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Digital marketing 101: your comprehensive guide to competitor analysis

While researching your target market and establishing your industry niche is what will give you the ‘edge’, understanding the strengths and weaknesses of your competitors, and using that information to your advantage, is what will earn you success. Below, we investigate the steps that you need to take in order to complete a digital marketing competitor analysis that is sure to get you the results that you deserve.

Note: When it comes to competitor analyses, it is important to realise that focusing on your direct competitors (i.e. those companies most similar to your business in terms of product / service offering and clientele) just isn’t enough. Paying attention to your indirect competitors (i.e. those companies that are similar to yours, but that may not operate in the same region as you) is just as important. While your indirect competitors may not pose a threat to your business and its success, their digital marketing efforts could provide you with the inspiration and knowledge necessary in order to better your campaigns.

There are generally four main aspects that every digital marketing competitor analysis should cover – your competitors’ website, their social media accounts, presence and interactions, their SEO rankings, and their blog.

1. Your competitors’ website

  • Design: Obviously, your competitors will be gunning for the same target market as you are, so take note of the design that they have chosen for their website, and whether or not it is similar to yours. Look at the colours, images and fonts that are used and compare them to your own. What is similar? What is different? Do you think you could benefit by tweaking your design somewhat?
  • Navigation: Is it easy to navigate their website? If you were a potential customer, would you be able to find everything that you were looking for with ease? Are there any broken or missing links? How has the website been laid out differently when compared to yours?
  • Product Descriptions: Does the competitor provide thorough, detailed product descriptions? Are they well-written and informative? Does the competitor make use of a descriptive, engaging tone? Or does the competitor stick to the facts? How do you feel when you compare their product descriptions with your own? If you were an unbiased customer, who would you prefer to buy from based only on this?
  • Onsite Content: How much interesting, relevant onsite content can you find on their website? Where is the content housed – on a blog or all over the site? Have people commented on this content or does there not seem to be much interaction at all?
  • Links to Social Media Accounts: Has the competitor placed obvious links to their social media accounts throughout their website? How many platforms does the competitor seem to be utilising?
  • User Experience: What are the website loading times like? Did you have a pleasant experience visiting the website?

The key is to compare each aspect of your competitors’ website to your own and take note not only of how they differ – but whether these differences work in your favour or not.

2. Your competitors’ social media efforts

Social media forms a massive part of successful digital marketing. After all, creating amazing content isn’t enough – you need to promote it, too. Here’s how to analyse your competitors’ social media efforts:

  • Social Media Platforms: The first step is to establish which social media platforms each of your competitors is using.
  • Posting Frequency: Next, analyse how often they are posting – and how consistent this posting schedule is. Do they seem to post at specific times (if so, which of these times seem to garner the best response)? Are they posting on specific days? On which platforms are they most active? On which platforms do they have the biggest following? Do their social media efforts seem to be more successful than your own?
  • Consumer Interaction / Interest: How often do people comment, share or follow them on social media? How often do they reply to comments or questions? Do they seem to delete any negative feedback from customers? Or do they do everything possible to rectify the situation if a customer is dissatisfied? How can you learn from this?
  • Type of Content Posted: What exactly are they posting? Do they only post original content or are they curating content from external sources as well? Are they making use of visual content or focusing mainly on written content? How does this compare to the types of content that you are posting?
  • Paid Advertising Efforts: How much do they seem to be spending on social media paid advertising; and does it seem to be working for them?

If your social media efforts are lagging behind, your competitors’ behaviour and tactics on these platforms will provide you with some insight into why – and supply you with the information that you need in order to make positive changes to your strategy.

3. Your competitors’ SEO rankings

Before you conduct a competitor analysis, you will already have a good idea of the specific keywords which you are (or would like to be) ranking for. Unless you have a programme or online tool for checking these rankings, you can do it all manually by entering the specific keywords or phrases into the Google search engine and collecting the data. If you notice that your competitors are ranking higher than you are, this is a good indication that it is time to up your game. Luckily, the results obtained from this competitor analysis will provide you with the guidance necessary in order to do exactly that.

4. Your competitors’ blog

Blogs are a digital marketing essential, providing you with the perfect platform on which to publish the written aspects of your campaign. Here are a few things to analyse when comparing your company blog with those of your competitors’.

  • Design: Does the design fit in with their overall website’s design? Have they incorporated a comments section? Is the blog easy to navigate?
  • Posting Frequency: How often do they post? According to the level of response, when does it seem to be the best time(s) to post?
  • Topics: What do they seem to be writing about and how does their target market seem to be responding to these topics? Is there a clear call to action within each blog post?

BONUS

**Ensure that you do some intensive research regarding the less conventional content marketing efforts of each of your competitors. Have they dabbled in alternative content creation such as creating imaginative infographics or interactive videos? Have they gone the extra mile in terms of innovative business promotion via certain social media channels perhaps not yet known to the mainstream? If so, have they been successful in gaining the attention and approval of their target market? If success has been achieved, this could be an area worth exploring. However, it is important to note that simply emulating what they have done won’t do you any favours. Instead, it would be wise to utilise their ideas as motivation in an effort to mould your own interesting, ‘off-the-wall’ ideas, concepts, projects and campaigns.**

Ultimately, the more thorough a competitor analysis, the better. However, when it comes down to it, simply collecting this information isn’t enough. It is one’s ability to utilise the information that has been collected (in an effort to better one’s own digital marketing efforts) that counts – and this revolves around comparison, deep analysis and, finally, creating a plan of action that will allow you to implement the changes necessary for ensuring success.

Author | Bianca Delport

Bianca Delport
Bianca Delport studied Linguistics and English Literature before entering the content marketing industry in 2011. In 2014, she joined the National Positions team and has since then established herself as one of the company’s leading content specialists. When not writing or brainstorming content ideas, she enjoys spending time with... More