“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”
― Sun Tzu, The Art of War
As Sun Tzu said more than a thousand years ago, knowing your enemy is the key to the victory, and the same can be applied in the online world. With Google reducing the organic presence of websites, it’s becoming more and more difficult for businesses to succeed in search. As such, online competitor research is one of the most important steps in the creation of a digital strategy. You need to understand your own business, but you also need to know who else is out there and what are they doing.
Discovering your competitors can sometimes be challenging, because online competitors may be different from your offline competitors. However, there is no need to worry anymore; I have put together a list of some of the best competitor research tools that’ll help you to find your competitors online. Some of them are free, so you can try them immediately, but I’ve also included some paid tools that you can use to get some extra insights.
SEM Rush is a popular tool among those working in search marketing. It gives you information about your current performance online, including traffic, ranking positions and, especially, your organic competitors. You can see which terms your competitors are appearing for within search results and in which position, so you can compare their rankings with yours, helping you to discover new opportunities based on what they are currently ranking for.
The great thing about SEM Rush is that it not only gives you information about your organic competitors, but also about the paid competitors too, so you will have more information to start your research. However, the information is limited to the package you have purchased so the free options are limited.
Stat is a Rank tracking tool that you can use to follow your performance and your competitors in search results. You choose the keywords that you want to track and, based on that set of keywords, Stat will offer you a competitive landscape with your top competitors for those keywords.
But the tool gets more interesting, with the fact that you can group your keywords using tags. For example, if you are a big hotel chain with hotels in many locations, you can filter your keywords based on those locations and see your competitive landscape in each of them.
SpyFu is a great tool to find insights on your top competitors in both organic and paid search. Adding your website will give you information about keywords, rankings, backlinks and your main competitors. You can get some of that information for free, but if you want to get the most out of SpyFu you will need to sign up.
However, this tool can give you very interesting information on how your competitors are doing with visual charts and different reports so it’s definitely an option to consider.
It may seem obvious but one of the main options to discover your online competitors is Google. Use the keywords you are most interested in and take note of who is appearing in the first positions and what are they doing. From on-page factors to links, taking time to investigate why the pages that are appearing for them will help you to find trends that could be contributing to your competitors appearing higher in the result pages.
Additionally, you can use the “related:” search operator to find similar websites to yours. Just type related: followed by your domain name and you will see a list of similar websites. Easy, right?
Similar to the “related:” search operator, this tool will allow you to see some of your website insights for free, including your top competitors. Similar to other websites, if you pay you will have access to more insights and more competitors but one of the strengths of this tool is the variety of insights you can get from it including organic, paid, social and display. So even when you find your competitors you can continue digging in similarweb.com to know more about their marketing strategies.
Good quality and healthy competitors are still a good source of information. Try to find a industry directory or a section in a global directory (such as Yelp, Check a Trade, RAR etc.) where your business is featured and take a look at the other businesses that are appearing on the same section. This can also be a really useful way to find local competitors because you can usually filter by location giving you a better understanding of who the other players in your sector.
Going through some of your directories should be a key element of your competitor research, especially if you work in a very niche or local market.
7. Google Maps
Similar to industry directories, using Google Maps is particularly useful to find local competitors. Simply try a local search in Maps, for example, “Marketing Agencies in [Location]”. Not only you will find all the competitors around you, but you will have a better understanding on where you are comparing with other businesses in the same area and you can even find some ideas to improve your local listing.
Do you have the star rating snippet? Do you have more or less reviews than your competitors? Are they using the 360 tour inside their premises? What kind of images do they offer?
Whilst Buzzsumo won’t explicitly help you to find your direct competitors, it’s a great site to find out the kind of content you’re going to be competing against. It’s also a great way of discovering what type of content is performing well on social channels and the types of posts that are working well for your competitors.
You only need to add the topic you are interested in and a list of articles will appear. You can filter the results by articles, infographics, giveaways, videos or other type of content. You can also select the country, language and period of time, but to access some of these filters you will need a paid account.
**We spoke to Steve Rayson, Director of Buzzsumo on the Internet Marketing Podcast about Creating Shareable Content. Listen to it below:
Similar to some of the other tools previously mentioned, Searchmetrics will give you an overview of your current online presence, including some of your main competitors.
Once you have identified your competitors, you can continue with your research, comparing your top competitor’s stats with your own, discovering the gaps in your existing strategy. Learn how they rank for certain keywords and use all the options this tool can offer you to counter your competitors strategy.
Just like Stat, Advanced Web Rankings (AWR) is a tool that allows you to follow the improvements of certain keywords, previously added by you. In addition, AWR offers many link options with other tools like Google Analytics, Google Search Console or social media channels.
To find your competitors, you only need to select the keyword you are most interested in and AWR will give you a list of websites from the SERs. Then, you can select certain competitors to keep tracking their performance via AWR and compare their rankings with yours.
Meltwater is a great tool to measure your share voice inside your industry and it also allows you to compare your competitor’s developments on social media.
By adding terms, Meltwater can help you find related resources and will show you heat maps, keyword clouds, publishers and more. This could lead to the discovery of new competitors in your social channels and, even more interestingly, allows you to track the evolution of those competitors in the channels you are more interested on. But that’s a story for another blog post.
And that’s it. I hope you find this guide somehow useful and let me know in the comments if you know of any other great competitor research tool.
However, this is just the beginning of your competitor research process and one of the first steps in the creation of your new strategy. Discover new opportunities, identify fresh trends, capitalise your competitive advantages and prepare to become the leader of your market!
If you liked this post, you might also enjoy our Top 40 Content Marketing Tools guide. You can download that here.
If you’re looking for help with your competitor analysis or research, why not get in touch using the contact form below: