Knowing who your competitors are can help you differentiate your products or services. Keeping tabs on what your competition is doing can help you stay ahead of them and gain more market share. Competitors can be identified in a number of ways, including market research and even just the simple act of listening to your clients. It’s also possible that your competition online is different from your competition offline.   So, how do you identify who your digital competitors are, and what should you look for in a competitor analysis? Who are my digital competitors?

Manual Searching

Once you’ve developed your keyword universe, do some manual searching to see who is coming up in organic results, and who is paying for ad space.  Use a wide variety of key terms and key phrases that include both general terms as well as specific long-tail phrases to find your competitors' keywords.  Who appears repeatedly in the organic results?  Who pops up in ads each time?  What keywords and key phrases produce ads, and which don't?  The more ads there are, the more likely it is that they keyword/ phrase you're searching is valuable, but also competitive.

Competitor Research Tools

There are multiple tools that will analyze your site and your competitors sites, including suggestions on who those competitors are, such as Spyfu, SEMRush, and SimilarWeb.  You can do some analysis on your own site, as well as look at what these tools consider similar sites.  Be sure to cross-check these ideas with your manual searches and knowledge of the marketplace, as no tool is 100% perfect.

Competitor Analysis

Once you’ve identified some key competitors, doing some analysis of each will help you to understand the best way to go to market and compete. Who is their ideal client versus yours?  What is different about your product or service from what they offer? Highlighting these differences will help buyers select the right choice for them. There are a number of tools that we use for competitive analysis, including:

  1. Google Trends – I love this tool, and think it’s completely underrated. You can run information for interest over time on any topic.   You can use this to evaluate keywords, and also compare brand names.  Many of us have products and services that are called multiple names (such as SEO, search engine optimization, digital marketing, etc).  With Google Trends, we can see which of these phrases has the most volume, and if they are trending up or down over time.
    Google trends search for seo vs seo Google Trends graph showing how the term "SEO" has gained interest over time.
  2. For PPC research, we like Spyfu and SEMRush.   They will pull info on top keywords, ad spends, etc. These tools aren’t perfect, but they will give you a good indication of where your competitors are advertising and how much they spend.  You can also use these tools to see where competitors are bidding on the same words/ phrases, and if there are any opportunities for you to advertise where they are not.
  3. On the SEO side, Moz’s Open Site Explorer allows you to compare domain authority and link metrics across multiple sites to understand the likeliness each has to rank.  The largest factor in Google's algorithm for which sites rank are the inbound links pointing to the site, so understanding where your competitors are getting their links can provide great information - as well as potential ideas for where you can get links.
  4. For general information about where traffic comes from for any given site, check out SimilarWeb. Knowing if your competition is getting most of their traffic from organic vs paid vs direct can help inform your marketing campaigns.
  5. Want to know what platform your competitors built their website in, and what tracking or marketing tools they're using?  Plug their domain into Built With and you will be able to see all the various components of their site.

When you being any marketing strategy, knowing who is your competitor is critical. From there, we suggest performing competitive analysis every 3-6 months to always stay ahead of any new competition, changes in their marketing strategies or positioning, and new trends in your industry. The more you know about the competition, the better you can showcase your own differentiators and expertise to capture the right clients.