So you think you know your competitors?

Understand who your digital competitors are

In today’s digital age, it’s vital that businesses understand the difference between their real world competitors and their online competitors. Some of these will be the same, but usually they’ll be vastly different. In most cases, businesses miss the difference and then develop a digital strategy aimed at beating the wrong competition. 

Your digital competitors are the businesses you’re competing with for search engine rankings, for paid search traffic, for your share of voice in banner advertising and email marketing. 

They may also be the businesses you’re competing against in your town and the businesses you’re competing against in the traditional media – but there will almost certainly be a vast difference.

There are many ways to find out who your online competition is. By far the simplest and quickest is to work your way through the Google results for the top 30 or so terms you feel are relevant to your business and build up a list of the companies and organisaitons that appear. 

Even at this stage you’ll find a large percentage of new competitors and the likes of Wikipedia appearing, even though Wikipedia don’t sell anything they’re still an online competitor taking traffic that could be coming to your site.

Getting good search rankings in competitive markets isn’t easy, so these competitors are likely to be worth taking notice of as they will have invested heavily to get them.

Another useful, and free, tool is Google Alerts. With Alerts you can receive daily emails whenever Google finds new content about a keyword. By simply setting a few Alerts up for your products or services you’ll get a steady stream of emails showing which of your competitors is actively promoting these products.

There are many ways to find out who your online competitors are, but regardless of the approach you take to finding them, ultimately these are the people you need to work harder and smarter than to grow your business.

Some of the competition will surprise you. But if you want to define a great digital strategy you need to know who is appearing in the places you want to be seen.

You’ll be surprised by who some of these competitors are, but knowing which businesses appear in the places you want to be seen online is the starting point to understanding those businesses and putting a strategy in place to make your business stand out above them.

Profile your competitors’ customers

One more free tool that can be extremely useful is the DoubleClick Ad Planner. With this tool you can now work through each of your competitors one by one and find out insightful demographic information on their website visitors.

You get reasonably accurate information on the many visitors your competitor’s website gets, how this has changed over the past year plus you can also find out the age of their customers, how much they earn, their gender split, education level and much more. 

Within a few simple steps we’ve found out who your competitors are, where they’re marketing and the demographic of the customer they’re attracting – giving any business a sound starting point for planning your own digital marketing strategy to focus in on the kind of customer you want to attract.

How much are your competitors making?

“How much is my competitor making?” This is probably the question we’re asked most by our clients and something that seems difficult to find out. With a little bit of research this isn’t really that difficult to answer.

Admittedly you’ll never get accurate figures but you can get approximate figures for a range of your competitors which will give you a good understanding of where you sit amongst them in terms of commercial success.

Many businesses operate affiliate marketing campaigns where other people drive traffic to their site in exchange for a percentage of any revenue they generate. 

One of the real benefits to you of your competitors doing this is that in order to attract new affiliates, your competitors need to publish data on their commission rate, conversion rate and their earnings per click.

With this you can work out any competitor’s average order value and by combining it with the visitor numbers you gained from the Double Click Ad Planner you can get an estimate of how much they make per year.

We’ve worked with some well-known brands and the amount of insight we can generate through using this, and other, publicly available data to show them who their true competitors are, and how to beat them, often surprises even the most savvy of clients.

Andrew Banks is founder of Squeeze Digital Marketing, a digital strategy and online marketing agency.

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