How to do competitive website analysis, and what you can learn

Written by Keith Errington  |  5, January, 2022  |  1 Comment

Before the digital age, it was tough to get an idea of what your competitors were up to. You might be able to glean some facts from their brochures, press releases, seminars, and shareholder briefings. Or you could try posing as a customer to try and get a handle on their pricing structure.

But if a company played its cards close to its chest, its marketing strategy, strengths and weaknesses and business intentions would have been hard to fathom. This often meant that you could find yourself rapidly outmanoeuvred by their product launches, innovations, and better pricing.

Planning your marketing strategy when you don't have all the facts is, at best, risky, and at worst, disastrous.

The Internet levelled the playing field.

Fortunately, today it is a different story.

Several factors have contributed towards the levelling of the marketing playing field. The trend towards transparency and clearer accounting has meant that a company's report and accounts are more revealing than ever before. The advent of social media has led to an outpouring of information from companies – in real-time. And added to all this, a company's website now tells you almost everything you want to know about a company's offerings, philosophy, strategy and culture.

However, this change has implications; with companies knowing everything about their competitors, it is harder to compete - not to mention that it is a two-way street. 

All vendors competing in an industry can probably match products, services, pricing and support, so where does the competitive advantage come from? What can you do to encourage buyers to buy from you and not them?

This is where a thorough competitive analysis can help your marketing. You have to define your core proposition rather than relying on some inherent advantage you've had in the past. And you also need to know your competitor's strengths and weaknesses.

It is also essential to have a culture that facilitates quick direction changes, allowing for a reactive approach. Being nimble in your marketing and business strategies is critical, or your competition will outpace you.

In this post, we will look at how analysing your competitors' websites can help inform your marketing strategy. We also examine a competitor's content, as content is critical in engaging with B2B prospects. Still, complete competitor analysis should consider a whole range of other factors as well. (Ongoing social media monitoring, for example, should be another crucial part of your competitor analysis as well as a critique of their business strategy).

Competitive Website Analysis

There are several ways to analyse a competitor's website and many tools to help you do so.

Identify your competitors

The first step in this process would be to identify your competitors. If you know your industry well, you may be able to make a simple list. Your sales team can help here – they should be aware of the companies that you've won and lost business from and to.

But it is also worth doing a keyword search and seeing who is ranking – this will tell you who your competitors are according to the search engines. The results may surprise you.

At the most superficial level, you can do a Google search on a keyword and see what turns up, both in organic search and paid-for ads.

Competitor analysis tools

Once you know who they are, there is a whole range of powerful tools that can help you analyse your competitors, such as:

*Paid but with a free trial †Paid only **Limited free version ††Free

While most of these require a paid subscription, Google AdWords is free – and you may already be using it. Just use the Auction Insights Report, which will allow you to discover competitors, what they are focussing on and when they are active, and other vital insights. To go beyond that basic information and garner handy insights, you will need a more comprehensive tool – or even a suite of different tools and techniques.

Traffic

Looking at the traffic your competitors' websites receive will tell you how busy they are – giving you some idea of how much of a threat they are or their standing in your industry. Looking at how dynamic individual pages are on their websites will tell you far more – which products buyers are interested in, what blog posts and subjects are proving popular and so on; all valuable insights.

SimilarWeb

A popular traffic estimation tool, allowing you to get an overview of website traffic, referrals, search traffic and keywords, and social media, display advertising, audience, and similar sites and apps. Like many of these tools, it is better to look at trends and relative differences rather than putting too much store in exact figures. There is a simple free version, but you will need to pay depending on your needs for a deeper analysis.

For a more in-depth guide to using SimilarWeb for competitor analysis, check out this Backlinko guide to SimilarWeb.

Bear in mind that many of the tools in the SEO section we are covering next will also include traffic data in their reports.

SEO

Undertaking a thorough SEO competitive analysis is one of the most valuable tasks you can carry out. It gives you critical insight into the tactics that work in your industry.

Given that SEO is data-intensive, there are many tools available to perform a wide range of analyses and report the results.

SEMRush

SEMrush is an excellent tool for running a keyword competitor analysis using its suite of tools.

According to SEMrush, competitor analysis will accomplish the following:

  • Provide a better understanding of your industry and the competitive landscape
  • Help define your unique value proposition
  • Reveal actionable benchmarks for measuring your ups and downs
  • Unwrap rivals' success strategies and real audience needs
  • Inform your overall marketing strategy, allowing you to maintain a competitive edge

This can help inform your content strategy as it highlights what type of content they are publishing that gets the most traffic.

You can also use the tool to look at a competitor's backlinks, which may give you some ideas for your link building strategy.

There's a comprehensive guide to conducting keyword and backlink competitor analysis with SEMrush on their blog: How to Do a Competitor Analysis with Semrush.

Ahrefs

Another top-rated and powerful tool for looking at competitor keywords (organic and PPC), backlinks, traffic stats and more is Ahrefs. The site offers a range of tools for competitor analysis.

Performing an SEO competitor analysis with Ahrefs lets you:

  • Learn what works and what doesn't in your industry.
  • Find competitors' weaknesses, and capitalise on them.
  • Find competitors' strengths, and replicate them.
  • Understand what SEO tasks to prioritise going forward.
  • Understand how difficult outperforming competitors in a search engine is likely to be.

Their blog has a great post, How to Do an SEO Competitor Analysis, which is a comprehensive guide to competitor analysis using Ahrefs. (They have a great set of videos on YouTube too).

Moz Pro

Founded in 2004 as SEOmoz, it started as a blog and an online community where some of the world's first SEO experts shared their research and ideas. Today Moz is a SaaS company offering a set of SEO tools. However, it still hasn't lost its commitment to teaching and explaining. It provides a solid Beginners Guide to SEO, an informative blog, and many other helpful SEO resources, including a range of free tools.

One of them, Mozbar, is a toolbar extension for Chrome, which gives you instant metrics while viewing any web page or Search Engine Results Page (SERP). It's great for giving you a quick overview of link metrics, including domain and page authority.

Once again, the company provides a helpful blog post on their website: The Guide to SEO Competitor Analysis which uses their professional toolset Moz Pro.

SpyFu

Another keyword research and competitive intelligence tool worth mentioning is SpyFu – and they have a good guide to competitor analysis using the software tool on their blog: Build a Competitive Analysis Template.

Content

In the B2B environment, content marketing is crucial to gain new business, nurture prospects, and support existing customers. Getting an insight into what content your competitors are publishing, what topics they are having success with, and their content strategy is paramount to gaining an edge.

BuzzSumo

If you want to know what content your competitors are successful with and where BuzzSumo is an excellent tool for competitor research. It allows you to see what content is getting traction for your competitors, what networks are they having success with, who is sharing their content (which will enable you to identify influencers) and how your content compares. Using this information will help you formulate a competitor beating content strategy.

AnswerThePublic

A cool and free search visualisation tool is AnswerThePublic, which graphically displays searches related to a given keyword. It can be used for several purposes, including competitor analysis and content marketing.

Conclusion

In the digital world, where competition is a click away, you cannot afford to ignore what your competitors are up to. Performing a thorough competitive website analysis gives you the information you need to take advantage of opportunities for improvement and avoid potential threats to your business. 

By looking at what other businesses are doing well, you can implement strategies for doing even better. If you can identify areas where your competitors are weak, you can target those areas, making the best of your competitive advantage.

One final point is that the digital marketing ecosystem is static, but changes all the time. You will need to run your competitor analysis continually to ensure you don't get left behind.

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