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What is competitor analysis and how to conduct one?

Author: Filip Podstavec
15 minutes of reading
13. 7. 2022
Table of contents

Do you know your real competitors, and what makes them successful? Do you have an idea how well they are doing in search? If your answer is YES, is it just an assumption or have you actually looked at the data? 

Competitor analysis involves identifying major competitors and providing a detailed analysis of what makes them successful in gaining valuable insights. It is not just about knowing who your competitors are but also identifying their strengths and weaknesses, monitoring their performance, campaigns, etc. 

What is competitor analysis, and how do you conduct one? Read this article to find out! We also mention many free tools you can use to automate the process. 

What is competitor analysis? 

Competitor analysis involves identifying major competitors and providing a detailed analysis of what makes them successful. It helps you gain valuable insights to learn the ins and outs of how your competitors work and identify new opportunities. In general, there are two types of competitor analysis:

  • online competitor analysis (similar eCommerce sites, search competitors, etc.)
  • real-life competitor analysis (physical stores, etc.)

The two types have entirely different processes and in this article, we will only focus on online competitor analysis.

How to find competitors 

Every business has its own competitor that takes customers away from them. However, focusing on just one competitor does not help any business to improve its results.

Focusing on their strengths and identifying their success strategies is much more beneficial. Conduct research to uncover their strategies, get inspired and turn your findings into action. But remember, just because some businesses have a strong online presence doesn’t mean that they are your major competitor to keep an eye on.  

The best way to identify your competitors is through effective competitive analysis and relying on data. Want to know your competitors based on their size or turnover? Take a close look at their market position and sales. Are you looking for digital marketing strategy inspiration? Find those competitors that generate the most revenue online. 

Or do you want to invest in SEO and find your biggest search competitors? You can identify your competitors in organic search with link prospecting tools to see who competes for the same search visibility as your own website. These websites are your true competitors in the search, not the largest brands in your industry. Online competitors can be significantly different from real-world ones. As well as, search competitors might be slightly different from paid search competitors. 

Identifying your search competitors – example 

At first, it is necessary to put together a keyword list that describes your business. Think of phrases that your customers would search for to find your business on Google. Let's say you sell flowers in New York, so you probably want to start with the following keywords:

  • flower delivery
  • flower delivery New York
  • flower delivery in NYC
  • rose flowers in New York 
  • bouquet of roses
  • florist
  • florist New York 

These keywords are important because they are the ones your target audience is searching for on Google.

The next step is to find which websites rank for these keywords already. For this research, you can use Reports in Marketing Miner. After you add all your keywords, select the Link Prospecting miner to analyze search results for all keywords you entered and find websites that often appear for such keywords. 

In this case, your search competitor report would look something like this:

Search competitor report example

The Influence score metric determines the domain’s search visibility. The higher the ranking position of a website, the higher the score. Therefore, your main search competitors would be the following sites:

  • 1800flowers.com
  • ftd.com
  • fromyouflowers.com
  • teleflora.com
  • proflowers.com

Free competitor analysis tools

After we identified our competitors, it’s time for a data-driven approach and look at them a bit closer! 

Analyze competitor website traffic

Most website traffic checker tools get insights from click-stream data they buy from third parties (such as antivirus software companies, plugins, etc.). These tools provide information such as estimated website traffic, engagements, audience demographics, traffic sources, and others. 

Similarweb

Probably the most accurate tool for estimating website traffic is Similarweb. Although they don’t share much detailed information about the data sources, our research still shows that their information is pretty accurate for most websites. 


similarweb example dashboard for marketingminer.com
* Similarweb report for www.marketingminer.com
 

Website Profiler in Marketing Miner 

Marketing Miner's Website profiler is another tool that can analyze any website’s traffic data. This tool uses an internal Marketing Miner database that gathers information from the click-stream data (user behavior third-party data) and Google search results of popular queries every day. The Website profiler provides estimated monthly traffic insights, together with the traffic change graph, to see how the website traffic evolved over time. 

Traffic change graph in Marketing Miner

*Traffic insights in Website Profiler (Marketing Miner) for 1800flowers.com
 

How accurate are website traffic estimators? 

We can’t say that these tools can give you 100% accurate website traffic results. That’s why we call them ‘estimates’. However, you can use this information to benchmark your performance against the competitors as these tools work with a relatively large sample of users to provide enough information. 

TIP: If you decide to use website traffic estimators for your competitor research, try to analyze your website traffic data first and measure the accuracy of their estimates against your traffic from Google Analytics (or another analytics tool you use). After comparing the results, apply the same ratio for your competitors' insights, so you get closer to accurate results. 

Search visibility

The website visibility in search engines is a great indicator of its success in organic and paid search results. Knowing the search visibility of your competitor’s website helps you discover the keywords it ranks for and to find out what keywords generate the most website traffic. 

In Website Profiler, you can analyze organic and paid search results and 9 different SERP features (shopping ads, local pack, featured snippets, news box, knowledge graph, images, videos, people also ask and find results on). SERP features traffic change graph represents the estimated monthly traffic from all different SERP features. 

Thanks to exploring Paid keywords, you can reveal your competitors’ paid search strategies and discover new opportunities to get quick PPC wins. With Content gap analysis, you can also find out which keywords your competitors are ranking for, and you are not. 

Website Profiler flowers

*Search visibility in Website Profiler (Marketing Miner) for 1800flowers.com

Top pages and subdomains

You can also use competitors’ top pages to gain valuable insights and make data-driven decisions. 

Here’s an example of what your competitor report could look like for the Top pages:

https://www.marketingminer.com/en/profiler/website/1800flowers.com/us/top-pages?scheme=&domainType=subdomain 

This feature will help you collect detailed information about competitors’ popular landing pages, subdomains, and keywords that bring the most website traffic. Competitors’ Top pages and subdomain data are a valuable source for performing your content audit and checking landing page relevance.  

Top Pages in Profiler example

* Top pages in Website Profiler (Marketing Miner) for 1800flowers.com

Competing pages and domains

Detecting websites that often compete with your site in organic search results and exploring the overlapping keywords are the primary metrics in competitor analysis. This data will help you discover the websites that most closely compete with you for organic search traffic. 

Example report: https://www.marketingminer.com/en/profiler/website/www.1800flowers.com%2Ffruitbaskets/us/competing-pages?scheme=https&domainType=prefix 

With Competing pages and domains data from Website Profiler, you can identify your top search competitors and find those landing pages that cover similar keywords to yours. You can also use this list for your linkbuilding efforts to get meaningful backlinks. Don’t forget to conduct a thorough competitor analysis regularly to stay one step ahead of your competition. Explore which rivals have started working more on their SEO strategy and how the SERPs landscape is evolving. 

Content gap analysis

Content gap analysis identifies missed opportunities in your content strategy, and it helps you reveal what other topics you should cover in your niche. You can get inspiration for creating new landing pages (new category, blog articles, product pages, …) or expanding your product range. 

Example report: https://www.marketingminer.com/en/profiler/website/1800flowers.com/us/content-gap?scheme=https&domainType=subdomain 

The Content Gap analysis feature in Website Profiler will quickly display keywords that your competitors include in their content strategy, but you don’t. Simply add your competitors (up to 3) and discover the keywords your competitors rank for. 

Content gap in Profiler

Rank Tracking 

Don’t forget to keep track of your SEO progress against your competitors. Explore how they are performing against your target keywords. Focus on improving your keyword rankings that are important for your business, and those keywords that your competitors rank higher for. 

You can check out the Competitors section in the Projects that allows you to monitor up to 5 competitors per project and monitor your competitors’ rankings on Google. 

Brand monitoring

You can also set up brand monitoring campaigns for you and your competitors’ brands to keep an eye on what people are saying about them as soon as they are mentioned online. You can then monitor their performance based on that information and get valuable feedback. 

Many businesses underestimate the power of media monitoring as part of the competitor analysis. However, knowing your competitor’s strategy and how your audience perceives them is crucial to outperform the competition and leverage data in your favor. It will also help you spot any newcomers in your niche. Mention monitoring is also useful for linkbuilding campaigns. By monitoring your brand and keywords from your niche, you can quickly catch the unlinked mentions to acquire the link to your website. 

Understand what people say about your competitors to help you identify their weak points to turn them into your strengths. You can also try contacting websites that mentioned your competitors already to see if they can link to your website too. 

Don’t forget to monitor:

  • your brand (e.g. Marketing Miner)
  • competitor brands (e.g. SEMrush)

For those of you who want to get more insights, you can also monitor: 

  • keyword mentions that are relevant to your business or niche (e.g. ‘SEO news’ - so you know what’s going on in your industry to keep up with the latest news)
  • questions about your services or products (e.g. ‘how to choose a washing machine’ -
    explore what people ask about your products so you can answer them or link to your useful content as soon as they ask online)

Free monitoring tools: 

A link profile is an overall assessment of all links pointing to a specific page or website. By checking your competitor’s link profile, you can discover which authoritative website links to your competitors and how ‘natural’ their link profile is.

Links are one of the crucial ranking factors, and they should definitely be included in your competitor analysis too. 

Besides discovering your competitor’s website traffic sources, profile linking is also used to identify the authoritative websites for linkbuilding opportunities and for other activities such as identifying non-existing landing pages (404), broken link building or skyscraper technique, and more.

SEO tools providing link profile data:

  • Ahrefs (Paid feature – probably the best tool for backlink analysis)
  • Majestic (Paid feature - with a smaller database and slightly cheaper than Ahrefs)
  • Moz Link Explorer 

These tools are probably the best choice when working on your link profiling. However, they all come with paid subscription plans. 

There are also tools with smaller databases, but you can use them to check your link profile for free. You can try Openlinkprofiler.org or Rank Signals, where you just enter your competitor domain to get a basic link profile overview. However, their databases are much smaller, but it’s enough to take a look at who links to your competitors and find patterns. 

TIP: In your Marketing Miner Project, you can also monitor your backlinks to get notified if anything changes as soon as they happen (see our backlink monitoring example). Thanks to our email alerts, you can immediately contact site owners when the link is removed. In this section, you can also find important data such as anchor text, link position, if it’s a follow or nofollow link, and more. 

Website change detection

Website change detection is all about monitoring changes that are made on your competitor websites. What website changes does it take to be more successful? New website design, title changes, or something else? All this information can be monitored quite easily with these tools:

VisualPing

Have you ever wondered what page layout your competitors use and what banners they promote for specific products? VisualPing takes snapshots of specific URLs and checks them regularly to find any changes. 

How does it work? Enter the URL, select the field you want to track and set the frequency of how often it should be crawled. VisualPing scans the URL regularly and focuses on the marked area to see if anything has changed. VisualPing will notify you straight away when changes are made. You can also receive notifications via Slack or text. 

Thanks to this tool, you can monitor eCommerce banners or top products in specific categories and use this information in your favor. 

VisualPing tool homepage

* VisualPing tool 


Littlewarden

Littlewarden tool helps you track little technical details of your competitor websites or specific URLs on a daily basis, and it notifies you about any changes. This great little tool checks URL elements (such as title, content, protocol, etc.) and inspects domain information (such as SSL certificate, MX records, etc.). Littlewarden is a paid tool that also offers a free trial. 

Content King

Content King is quite similar to Littlewarden in terms of monitoring website checks. But it provides more advanced features. Content King also offers different features and tips that help you gradually work on your content and improve it. Content King doesn't offer a free version, but it provides a free trial period.

Marketing Miner Alerts 

Similar to the tools mentioned above, Marketing Miner also automatically checks certain website elements. To set up Alerts, you need to create a project first. Then you just navigate to the Alerts section to set up what you wish to monitor. Marketing Miner monitors specific URLs regularly and notifies you via email about any detected changes. 

Alerts section in Marketing Miner

*Alerts in Marketing Miner


Website technology checkers 

Thanks to technology lookup tools, you can quickly identify what technologies are used on your competitor’s website. To get an idea of technologies on the website, you can check the source code too. But for a more advanced understanding of technologies, it’s better to rely on different tools that provide more detailed information.  

For example, you can find out what CMS competitor's website is built on, what tools they use for A/B testing, what analytics software they have implemented, and much more. Builtwith and Wappalyzer are useful tools that can help you find all this information. Simply enter your competitor’s website or URL to identify their web technologies. 

Manual checks

You don’t have to rely only on tools to analyze your competitors, you can also do your checks manually. Subscribe to your competitor’s newsletter, take a close look at their user journey process, try their customer support, and get inspired to see what improvements you could make. Don’t forget to take notes during your research, as they can be a valuable source of information for your future campaigns. 


How to keep track of your competitors

In addition to your competitor analysis, regularly monitoring their performance is a good practice. You can create a shared document for your team to have an overview of their improvements and website changes. 

Try using Google Sheets, a cloud-based alternative to Microsoft Excel. The main advantage of Google Sheets is allowing multiple users to edit documents in real-time. All changes can be tracked or restored later on. Google Data Studio can help you create exciting data visualizations and build interactive reports or dashboards for your Google Sheets data. 


How do businesses use competitor analysis? 

‘If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants’ - Sir Isaac Newton

Learning from your competitor’s mistakes and successes is vital to staying ahead of the pack. Not only will it help you improve your own business, but you can also learn valuable lessons to save your time, resources, and money. 

Find out who your competitors are and evaluate their strengths and weaknesses to ensure that the same mistake doesn’t repeat twice. Competitor analysis will help you enhance your own business strategy to keep your customers’ attention.

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