The next time someone asks me to do “competitive research” for them, my eyes might roll-out of my head. Sometimes a desire for competitive research shows more about a company’s insecurity, than their desire to improve their marketing efforts.
That being said, not all competitive research is a waste of time. There are several valuable things your company could gain from a productive competitive research. The trick: do it without being insecure.
TL;DR: Learn what your competitors are doing- and do it better!
Here are some competitive research projects that can help your company better reach customers.
Competitive Link Building
Link building is an important part of any SEO campaign (or any web marketing campaign, for that matter). Unfortunately, links are hard to get (of any quality, at least).
One of the easiest ways to identify productive link opportunities is through your competitors. This is such a great source of opportunities, I do this for every client every couple weeks.
Here’s how I identify link opportunities from my clients’ competitors:
- Start by finding the links they’ve already got. Sometimes I use a third-party tool, like Majestic. Other times I just go to Google and search for a competitor’s name (to see what other websites mention them).
- Don’t build their links to your site. Be selective.
- What links are from credible websites? Start with those.
- Is there a way you could get a better link than your competitor? For example: they might get a link from an industry association. You could get that link, too, by joining the same group. That puts you on the same footing as your competitor. Instead, could you contribute to the association’s blog? Could you do a joint research project with the association? Is there a conference at which you could speak? Don’t do the same- do better than your competitor!
Competitive Reputation Research
A company (and their website’s) quality is partially determined by their online reputation. In fact, Google’s manual quality score guidelines tells reviewers to use other websites to determine if a website is authoritative. Even if Google doesn’t use this as an SEO ranking factor, it will help your company as your customers compare you with others.
Seeing what people say about your competitors can help you:
- Distinguish yourself from your competitors. Don’t be a commodity. Show how you’re different by standing apart from your competitors.
- Are people complaining about your competitor? Make sure your company doesn’t suffer the same fate. In fact, promote yourself as a company that doesn’t have the same problems.
- While you’re looking at this, identify your competitors’ target markets. Is there a way you could sneak-in to markets your competitor is overlooking?
How can you do this? A simple Google search for your competitor’s name can get you started.
Competitive Technical Audit
Every company (yours, your competitor’s) has limited resources. That makes it hard to do everything you want to, from a technological perspective. A lot needs to get done- but there’s never enough time or budget to do it all. How can you pick the most important priority for your developers? Perhaps competitive research can help you identify your next priority.
Look at your competitors’ web technology. What technologies are your competitors lacking? Could this be an opportunity for you to emerge? For example:
- How do your competitors’ mobile websites work? Is this something you could do better than they? With the increase in mobile web use, this could help you stand-out from them. As Google moves to a mobile-first algorithm, this could help your SEO as well.
- How fast do your competitors websites load? If they’re slow, you could steal their frustrated customers for your own.
- Are your competitors using a customer relationship management system (CRM)? If not, this might be an opportunity for you to steal their customers. CRMs have a way of helping you reach customers efficiently and better nurture leads. Meanwhile let your competitors flounder or overlook their leads.
- How does your competitor’s website look? If it looks old or out-of-date perhaps a fresh website could propel your company’s credibility over theirs.
So, I have to admit, not all competitive research is a waste of time.
Are there any other forms of competitive research that you’ve found productive? Am I just being too cynical here? Leave your thoughts in the comments, below.