Businesses spend a lot of time worrying about the competition, but your competitors aren’t just a threat to your potential profits, they’re also a useful resource. Studying who your competitors are and what they’re doing is a rich opportunity for gaining knowledge you can use to improve your marketing strategy. And there are a number of valuable competitor analysis tools available to make the process easier.
For marketers with a lot on their plates, to devote time to doing a thorough competitor analysis, you have to be confident it’s worth it. And it is — there are a number of tangible benefits to studying your competitors.
Every business should be able to describe its unique value proposition (UVP). This is a simple line or two that describes who you are, what you do and what makes you different from other brands doing something similar.
You can’t define what makes you unique until you have a clear idea of what your competitors have to offer. A competitor analysis is a crucial step in creating an accurate value proposition that will help shape your overall marketing strategy.
Marketing always requires some trial and error, but you can get a head start on learning about what works by paying attention to what’s getting results for your competitors. You won’t be able to access all of their analytics, but competitor tools can give you some insights into which of their campaigns and tactics are paying off in key areas. You can apply that knowledge to your own strategy.
Content marketing requires producing a steady stream of great ideas. While there are a number of different strategies you can use to come up with content ideas, looking at what other businesses are doing can serve as useful inspiration.
In addition to helping you come up with content ideas, competitor analysis is a great way to find topic areas of interest to your audience that nobody’s creating content about. If you can identify common questions your audience has that don’t have good answers online, that’s a valuable opportunity to create content that’s genuinely useful.
Measuring marketing performance is important, but knowing what counts as good results for a particular campaign isn’t always straightforward. It’s useful to have an idea of what’s normal to know whether your own results are a success. Competitor analysis helps you establish benchmarks for what’s typical for businesses like yours.
Many good tools focus on helping you learn about what your competitors are doing in a particular marketing channel, but there are a few that provide insights on multiple channels at once. If you want to do a lot of your analysis in one place, these are good ones to consider.
SEMRush is a comprehensive competitor research tool that provide insights and data on your competitors’ strategies in SEO, paid search, social and content marketing. That includes information on what their ads look like and their ad budget, their backlink details, keywords they target and their social engagement metrics. SEMRush starts at $99.95/month.
Serpstat provides a list of your main competitors, along with detailed information on their SEO and paid online advertising results. That includes rankings information, keywords they target, and backlink analysis. They also provide information on the content and pages that get the most shares on social. Serpstat has a limited free option and paid plans that start at $19/month.
Owler is useful for taking a broader view in your competitor analysis. It doesn’t get into specific marketing channels, but does provide a quick and helpful overview of who your top competitors are and how big they each are in terms of employee size and funding details. They also send regular email updates on relevant acquisitions and new competitors entering the market so you stay up to date. Owler is free, although enterprise businesses may opt for a more robust paid version.
Kompyte tracks the social, search and blog engagement analytics of your competitors. It also alerts you each time your competitors make a change to their website or releases a new ad. And it packages the info it provides in a dashboard that makes it easy for you to see how their results compare to your own at a glance. Kompyte’s plans start at $36/month.
SimilarWeb lets you dig into data on your competitor's traffic numbers, learning where the traffic comes from (paid search, organic, social, etc.), the common pages people visit and what they do once on the website. If you want to understand not just how popular your competitors’ sites are, but why, this tool is useful. They offer a limited free plan and a more comprehensive paid plan for enterprise businesses.
For SEO strategy, Ahrefs provides traffic data, backlink details and rank tracking. For content marketing, they’ll show a list of the top performing content pieces in your topic area and analytics on how they perform in terms of traffic, social shares and backlinks. And for paid advertising, the tool provides details on which of your competitors is doing online advertising, the keywords they’re targeting and the landing pages they’re sending visitors to. Ahrefs starts at $99/month.
One of the biggest category of tools for competitor analysis is SEO products that include competitor data. These are some of the most popular.
Moz is one of the main go-to products for SEO professionals. Along with a number of other SEO features, the tool makes it easy to see how your competitors rank for your target keywords and what their backlink profile looks like. Plans start at $79/month.
Alexa’s competitor research tool provides a list of top competitors in terms of website performance and provides data on their rankings, authority and traffic. Alexa plans start at $79/month.
Searchmetrics is a comprehensive analytics tool that provides a lot of data on your website’s performance, along with some information on your top competitors. You can quickly see who the top competitors are for target keywords, and how much traffic each one gets from their ranking. The tool also provides competitor backlink data and information on other brands competing for your top keywords in paid search.
Majestic is a simple, but useful tool you can plug a URL into to see detailed data on the website’s backlinks. The tool covers the number of backlinks, where they’re from and how trustworthy they are. They have a basic free version that gives you an idea of what the tool offers, and paid plans start at $41.67/month.
Studying what your competitors do on social media isn’t just good for improving your social media strategy, it can also help you learn about the topics, language and content formats your audience responds best to. You can then apply that information to your overall marketing plan. Here are some of the top tools to help with that.
11. Sprout Social
Sprout Social provides competitor reports for various social media platforms that break down the types of messages and content your competitors are sharing, the amount of engagement they’re getting, their most successful posts and their commonly used hashtags. Sprout Social plans start at $99/month.
FollowerWonk is an analytics tool to help brands improve their Twitter strategy. Among other features and metrics, the tool lets you plug in multiple Twitter accounts and see a visual snapshot of how they compare in terms of follower count, engagement and social authority. You can also see what the overlap in followers is, helping you identify relevant accounts that don’t follow you yet. Plans start at $23/month.
BuzzSumo’s competitive intelligence tool provides quick insights into your competitors’ most successful content based on shares, and breaks down how successful they are by channel and content format. It also shows which social media accounts regularly share their content. Their plans start at $79/month.
The Audiense Connect tool includes features to compare your progress on Twitter to that of your competitors. You can view analytics for up to three accounts side by side showing how many followers they have and how often they tweet, along with demographic details about the followers of each, such as their language, location and whether it appears to be a private or business account. Plans start at $10/month.
Email is one of the most difficult channels for competitor analysis, since almost all relevant analytics are private. Nonetheless, there are a few tools out there that can help you gain information on how your email marketing compares to that of your competitors.
Owletter saves you from having to subscribe to every competitor email list and risk flooding your inbox by screenshotting and organizing every email they send within the product. In addition, they provide helpful insights such as competitors’ spam reputation and the days and times they typically send emails. Owletter starts at $19/month.
Mailcharts lets you sign up for all your competitor email lists, then shows you how your own email campaign compares to theirs. Specifically, they show the comparison of how often they send emails, when they send them, how often their emails are promotional in nature and the typical discounts they offer. They have a limited free version and paid plans that start at $99/month.
Like the other tools, Sendview gives you insights into all your competitors’ emails without having to sign up for them yourself. They allow you to view the emails with the tool, along with detailed reports that collect data on the time of day, day of the week, spam scores, word count and more. They have a free plan, and paid plans starting at $49/month.
The final category of tools for competitor analysis is those that track data on a company's paid online advertising campaigns. These are some of the top products that provide insights in that area.
18. What Runs Where
What Runs Where provides a quick and easy view into the top ad campaigns across the web in your industry. You can break the data down by the type of ad, whether it’s on mobile or desktop, geographic targeting, and more. Plans start at $299/month.
iSpionage provides you with competitor PPC keyword lists, budget, average ad position and the number of monthly clicks they earn. They help you learn who your competitors are and spy on which keywords and ads are the most profitable. Pricing starts at $59/month.
Search a domain in SpyFu and the product will show you every ad placement and keyword they’ve targeted in Google for the past year. You can track any changes in your competitor ad spend, get alerts on new competitors bidding on your keywords, and get suggestions on the most profitable keywords to target. SpyFu starts at $33/month.
These tools can can be extremely useful in helping you understand your overall industry and where you fit in. But ultimately, the most important tool you have for competitor analysis is your own expertise. Combine the information the technology provides with your team’s analytical skills to identify trends in what works best. Use what you learn to answer questions like what kind of blogging frequency to go with, what conversion optimization techniques are the most successful and what UX best practices are for your audience.
Following and analyzing what your competitors do is an easy way to gain ideas for improving your own marketing strategy and can reveal valuable ways to set yourself apart. These tools put a lot of useful information about your competitors within reach that you can turn into insights to drive your marketing efforts.