6 Competitor Research Tips to Improve Your Digital Marketing Strategy

Competitor Resarch Tips
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One of the best ways to improve your own digital marketing strategy is by keeping an eye on what your competitors are up to. You’ve probably heard that comparison is bad. This is something that many people grow up hearing. You don’t want to compare yourself to your neighbors, your friends, your classmates, and so on.

In the business world, that no longer applies. Instead, comparing your business’ digital marketing strategy to others can give you a heads-up over your other competition.

It’s all about determining which strategies they’re using and then figuring out how you can use them yourself. From this perspective, those comparisons aren’t bad at all! Let’s get started.

1) Take Some Time to Determine which Competitors to Focus On

It makes sense to start out your competitor research by actually choosing your competitors. The main thing to remember here is that the word “competitors” is very broad. You can go with those who are leaders in your market, or even local companies that may not sell the same services or products as you.

It’s all about how you want to market your business. For example, if you’re aiming at a national market, then it makes sense to go with your national, leading competitors. However, if you plan on getting more local customers, then find a few local businesses that seem to be doing everything right. They don’t need to be on the same field – they just need to be successful.

After all, you’re going to be looking at their keywords, their SEO, and their social media accounts; even if they are quite different product or service-wise, their information is still valuable.

2) Pick your Metrics Wisely

Pick your Metrics Wisely
You don’t need to analyze everything that your chosen competitors do in the digital realm. Instead, you should pick a few key metrics to focus on.

Metrics like content engagement can show you how many of that company’s followers are interacting with their posts. How many people comment or “like” a status? And how does that number compare to the overall amount of followers on that channel?
Another interesting metric is audience growth. Did your competitor post something that made their amount of followers go up tenfold? What was the post? Why did it have the impact that it did?

Content distribution is another one. This looks at how often your competitors post. On top of that, if their blog posts or updates are distributed through social media, which accounts were updated? Finally, there’s a metric called SOI, or Share of Interaction.

This metric creates an analysis graph of your information versus your competitors. It will show you things like growth over time. If you really want to compare the effectiveness of your digital campaigns, then this is the way to go.

We’ve mostly discussed the various metrics above and didn’t really go into detail about how to choose the best ones. While you don’t want to try to compare everything, as you’ll end up with information overload, you should pick at least two of these metrics.

For example, you can look at engagement scores and SOI, or engagement and distribution. Every combination has a purpose and a meaning. You just need to pick the ones that will work best for you. It’s all about what you want to focus on and the metrics that you want to improve.

3) Only Compare a Few Channels – Not All of Them

In digital marketing parlance, channels refer to social media accounts. There are many to pick from, although Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter are the most popular. However, LinkedIn, YouTube, Pinterest, SEO, email, and even blog post updates all count as channels for this purpose.

Like we stated above, if you try to compare all of the channels, the end result will give you too much information to truly get a handle on what your competitors are up to. Instead, pick a few channels, compare them, and go back and look at a few more.

Also, if you don’t plan on utilizing a particular channel, such as Pinterest, then that’s an obvious one to leave out. You aren’t trying to copy everything that they do completely – just get an idea of how they approach their digital marketing.

4) Utilize a Comparison Program

Utilize a Comparison Program
There are a number of different digital marketing comparison programs out there. Programs like SEMrush, SpyFu, The Search Monitor, Open Moves, Mondovo and so on can all give you some great analytics to focus on.

Many of these services will charge you monthly or yearly, but they do provide everything that you need in one easy to use package – Keyword research, backlink analysis, Facebook analysis, SEO site audit, search engine rank tracking etc.

They’ll allow you to look at your competitor’s metrics, channels, and more. You can compare one competitor to another or even one competitor to your own site and social media accounts.

This definitely beats doing things the hard way – looking at everything on your own and taking notes on a spreadsheet. The amount of time that you’ll save makes paying for one of these services worth it.

Before you choose a comparison program, make sure to shop around a bit. You can always ask their customer service people questions about what’s included in the package, as well as how many competitors you can follow. There are many limits to the number of metrics and channels, too. It’s always good to know this in advance, so that you can pick a service program that accurately meets your needs.

5) Don’t Forget to Check Out their Backlinks

Backlinks are one of those things that are easy to overlook. However, you do need to check them. Your competitor’s backlinks matter just as much as your own. You need to see if those backlinks come from quality sources or have a follow tag. Are they from a trustworthy website? Does their content match the link?

It’s too easy to buy non-quality backlinks. There are some services out there that will hire bloggers to provide backlinks. Those bloggers are paid a small fee in order to come up with a post that uses several specific links and wording. The problem is that those aren’t considered quality backlinks. They can really hurt your search engine results.

If your competitor is using them and you aren’t, then you actually have a leg up on them. Of course, you don’t want to tell them this! However, if your competitors have good backlinks to their sites, then you need to reach out to those sources to see if they’ll provide you the same courtesy.

6) SEO and Blog Content Matter

SEO and Blog Content Matter
While you’re looking at everything your competitor does, you need to take a look at the SEO (keep it as do follow )that they use on their site, as well as their blog content. Do they post blogs that are stuffed with keywords? Or is their content organic and on topic?

If you find that their blogs aren’t organic at all and simply utilize keywords in weird ways, then you have found something to improve on with your own digital marketing. There’s clearly a niche in the market that you can fill – field expert. You can start coming up with your own posts that aren’t stuffed full of keywords, and post ones that show your expertise in the subject. You’ve found a way to beat the competition.

The same is true for their website content. If their sites don’t use SEO properly, then you can jump in and make sure that yours is better. On the other hand, if they follow good SEO practices, feel free to be inspired by their keywords and web copy. Just make sure that everything you post on your own site is completely original, or you’ll be punished by the search engines.

There’s no shortage of ways to compare your digital marketing strategies to your competitors. As long as you find a way to focus your lens and only compare a few channels or metrics (and competitors) at a time, you’ll be able to find out exactly where they succeed.

Read Next: SEO in 2018: Why SEO will and Should be more Important to You this Year

The opposite may occur as well. You might find some of their shortcomings. You can take advantage of this by using those to your own advantage. This is where comparing your business to others can really help.

In the end, using your competitor’s ideas to come up with your own is a valid way to enhance your digital marketing strategies. Odds are, they did the same thing to come up with theirs.

Image Credits
Feature image: Shuttestock.com
In – Post Image: Shuttestock.com & Image given by author
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Author: Sameer Panjwani

This guest article is a work of Sameer Panjwani, Founder & CEO of Mondovo, an online marketing toolset that helps you track your rankings, monitor your site stats and research your competitors'. A man of many talents, Sameer occasionally writes about social media marketing, content marketing and SEO. In his free time, he loves reading about the latest trends in SEO as well as spending time with his two little daughters. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Google+ -