Competitive analysis on a budget: How to make better marketing decisions by analyzing your competitors

A great way of coming up with content and marketing ideas is by looking at what your competitors are doing.

Seeing what your competitors are doing tells you three important things:

  1. What not to miss out on - whether it’s new opportunities, marketing channels where you should be present, or following the best practices for serving your clients in your industry.
  2. What not to do - it informs you about overused features, language, and positioning and helps you figure out new ways to stand out from the crowd.
  3. What works and what doesn’t - it keeps you grounded in the specifics of your industry, what works and what doesn’t, and how you can differentiate yourself within the confines of your industry.

See competitive analysis as your chance to learn, grow, and discover new opportunities in your market.

At the same time, it’s your super-power lens through which you can look at your competitors to learn their behavior and eventually be able to anticipate their every action so you can outperform them and convince your prospects to pick you instead.

It gives you a status quo and a benchmark in your industry that you can measure yourself against and then strive to change.

The benefits are major.

What you definitely shouldn’t do, though, is take everything they’re doing and replicate it in your business.

The idea is to draw conclusions from your findings and figure out how you can optimize your business and marketing based on those findings.

This is just a mere starting point. Your goal is to discover new angles and come up with better approaches.

At the same time, I know that as a small business owner you’re always on a tight budget, trying to figure out how to best organize your finances to allow you to test different marketing campaigns and tools.

The most important thing when on a tight budget is to find out ways to be creative and obtain as much information as possible with limited resources.

This is the main reason I want to focus on free tools that will help you uncover valuable competitive data.

Let’s look at what a competitive analysis might look like.

There are various types of data that you can pull and take into consideration such as organic reach, keywords, SEO and backlinks, advertising data, content and social media insights, product information, pricing, channels, and much more.

I’m going to focus this post around the information that is crucial to know to jumpstart your marketing efforts.

This will give you a quick overview of the areas where your competitors are investing their time and resources and will spark your creativity as you’ll start thinking of how you can outperform them.

I’m not going to cover the business and product aspects. Instead, I’ll focus on the marketing side.

Let’s dig in.

First of all, you’ll usually have two types of competitors:

  1. Your business competitors - they’re your direct competitors who have a similar product and offering and have the same target audience.
  2. Your search competitors - the brands that show up in Google search results when searching for your industry-related keywords. You might not have previously considered these companies as your competitors, but by showing up on Google with content around the keywords your audience is searching for, they're being viewed as options to solve your customers’ needs and challenges.

You need to keep your eyes on both categories as you’ll be competing with them on different fronts.

I'll use an online bedding shop as an example to better illustrate the process.

Let’s say you have an online shop that sells bedding products made of organic fabrics, similar to coyuchi.com.

You’d like to get a glimpse into what your competitors are concentrating their marketing efforts on.

Two very insightful tools you can use for your competitive analysis are Similarweb.com and Similarsites.com.

I’ll use coyuchi.com as one of your competitors to exemplify the process.

  1. Go to similarweb.com and type in your competitor’s site (in this case, coyuchi.com).

 

  1. This will take you to a detailed page where you’ll see information about their traffic sources, referral sites, keywords, and much more.

 

 

  1. The general traffic stats aren’t that interesting, but what’s useful to know is their traffic sources.

You want to know what the main sources that send traffic to their website are so that you can compare them to your traffic sources and find out if there are any gaps.

In Coyuchi’s case, we see that the biggest battle is between their direct traffic and traffic coming from search.

A high percentage of direct traffic means the brand is well-known and already has a good online reputation, as people arrive at their website by typing their website URL directly into their browser.

They also have a good percentage of search traffic. This means that people arrive at their website after searching for specific keywords on Google.

This high percentage of search traffic means they’re ranking on Google with their website pages based on several organic keywords. Thus they have an SEO strategy in place and are investing resources in that direction.

They also receive 7.57% of their traffic from other referring websites, 5% of their traffic from social media, 0.74% from email marketing, and 2.54% from display advertising.

What can you learn from this?

  • How does your direct traffic compare to your competitors’? If it’s considerably lower, then you should think of ways you can become more visible in your market by being top of mind for your prospects when considering purchasing your type of products.
  • How does your search traffic compare to your competitors’? If it’s significantly lower, then you should consider investing more resources into producing relevant content that provides answers and solutions to your target audience’s pain points, and SEO for optimizing your website and content to start ranking for industry-related search queries.
  • How does your referral traffic compare to your competitors’? If it’s lower, then you should find opportunities to get your brand on other relevant blogs in your industry via guest blogging, podcast appearances, or maybe doing different partnerships with similar businesses. This way you get more brand awareness as the people featuring you bring your brand in front of their audiences. Additionally, you’ll get mentions and links back to your website, which translates into valuable SEO power.
 
  1. Let’s explore their traffic sources in more detail.

 

Referrals

 

 

This graph shows you the websites which send the most organic traffic to coyuchi.com (Top Referring Sites) and the websites people visited afterwards (Top Destination Sites).

Some sites that are sending traffic back to coyuchi.com are nymag.com, which means they have their products reviewed there, as you see in this example:

 

They also cover their discounts and recommend their products in content pieces like this one:

Their products have been featured all over in articles and product round-ups like Goingzerowaste.com’s “17 sustainable, eco-friendly bedding brands”, apartmenttherapy.com’s article “The best linen sheets” and “The 10 best organic bedding sources”, and on greeneggsandplanet.com and thegreenhubonline.com and other relevant industry sites.

They have a strategic approach, as they’re associating their brand with publications, magazines, and blogs that are influential in the organic and environment-friendly spaces.

People that are interested in topics such as protecting the environment, using organic fabrics, sustainable products and so on, would be interested in what Coyuchi has to offer, as it positions itself as a brand committed to making products that are both friendly to people and the planet.

What can you learn from this?

  • You want to get your product in front of influential blogs and people in your niche. Those websites are probably visited regularly by your target audience, so it’s a strategic move to get reviews and mentions on them.
  • To do. Make a list of the top 10 blogs and publications that you could get coverage on and contact them about reviewing your products or services.

Search

This graph shows you the keywords people are searching for to get to the Coyuchi website.

They’re focusing their efforts on organic marketing rather than on paid campaigns, which you can see by the fact that they’re ranking on Google with a total of 286 keywords and are bidding on 86 keywords in AdWords.

Among their top organic keywords are queries such as “alpaca leg warmers,” “washing sheets in cold water,” and “organic cotton bedding.” These are long-tail keywords that are indicative of users’ intent and are very targeted towards solving their needs and pain points.

For their paid campaigns, they’re also using long-tail, highly intentional keywords like “affordable organic hypoallergenic bed sheets.”

What can you learn from this?

  • Know the keywords your competitors are using and make your list. Study the keywords your competitors are targeting and make your own list of long-tail keywords that you can target with your website and content. I show you how to perform keyword research step-by-step in this detailed guide. In part 2 you’ll learn a simple process of creating content around your chosen keywords.

 Social

The “Social” section gives you an idea of the social media platforms Coyuchi’s investing their time and resources in.

In this example, Pinterest seems to be their primary social media platform, followed by Facebook.

What can you learn from this?

  • Are you investing your resources on the right platforms? Make sure you’re present where your audience is searching for solutions to their needs.
  • Are your competitors using a channel you haven’t thought of before? It’s pretty easy to just use what you know, so take this time to think outside the box.
  • What relevant communities can you engage with? If a good chunk of potential customers is hanging out in the same place, it sure is more accessible to reach them there than to find them one by one.
  • What channels do you have an audience on that your competition doesn’t? If you have active participation from your customer base on a certain channel where your competition isn’t active then now’s a great time to make even more noise. Leverage that open space!

Audience Interests

Here you can see what other sites and categories are of interest for Coyuchi’s target audience.

The tool provides a list of websites frequently visited by Coyuchi’s visitors and a list of topics their audience is actively searching.

This section is a gem as it shows you exactly the websites where your audience is spending time and where they’re looking for products and services similar to yours. This way you get a glimpse into their needs and the brands they consider your competitors.

What can you learn from this?

  • Is there competition you hadn’t considered? Are there websites you didn’t view as competition, but your audience seems to see them as possible solutions to their needs?
  • Are there any blogs or publications with which you can partner? If your target audience visits a blog a lot, it would certainly be valuable to have some sort of presence there whether it’s by guest blogging, having an ad, or being featured in a listicle.
  • Are there untapped topics or product types?  If some of these interests are new to catch your eye, they might provide some additional ways you can connect with your audience and provide information that catches their eye.

Competitors & Similar Sites

Here you can go through a list of sites that are similar to your competitors’ sites to discover other brands that could be direct or indirect competitors. Once you’ve identified them, you can investigate how you’re positioning yourself in the market compared to them.

Similar Sites is another free tool that helps you find potential competitors.

Just type in your competitor in the search box and the tool will give you a list of other websites their visitors also went to—categorized by visits and keyword searches that got them there.

What can you learn from this?

  • Discover relevant sites. This could be a great opportunity to discover blogs and publications that could possibly feature your product or services, where you could advertise or guest blog.
  • Be visible. The idea is to be visible on the platforms and channels where your audience is actively looking for your type of product or service.

After you’ve analyzed your competitors on Similarweb and SimilarSites, you can search your top industry-related keywords on Google and see who shows up.

What kinds of pages are ranking? Are there product pages or content pages like blog posts?

What’s the quality of the content that’s ranking on the first page of Google based on your keywords of choice?

Are there any new angles that you haven't considered that you can use in your content pieces?

Think of ways you can out-do the existing search results.

By performing this competitive analysis, you’ll have a quick overview of your competitors’ presence online that will help you evaluate how you can compete in your market.

As always, your feedback is appreciated and will help me provide better content and adapt the topics based on your interests.

What are some other methods and tools that you’ve used for competitive analysis?

How do you get insights into your competitors?

You can share your opinions in the comments section below.

 

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