Importance of Online Presence Analysis
Measuring your online presence and deciding on marketing strategies can often become a very insular process. Endlessly scrutinizing your own analytics data is like watching one inning of a baseball game: by itself, it can be very hard to tell if your team is winning or losing. Context is everything. Therefore, you need to have some idea of how your competition is doing. Competitive analysis will give you the data you need to make informed decisions about keywords, content, design, SEO and much more. Learning what helps to make your competitors successful can provide inspiration for your own strategies as your site grows.
Who Is Your Competition?
Before an analysis can begin, you need to determine your competitors. Gathering a list of competing sites can be as easy as performing some Google searches for businesses in your industry. For example, if you’re in the RFID business, you could simply search for terms like “RFID solutions,” “RFID companies,” “RFID technology,” “inventory management,” or any keyword that you’d like your site to rank highly for. Then, simply note which businesses and sites come out at the top. In order to beat out these sites in the search results, you’ll need to analyze why they’re ranked higher than you and implement similar strategies.
Of course, you can probably name many competing sites without having to perform a search – be sure to add these sites to your list as well. It’s important to have a wide range of competitors to analyze, and no competing site should be deemed “too big.” Even if you’re a small RFID company that’s mainly in competition with other small firms, it can still be very valuable to analyze huge tech companies like Atmel or Cisco.
Essential Metrics In a Competitive Analysis
A good competitive analysis should address the following metrics:
1. Daily and Monthly Traffic: Analyzing the amount of traffic your competitors receive allows you to see how your site compares in both the long and short term. You can identify dips and peaks, while looking for reasons that account for the differences. If you discover that your direct competitors consistently beat out your traffic numbers by the thousands, you know you’ll be making a worthwhile decision to invest in traffic-building strategies.
2. Traffic Sources: Understanding where your traffic and your competitors’ traffic comes from is extremely important. Apart from search engines, you might find that many of your competitors get a lot of traffic from specific “hub sites.” These could be popular industry journals, magazines, news sites, blogs, social media, videos or any other Internet property that sends visitors back to their site. Once you’ve discovered these traffic sources, you can try to utilize them as well.
3. Backlinks: Links are one of the most important criteria that search engines use to determine their rankings. Simply put, if your competition has more sites liking to them than you do, it’s highly likely they’ll outrank you. Aside from the sheer number, however, backlink quality, variety, context and anchor text can all heavily impact rank. A good competitive analysis will reveal whether or not you need to concentrate on links in order to beat your competition.
4. Content: Authoritative, valuable content that is both search engine and reader-friendly is invaluable for getting people to your site and keeping them there once they’ve arrived. You may think you have stellar content, but if you never check out your competitors’ sites, you’ll never really know it compares. If your content lacks the authority, organization, quality and clarity of your competitors – either on your landing pages or anywhere else on your site – your visitors will notice. And they’ll be much more likely to visit competing sites instead.
5. Design: Put simply, competing sites may be performing better than you because they have a more appealing or navigable design. A competitive analysis can provide you with many ideas for design features that will improve your site’s functionality and enhance a user’s experience.
6. PPC Campaigns: It’s possible that your competition gets more traffic and conversions simply because they’re spending more money on SEM strategies. You don’t necessarily have to match your competitors’ PPC budgets to stay in the game, but a competitive analysis will at least make you aware that your competitors are taking advantage of this strategy.
7. Social Media: What social networks does your business use? Are they the best choices for your industry? Analyzing your competition’s social profiles can provide insight into how to be successful with your own and which ones you could stop wasting your time with.
8. Keywords: A competitive analysis should reveal which keywords your competitors are targeting, both on their site pages and in their PPC campaigns. If you’re getting beat in the search engine results pages, it’d be a good idea to consider targeting similar keywords as the sites that are ranked above you.
Tools That Perform Competitive Analysis
One of the main tools for competitive analysis is Google Analytics Benchmarking. Benchmarking gives you data reference points for sites within your industry that you can compare against your own site’s performance. Google Analytics Benchmarking is easy to use and free of charge. It also makes it possible to stay up-to-date regarding current trends in your industry. Currently, Google Analytics Benchmarking has over 1,600 industry categories and will allow you to input geographic locations and traffic size classifications.
Other tools are also available for competitive analysis, such as SimilarWeb and SEMrush. SimilarWeb has both free and paid competitive analysis tools, and the free tool allows you to compare traffic sources, organic keywords and paid keywords. You’ll need a paid account at SEMrush to really get the most out of it, but you can see some limited organic traffic, backlink and advertising reports that can be very insightful.
Of course, you can use a combination of many different tools or seek the help of a professional to get a thorough competitive analysis. Either way, you’ll find out where you stand among your competition and what you’ll need to do to get on top, as well as discovering a ton of exciting and potentially lucrative strategies for growing your online presence.
Next week, we will look at website functionality, including evaluating and fixing website errors.