Competitor Research Tools And What You Need To Monitor
Successful marketing campaigns depend heavily on research. Research allows you to learn who your target audience is, what they’re looking for, what their needs are, and how to reach them. This research can be done by collecting data on both past and current customers and visitors; however, it’s not the only research you should be doing. While learning about your audience is vital to determining what marketing strategies will work for your brand, you should also do research on your competition. This isn’t as difficult as it might sound -- there are an abundance of tools out there that you can leverage to collect data on your competitors that will provide valuable insight into their marketing strategies.
What Is Competitor Research?
Competitor research is a process that involves identifying who your competitors are and evaluating their marketing strategies in order to identify their strengths and weaknesses. Through competitor research, you can determine how strong their brand is (for example, how much brand awareness they have and what their brand authority is like), what their prices are, what their customer service is like, what their social media presence is like, how engaged their audience is with their brand, and much more.
Why Should You Do It?
Knowing what your competition is up to can give you valuable insight into how you can improve your own marketing strategy. It also gives you an idea of your own brand’s position within your market. For example, comparing how big your social media following is to your competition can tell you whether you need to put more resources and effort into your social media marketing strategy. You can also use competitor research as case studies. For example, you might identify certain marketing strategies that aren’t working for your competitor. Avoiding such strategies yourself can help prevent you from wasting time and resources.
Benefits You Can Gain
Some of the benefits of performing thorough competitor research include:
Gain a better understanding of your market
Identify market trends that you can use to your advantage
Find out more about your target audience and how to target them more effectively
Get an idea of how your competitors are pricing similar products and services
Identify successful marketing strategies that you can implement yourself
Avoid marketing strategies that aren’t working for your competitors
Determine how you can compete directly with competitors
Identify areas where attempting to compete will be a waste of resources
What You Need To Monitor
Researching your competition is an important step toward developing your marketing campaign. However, knowing exactly what to look at can be a bit overwhelming when considering all of the data that’s available (and all of the different competitor research tools that you can use). Here are some of the important performance metrics that you should evaluate and monitor when researching your competition:
Keyword research is an important part of your SEO strategy. Exploring what keywords your competitors are ranking for and how they are ranking for them can provide you with ideas for keywords to use that you weren’t using already. You’ll also be able to identify what keywords you can compete with directly as well as what keywords may be too difficult to compete with.
Competitors’ Social Media Mentions
One of the easiest ways to judge the strength of a competitor’s brand awareness is by monitoring their social media mentions. The more people are talking about them, the stronger their brand awareness is. Of course, you can get a lot of information about what people are saying about your competition as well. For example, whether they are happy with certain products or services, whether they find their customer service helpful, and more. Tracking their mentions allows you to see what their reputation is like. You can also identify social media influencers in this manner, which you can then engage yourself in an attempt to turn them into your own brand ambassadors.
Not only do you want to see how many backlinks your competitors’ websites have obtained, you’ll want to monitor how many new backlinks they earn. This will allow you to predict their rankings increase (the more backlinks a page earns, the more likely it is to get a bump in rankings on SERP pages) as well as identify where they are earning backlinks. You may gain some insight and ideas on successfully earning backlinks for your website.
Competitors’ On-Page Changes
Monitoring how your competitors are tweaking their webpages gives you insight into how you can improve your own page rankings. For example, if they changed their landing pages and, as a result, have begun converting more leads, then you can look at those changes to determine if you can implement them to see an increase in conversions as well. Of course, some changes can result in poorer results or no results at all. This can be just as helpful, since this tells you to avoid making such changes yourself.
H3: Competitors’ Unhappy Clients
Identifying unhappy clients can help you obtain new customers. By identifying a competitor’s client that’s unhappy with their products/services or their customer service, you can then engage that client to try to steal them away. You can find unhappy clients by looking for any negative comments made about your competitors on social media channels.
Competitors’ Customer Questions
Besides looking for negative comments, search for questions concerning your competitors, such as questions about their products/services or about the competitor in general. You’d be surprised how many companies don’t monitor their own mentions, which means that you can slide in and answer those questions before they get to them. By being helpful to their own customers, you give yourself a good chance at stealing customers away from them.
Competitors’ PPC Advertising Budget & Strategy
Tracking the PPC campaigns of your competition will yield some essential information, including what keywords they are investing in and whether they are effective or not. Keywords that are particularly effective can be co-opted for your own campaigns. Monitor the creative elements of the ad to see what works and what doesn’t.
Top Metric Tools
Keeping in mind the metrics that you’ll want to monitor when performing competitor research, here are some of the tools that you should consider using:
When it comes to analyzing your competitors, the following are the best tools available:
Spyfu - SpyFu is a tool that shows you what keywords competitors are targeting for their PPC campaigns. The tool is simple to use -- you just enter the URL of the competitor’s site that you want to analyze and it will generate a breakdown of how many paid keywords are being used (as well as how many organic keywords are being used). You can delve further into the paid keywords to reveal the exact keywords the competitor is running ads for. SpyFu even lets you export the keywords in a PDF or spreadsheet-like format. SpyFu ranges from $39/month to $299/month.
QuickSprout - QuickSprout makes it easy to compare your website to competing websites. By entering your competitor’s website URL, you’ll be provided with a variety of metrics that include traffic scores, SEO scores, speed scores, and social share scores. These scores show you how your site compares to your competition and helps to identify areas of your site that need work. This tool is free to use.
DataForSEO - DataForSEO was designed for SEO software companies; however, it can benefit pretty much any business due to its ability to estimate the web traffic, web traffic sources, page views, bounce rate, time on site, and more of your competitors’ website. Be warned, some technical expertise is required. For example, you’ll need to know some basics of JSON. Pricing is a little complicated as well. You’ll need to buy credits, which are available in different tiers (the more credits you buy, the cheaper they’ll be). You can then use those credits to purchase the API you’re interested in. Its competitor data API costs 10 credits per result array.
Topvisor - Topvisor is an easy-to-use tool that allows you to research your competitor’s use of keywords and to check their rankings. Keyword rankings can be checked on multiple search engines and not just Google. Topvisor also pulls data from multiple keyword search volume sources, including Yandex.Wordstat and Google Keyword Planner. Its Rank Tracker tool is available from $0.09/100 keywords, while its Keyword Research tool is available from $1.50/100 keywords and its Search Volume tool is available from $0.0312/100 keywords.
Quick Search - Quick Search is perfect for providing an overview of a competitor’s brand (or your brand). It does this by allowing you to track conversations about your competition across the web, including mentions of the brand on social media, news sites, forums, blogs, and more. You can also use Quick Search to identify a competitor’s audience demographics, such as where they’re located, what gender they are, and more. You can track conversations going back 13 months and compare up to five brands at a time. Quick Search is available with Talk Walker’s basic package for $9,600 a year. Corporate and Enterprise pricing are available on request.
BuiltWith - BuiltWith is both a competitive analysis tool as well as a business intelligence tool. Using BuiltWith, you can collect valuable insight into competing brands. You can use the tool to collect data on different market segments as well as identify usage trends and information about market shares. BuiltWith can be used for free if you’re looking up individual websites. For more extensive use, plans range from $295 to $995 per month.
To analyze how your competition optimizes their websites, use thesetools:
Alexa - Amazon’s Alexa tool provides valuable analytical insights that are useful for three different categories of online businesses and entrepreneurs:
Suitable For 3 Categories
Alexa provides digital marketers with the tools they need to obtain in-depth insights needed to optimize their website, including tools that allow you to better understand your competitive landscape and to benchmark against your competitors.
Alexa provides extensive site metrics to site owners and publishers, including monthly views, time on site, monthly unique visitors, bounce rate, and much more. These metrics can be used to improve your website and to develop a more effective content strategy.
If you have a content marketing strategy, then Alexa is particularly useful due to its SEO recommendations. You can use Alexa to collect user behavior data, which can be leveraged to create higher ranking content.
WooRank - WooRank is an SEO audit tool that you can use to scan your website as well as the websites of your competitors. You can compare up to three competitors and analyze a variety of metrics, including technical SEO, keyword usage, social media engagement, performance, usability, and backlink quality. WooRank’s keyword tool also lets you measure and track keyword rankings in addition to their SEO impact. WooRank ranges from $59.99/month to $249.99/month.
SimilarWeb - SimilarWeb is a tool that can be leveraged to benchmark against your competitors and your industry as a whole, learn about your competition’s online strategy, discover new leads, identify emerging trends, and better understand your customer intent and customer journey. A free version is available that provides five results per metric, one month of mobile app data, and three months of web traffic data. A much more comprehensive package is available in an enterprise edition, the pricing of which must be requested.
Ahrefs - Ahrefs is not only capable of monitoring what keywords your competitors are ranking for, what position they’re in, and what their search volume is, it’s also capable of evaluating how content on a competing website is performing. For example, you can see how much content is being shared, how much organic traffic it’s getting, and what domains are linking to it. Ahrefs makes it easy to monitor these metrics as well since you can set up alerts for keyword rankings, mentions, and backlinks. Ahrefs is available in four different price tiers, ranging from $99/month to $999/month.
Serpstat - Serpstat is an all-in-one SEO platform that can evaluate your competitors’ websites by providing keyword research, search analytics, market intelligence, and backlink analysis. It also provides an extensive competitor research feature that lets you identify niche leaders, follow keyword trends, and monitor the progress of your competitors. Plans range from $69/month to $499/month.
Netpeak Checker - Netpeak Checker lets you analyze and compare websites in bulk. Using Netpeak Checker, you can analyze the social media performance, domain age, on-page SEO factors of competing websites. Check over 1,200 URL parameters and even compare URLs by parameters of other tools, including Ahrefs, SEMrush, and Serpstat. Pricing is dependent on the number of months you purchase the license for (starting at $19 for one month).
Google Search Operators - Since most businesses are trying to optimize their website so that they rank higher on Google’s SERP, it makes sense to use a Google-developed tool. Google Search Operators are special commands and characters that allow you to extend the capabilities of normal text searches, making them useful for a variety of purposes, including technical SEO audits and content research. And it’s free to use!
When evaluating a competitor’s link building efforts, the following tools are extremely useful:
Siteliner - Broken link building is a strategy in which you find broken links on competing websites, develop content that was similar to the content hosted on the page that used to exist, and then provide the site that linked to that page with a functioning link to your page. Essentially, you’re stealing (legally) external links by offering to replace broken links. This works because broken links can hurt the rankings of websites who were linking to your competitor, which means you’re doing them a favor of sorts. Siteliner is a tool that allows you to comb through competing websites to identify broken links that you can then replace and earn more links for yourself. Siteliner is available in a free version and a premium version.
Rank Signals - Rank Signals is a backlink checker tool that finds the SEO backlinks and traffic sources of competing websites. By discovering where they are getting their traffic and where they are earning links from, you can target those same sources and build more links and attract more traffic. Rank Signals will even highlight your competitors’ best links.
Majestic - Known as the largest link index database in the world, Majestic is capable of providing a detailed analysis of your competitors’ external links and anchor text. You can also use Majestic to analyze domain link counts and backlinks to see how your competition is tracking performance. There are three plans available, ranging from $49.99/month to $399.99/month.
Monitoring your competitors’ use of keywords in order to find more keyword opportunities can be done using these tools:
Google Adwords Keyword Planner - Google’s own Keyword Planner can be used to find new keywords by searching through competitors’ websites for any keywords that might apply to your business. It also makes it easy to keep track of keyword trends. It is somewhat of a basic tool, but it’s quite effective and it’s free when you sign up to Google AdWords.
SEMrush - SEMrush is an excellent option when it comes to keyword research. Their domain vs. domain comparison feature allows you to see who is ranking for what keywords, how many organic keywords your competitors are ranking for, their add traffic, and their organic traffic. You can also use SEMrush to research a keyword. Doing so will bring up who the top competition for that keyword is for both PPC campaigns and organic traffic. Prices range from $99.95/month to $399.95/month, although custom enterprise solutions are available as well.
Social Media Shares
Use the following tools to monitor your competition’s social media presence:
Mention - Mention scours the web in real-time for brand mentions on blogs, in videos, in questions, in images, in microblogs, and more. The tool lets you compare two or more competitors so that you can directly compare their social mentions to yours. To track your competitor’s mentions, you’ll need to purchase the starter or enterprise version, which cost $83/month and $600+/month, respectively.
Buzzsumo - Buzzsumo allows you to compare how your content is performing to other competitors’ content by comparing social shares on various social platforms. All you have to do is input your competitor’s URL and Buzzsumo will automatically pull up their most shared content within the designated time frame. You can also set up alerts for new content published by your competitors. Buzzsumo is available in four different plans ranging from $79/month to $499+/month.
Followerwonk By Moz - Followerwonk is an analytics tool built specifically for Twitter. Using Followerwonk, you’ll be able to identify, analyze, and optimize your social growth on Twitter as well as compare your social graphs to those of your competitors. Followerwonk can identify new influencers within your niche to engage with as well as locate new followers by analyzing the demographics of your competitors’ followers. Although Followerwonk is available in a free version, it’s very limited and you won’t be able to analyze your competition. Premium versions are available for $29/month and $79/month based on how many profiles you want to analyze.
Simply Measured - Simply Measured is packed with features, including social analytics. However, it’s their listening tool that is particularly helpful when it comes to analyzing the social presence of your competitors. For example, you can compare the number of mentions of your brand to your competitor’s for any number of topics -- and their social analytics capabilities allow you to track how your social performance compares to other brands as well. Simply Measured was bought by Sprout Social, so the features of the Simply Measured tool can now be accessed through Sprout Social.
Snaplytics - Snapchat is one of the most popular social media platforms among younger generations. Snaps are deleted as soon as they are viewed. However, video content posted on Snapchat’s Story feature has a 24-hour lifespan, which provides a sense of urgency that many marketers have leveraged successfully. However, since content disappears quickly and forever, tracking Snapchat metrics has been notoriously difficult. One of the only tools that measures Snapchat successfully is Snaplytics, which makes it possible to see the past posts of your competitors as well as their results. Snaplytics ranges from $19/month to $399/month.
Runner Up Tools
We’ve compiled below a few additional tools that can be useful as you research your competition:
Knowing what your competition is up to can give you a serious leg up. It’s why you’ll want to use Wappalyzer.
Wappalyzer - Wappalyzer is a Firefox plug-in that only does one thing and that is to scan the website of your competition and to identify what software they’re using. This can be very useful in finding software that could benefit your website as well. It also happens to be free to use.
Most businesses use email marketing as a way to nurture their leads. Tracking and monitoring your competition’s email campaigns can provide you with some useful information.
Owletter - Owletter is unique in that it allows you to monitor the emails sent from your competitors’ websites (which you can legally obtain by simply signing up to the email lists of your competitors). The tool will analyze their emails and provide a variety of useful insights, including whether your competitors have a reputation for sending spam email, if they send out emails based on a certain schedule, whether they change their email schedules, what email topics are trending, if they are missing undiscovered opportunities, and more. Owletter is available in three plans ranging from $19/month to $79/month.
Why Results Would Take Time
One thing to keep in mind as you grow your website and analyze your competition is that it takes time to see results. Don’t be discouraged if your competition is outranking you significantly in certain areas. Identifying what those areas are gives you the opportunity to make the changes you need to make to be more competitive.
And don’t get too caught up in competing in keywords. While you want to rank well for certain keywords, keywords are not the pinnacle of page rankings. Google takes into consideration many other factors, including backlinks and social signals. Your best course of action is to ensure that the content in which your keywords appear is actually of high quality. The better your content is, the more likely it is to rank well. Promoting your content effectively using social media will give it as much exposure as possible.
Keeping An Eye On The Competition
Make sure that you keep monitoring your competition. Their strengths and weaknesses may change over time. You’ll want to be certain you’re in a good position to compete with them over time, which is a good reason to continue tracking their website performance and marketing efforts.
We listed a lot of tools for tracking your competition, and each can be effective. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you should use all of them. Determine which tools will benefit your brand’s specific needs and avoid going overboard trying to track everyone within your industry. Focus on a few key competitors so you aren’t competing on too many fronts.
Don’t know why your ranking hasn’t changed? Talk to one of our trusted advisors. We’re glad to help!