Competitor Analysis Guide

Competitor Analysis: How to Spy on Your Competitors from A to Z

To stay ahead of the competition you need to know exactly where your competitors are and how they got there.

Welcome to the complete guide on how to plan and execute a thorough competitor analysis.

In this in-depth guide, I’ll tell you how to spy on your competitor with an easy step-by-step framework anyone can execute.

Keep reading to learn:

  • Why and when a competitor analysis is useful (+ a framework to organize your analysis)
  • How to uncover every marketing tactic they’ve put in place
  • How to spy on their SEO, email, and advertising strategies
  • What tools can make your life easier when performing a competitor analysis

I’ve likely performed at least 100 competitor analyses in the last 6 years discovering every little secret of my competitors. 

It’s time to start uncovering your competitor’s best-kept secrets… and don’t forget to take notes. As you go through the guide, I’ll help you build your competitor analysis framework and you can immediately dive into first-hand research!

Competitor Analysis

Chapter 1:

A Competitor Analysis Framework In 4 Easy Steps

Smartflow guide on Competitor Analysis Framework

Marketing guides tend to overpromise so they can start big, so I’m sure you’ve read the title of this chapter with a raised eyebrow.

How can you build a competitor analysis framework in four easy steps? So, let’s set this right.

Over the years, I’ve performed many competitor analyses, for big and small companies – or better say for a large or limited scope but in all cases, they had something in common.

A competitor analysis can be as long as complex as you need it to be but still, it really comes down to having a set number of factors that you need to have to make it actionable. If you have time and resources, then you can go even deeper.

What I’ll show you in this guide is a simple competitor analysis framework anyone can execute.

Curious? Let’s set some basis below and then dive deep into competitive analysis!

What is a Competitor Analysis?

A competitor analysis consists of researching your competitors’ business and marketing strategies and comparing them with your own.

There can be many different types of competitor analysis, focusing on the product or on marketing strategies – or both. It can be an enormous job – but it doesn’t have to be.

With the competitor analysis framework that I’ll show you in this guide, you’ll be able to spy on your competitors easily and effectively.

What do you need to start? A computer for your research and your favorite tool to write down your annotations.

It can take the form of a single piece of paper, a complex spreadsheet, or even a PowerPoint presentation. You can use a competitor analysis framework just like the one that we’ll explain below and adapt it to your needs, adding or removing fields that don’t apply to you.

Why Should You Perform a Competitor Analysis?

Whether you are in the SaaS world or you have an e-commerce business, a competitor analysis can be useful to keep an eye on what your competitors are doing for several reasons.

  • Understand the market environment and uncover trends. By researching your competitors, their business model, and their achievement, you’ll have a grasp on how the market you are operating on works and if there are any trends you can use at your advantage. The SaaS market is one that changes in a blink of an eye – and this is something you can do to avoid being taken off guard.
  • Analyze how you compare. If you are just starting out or if you have never done a competitor analysis in the past, it can be difficult to find a baseline. If you’re only looking at your own results, you may have a distorted vision of what’s happening in the market. By comparing yourself with others, you’ll be able to benchmark your results and insert them in the bigger picture of your business environment.
  • Find any gaps. We all know how important is to find your own niche. A good competitor analysis framework can help you in this respect too – by identifying your competitor’s focus and product offering, you’ll be able to find a spot that they have not covered yet and locate your place in a crowded environment.
  • Develop new products and services (not so fast!) Finding out about your competitors’ products and services may urge you to copy them and follow their lead. But they may go the wrong way. Use your own customer interviews intelligence to develop your stuff – and use this research only to inform you of what the competition is doing.
  • Market and sell more effectively. SaaS and e-commerce businesses alike will benefit from a competitor analysis framework that focusses on go-to-market (GTM) activities. Finding out what language is used to describe new features and how the product is promoted on the internet can be important to position your own brand.

A bit overwhelming, right? That is why we have come up with a simple competitor analysis framework that can help you identify the key factor you need to analyze to have something which is usable – and, even if expandable, can be used on its own.

Who Are Your Real Competitors?

So far we have covered the why – but how you’d find who are your real competitors? There are different theories about how you’d go and find the companies that you’d need to focus on when building your competitor analysis framework.

The theory I think is the most useful is the one that identifies direct, indirect and potential competitors.

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The two crucial questions you need to ask when starting to compile your competitor analysis framework to identify your competitors are:

  • Does company X have similar capabilities? Companies that have similar capabilities are usually juicy ones. They tend to have an overlapping business model – they use the same technologies and communication strategies, they attract employees with similar expertise and, to some extent, they have similar know-how.
  • Does company X have similar customers and needs? Digging deeper to find the low-hanging fruit is then identifying which are the company’s customers and needs. We’ll see how customer research can help you here – as the best option is always to look at what people say and how they behave in terms of purchase and company loyalty.

Once you have answered these questions, you are able to divide your competitors into three categories: direct, indirect, and potential competitors.

  1. Direct competitors will be the ones with which you share capabilities and customers/needs. These will be easier to identify as they will be selling a similar product, have a similar business model, and market to the same group of people. A classic example of direct competition is between 2 brick-and-mortar grocery stores, such as Tesco and Sainsbury’s.
  2. Indirect competitors will be the ones with which you share customers and needs but not capabilities. They may have a different business model or use a different market strategy, but their products solve the same problem as yours and target the same group of people. To continue the example above, indirect competition could be between Tesco and Amazon Prime Now.
  3. Potential competitors will be the ones with which you share capabilities but not customers and needs. You may wonder why you need to add them to your competitor analysis framework. In an ever-changing online landscape, it’s useful to identify companies with a similar business model that can expand to other verticals. For instance, Tesco may be expanding to B&Q territory and sell home and garden products.

Pro tip! This is all very nice, but how many companies should you add to your competitor analysis framework?

To keep your competitor analysis framework clean and fresh, you don’t want to add everything there. Depending on how crowded is the market you’re operating in, you may want to have 4-7 competitors analyzed.

Focus on direct competitors, know your indirect competitors, and keep an eye on your potential competitors – and reiterate your analysis routinely (this is important!) Market moves fast and you’d need to be on top of any changes in a timely fashion.

Competitor Analysis Framework 

So far, we’ve learned why to perform competitor analysis and who are the competitors you need to spy on – we’re ready to disclose the 4-step competitor analysis framework we’ll be using in the following chapters.

  1. Perform a simplified SWOT analysis. Firstly, we’ll go into how to use the SWOT framework to identify Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threads your company and your competitors are facing.
  2. Dissect your competitors’ marketing strategy. In this chapter, we’ll go through how to analyze your competitors’ website, unique selling proposition, email marketing (including lead generation), and social media strategy.
  3. Analyze how your competition is using SEO and content marketing. Next, we’ll look at how you can identify which keywords they are competing for and what is their content marketing strategy.
  4. Find competitor ads and which advertising platforms they are hanging out on. Finally, advertising. Finding new customers and retarget existing ones can be tricky. Checking out what your competitors are doing successfully (and not) can give you an advantage.

What guide would it be without a sweet treat? All steps of this competitor analysis framework can be executed with a little help – we’ll dedicate a chapter to all the tools you can use to make your competitor spying endeavor a little easier (and fun!)

How to do a Competitor Analysis

You now have all the pieces you need to build your competitor analysis framework, let’s recap them:

  • (virtual) pen and paper – preferably a spreadsheet where to input all the information you’ll find in your research;
  • a computer with an internet connection to search for all the information you need;
  • a list of your competitors already divided into direct, indirect and potential.

What’s next?

Competitor SWOT Analysis

Competitor Analysis Framework - SWOT analysis
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A SWOT analysis can help you identify a company’s strengths and weaknesses, and what opportunities and threats they are facing. It can be done at the company, project, or initiative level and you can give it the complexity you need in a given situation.

In the context of a competitor analysis framework, you can perform a simplified SWOT analysis to annotate how your competition compares in each of the four areas.

Strengths are strong points, which come within the organization’s business model and help to achieve the overall goal of the company. Some of the questions you can ask in this area are:

  • What is company X doing better than you?
  • What sets company X apart from the rest of the competition?
  • Which internal resources company X nails in terms of technology, assets, culture?

Weaknesses are vulnerabilities the company has and that could potentially be harmful towards reaching their overall goals. Some of the questions you can ask in this area are:

  • What company X doesn’t have that you do?
  • What do you do better than company X?
  • Which internal limitations company X has in terms of technology, assets, culture?

Opportunities are areas of the business a company has not developed yet. They depend on the external market landscape and are useful in achieving the company’s overall goal. Some of the questions you can ask in this area are:

  • Is company X expanding its business to another vertical/area?
  • Is company X tapping into new needs and/or customer segments?
  • How is press coverage for company X?

Threats are all the risks a company is facing from the external environment and that could jeopardize its success. As part of a competitor analysis framework, some of the questions you can ask in this area are:

  • Is company X a threat in one/more areas of your business?
  • Is the company X changing your market position?
  • Which impact these threats have on your customers?

Chapter 2:

Effective Marketing Competitor Analysis

Smartflow guide on Marketing Competitor Analysis

When it comes to marketing competitor analysis, tons of (virtual) paper has been devoted to all the each and every aspect of your competitors’ marketing strategies you need to analyse to have them under your radar.

In this chapter, we’ll see three main areas of marketing you need to focus on if you want an advantage on your competition:

  • Website: including your competitors’ website structure, how they are conveying their unique selling proposition, and what they are doing to convert website visitors into leads.
  • Email marketing: including newsletters and which sequences your competitors have in place to move leads through the value journey and turn them into buyers.
  • Social media: including how your competitors are using social icons, which channels they hang out on, and how to monitor their share of voice.

At the end of each section, you’ll find a list of burning questions. Add them to your framework and compile each one while examining your competitors. At the end of this guide, you’ll have your competitor analysis done!

Marketing Competitor Analysis #1: Website

While we’ll leave SEO-related and technical analysis of your competitors’ website to the next chapter (take me there), there are a number of marketing strategies you can check directly on your competitors’ website.

Website Structure

At this level, what you want to focus on is the look and feel of your competitors’ websites.

This is of course not to mime them but to have a look at how (and how much) they are investing in a polished and up-to-date website. This is important because ultimately, good design reduces bounce rates and improves the overall user experience.

In terms of design, you can look at what kind of imagery your competitors are using, whether it’s stock images, illustrations, or if it’s polished and high quality. Also, check if the website is mobile friendly and designed to be responsive (it’s a one-minute check, see below!)

Marketing Competitor Analysis - Responsive Website
Use the developer tools on Chrome to check if the website is responsive.

Unique Selling Proposition

A company’s unique selling proposition (or USP) is what makes a company different from any other. As you are likely operating in a crowded environment, it’s crucial you have your own setup – like, right now.

To help you with that, it’s important that you recognize your competitors’ USP. It is usually located on their website – there are a number of places where you can check: the Homepage, the About Us section and any landing pages (in particular pages where an action is required, lead or conversion.)

Netflix’s USP is right and center of their homepage: they’re one of the largest subscription-based streaming services around.

Marketing Competitor Analysis - Netflix USP
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Since USP is basically what your competitors have and you have not, what you can infer from this part of your marketing competitor analysis is what their products and services are.

This is great insight when you are looking at how to position your products and services and understand how they differ from those of your competitors.

Website Lead Generation

Another key point you need to focus on when analyzing your competitor’s marketing strategies is how they are using their website as a lead generation machine.

Converting website visitors into leads is the first action you’d need to take to move them through the customer journey so that they become – hopefully soon – your clients.

There are a bunch of strategies that your competitors (and indeed you) can use to do just that. When doing a marketing competitor analysis focused on finding lead-worth content, look for how much free content your competition is offering as compared with gated content.

Scan their website looking for lead magnets: what type of lead magnet are they using, which is the format, what information they are requesting. They may be using pop-ups to entice users to leave their contact information (this is always a good idea, we talked about it here)

Marketing Competitor Analysis - Website pop-ups
In-page pop-ups can be used to elicit action and convert you more leads.

This will help you assess if you are offering too much free content as compared with what they do but also on which topics they are looking at to be an authoritative voice.

Website Marketing Competitor Analysis Burning Questions

To recap, when doing a website marketing competitor analysis, you should ask whether your competitor website is:

  • up-to-date and polished? (Y/N)
  • responsive and mobile friendly? (Y/N)
  • showing a clear USP? (Y/N)
  • if so, what is your competitive advantage over their USP? (open answer)
  • offering more free content or gated content? (ratio)
  • offering lead magnets? (Y/N)
  • if so, what types of lead magnets? (open answer)

Marketing Competitor Analysis #2: Email Marketing

According to recent research, email marketing is one of the top strategies to acquire new customers for small-medium businesses. If you don’t want to leave money on the table, this is something you need to focus on – and checking what your competitors are doing it can give you a fair advantage.

Newsletter

The most obvious place to start to spy on your competitors’ email marketing strategy is to sign up for their newsletter. You can then analyze the email structure, scheduling, whether the focus of the email is on product updates, building authoritativeness, or engaging their subscribers.

If you don’t want to let your competitors know that you are executing an email marketing competitor analysis, you can set up a brand new email using a generic name – thou it’s very likely that your competitors are doing the same!

Alternatively, you can find services online such as ReallyGoodEmails that will show you a bunch of examples – you may be lucky and find your competitors there.

Marketing Competitor Analysis - Newsletter
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Email Marketing Series

Email marketing is not just newsletter thou. If you really want to take your email marketing competitor analysis to the next level, you’d need to follow your competitors’ flow. Meaning become a lead and then a customer.

It can be expensive – and time-consuming. And, depending on the market you’re on, also pointless. The free option is to become a lead (you can use the email you created for the newsletter) and record the emails you’ll start receiving after that.

There are many factors you can record in your email marketing competitor analysis such as subject line, CTA, delivery schedule, email template, triggered vs broadcast emails ratio.

Email Marketing Competitor Analysis - Welcome emails
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An important factor to analyze is the email’s purpose: inspect your competitors’ emails for signs that connect them to one of these five purposes in order to find opportunities for your email marketing strategy or gaps that you can fill in in your current email schedule:

  • Indoctrinate: this is where your competitor will show their company values and educate their prospective customers on who they are as a business.
  • Engage: here, your competitors will try and get subscribers excited about their product with the end goal of turning them into customers.
  • Ascend: in this email series, you’ll find what is your competition doing to turn a one-time buyer into a recurring one
  • Segment: here you’ll be able to get an idea of what are the topics your competitors are using to segment their audience and get them to raise their hand to re-enter the engage program.
  • Win Back: this is where you can derive to which extent your competitors are willing to go to get an unengaged/churned customer back.

Email Marketing Competitor Analysis Burning Questions

To recap, when doing an email marketing competitor analysis, you should ask whether, in their email marketing strategy, your competitors are:

  • sending a regular newsletter? (Y/N)
  • if so, what is the email structure, scheduling, content strategy, main purpose? (open answer)
  • sending triggered vs broadcast emails? (Y/N)
  • if so, what is their time schedule, email subject, CTA, template? (open answer)
  • using purpose-driven email marketing series? (Y/N)
  • if so, what those purposes are and are there any opportunities for you? (open answer)

Marketing Competitor Analysis #3: Social Media

While we’ll see how to spy on your competitors’ digital advertising initiatives in Chapter 4 (take me there), we’ll now have a look at how to conduct a marketing competitive analysis focused on social media.

Social Media Data Gathering

The first step you need to take when you’re doing a social media marketing competitive analysis is to collect quantitative data. This is because you’d not only need to learn which social channel your competitors are on, but also with what results.

First check the main social channels like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Pinterest. Then, gather information on how many followers your competitors have (and how fast that number is growing), how often do they publish (and what kind of content), and whether they are using hashtags and how.

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Another important factor is performance, as you’d want to understand which channels are working for your competitors and if you are cashing on them too. Specifically, look at the engagement rate, that is how many likes, comments, and shares do their posts have.

The next step of your social marketing competitor analysis is to benchmark these results against your own in order to find opportunities or gaps in your own strategy you can take advantage of.

Protip: If you want to keep up to date with the latest news of your competition, in particular in the social media space, you need to streamline your social media marketing competitor analysis and run it on a regular basis.

Social Media Monitoring

The act of monitoring (which is one you should always do for your brand in the first place) is that of scanning the internet looking for information about a specific brand.

In the framework of a social media marketing competitor analysis, this means looking for things like:

  • Mentions of your competitors brand (direct and indirect),
  • Hashtags related to your competitors and/or industry,
  • Comments or reviews on social media,
  • Customers’ complaints or praises.

There are a number of tools that can help you in your social media marketing competitor analysis, but you can start on the native platforms, for example by following specific hashtags or create lists on Twitter.

Social Media Marketing Competitor Analysis Burning Questions

To recap, when doing an social media marketing competitor analysis, you should ask whether, in their social media marketing strategy, your competitors are:

  • using social media? (Y/N)
  • if so, on which channels are they active, how many followers they have, and at what rate are they growing? (open answer)
  • using specific hashtags (also industry-related)? (open answer)
  • getting high/low engagement rates on their posts? (open answer)
  • perceived positively or negatively (look at comments, reviews, complaints)? (open answer)

Chapter 3:

SEO Competitor Analysis

Smartflow guide on SEO Competitor Analysis

The concept of SEO competitor analysis surely comes with a bad reputation. In the past, that could have meant using black-hat strategies to outperform your competitors – but not today.

Yes, it will still include fierce competition, but that’s the beauty of it – you can exploit the intelligence you gather from your competitors to devise white-hat strategies and prioritize your SEO efforts.

In this chapter, we’ll see 4 pivotal areas of SEO you need to take into consideration when spying on your competitors:

  • Keyword analysis: including how to find your competitors’ organic keywords, the difference between domain and page-by-page keyword research, and other factors to bear in mind in your keyword analysis.
  • Backlinks: including how to analyze link building, backlink growth, and how to find and exploit your competitors’ backlink gaps.
  • SERP and user intent: including how to find out the search intent of your competitors’ users and understand how difficult it could be to outrank them in the SERP.
  • Content analysis: including how to find which of your competitors’ content is most popular, most linked, and how to find gaps to fill in with your own content.

At the end of each section, you’ll find a list of burning questions. Add them to your framework and compile each one while examining your competitors. At the end of this guide, you’ll have your competitor analysis done!

Before diving into our SEO competitor analysis, a brief note on how to identify who your true SEO competitors are.

Your True SEO Competitors

In the first chapter of this guide, I’ve described how you can identify your competitors – but for your SEO competitor analysis, we need to dig a little deeper.

This is because your business direct competitors may not coincide with the websites you will compete with. In the SEO landscape, it’s not enough to look at the competitor framework, we need to rely on data.

This is precisely what we’ll cover in this chapter. Let’s start!

SEO Competitor Analysis #1: Keyword Competitor Analysis

I bet when thinking about SEO, the first thing that comes into your mind is keyword research. Although it’s definitely so much more, a good SEO competitor analysis cannot disregard keyword research. However, you first need to consider your competitors’ overall position in the SEO landscape.

Your Competitors’ Overall SEO Strength

The first step you need to take in your SEO competitor is assessing their general SEO health.

SEO Competitor Analysis - Overall SEO Strength
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  • Data you need to pull here, at the domain level, are:
  • Organic keywords: this metric represents how many keywords your competitor’s domain ranks for.
  • Organic monthly traffic: this metric represents how much (estimated) traffic the website gets.
  • Domain score: this metric represents the website’s authority from 1 (low) to 100 (high).
  • Backlinks – the number of domains that link back to the site.

Domain Keyword Analysis

Other information you can easily find that will diagnose how healthy are your competitors (and how you compare) are:

  • Average monthly visits: how many visitors your competitor’s website gets in a given month.
  • Pageviews, bounce rate, time on site: these metrics report about the quality of traffic.
  • Traffic by countries: which countries the most website traffic comes from.
  • Traffic sources: from which sources traffic mainly comes from.
  • Top referrers: external websites that refer your competitors’ website
SEO Competitor Analysis - Domain SEO Health
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Your Competitors’ Organic Keywords

When starting your keyword research, what you need to find out about your competitors are the keywords that are working well for them and that you are not ranking for – but could.

Technically, look for 5 to 10 keywords that:

  • Rank high for your competitors (ideally in the top 10): these are keywords that work for your competitors, so there may be an opportunity for you to outrank them.
  • Have some search traffic: for the same reason, you’d need to exclude low traffic keywords as they won’t give you an advantage over your competitors.
  • Have a low to medium Keyword Difficulty (KD): KD is a rate that represents how difficult it would be to rank for a specific keyword – if that rate is high, ranking for it may be out of your league.
  • Relate to your business: even if you’re looking at your competitors, some of their keywords won’t be applicable to you.
  • You can outperform: take into consideration only the keywords you know you could use at your own advantage to create better content than your competitors and that you can outrank.
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Once you have identified them you should start getting an idea of the gaps between you and your competitors for those keywords and put in place measures to counteract: it can be a new blog article, refreshing of some of your pages or updating (and improving) existing ones.

Page-by-page Keyword Analysis

A good data-driven method to identify in which areas your competitors are outranking you is at the page level. Measure the pages where your competitors are outperforming you for the same keywords and you’ll be able to fill in the gaps.

When looking at a specific page, annotate the following are keyword-optimised:

  • Intent (one per page and based on the keyword)
  • Title tag (around 75 characters)
  • H2-H3 subheadings
  • URL
  • Page headline
  • Body
  • Meta description (around 160 characters)
  • Secondary keywords/variations
  • Image alt attribute

In your SEO competitor analysis, don’t forget to have a look at the page technical features too, you may find some hidden gems you can exploit, such as:

  • page speed: if your competitor has page speed issues and you don’t, this can result in added visibility for your website as search engines and humans alike don’t like to wait.
  • broken links: they can be a great opportunity for you. When you find broken links, what you can do is understand what the page’s content used to be, write similar (but better!) content, find the websites using the broken link and ask them to replace the broken article with your own.

Keyword SEO Competitor Analysis Burning Questions

To recap, when doing a keyword SEO competitor analysis, you should ask:

  • which is the overall SEO health of your competitors? (open answer)
  • how well do your competitors rank at the domain level? (open answer)
  • which are the 5 to 10 keywords you can steal from your competitors (list)
  • which elements are your competitors using at the page level to outrank you? (list)

SEO Competitor Analysis #2: Backlink Competitor Analysis

The next step in our SEO competitor analysis involves backlinks. Basically, external links that refer back to a specific website. They generally vouch for the authoritativeness of the destination website and are a big part of the domain authority.

However, it’s not always true that the more you have, the better. When looking at backlinks, quality is of the utmost importance – let’s see how you can analyze your competitors’ backlinks and capitalize on it.

Link Building

The action of link building is exactly that of getting backlinks. It can be time-consuming and frankly, frustrating. This is where competitive analysis comes in handy. By looking at your competitors’ backlinks, you can get insights on which backlinks help them improving their domain authority score.

The good news is: they are likely competing for the same keywords, so the intelligence you’ll get will be even more valuable.

SEO competitor analysis - Link Explorer
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When looking at your competitors’ backlink, make sure to focus on:

  • quality over quantity: nowadays, it’s not enough to have many backlinks, Google algorithm will primarily look at quality, so select those with a higher grade or it could backfire.
  • follow vs nofollow: nofollow links should not be ranked by Google, but don’t discard them altogether as they can still increase your brand awareness and ultimately bring benefits (and conversions.)

Backlink Growth

You can tap into some historical data to check your competitors’ efforts in link building over time. This can be useful to you as you may discover that a specific piece of content spiked backlinks, or if your competitor was victim of a negative SEO attack or if they are strategically using link building across their entire website.

SEO competitor analysis - Backlink Growth
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With this data, you’ll be in the best position to identify gaps in your backlink strategies, in particular, if there are any domains that heavily link to your competitors but not to yours. There can be an opportunity there as those websites are already linking to content which is similar to yours.

Backlink SEO Competitor Analysis Burning Questions

To recap, when doing a backlink SEO competitor analysis, you should ask:

  • what is the overall website authority of your competitors? (number)
  • which high-quality backlinks your competitors have? (list)
  • are your competitors growing in terms of backlinks? (Y/N)
  • if so, which is the primary reason for their growth? (open answer)
  • whether there is any gap in your strategy you can recover from? (open answer)

SEO Competitor Analysis #3: Google SERP

SERP stands for Search Engine Results Pages and are those pages you get after you search for a specific page on Google. But what has SERP to do with our SEO competitor analysis?

Google SERP & User Intent and Context

If you want to rank high, you don’t only need the right keywords, you also need to understand what is the intent and context of the user that types in the keyword you want to target in the Google search bar.

To some extent, you can deduct a prospect’s intent and context with a simple Google search. First, you should make some assumptions on the intent (what is the user searching for?) and context (why are they searching for it?) the searcher may have on a specific search.

When doing this in the framework of your SEO competitive analysis, look for patterns in the results that indicate which is the preferred format, it will feature heavily on the SERP. Also, look at which step of the user’s journey is most represented (top of the funnel “how-to” and “learn” pieces of content vs bottom of the funnel “buy” and “shop for” ones.)

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Other metrics you could check to see what it takes to rank high in the SERP are:

  • page authority: page authoritativeness based on quality and quantity of linking domains.
  • domain authority: domain authoritativeness based on quality and quantity of linking domains.
  • links redirecting to the page: how many links redirect to a specific page
  • links to root domain: how many links redirect to the root domain page

Google SERP and Featured Snippets

Featured snippets are any SERP results that are not traditional search results. What does it mean? They can be the paid results box you’ll find at the top of the page, or the “People also asked” one after the first organic results.

With an SEO competitor analysis for featured snipped, you may uncover opportunities to outrank your competitors there as you you’d only need to be in the first 5 SERP to have a chance to be featured there.

Google SERP SEO Competitor Analysis Burning Questions

To recap, when doing a Google SERP and user intent SEO competitor analysis, you should ask:

  • what is the intent and context of your competitors’ keywords? (open answer)
  • are your competitors ranking for featured snippets? (Y/N)
  • if so, are they opportunities to outrank them? (list)

SEO Competitor Analysis #4: Content Competitor Analysis

The final stage of your SEO competitor analysis involves examining your competitors’ content for opportunities to expand your own content and find gaps in their content that you can take advantage of.

The key is that by analyzing your competitors’ content, you’ll be able to identify which one you can significantly improve and outrank them.

Type of Content

A first place to start is looking at your competitors type of content. In this analysis, you can look at:

  • product pages (in particular for e-commerce)
  • blog articles
  • videos or podcasts
  • help center
  • live videos/streams
  • infographics

This can be useful to you to find opportunities you can exploit: say your competitors are not doing videos (or they are not very good at it) – if you know you can have higher quality content, you should invest in it.

Or, when analyzing your competitors’ content, you see that the average length of blog articles is way more than you do right now, you should consider writing longer articles.

Most popular content

Most popular content often conceal long-tail keywords. With these keywords, you are likely to get less traffic, but it would likely be more qualified – so why not ranking for some of those?

When looking at most popular pages in your content SEO competitor analysis look for:

  • estimated website visits
  • number of keywords these pages are raking for
  • referring domains (backlinks)
SEO competitor analysis - top content
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To find soft targets, search for top pages with many keywords with few referring domains.

Most linked content

On the contrary, most linked content would likely be more difficult to rank for. However, you’d still want to check those because you may find yourself in a situation where you can invest more in that type of content – or you know you can create better content.

In this case, after identifying the most linked content in your SEO competitor analysis, your strategy would include:

  • writing better content
  • promoting your better content to the same people
  • asking backlinks to replace your competitors’ link with your (now better) own

Keyword Content SEO Competitor Analysis Burning Questions

To recap, when doing a content SEO competitor analysis, you should ask:

  • what type of content are your competitor creating? (list)
  • what are their top pages with few backlinks? (list)
  • what is their most linked content? (list)
  • can you write better content for your competitors’ top pages and most linked content?

Chapter 4:

Advertising Competitive Analysis

Smartflow guide on Advertising Competitive Analysis

Devising a balanced advertising strategy can be tricky. This is when a well-planned advertising competitive analysis can come to the rescue.

Knowing what your competitors are doing in the advertising playing field can save you a lot of time and money (yep, advertising campaigns can cost a lot!) – if you know what works and what doesn’t work, you’ll be able to focus on other important tasks.

In this chapter, we’ll go through some of the most popular advertising platforms and we’ll see what you’ll need to spy your competitor on each of them:

  • Facebook Ads: advertising on Facebook is becoming increasingly difficult (and expensive) – getting a competitive advantage on creative and targeting will ease (at least part of) your pain.
  • PPC (pay-per-click): researching keywords, as well as ads performances over time, will help you gauge your competitors’ strategy for Google ads.
  • Twitter: advertising on Twitter can look straightforward – or limiting. This is why it’s important to learn what works and doesn’t and your competitors can be your best allies.
  • LinkedIn: looking at your competitors’ advertising initiatives on LinkedIn can help you understand how to reach professionals with high decision-making powers and spending availability.

We’ll discuss advertising competitive analysis tools in the next chapter – in here, we’ll see why it’s important to pay attention to the advertising strategies your competition has in place in the different social channels.

Advertising Competitive Analysis: Facebook Ads

With 8 million advertisers in Q1 2020, Facebook is reigning social advertising. Surely, the majority of your competitors are there – so why don’t check what they are doing and with which results?

There are many options you can use to create Facebook ads, and the choice can be overwhelming. Which creative format is best? What difference can it make to have a different call to action? If you have no clue, there is just one thing you can do: test.

As exciting as testing can be, it’s also quite expensive… what if you could at least go in the right direction? A well-executed advertising competitive analysis on Facebook ads can give you great insights into what’s working for your industry.

When looking at your competitors ads, you can focus on many aspects:

  • messaging they are using
  • offers they are promoting
  • ad format (such as static images, carousels, videos)
  • calls to action (and where they are positioned)
  • ad imagery (such as colors, pictures, illustrations)
  • ad copy (text length, split testing)
  • ad targeting (how broad, what kind of audiences)
Advertising Competitive Analysis - Facebook Library
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To learn what’s working for your competitors, you should do an analysis over time, to understand whether the elements that they tested were successful – they would be used in the following version of the ad.

Facebook Advertising Competitive Analysis Burning Questions

To recap, when doing a Facebook advertising competitor analysis, you should ask whether your competitors are:

  • running Facebook ads? (Y/N)
  • split testing on one or more elements on their design? (Y/N)
  • if so, which elements and are there winning elements over time? (open answer)
  • split testing on targeting audiences? (Y/N)
  • if so, which audiences and are there winning ones over time? (open answer)

Advertising Competitive Analysis: PPC

Google Ads can be a ferocious competitive landscape to operate in, and being able to analyze (and steal) your competitors’ best keywords – as well as find ones with big opportunities, is definitely key.

There are three elements you need to take into consideration when analyzing the keywords your competitors are using for their PPC initiatives:

A good place to start is knowing which keywords they are bidding on.

More on that, many tools will give you the ability to compare which keywords are used for PPC vs which ones are used for SEO. This is important to understand which are the keywords your competitors are willing to pay for.

A step further to PPC keyword analysis is to identify the winning keywords. You can do that by looking at the ones that have been running longer, or that are constantly being used over time.

Advertising Competitive Analysis - PPC
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Another aspect you can focus on is the PPC ads – you can analyze both Search and Display ads and look for:

  • ad copy
  • ad images
  • ad impressions
  • CPC
  • ad targeting (countries)
  • device performances

As for keywords, what you are looking for here is if there is a pattern – search for long-running ads, which combinations are being repeated, and which device and cost per click performances stand out.

PPC Advertising Competitive Analysis Burning Questions

To recap, when doing a PPC advertising competitor analysis, you should ask whether your competitors are:

  • running PPC ads? (Y/N)
  • using the same/different keywords for PPC vs SEO? (Y/N)
  • if so, which ones have been running for a longer time? (open answer)
  • split testing on ads design? (Y/N)
  • if so, which elements and are there winning elements over time? (open answer)
  • targeting different countries? (Y/N)
  • If so, which ones are getting the best results? (open answer)
  • targeting different devices? (Y/N)
  • If so, which ones are getting the best results? (open answer)

Advertising Competitive Analysis: Twitter Ads

Twitter Ads are relatively straightforward – there are a few options to choose from as compared with the other social platforms. This is why it’s even more crucial that you choose your settings wisely.

Working with limitations can be frustrating and exciting (who doesn’t like a nice challenge?) this is why checking your competitors’ solutions can spark your creativity too.

There are few elements to take into consideration when looking at Twitter ads as part of your advertising competitor analysis:

  • strategies used to convey the messaging within Twitter’s characters limits
  • thumb-stopping images (or videos)
  • compelling calls to action
  • which ads triggered the most engagement in terms of hearts, shares, and comments
  • best hours of the day and days of the week
Advertising Competitive Analysis - Twitter Ads Transparency tool
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This information will be available to you natively only for ads in the last 7 days, so our suggestion to run your advertising competitive analysis routinely is even more true for Twitter ads.

Twitter Advertising Competitive Analysis Burning Questions

To recap, when doing a Twitter advertising competitor analysis, you should ask whether your competitors are:

  • running Twitter ads? (Y/N)
  • split testing on one or more elements on their design? (Y/N)
  • if so, which elements and are there winning elements? (open answer)
  • using strategies to boost engagement? (Y/N)
  • if so, which are there winning ones? (open answer)

Advertising Competitive Analysis LinkedIn Ads

Interest in LinkedIn advertising is increasing as it represents the biggest network of business professionals with high spending powers and decision-making. If your competitors are there, you should consider it too.

There are some information you can gather when doing your advertising competitive analysis on LinkedIn:

  • if they are investing in LinkedIn ads: you’ll be able to see ads from 6 months so you can gauge whether your competitors are spending big money on their LinkedIn advertising
  • what messaging they are using: are they focussing on their years of experience or any other professional advantage you may be better at?
  • which format is working better: if you see many ads with lead generation forms vs boosting organic posts, you may infer what is the strategy that is paying off for them.
  • which ads are getting more engagement: you’ll find this information when clicking on the three dots on the right-hand side of the ad and then “copy link to post”.
Advertising Competitive Analysis - LinkedIn ads
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LinkedIn Advertising Competitive Analysis Burning Questions

To recap, when doing a LinkedIn advertising competitor analysis, you should ask whether your competitors are:

  • running LinkedIn ads? (Y/N)
  • leveraging specific business skills/experiences? (Y/N)
    if so, are there any of these on which you have an advantage? (open answer)
  • using traditional formats or are experimenting? (open answer)
  • which ads are getting more engagement? (open answer)

Chapter 5:

Best Competitor Analysis Tools

Smartflow guide on Best Competitor Analysis Tools

While as any internet savvy will tell you “Google is your friend” what you’ll find in this chapter is a list of the best competitor analysis tools that can boost your research – and save you a bunch of time!

Now that you know what to search for, it’s time to look at where to find it!

Depending on which step of the competitor analysis framework you’re in, you’ll find below our favorite competitor analysis tools to nail your research in no time.

Competitor Analysis Tools: Marketing Competitor Analysis Apps

If you are looking for an all-in-one solution to monitor your competitors marketing moves, there are a number of solutions around that can help you achieve that.

Looking for a solution with a free (limited) option? SimilarWeb can be right for you. They have different solutions for specific teams and industries. For marketing teams, it includes competitive analysis, marketing, and advertising strategy, and keyword analysis, and generator.

Competitor Analysis Tools - SimilarWeb
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Competitors.app offer a free 15-day trial and plans starting from $10/month per competitor. The app provides a wide range of reports on your competitors’ website, email marketing, social media, keywords and blog, and ads.

Competitor Analysis Tools - Competitors.app
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A comprehensive solution for marketers that can be customized depending on your needs is Semrush. The tool includes SEO, PPC, social media, content marketing, and market research. Pricing starts at $99/month.

Competitor Analysis Tools - Semrush
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A more enterprise-driven solution, Crayon.co uses tons of data gathered across hundreds of millions of sources and combines them using both human intelligence and AI to create reports and give actionable insights for your and your team.

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Competitor Analysis Tools: Social Media Competitor Analysis

Facebook Pages To Watch

The pain-free first option you have is to add your competitors’ pages to the “Pages to Watch” in your Facebook Page Insights.

Competitor analysis tools - Facebook Pages to watch
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Pick your 5 top competitors and add them there to view the total number of page likes, the percentage increase/decrease of likes in the last seven days, and information on posting such as the weekly number of posts and engagement.

Twitter Hashtags and Lists

Setting up your Twitter social media monitoring can take a while – but Twitter offers two powerful tools to streamline your process and keep an eye on your competitors.

The first one is the ability you have to follow specific hashtags. You can search for a hashtag using Twitter advanced search and then save the research.

Twitter Advanced Search.

The second one is to explore lists or create your own. On the left-hand side menu, you can check existing lists or set up new ones. If you don’t want other Twitter users to see your list, you can also make it private – nobody else will be able to search for it.

LinkedIn Competitor Analysis

On LinkedIn, you may need to allocate more time to spy on your competitors as you’d need to manually cover your tracks and analyze profiles by hand.

First, you need to cover some of your activities in the privacy settings to prevent your competitors from seeing what you are doing. We suggest you do if only for the time you do competitor analysis as these options will limit other LinkedIn functionalities. This can be done in two ways:

  • shift your profile viewing settings to private mode – this will avoid your competitors to see that you viewed their profile.
  • turn off “Viewers of This Profile Also Viewed” – this will prevent your customers or prospects from seeing the profiles of the competitors you viewed in your analysis.

After you do that, you’re now able to start your LinkedIn competitor analysis by checking their profile or choosing to follow them so that their posts will be featured on your newsfeed.

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Depending on how secretive you want to be, you may prefer manually checking, because when you follow a company on LinkedIn, they will be notified.

If you wish to streamline this process, you may need to use one of the competitor analysis tools apps.

Competitor Analysis Tools: SEO and Content Marketing Competitor Analysis

Remember when I said that Google is your friend? Well, it can be, if you know how to use it. The first two competitor analysis tools for SEO in this list are free.

Your first stop is an old fashion Google search… with a twist. Use advanced search operators to narrow down your search to your competitors’ URLs and find exactly what you are looking for.

Another great place to start your competitors’ keyword research is Google Keyword Planner. There, you’ll be able to search for your competitor website and find keywords and keyword search volume.

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Another free option to search for your competitors’ domain, top SEO pages, targeted keywords, and overall traffic, as well as keyword and content ideas, is Ubersuggest.

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If you’re looking for an all-SEO toolset, then Ahref is perfect for you. From keyword research to traffic growth and niche monitoring, you’ll be able to monitor your competitors and find gaps you can take advantage of.

Competitor Analysis Tools - Ahref
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Another of our favorite all-SEO competitor analysis tools you can use which includes a number of free researches and tools is Moz Pro. Full product is available starting at $99/month.

Competitor Analysis Tools - Moz
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Competitor Analysis Tools: Advertising Competitor Analysis

Some of the competitor analysis tools described in the previous paragraphs can be used to spy on your competitors’ ads and, in particular for PPC, it may be worthwhile.

Native platforms are another (free!) option you have to dig in into competitors’ advertising strategies and preferred channels. In the previous chapter, we looked at advertising competitor analysis and what to look for when you are analyzing your competitors’ ads.

Let’s now see where you can check what your competitors are doing on those platforms.

Facebook Ads Competitor Analysis Tools: Ads Library and Audience Insights

On Facebook, you can search for a specific brand and look at the ads in the different formats they were created on. There are two places you can access Facebook Ads Library. If you are on a specific page, you can click on Ads Transparency on the left-hand side of the page.

Competitor Analysis Tools - Facebook Ads Library
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Alternatively, you can navigate to the Facebook Ads Library main page.

Competitor Analysis Tools - Facebook Ads Library
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A more direct approach is to like your competitors’ pages and follow them. Depending on their advertising strategy, you may end up being served their ads in your feed or on mobile.

If that happens, you can further spy on their targeting options by checking why you are seeing an ad from the ad’s options.

Competitor Analysis Tools - Why am I seeing this ad? Facebook
Facebook.

Another way to check your competitors’ best audience, is to analyze Facebook data in the Audience Insights. There, you’ll be able to check demographics and interests for the audience that they are targeting for their ads.

Competitor Analysis Tools - Audience Insights
Facebook Audience Insights.

Twitter Ads Competitor Analysis Tools: Ads Transparency Center

You can search for a specific brand on Twitter using the Ads Transparency Center. It will show if that company promoted ads in the previous seven days.

Competitor Analysis Tools - Twitter Transparency Center
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LinkedIn Ads Competitor Analysis Tools: Page Ads Tab

On LinkedIn too, you’ll be able to check if a company created ads within the platform in the last six months. You’ll find it on the company page, under the Ads tab (here how it looks like on LinkedIn own company page.)

Competitor Analysis Tools - LinkedIn Page Ads Tab
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