We live in a world where information is everywhere. The challenge we face is that while information may be around us, we either don't see it or if we do see, we may not know what to do with it. In this post, we are going to share an online marketing secret. We are going to share 4 tips that you can immediately tap into to provide you with significant insight and help increase your online efforts.
Before we begin, we wanted to personally share an article you might find extremely resourceful (90+ content marketing tips!). You can view the post here.
This online marketing secret really isn't a secret at all but it is something that most SMB's fail to include in their online growth strategy. Last year when we ran our survey and asked the SMB about this, over 90% said they've never performed one. What is it we are referring to that is so powerful? It's the ability to perform a variety of competitive analyses to identify strategic opportunities for improving your business, and areas of weakness among your competitors’ operations. These analyses will provide you with the potential to gain on your rivals while building long term online competitive advantages within your industry.
Perform a Website Analysis
This is usually the initial stage for any competitive analysis. At a first glance, just take the time to navigate through your competitors’ site. Is it user-friendly, organized, and appealing? While this will enable you to set up your initial benchmark against competitors, it can also be a good way to gain ideas in improving the layout of your own site as you begin to realize what works and what doesn’t.
Another important element to focus on is website compatibility with devices other than desktops. Try visiting the websites from your mobile phone or tablet and see if each page is responsive and user friendly. Ideally pages should adapt to the new screen size (and/or browser); however if you find that everything is just made smaller and cluttered hindering user friendliness it would be wise to focus on mobile using audience to gain a competitive edge.
Now you can start digging a bit deeper focusing on elements like website responsiveness, server responsiveness, and page loading times. Keep in mind that websites that are picture heavy and integrate map applications may seem very appealing and professional but in actuality, this hinder load times. This will more often put off visitors rather than attract them; this is especially true for users browsing from their mobile device. It is therefore important to find the sweet-spot between slickness and user friendliness to stay ahead of the competition.
(Bonus: One of the best tools to use for a detailed website analysis is SimilarWeb.)
Perform a Social Media Analysis
As SMB owners and content creators, you are undoubtedly making use of your social channels, but are you using them to their fullest? Apart from being an excellent platform for content distribution, brand visibility, audience engagement, and trend monitoring, social media can also provide in depth competitive insight.
Take a look at major social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram and monitor your competitors’ actions.
- What are they posting?
- What type of content are they sharing? Is it from industry influencers?
- At what intervals are they uploading content? (How many days a week and during what times?)
- Are their followers engaging with their posts?
- How many followers do they have?
- Are they engaging with their followers? (comment replies, retweets etc)
- Are they engaging with any influencers? How?
- Which social platforms do they prefer using the most?
The answers to these questions will not only allow you to gain a better understanding of competitor actions, but it will also help you gauge your social performance and identify any areas of improvement. Also, if you notice your competitor really favors and excels in one social site (e.g. Facebook), but almost completely neglects others (e.g Twitter), it would be wise to focus on the latter. Furthermore, if they tend to share topics irrelevant to your industry do not follow in their footsteps. Always aim posting industry relevant content your audience craves.
(Bonus: Use BuzzSumo to help you gather insight on what your competitors are posting, when they are posting, and through which channels.)
Perform a Keyword Analysis
One of the most important elements of any digital competitive analysis is keyword identification. This entails gathering analytical insight for keywords shared (as well as those not being shared) between you and your competitors.
If you have the capacity to rival competitors for wanted keywords then be our guest, but note that there will be times when you may find it difficult to organically rank for certain phrases. If this ever occurs, don’t waste time trying to gather up resources, instead focus on reinforcing your strategy for short and long-tail keywords you already have a level of dominance in.
Having a thorough understanding regarding the analytics of keywords targeted by your competitors, coupled with insight pertaining to search traffic, will help you benchmark and improve your own organic and paid operations. It is important to remember that with the right tools, it is fairly simple to see for which keywords your competitors are presently ranking for. What you should ideally be aiming for is not a short term benchmark, but ways to improve your long term organic operations.
This will entail a much more comprehensive understanding of their strategy (or lack of), which is something that requires time, insightful data, and experience. The same could be said about paid search as well. Try to gather insight on competitor paid operations and habits; these in turn will enable you to better understand how they allocate their budget and more importantly how they balance organic and paid search actions.
(Bonus: One of the best tools to use for performing an in-depth keyword analysis is SEMrush.)
Perform a Content Analysis
As the final element on our list, a content analysis encompasses aspects from all the topics we explored above. As you already know the creation of high quality, in depth content is what helps businesses stay ahead of their competition and grow their online presence and authority. Take time to thoroughly analyze your competitors’ content strategy, regularly visit their blog, and try to gather as much insight as possible regarding the following subjects:
- Is their content well written? (void of grammatical, spelling, and syntax errors)
- Is it relevant to your industry?
- Does it provide value to the audience by addressing a pain, need, or interest they may have?
- Are new pieces regularly added to their blog?
- Is content being updated or effectively repurposed to offer value?
- Is it well optimized or are they relying on paid methods to promote it?
- Does it include quality links?
- Does it entice the audience to engage? How?
- Does it include a relevant CTA?
Once again, understand what your competitors are doing right and identify deficiencies that will allow you to rival or even surpass them. It would also be wise to monitor their content and see if there are certain topics you could potentially improve upon and provide greater value and insight to your audience. This will not only help you gain a competitive edge, but it will also enhance your authority within the industry.
This is by no means an exhaustive list. While there is a plethora of subtleties and nuances one can delve into while performing a competitive analysis, the topics covered above should help almost every SMB gain an initial understanding of your competitors, their actions, and how you can potentially surpass them by spotting weaknesses in their strategy.
Before signing off, we would like to offer you a final word of advice:
Be very careful not to fall into the competitive analysis “trap.” It’s not uncommon to see business owners entering a vicious circle, obsessed with monitoring and matching their competitors’ every move. The best thing you can do is use your competitive analysis as another “perspective.” When done right, it should provide insightful solutions, ideas, and even (healthy) questions regarding your business operations, your audience, and your industry or niche. In other word’s, it should give you more to think about, more to investigate, and more to learn.
For more tips and tricks on content marketing, check out these blogs:
- Content Marketing - What Does It Really Mean?
- The Art Of Repurposing Content
- 15 Types Of Blogs To Make Content Marketing More Effective