Doing some research into one’s competition is not only common but also very well advised, and in the digital marketing space, this goes double. The landscape of online everything evolves rapidly, and competition is king. You and your closest rivals are in competition for market share across platforms, and doing your homework is paramount.
In a perfect world, you would do your research into the competition, and your efforts would reap the following rewards:
- Your own brand’s online strengths and challenges would be illuminated.
- You would be well-positioned to beat the competition at its own game by cinching up your marketing strategies and hitting them with superior content.
- The results would be unanimous – in terms of your content authority, organic voice share, and keyword rankings.
If the competition were in the business of helping you out, this is how things would work. The fact is, however, that your fiercest competitors face their own unique challenges – and have their own unique strengths – and separating one from the other is half the battle. Undoubtedly, the big dogs in your business arena have things to teach you, but they are also making mistakes of their own that you should avoid. This is what makes research into your competition a journey – but a journey that is well worth taking.
The Big Picture
Identifying the competition that has the most to teach you is about more than simply focusing on your most obvious or closest competitor. You are going for the big picture here. While turning to other businesses that provide the same services that you provide and/or that sell what you sell is an excellent starting position, you’re missing out if you aren’t using this starting position as your launchpad. Taking a wider view includes keeping your SERP competitors in mind and comparing your wares to what the national chains have on offer. It’s surprising how often mega brands fail to show up at the top of the heap when consumers with no brand affiliation are looking for something specific. These searchers tend to check customer reviews and recommendations – which plays into best-of lists and which tends to garner solid rankings. Employing the resources that are already at your disposal (such as built-in influencers in the shape of satisfied customers who generate unbiased reviews and recommendations) is the way to go. Ultimately, balancing the insight you glean from your direct competition and SERP is the best path forward.
Dominate that Competition
In order to benefit from your research into the competition, it’s important to know where to focus. You are looking for competitors who share your business zeitgeist, which isn’t always as straightforward a process as you might think. In your quest, keep all of the following criteria in mind:
- Companies that offer services, content, or products that are relevant to your own and that actively target your dream customers.
- Companies that are committed to SEO hygiene and/or that are gifted innovators.
- Companies that you have a chance of competing with and that currently have the kind of strong rankings that you are going for.
Keeping your eye on the prize is where it’s at.
Digging in Deeper
It isn’t enough to identify the relevant competition and simply emulate them. The fact is that competition is doing some things right, some things right, and some things that do not pertain to your business. This boils down to identifying your own company’s challenges and focusing on these issues. If you don’t know where you’re going, no amount of light is going to help you get there. Some introspection is in order.
Choosing Your Focus
Because you are running a real-life business – and not a fantasy – you’re going to have more than one or two pain points – and choosing a focal point is imperative. To run a successful business and have a robust online presence, you’ve got to have goals, and these goals – along with your content key performance indicators (KPIs) – should guide you. Rooting out the roadblocks to your primary goals, whatever they may be, can help you find your focus in terms of the kind of solutions and innovations you are going for. The trick is ferreting out the competition’s edge over you in terms of what actually works – not in terms of what they simply happen to be doing differently.
Don’t Be Bamboozled
You’ve put in the effort and identified a couple of brands that are hitting their marks in terms of what you are trying to accomplish, but it is important to recognize that looks can be deceiving. Some companies are not above using backdoor marketing practices that skew results, including techniques like paying for or otherwise incentivizing positive reviews or what is known as black-hat link building (exploitative techniques used to bolster website traffic and artificially increase rank). This is not to mention the inevitable innocent mistakes, such as failing to take accessibility into account. Sometimes, the competition is simply off the mark, and the answers to the following questions can tip you off on this point:
- Does the content stick closely to SEO, content strategy, and user experience best practices?
- Is it apparent why the brand created the content?
- Is the content meaningful overall, and how is this value shared with users?
- If you adopted a similar – or the same – approach, how would it improve the user experience?
The answers to these questions can help you take a stroll through the thought processes of your competitor, which can help you apply the necessary checks and balances.
Turn to a Digital Marketing Pro for the Help You’re Looking For
The digital marketing wizards at The Web Guys dedicate their magic to growing brands online, and we’re here for you, too. Don’t wait to reach out for the help you need by contacting or calling us at (317) 805-4933 today.