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  • December 2, 2019

    How to Do Competitor Research for your Marketing Strategy

    As 2019 comes to a close, I urge every business to be thinking about their marketing strategy for 2020. If you don’t know where to start, hiring a marketing firm like FGM Internet Marketing is a good idea. But if you choose to develop a marketing strategy yourself, doing a little competitor analysis is a good way to get the ball rolling. 

    Why do competitive analysis? Conducting a competitive analysis allows us to understand the competitive landscape better, and you can learn from your competitors’ strengths and weaknesses. Look to your competitors who are doing well in your industry as inspiration, but nobody’s perfect. If you competitor made a slip up, use that has a learning experience to not do the same. 

    Below, I outline the essentials that FGM Internet Marketing uses for competitor market research in developing our digital marketing strategies. 

    Identify Your Competitors

    The very first step in the process is to identify your competitors. Who has a similar product or service? If your business serves customers locally, choose a local competitor or two. If your business serves customers nationally or internationally, find a competitor at a similar level as yours. Also choose an aspirational competitor – a business that you would like to emulate. If you want to become the next Amazon, it’s in your best interest to understand what Amazon is doing to be the behemoth it is. 

    Limiting your research to 3 or 4 competitors is ideal. Researching anything more than 4 competitors becomes time intensive, and it can muddy the waters when looking at your competitors’ strengths and weaknesses.

    Review Their Website

    So much can be learned by looking at a competitor website. Your competitors will be showing you what they consider important through the type of content on their website. Are certain products front and center? Or do they value customer reviews and case studies as a way of building trust? Is customer service important for their target market? 

    As well as identifying important content through calls to action and what’s on their homepage, check to see if their website is mobile friendly by using Google’s Mobile Friendly Test, and whether or not it’s secured with an SSL certificate (the url should start with https:// instead of http://, and the site should show as “secure” in your browser bar). 

    Google has indicated that both mobile-friendliness and having a secured website are positive ranking factors in their search engine. If your competitor does not have a secure, mobile-friendly website in 2019, it’s clear that they are not investing in their digital marketing, or don’t find it important for their business. 

    Search Engine Optimization

    Search engine optimization (SEO) is a cornerstone of many a business’s digital marketing strategy. In-depth SEO analysis is best performed by an SEO expert who understands the ever-changing factors that go into good search engine rankings, but you can also use analysis tools like SEMrush. SEMrush will scan your competitors’ websites and provide a site audit, an overview of their organic rankings, the paid search ads, backlinks, and display advertising.  

    If you want to tackle SEO analysis yourself without the help of tools, take a look at the titles, meta-descriptions, headings, and subheadings your competitors are using on each of their pages. This will give you a good idea of what keywords they are targeting. You can then go on to Google and search for those keywords to get an idea of where your competitors rank. But keep in mind that this is not an accurate reflection of their overall search engine rankings as everyone’s results are tailored to them using previous searches and location. 

    If your competitor’s website is lacking in the areas of mobile-friendliness, an SSL certificate, and unique titles, meta-descriptions, and headings, we can assume that they are not focused on search engine optimization to drive leads or sales for their business.

    Their Digital Marketing and Other Advertising

    When it comes to your competitors’ advertising, keep an eye out for ads on Google search (paid ads at the top of search results), ads on social media, and TV, print, and radio ads. This will give you a rough idea of how much they’re spending on advertising, and what their unique selling points are. 

    Traditional advertising like TV, print, and radio are more expensive than digital marketing channels like search or social media ads. Assume that a competitor who is running TV ads is spending tens of thousands of dollars on advertising versus a competitor who is running only digital ads spending a few thousand dollars. 

    Analysis tools like SEMrush will scan the internet to give you an idea of your competitors paid search terms, display advertising, and how much they are spending a month. 

    Social Media Presence

    Investigating your competitors’ social media presence can offer a wealth of information. Is social media important for your competitors? This is easily determined by looking at how many social media accounts they have, which platforms they choose to use, how many followers they have, and how often they post. 

    You can also gauge your competitors’ customer service engagement by seeing if people are commenting on posts, how your competitors respond to positive or negative comments, and the feedback given by customers in the form of posts and online reviews. 

    It is incorrect to assume that being active on social media is essential for growing a business. For certain businesses, engaging with people directly on social media is incredibly important. For others, this level of effort is unlikely to see returns. Social media is a great place to connect, but can also easily becomes a time suck. 

    Analyzing your competitors’ social media can help you make a decision on how much or how little time you should be spending on this channel. 

    Identify Their Strengths and Weaknesses

    Finally, after analyzing everything above, take the time to identify each of your competitor’s strengths and weaknesses. Then, compare these to your own business’s digital marketing efforts. Where can you improve? What are your competitors’ weaknesses and is there an opportunity to capitalize on this? In terms of your aspirational competitor, what needs to be done within your business to bridge the gap between what you’re doing and what they’re doing? 

    Competition analysis helps us get out of our own thoughts and understand what’s going on around us. It should inspire you to do things differently, or confirm that the efforts you’ve made are pointing your business in the right direction. It can help you make decisions on where to allocate time and money. Competitor research is an essential part of any digital marketing plan for 2020.