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How to Research Your Competition

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The internet is a battleground. Businesses that are winning the fight are taking home more than their share of the spoils. While everyone else is fighting for scraps.

If you’re not constantly looking for new ways to research your competition, then chances are you don’t know what they’re doing, and will find it more difficult to keep up.

There was a time not so long ago when all the sites on the internet suddenly had annoying pop-ups asking for your email address (some still do). Then the trend moved to whole splash pages prompting you for your details. Then home page videos became all the rage.

Before these tactics became over-saturated they worked really well for the handful of businesses using them. It pays to be one of the first to market in this case.

If you’re not innovating the solution, the next best thing is to keep a close eye on the businesses that are.

So without any further ado, let’s take a look at ten tips on how you can research your competition.

Deconstruct their organic traffic

After you’ve done an initial Google search into your competitor, you should be looking deeper to understand how they’re getting people to their website and what kind of intent they have.

While it’s a paid tool, ahrefs does a great job here. Quick note; we are not affiliated with ahrefs in any way. We just think their platform is neat.

Here’s an example based on where traffic is coming from for Neil Patel:

We can instantly see a number of articles that Neils’ blog is ranking in the number 1 position on Google. If we poke around and pick out themes from these keywords, we can get a feeling for the kind of traffic he’s trying to bring in.

There are plenty of other ways to use ahrefs to compare your site with your competitors, such as content gap analysis .

There are plenty of other excellent tools to help “snoop” around your competitors’ organic and paid traffic activities. The other big player in the industry is SEMrush. You can even sign up for a free trial and do your investigation before having to pay for the platform (again, we’re not affiliated!).

Other tools like Spyfu can give you an insight into your competitors’ paid traffic patterns. This is particularly helpful if you want to learn what’s making them money. I mean, if they’re willing to pay for ads, then something must be working, right?

Check their social media presence

When you’ve got a handle on where your competitors are getting their organic or paid traffic from, it’s time to investigate their social media presence.

There’s a lot you can learn about your competitors by looking at their social media. Not only can you understand what topics they’re focusing on, but you can also get a feel for how their audience is interacting with them. Is the sentiment typically positive? Or are some of their followers upset with actions they’ve taken?

Scrolling their posts can provide valuable insights and it’s free! Keep a lookout for mention of new products, services, or offerings that your business may need to keep up with.

Check out their videos

With the exception of Google Search, YouTube.com  is the most visited website in the world. Modern businesses are choosing to leverage this platform for self-promotion in unique ways.

If you’re in a service-based industry you’ll often find tutorials and instructional videos from your competitors. There are often small insights and lessons to be learned from watching these videos.

In cases where your competitors are getting serious traction on a topic, it might be worth recording your own series to try and capture some attention.

Dig into their technology

Have you ever arrived on a web page and thought “wow, I wonder what website platform they’re running?” or more simply “how did they do that?”. Well, discovering the answer actually isn’t that hard.

You can grab their URL, open up Wappalyzer and paste in the link. This site will tell you all about the kind of technologies they’re using, from the software running their web server, all the way up to the kind of advertising they’re taking advantage of.

This is especially helpful in cases where you’ve found a business that’s doing things perfectly and you want to “borrow” their technology formula as closely as possible.

Buy a product or get a quote

There’s nothing like knowing how things work from the perspective of a customer.

While it can feel a little odd buying a product or requesting a quote from a competitor, it gives you a unique perspective into their processes. You should be recording everything during the process;

  • What prices do they charge
  • How long do they take to communicate?
  • What kind of emails do they send?
  • Are there parts of the process that are annoying or could be improved?

Keeping a step-by-step list of everything they do will not only help you replicate their processes, but will also help you figure out how things can be improved.

Check the forums

If your competitor is big enough, there’s a strong chance that someone will have mentioned them in an online forum or a platform like Reddit .

Do a quick Google Search with the competitor’s name + Reddit:

What you’re looking for is any direct, honest feedback that you can use to enhance your own offering or processes.

Finding valuable information this way is a bit of an art. A lot of disgruntled customers will take to the net to rant about their experience and often blow the situation out of proportion, or simply be looking for sympathy. If you can wade through this feedback and find a few thoughts like “I wish they did it this way”, or “they offered a better service before they changed everything”, it can be incredibly helpful.

Wrapping up

We’ve covered 6 creative ways to research your competitor’s online presence. The goal of this research isn’t anything sneaky. It’s always useful to be looking for new innovative ideas and approaches to improve your business, and your competitors are often an excellent source of innovation.

Take these ideas and give them a shot.

If you have another idea (or an even better one) about researching your competition, please leave it in the comments section below.

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