Inside the Castle:

Sizing Up the Competition

by Lisa Giacone

Do you wonder how competitors’ websites are more effectively attracting clients? It could be their search engine optimization techniques, or perhaps it is the type of content they post. Collecting competitive intelligence on other companies’ websites can help you identify exactly how they might be getting more business.

Photo by Raffi Asdourian (zaffi on Flickr)
Photo by Raffi Asdourian

Numerous tools are available to collect information on the competition’s online presence. If you are a casual blogger, low-budget marketer, pioneer in a new niche, or do not update your site frequently, start with free Google or Bing Webmaster Tools. If you have a larger online presence, you may want to research paid options to take your competitive analysis to the next level. Services that charge a fee often have a trial or limited free plan, a starting point to determine whether their services could benefit your bottom line.

Use this information along with statistics from your own website (from your analytical software such as Google Analytics) to gain a better understanding of how your website’s visibility compares to other companies.

So, what should you be scrutinizing?

First, identify your main competitors. You are likely aware of some already, but here’s a simple way to search for competition: type “” in the Google search field to get a list of companies that are similar to yours.

Spend some time visiting their sites. What do you like about their site layout and content? What do you feel could be done better? Where are their “calls to action”- i.e., where do they invite the visitor to purchase their services? Are these “calls to action” effectively placed?

Examine their search engine optimization (SEO). Is your competition ranking higher than you are in search engines? Which keywords are they ranking for? This will give you an idea of the type of content that’s generating traffic for them—and give you ideas for posting similar content to your site to capture some of that traffic.

Here are some tools to start with:

  • Google Alerts
    Set alerts for the competitors you want to keep an eye on, as well as to stay abreast of industry developments. By setting an alert, you receive email notification when Google finds new results for your search term.
  • Google Adword Keyword Planner
    Search for keyword and ad group ideas (Google Adwords account required).
    This helps give you an idea of which keywords generate the most traffic, which keywords might be underutilized, and estimate how much your competitors might be spending on Google ads.

Independent reviews for SEO software solutions are available at G2 Crowd, a business software review platform. You can easily compare alternative software providers on this site to help determine if one of them might meet your needs.

Leverage Social Media

Your potential customers are people who share, re-tweet, and “like” content that is similar to yours. Identifying and connecting with this target group can help you expand your customer base.

It’s also important to identify which social networks your competitors are leveraging to get their message to their target customers. Facebook and Twitter are still the most popular networks, but don’t forget Pinterest, Tumblr, Instagram and YouTube.

Quick Fact: By 2017, social network advertising will account for 16% of all digital ad expenditures—that’s nearly 1/5th of all ad spending!

Many analytic software services allow you to examine which type of content is most shared on the internet, who is sharing it, and the social media they use. You can also get some information about your competitors directly from the social media sites.

On Facebook, for example, go to your competitor’s feed and note how many “Likes” they gained in a given month. Divide that by their number of fans to determine how much their following grew that month.

Similarly, Twitter Counter can help you measure your target audience’s engagement with the competition. You can determine follower growth by entering your competitors’ Twitter handles and selecting “Compare.” This will generate a growth chart. (See also Twitter Counter’s 5 Major Social Media Marketing Trends for 2016.)

Lisa Giacone

By Lisa Giacone

With a background in marketing for municipal parks and recreation programs in both print and web-based media, Lisa has a talent for using graphic design to create clear messaging, no matter what the audience. She believes a website should be user-friendly and aesthetically appealing. Apart from design, Lisa is busy—very busy!—raising her sons, Anthony and Marco.

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