If you want to be competitive in your industry, you have to pay attention to your competition. Just look at the New England Patriots. They know exactly what their competitors are doing, and they’re virtually unstoppable!
Sports jokes aside, competitive analysis should be part of your marketing strategy. Analyzing your competitors can give your business new ideas and open your eyes to new opportunities. Of course, competitive analysis also has its limitations.
What’s Working for My Competition?
Many business owners want to know exactly what their competitors are doing and what’s working for them. Businesses often ask questions like, “What are our competitors doing better than us?” While you can certainly gain some insight from your competitors, you can’t necessarily tell exactly where their success is coming from—or even how successful they really are.
If you really want to know what’s working for your competition, you need to have access to all their data. I’m not suggesting you try to hack into their analytics or send spies to their offices. No, I’m actually telling you it’s impossible to know for sure what’s truly working for anyone else. But that shouldn’t stop you from doing detailed research about your competitors.
Competitive analysis shouldn’t be used to create a new business model. Rather, you should use it to learn more about your industry and how you might be able to do better. It’s not about copying your competitors. It’s about looking for missed opportunities and gathering ideas you can test in your own business strategy.
Why Are My Competitors Outselling Me?
Business owners often make assumptions about their competitors’ data. They assume the competition gets more traffic, has a higher conversion rate, has more sales or leads, etc. One of the dangers of competitive analysis is making changes to your own site because you saw a competitor doing something on theirs.
Just because a competitor is doing something that looks great doesn’t mean it’s working any better than what you’re doing. You can’t use a competitive analysis as a definitive guide to what you should be doing. However, you can take what they’re doing and test it on your own site. The key word here is test. Only in rare circumstances do you want to rush into changes without gathering data that tells you if something different actually works better.
You can also look for trends among your competitors. If all your competitors are offering free shipping and your cheapest option is $9.99, there’s a good chance you could increase your sales if you offered free shipping. Of course, you also have to weigh the pros and cons of making such a change. Will gaining more orders offset the loss in shipping costs? Don’t make a change simply because everyone else is doing it. Make sure it will work for you.
Why Are My Competitors Outranking Me in Search Results?
Every business wants to rank at the top of their industry. Taking a close look at the competitors that are ranking at the top of organic search results can help you improve your own marketing efforts. You may not be able to determine exactly how you can start outranking them, but you can evaluate their online strategies and determine where you might be able to adjust your own.
By looking closely at their content, backlink profiles, social media presence, and other factors, you can often see why they are beating you. If your competitors are producing better content, reaching more people on social media, and getting links from relevant and authoritative websites, then you might want to invest in similar strategies. Keep in mind that just because they’re outranking you doesn’t mean they’re actually doing better than you.
So What Should I Copy from My Competitors?
Before copying anything, you need to make sure you’ve identified a weakness in your own strategy. You don’t want to change for the sake of making change. Do you have high abandonment rates, low conversion rates, or difficulty generating leads or sales in general? Find something you aren’t doing well and look for a way to improve it. However, that great feature on your competitor’s ecommerce site won’t necessarily bring you more sales. And you also have to consider the cost of incorporating the new feature.
When you’re doing a competitive analysis, you’re not necessarily looking to copy your competitors. You’re evaluating what everyone else is doing and how they’re doing it. Maybe all your competitors are blogging but you’re not. Maybe everyone else in the industry is active on Twitter while you don’t even have an account. Maybe your top competitors are running digital advertising campaigns while you only focus on organic search. Maybe all the competition in your industry uses different language or terminology on their websites. Or maybe they all have responsive websites while yours isn’t mobile friendly.
There are a million things your competitors might be doing that you’re not. You probably can’t do all these things. And many of these things might not work for you. But you should be paying attention to the competition and keeping your eyes open for new strategies. In the end, it’s the only way you can compete.
This post is part of Internet Marketing Mysteries, a weekly column addressing actual client questions related to SEO, analytics, website best practices, and any other topic connected to internet marketing. Have a question you’d like to see tackled in a future post? Let us know in the comments