Competitor Analysis: Identifying your online competitors

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Do you conduct any competitor research for the industry that you work in? If the answer is yes, then great. If it is no, then you are not the only one!

In my opinion, competitor research is one of the most underrated pieces of work completed. Often even if it is done, it is not used, and gets left on the desk, put in a drawer or, if sent electronically, not even read.

Why dammit, why?

Why dammit, why - Jackie Chan

This piece of research is essential to your online marketing plan, your strategy, and your business! It is key to understanding what is going on and what is required for your business to succeed or, at the very least, keep it afloat. Yet, so many people just don’t seem to care, or view it as a pointless task.

Well, over the next four posts I am hoping to change your mind. I want to show you what you can uncover with competitor research, and how it can all come together to influence your search marketing plan.

In these posts I am going to be discussing:

  • Identifying competitors based on search terms
  • Finding keyword & content opportunities
  • Understanding what content performs well
  • What coverage your competitors are getting, and why

But first I am going to start with identifying your online competitors.

Online is different to Offline!

If you have got this far, then you either don’t normally conduct competitor analysis or you want to know how and why to do it.

To start with, you need to ask yourself a few questions. Who are my competitors? What search terms are they visible for? Are those search terms of value to you? What are your competitors ranking for and should you be? How much money will it cost me to buy that traffic through paid search?

Luckily, there are tools available to help you do this. Some are paid, as you would expect, but they are worth the money if you are going to be constantly monitoring the landscape – which you should be!

So how do you understand who your online competitors are within search and what their visibility is? Well here is what I do in 10 steps…

*To complete these steps you will need paid access to both SEMrush & Linkdex.

  1. Firstly, head over to SEMrush, type in your domain, choose the country that you want to analyse (SEMrush currently has 22 countries), and hit search. This will return a lot of data, but at this point you are purely focusing on the organic keywords and competitors, which you will find if you scroll down the page.
    SEMrush - Competitor Analysis
  2. What you need to do now is to download all the organic keywords from the top 10-20 organic competitors. You can obviously choose more or less depending on the market that you are researching. To do this, simply click on the ‘Organic Competitors’ full report, then click on the competitor of choice. This will provide you with a list of keywords that you can simply download into Excel format. Go ahead and do this for your chosen number of competitors.
    SEMrush - Competitor Keywords
  3. Now you have all the keywords, you need to merge them into a single spreadsheet, keeping all the data, and de-dupe them.
  4. Now that you have a single list, you will need to spend some time going through the keywords and removing any that are unnecessary. Terms that include brand, jobs, recruitment, sales and anything else that isn’t relevant to your business and market, need to be removed. This will give you a much more accurate list of terms.
  5. Once you have completed your list in Excel, you will need to import this data into Linkdex, keeping the Term, Search Volume and CPC data found in SEMrush. To do this, simply go to the keyword rankings function within Linkdex and bulk upload using their import tool. Choose the correct headings and let it gather ranking data for those terms.
  6. Whilst that is happening, head over to the new ‘visibility’ feature that has recently been released by Linkdex. This feature is similar to that of SEMrush in that it tracks millions of keywords, but it also allows you to do some of your analysis side-by-side.
  7. Once you are in the new feature, you need to start entering the competitors that you identified in SEMrush. Once complete you will start to see the table populate with terms that each domain is visible for.
    Linkdex - Competitor Visibility
  8. The next step is pretty time-consuming, but is required. You will need to go through each competitor and add any keywords that are not currently in your list, but that are relevant to you. You may have to go and get the search volume and CPC data for these extra terms. This can be done by heading over to the keyword planner and adding in the terms as exact match and returning the data.
  9. By time you have done this, you should have a very comprehensive list of search terms that you and your competitors are competing for.
  10. Still in Linkdex, head over to the dashboards and create a ‘Competitor Detective Pro’ widget that looks at all of the keywords that you have added into Linkdex for checking. Once you have set this up and clicked OK, wait for the data to load and voila! Here are your competitors based on all the terms within the market, along with rankings by position, estimated traffic volume and how much that traffic is worth if you paid for it through PPC.
    Linkdex - Competitor Detective

So there you have it, a list of your online competitors who are targeting the key phrases within your industry, along with ranking data, estimated volumes and how much it would cost. This data can be useful to understand where you currently sit in the search landscape vs your new found competitors. It will also likely throw up some competitors that you may not have thought were competing on similar terms. All this data can form part of your strategy going forward and inform the next steps.

In my next post I will talk about how you take this data and find new opportunities that your competitors are already taking advantage of.

Are you conducting any competitor analysis for your clients? Do you follow a similar process, or are you doing something completely different? I’d really like to hear your comments on my thought process and what you would do differently in the comments below or over on twitter @danielbianchini.

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