Online Competitive Intel: Most Important Data for Analysis

Louise Armstrong
by Louise Armstrong on May 27, 2013 in Analytics
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competitive intelCompetition is part of business, and is a fundamental cornerstone of capitalism. A necessary evil, some might say.

For a savvy internet marketer, though, competition can also be a good thing. You can learn from your competitors. Become better by seeing what they do right. Identify opportunities that you might have overlooked. And learn from mistakes that you never have to make.

To do so, though, you will have to gather intelligence on your competitors and analyze the data to find meaningful differences. You will have to determine what factors are driving their successes or failures, and figure out how to use that information to your advantage.

Below are some of the online competitive intelligence items you should look for, and how you can use them to build your own business.
  • Overall traffic. This is mostly useful for comparing companies that are very similar to each other; if you have one location and your competitor has 10, it would make sense for them to have more traffic. But you can use this to determine which competitors are doing a relatively better job of marketing online, and would therefore be better teachers.
  • Traffic drivers. What methods do people use to find your competitors' websites? Perhaps they get a higher percentage of their traffic from search engines, and therefore might be a good example of SEO done well. Or maybe they get way more social media referrals than average, and you should study how they engage with social media users.
  • Referring sites. Which outside sites are linking to your competitors and driving traffic to them? You might want to build a relationship with those sites and see if you can get your own backlinks. For instance, you may find an industry-related discussion board that you can participate in, or find somebody that you can guest blog for
  • Organic search terms. What keywords drive the most search traffic to your competitors, and where does your company rank for those terms? Such keyword research may help you discover important search terms that you have not been optimizing for.
  • Marketing campaigns. What types of promotions or online advertising are your chief competitors using? How and when do they reach out to customers, and what is the resulting impact on their website traffic or sales? Consider signing up for their email newsletters and following them on social media; that way, they will always keep you informed of what they are doing and how they communicate with their customer base. 

Some types of competitive information are easier to gather than others. There are free online services that can supply much of the data you need, but the best competitor analysis services with the most features will require a fee. 

When you determine what your competitors are doing differently, you will have to decide which tactics are worth borrowing and which should be left alone. No two businesses are exactly alike, so what works for them may not work for you. But by taking the best of their ideas and adding them to your own unique strengths, you can give your competitors a real run for their money.

*Image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

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Louise Armstrong

Louise Armstrong

Louise is a Senior Digital Strategist at Bonafide. A pop-culture addict with a passion for all things digital. She's Scottish by birth, but don't ask if she likes haggis...