One of the most practical ways to run a successful business is to operate under the assumption that your competitors are always trying to steal your customers. The reason? Because it's true. We just discussed the sky-high number of companies that are formed each year, and yet many businesses choose to reside in a blissful fantasy bubble where smarter entrepreneurs aren't using technology and innovation to find a competitive edge. Not only do you need to be aware of your competitors and how they're trying to steal your customers, you also need to be self-aware about your company's standing within its niche.
To address these concerns, the latest entry in our 2015 Digital Marketing Video Series is called 5 Steps to Successfully Gaining a Competitive Advantage. We're at the point where the business world is fully intertwined with the digital space, which means it moves at the same breakneck speed as the Internet. The truth, if you're willing to admit it, is that some of your competitors are doing a better job managing their digital presence than you. But that doesn't mean you can't figure out what they're doing, add to it, and get better results, so here's how:
1. Search Engine Visibility
The easiest way to determine who your top online competitors are is to do a Google search using a phrase that best describes your business. If you're a regional paper company in Scranton, you might search...just kidding, we couldn't resist! If you're a plumber in Cleveland, you'd search "Cleveland plumber" and find a good starter list of companies that you need to keep your eye on. If you want to dig a little deeper for information on which of your competitors is actively building links through third-party outreach and publishing, look into the tools over at Moz or Majestic. Alternatively, if you don't have time to mess around with learning curves, ask a WSI digital marketing expert to perform a WebScan analysis of your business.
2. Top Performing AdWords in Google
Another aspect of Google's search engine results pages (SERPs) that you can mine for data on your competitors are the AdWords for phrases and keywords associated with your business. Using the "Cleveland plumber example" we get a good idea of which companies show evidence of digital marketing savvy and are therefore worth analyzing:
3. Top Performing Keywords
Using the information you uncovered in #1 and #2, you can begin to form a list of keywords and phrases that your competitors are using to appear ahead of you in the search results. At this point, you have a decision to make. If it doesn't seem like there's a lot of content or competition around the top performing keywords, you could certainly try to outrank your competitors for these terms. However, if there's a lot of action and history with the top companies and their keywords, it's more efficient to use different, less competitive keywords that will be easier to rank for (but deliver similar traffic).
4. Best Performing Content
Once you know what keywords you're going to focus on, you'll need to create compelling content that readers find useful and interesting. To generate ideas, you can again look at what you your competitors are doing with content (and maybe more importantly, what they aren't doing). We wrote a post last year about using BuzzSumo to analyze top performing content, which is relatively easy to do and delivers tons of useful data.
5. Social Media Engagement
This one builds on the research you've started doing for #4 with BuzzSumo. Expand on things by visiting your competitors' social profiles to monitor their engagement levels and to see what kind of social posts are moving the needle for them. If you really want to get inside their social thought process, engage with them as a mock-customer to gather information of what their customer experience is like and how attentive they are to their social presence. When it's all said and done, don't forget to bring all this information back to your team and figure out how you can develop a more engaging social footprint than your best competitor!