? Are they the same as yours? the same demographic?
Refocus and target to increase your customer base. For instance... your existing customer base is made up of young people, whereas your competitors have an older demographic. Can you target this older group and introduce new consumers to your product? Are you missing out on countries? Locations you’re failing to target with your marketing, and where your competitors are doing well?
Quick Search competitor analysis of Nike, Adidas, and Reebok, to show share of countries.
Nike leads the sports footwear industry. Snapping at its heels are Adidas and Reebok. The Quick Search result show the share of countries/regions for the brands is close. But, should Adidas and Reebok target the 5M+ audience in South Korea, in their future marketing campaigns?
Find out what your audience is interested in and you’ll have the secret to keeping them engaged. Social media analytics can show you your audience’s interests and those of your competitors. This will give you insights in how to appeal to your competitors’ fans. You can also segment the audiences to fine tune.
Coca-Cola v Red Bull - audience interests
Maybe no surprise, the Red Bull audience is interested in sports, despite also being a popular mixer in bars. Red Bull being a main competitor of Coca-Cola, the king of fizz needs to target sports lovers to increase its market share.
I'm assuming/hoping that you've done a SWOT analysis of your brand, and filed it in your marketing strategy. Now you need to do one for your competitors.
SWOT - strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. It’s an audit that identifies the internal and external factors affecting a team’s future performance. Internal factors are strengths and weaknesses, while external factors are opportunities and threats.
By looking at your competitors' SWOT, from a customer’s point of view, you’re analyzing their strengths and weaknesses. It’ll help understand their business better. What are their assets? How could your business exploit them? Find their weaknesses and work out how your company would address them. Put yourself in a customer’s shoes and ask:
- What made me choose that brand?
- Is it just because they’re different, better, cheaper, local, more choices?
- Why would I choose them over another brand?
- Would I be prepared to swap brands, if changes were made?
While doing your competitor analysis, SWOT results should be taken into consideration. For this to be effective, external factors should also be assessed. This is where PEST should be brought into play. PEST analysis is an element of risk/crisis management that ensures a company is prepared for a change in certain external factors - listed below.
Will a change be considered an opportunity to do better, or will it be seen as a threat? How will they handle a change?
Answers to these kind of questions will demonstrate how your competitors operate, and this can become part of your marketing strategy. Supposing there’s a change and your main competitor can’t handle it. But, your company can rock it and come out on top.
Politics - government regulations that will affect the market: political stability, tax laws, trade restrictions, safety regulations, and employment laws.
Economic - issues that will impact your industry: inflation, interest rates, exchange rates, economic growth, unemployment rate, policy changes.
Social - analyze the socio-economic environment of your industry: customer demographics, culture and lifestyle attitudes, languages, and education levels. Recognize how customer needs are formed and what motivates them to purchase.
Here're examples of brands that failed to do their homework. Potentially, jeopardizing sales and inviting lawsuits.
- US brewery, Coors translated its slogan - “turn it loose” - for a Spanish audience. Unfortunately, it meant - “diarrhea”.
- Pepsi used its slogan - “Come Alive” - in China. Translated, it means, “Pepsi brings your ancestors back from the dead!”
- When KFC opened in China, “finger lickin’ good” translated as “eat your fingers off.”
Technological - how tech impacts the launch of a new product or service. This would include technological advancements, lifecycle of technologies, and money spent on R&D by the government.
If you don’t keep up with modern digital marketing techniques - optimizing your site for mobile devices, etc. - you’ll lose customers to your competitors.
Check out these tools! I've used them all, and I can honestly say, that without them you're going to struggle to perform a comprehensive competitor analysis. This is just a handful, check out the Top 12 competitor analysis tools for more.
SEO competitive analysis provides data about what tactics are working in the industry. Recognizing your competitors’ strong and weak areas, means you’ll have an understanding of how hard it’ll be to outrank them. Backlink analysis will reveal which websites are linking to your competitors, and not you. Moz SEO tools include Keyword Explorer, Open Site Explorer, MozRank, MozBar, link building, site audits, page optimization insights.
Perform an SEO audit of your competitors' websites with Moz.
Get an instant overview of your brand online. This search engine provides extensive coverage of social networks, news sites, blogs, and forums. You can enter multiple competitors brands and compare sentiment @ 90% accuracy, engagement, audience demographics, mentions, and more.
Compare multiple brands with Quick Search - sentiment, mentions, influencers, demographics, etc.
Day Digital offers many services, including SEO strategies to boost the ranking of your website, on all search engines. You'll find information on link building, on-page optimization, PPC, and social media outreach. While there is no guarantee with SEO, Day Digital works towards improving SERP rankings and increasing traffic using social media.
Boost your website's page ranking and rise above the competition.
Screaming Frog SEO Spider is a website crawler - with perhaps the coolest name ever. Use this tool to crawl competitor sites for key onsite SEO elements. Including, canonicals, page titles, meta descriptions, and headings. You’ll find insights into their optimization, plus learn of potential keywords that your site can target.
Crawl your competitors' websites to identify their SEO strategies.
Like Google Alerts, but better. Set up alerts to receive mentions of your brand and those of your competitors - from websites, blogs, forums, and Twitter. You’ll easily see what content your competitors are tweeting and what people are saying about them.
BTW - this one’s a freebie.
With SEMrush, you can find information about your competitors organic search results and AdWords campaigns. You’ll also get keywords used across multiple search engines and regions. See how much traffic they have and which search terms are bringing this traffic. The successful search terms can then be used in your own strategy.
Identify your competitors' organic search results and AdWords campaigns.
Majestic is a link intelligence database that’ll give you detailed analysis of external links and anchor text used by your competitors. Analyze backlinks and domain link counts so you can understand what your competitors are doing to track performance.
Detailed analysis of your competitors' external links and anchor text.
To help with your competitor analysis, I’ve created a template. Click below and fill it with the results of your competitor audit.
You can tailor the template to suit your business.
- Competitor profile
Identify your main competitors and fill in a template for each.
- Competitive advantage
What makes your company unique, different from your competitors?
- Target market
You know your target market - don’t you dare say you don’t. Identify your competitors’ target market. If you’ve followed my guide, you’ll have this data at your fingertips.
- SEO strategy
Keywords your competitors are ranking for. Backlink strategy. SERPS. Which trending keywords are they jumping on?
- Marketing strategies
Add your current/future marketing campaigns, and those of your competitors. Familiarize yourself with their strategies.
- Product & service
Rate your company’s products and services against those of your competitors. Whose is best? What features are you missing that are working for the competition?
- Pricing & costs
Cheap and cheerful? Targeting consumers with disposable income?
- Social media presence
Which channels are they using? Images, video, text? Frequency of posting? What are the demographics of their followers?
You’ve already done this for your own brand, right? Now do it for each of your competitors.
Perform PEST analysis for each of your competitors, and compare with your own.
It won’t happen overnight, it’s an ongoing process. Performing regular competitor analysis will give your company the advantage it needs to outsmart the competition. Watch and learn. Monitor your progress by installing tracking - Google Analytics, SEMrush, Moz, Webmaster Tools. Watch your competitors and industry with Quick Search and Talkwalker Alerts. See what’s working and what isn’t.
Don't forget to download your free reporting templates!