Welcome to part 2 of our digital strategy guide for 2014. In part 1, we outlined the best and worst SEO techniques. This month we will be giving you vital information on conducting competitor research.
Competitor research is a key component for every digital marketing strategy. It helps you understand your competitor’s online marketing tactics and helps you keep one step ahead of them. The areas that we recommend researching include:
- Web design and development
- Keyword research
- Content development and marketing
- Social media
Web Design and Development
Understanding how your competitor’s website was built and how the main functions work gives you an idea into their main website goals. While you should never copy your competitors design, understanding which features are successful can help your own web design and development process.
To identify what platform a websites was built with and the hosting they use you can use a tool called Built With. Built With provides you with data on:
- What platform a site is built with – eg. WordPress or Joomla
- The widgets and plugins that a site is using
- Hosting providers
- Server information
Calls to Actions
We recommended manually identifying all the calls to action on your competitor’s website. They could be:
- Contact forms
- Phone numbers
- Email addresses
- Newsletter sign up’s
- PDF downloads
- Video plays
- Buy now buttons
Questions to ask in this area include:
Is there anything to learn from your competitors calls to action?
Can you identify their strong calls to action and replicate something similar?
Are we using similar calls to action?
USPs and Messaging
How a websites USPs and messaging is displayed can be a factor in audience conversion rate. Examine how your competitors USPs are conveyed:
- In the design
- Landing page content
- Blog content
Knowing what keywords your competitors use in their Meta Titles and Descriptions can help you identify their Keyword focus. . This information can be useful for:
- Keeping up to date with industry terms
- Knowing what keywords are important to your competitors
- Helping you build your own keyword lists
You can use a tool called Screaming Frog to quickly scan your competitors Meta Data and generate an Excel with the results.
Keyword Analysis and Difficulty
Another way of using keyword data is to find out what competitors are ranking for particular Keywords. You might be surprised and find that the list includes competitors you haven’t heard of before!
You can use a tool called the Moz Keyword Difficulty Tool to find out what websites are on the first page of Google. The tool also estimates the relative competitiveness of the Keyword . This benchmark is useful as it helps you set realistic goals for your own Keyword performance.
Content Development and Marketing
Analysing your competitor’s content should be one of the main areas to focus your research on. Content is at the core of every great digital marketing strategy. A review of your competitor’s approach can provide you with valuable insights into these areas.
Areas to review:
- Landing page content
- Resources – evergreen content etc.
- Products and services pages
- Video content
When reviewing your competitor’s content there are a number of questions to keep in mind:
What tone is the content taking?
What are the main calls to action?
What multimedia are they using?
How often are they posting content?
How is their content been shared? Eg. Facebook Like, Retweet, Google+1
Do they have a long term linkable asset? Eg. Resource area, guides etc.
Social media can be a valuable source of traffic as long as you choose the right platform for your business. Researching your competitors’ social media profiles can help identity relevant platforms. If all your competitors are engaging with a particular social media platform, and you are not , you could be missing out on valuable leads.
The main social media platforms that SMEs use include:
Social Media Examiner outlines the main tools for social media competitive analysis here. For each platform the main data you need to analyse includes:
- The number of fans or followers
- How often they post on social media
- Type of posts – e.g. competitions
- Messaging and design of social media banners
- Tone of voice for posting
- Number of shares for each post
SEO can influence how Google ranks a website in Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs). By conducting SEO research on your competitor’s website you can find out information that can help define your own SEO strategy. The areas of a website that you need to research and tools to help include:
- Meta Data (SEO Titles and Descriptions) – Screaming Frog
- Structured Data – Structured Data Testing Tool
- Backlinks – Opensitexplorer
- Social Shares – Opensitexplorer
- Internal linking structure
- Content depth
- User experience
After compiling your competitor research you can understand what direction your competitors are taking with their digital marketing strategy. This can help inform your own strategy and for make better decisions going forward.
Tune in to part 3 of our digital strategy guide where we will look at content marketing for SMEs in more detail.
We have created a Slideshare presentation that outlines the main points in the article. Feel free to embed the presentation on your website.