how to perform online competitor analysis

Five Steps to Perform an Online Competitor Analysis

Monitoring your online competitors’ performance never comes easy. With the implementation of various content published on so many online marketing channels, brands won’t miss out on any opportunity to communicate brand value as well as product information with their customers and consistently meet the growing needs (both physical and emotional) to reach customers’ expectation. Conducting an online competitor analysis allows you to map out your current position in the marketplace so that you better understand your weaknesses and identify potential opportunities. In a nutshell, a comprehensive online competitor analysis is a dispensable enabler for you to define your online marketing strategy that will help you create brand awareness, reach customers and achieve sales growth. Use the following steps to quickly set up your competitor analysis framework.

Five Steps to Perform an Online Competitor Analysis


Five Steps to Perform an Online Competitor Analysis

1. Identify your online competitors

The traditional way of defining online competitors is pretty much centred on screening out product/services providers in the same segment. In the era of digital transformation, the competitors no longer reside in the same segment. They could be any brands offering similar digital experience, products and services at each touchpoint of your customer journey. Therefore, with the profusion of different products and services, the type of your online competitors also becomes granular and diversified. Currently, your online competitors can be divided into direct, indirect, potential and substitute types. Targeting the same customer segment, your direct competitors will offer the same product, same services and even the same digital experience to solve your customers’ problem. The indirect competitors, potential competitors and substitute competitors may still target the same customer segment but with slightly different solutions. Based on different competitor types and the maturity of implementing an online marketing mix, their online marketing activities may also differ significantly. Pick two or three most representative ones across four competitors divisions and then, move to the second step.

2. Identify your competitors’ communication channels

Conduct secondary research to understand what marketing communication channels are used by your online competitors for branding and sales at each stage of sales funnel. The channels can be categorized into paid, owned and earned channels. Some effective paid channels include paid search, display ads, retargeting, social media ads, affiliate and video promotion. Owned media comprised marketing channels that a company has complete control over, such as company website, email marketing, blogs and social media posts. Owned media also exert an impact on earned media, which refers to publicity gained through promotional efforts other than paid advertising. PR and content marketing are typical earned channels. Each channel plays a different role at a different stage of sales funnel and some channels also need to collaborate in order to achieve better results. Once your competitors’ communication channels are identified, you can move to the next stage.

3. Make the most of competitor analysis tools

The prosperity of online marketing activities led to an influx of online competitor analysis tools. From evaluating the performance of owned channels to analysing the effectiveness of paid media, there is no longer a shortage of analysis tools on the market and each tool can offer unique insights relevant to its own niche by providing a wealth of data and building up the competitive benchmark. The tools below are most frequently used in my projects and they are also well recognised by my clients.

For paid media:

  1. SEMRush: A popular SaaS tool, specialising in keyword research, competitor analysis and Google Ad campaign optimisation.
  2. Search Metrics: A SaaS tool, specialising in keyword research and Google Ad campaign performance evaluation.
  3. iSpionage: The tool identifies your top PPC competitors, reveals their monthly budget and the entire Google Ads strategy.
  4. Whatrunswhere: The tool allows you to see where your competitors are advertising and what their ads look like, and how effective these adverts are.

For SEO:

  1. Similar Web: The tool provides an overview of website traffic, the proportion of the traffic and where the traffic comes from.
  2. Ahrefs: This tool allows you to see what your competitors are ranking for, how much organic traffic they’re getting, and see what content of theirs is performing the best. You can also compare those metrics with your competitors.
  3. Search Metrics: A SaaS tool, specialising in keyword research and Google Ad campaign performance evaluation.
  4. MOZ: A Saas tool, specialising in keyword research and keywords prioritization, backlink research and identifying content marketing opportunities. A bonus point, they provide high-quality educational content in their blog section, really good for SEO beginners and those who would like to keep up-to-date with the latest SEO trends.

For social media:

  1. BuzzSumo: The tool allows you to search for content by keyword or entering a competitor’s URL. You can then refine the search by publish date, content type, and shares across social sites.
  2. Brandwatch Analytics: The tool allows you to monitor competitors’ social media output and engagement across Facebook and Twitter.

4. Discover content strategy across each channel

Content marketing is no longer a buzz word and it’s rather an integral part of the online marketing communication mix. The complexity of online consumer behaviour makes it possible for those communication channels to go for “glory” online, the same as content. Brands are not able to apply the same message to all channels to target their customers. Personalisation, customisation and uniqueness become the three essential pillars of high-quality content. Knowing those content types should have been favourable for catering to your customers and defining your content strategy.

 5. Draft your competitor advantages 

Attempting the four steps above should be sufficient to understand who your online competitors, where they are, what tactics they use across all online marketing channels and what content they use for branding and conversion. The last step would be using the criteria and insights you have collected from the four steps above to map out your own strengths, weakness and opportunities. Your competitor advantage and value proposition will be uncovered during this process. Combining your findings with resources available, a complete online competitor analysis is ready!