Everyone wants to get ahead of their competition. But there’s far more to love about monitoring the competition than just the satisfaction of beating them in the search results.
In this post, we’ll walk you through how to identify who your competitors are, the tools and tactics you can use to track them, and the opportunities for you to use that information to beat them.
How to Identify Your Competitors
Your obvious go-to is Google. Just search for your most important keywords, and see who’s ranking for them.
Bear in mind, however, that depending on the size of your brand and the Domain Authority of your site, those at the top of the search results aren’t necessarily your “realistic” competitors. You can still analyze them and learn from them, but your focus should be on companies you share a (more or less) level playing field with.
For that, you might have to step off the first page of Google’s search results. You might also have to look up some slightly less competitive search terms.
Businesses with a local presence have another thing to consider.
Your closest competitors are those that are not only close to you in terms of the products they offer but geographically, too.
Discovering them, thankfully, is easy. Just adapt your search terms to include the location (or locations) of your premises.
Other ways to uncover your competitors are included in some of the tools we’ll talk about below, so stick with us to learn about some of the best tools for finding and monitoring your competitors’ marketing activities.
But first, let’s talk about …
The Tactics You Can Use to Monitor Your Competition
Wondering how to monitor your competitors? And how you can get started with competitor analysis? We can help!
There are countless ways you can track your competitors and what they’re up to — for example, the strategies they’re employing, the keywords they’re targeting, and the results they’re getting.
Just looking at their site (specifically their title tags) should give you a good idea of the keywords they’re targeting. Tools like SEMrush, Sistrix, and others listed below can be used to view some of the keywords they’re ranking for. You can also use the FATRANK Chrome extension to instantly discover where a site ranks for any given keyword.
In addition, you can look at their current links and monitor their sites for new links. Pay particular attention to industry-relevant links, and links to content they’ve created (you may well be able to target those links too.)
Another tactic for monitoring your competitors involves researching and analyzing their most shared content.
- Why’s this content getting shared?
- Who’s sharing it and where?
- And how can you create something similar (but better) to try and replicate their results?
Just simple things like checking in on their social activity, reading their blog content, monitoring their brand name with Google Alerts, and signing up (and paying attention to) their mailing list can give you valuable insights into your competitors’ tactics and the quality and strength of their marketing strategy.
Tools to Track Your Competitors’ Ads
What Runs Where
What Runs Where is designed solely for competitive analysis of the paid ads market.
In short, it removes the guesswork and reduces the time you spend testing, so you can start pushing out more effective ads faster.
Sistrix covers most of what you need in a digital marketing tool. Included in that is a nifty little feature that brings up heaps of data for any site — perfect for sites you want to keep an eye on.
All you need to do is login and head to the More section. From there, you can click Ads and access the dashboard.
You can see:
- Their paid keywords
- Their profile
- Their display URLs
- The word count of their ads
- The display position
- The strength of the competition
- Their top ad copy
- The history of their paid keywords
- Their best keywords
You can even see and look at the banner ads they are using.
SEMrush has been in the digital marketing space for years, and if you want the most bang for your buck, it’s a good bet as your go-to SEO tool.
Their competitive research for ads kicks butt and is invaluable when it comes to spying on your competition.
Navigate to the Advertising Research section, and you’ll get a wealth of data, including:
- Number of keywords
- Estimated traffic for the competitor
- The estimated traffic cost
Founded in 2002 and originally called Googspy, Spyfu is one of the original players in the ad monitoring tool space.
While Spyfu has since evolved into a more complete marketing tool, its ad competitive intelligence alone makes it worth investing in.
To access it, head over to the PPC Research tab and enter the name of the domain you want to research.
From there, you get a nice clean dashboard that includes a lot of data. You’ll see:
- Monthly paid keywords
- Estimated monthly PPC clicks
- Estimated monthly PPC budget
- Overall market research
- How long Spyfu has been collecting the domain’s ads
- Buy recommendations
- Worst performing keywords
This can also be exported to a handy PDF.
If you want more, click on the Competitors tab in the main menu. Spyfu will then pull the data for the sites it believes are competing for ads for that domain.
If you believe Spyfu’s picked the wrong competitors or you have a particular competitor in mind, you can add a custom domain.
If you’ve been working in Digital Marketing for a few weeks or even a few days, you likely understand the importance of links. They’re pretty much the heart of SEO and still today remain one of the biggest ranking factors.
Ahrefs was a bit of a latecomer to the backlink research tool market, but it quickly established itself as one of the big players thanks to its massive index of links and ultra-smooth interface.
Once logged in, head over to the Site Explorer section.
From there, just pop in your own domain or the domain of a competitor.
Ahrefs will start doing its magic and pull in data points for the domain, including:
- Ahrefs rank
- Number of backlinks
- Number of referring domains
- The number of keywords it ranks for
- Organic traffic
- Traffic value
- Crawled pages
- A breakdown of the kind of sites linking to the page
- Referring pages, IPs, and subnets
- New and lost referring domains
- New and lost backlinks
- The distribution of links by country
- How the links are distributed across Ahrefs URL rating
That’s a whole lot of data!
Majestic is the grandfather of all backlink tools. It’s probably been around since before the Internet was invented.
We all know about the importance of great content. Google’s been telling us to create “great content” for years. So how can you spy on your competitor’s content? How can you see what’s working for them and what isn’t? There are many great tools for doing this, but here are two of the most powerful.
Buzzsumo was one of the first content analyzing tools to enter the market, launching back in 2012. It has become so ubiquitous in the space that many other tools base theirs around the features and functionality of Buzzsumo. We’re not sure how Buzzsumo feels about this, but imitation is the sincerest form of flattery!
Buzzsumo’s handiest competitor content analysis feature is the Content Web Analyzer. You fill this in the content section of the navigation.
Simply drop in a topic that you and your competitors are likely to cover, and let the tool do its magic.
It will return results like this:
As you can see, it locates the top-performing content for that topic and gives you the following metrics:
- Facebook engagements
- Twitter shares
- Pinterest shares
- Reddit engagements
- Number of links
- Evergreen score
- Total engagement
Solid keyword research is the foundation of any successful SEO campaign — but where’s the best place to find keywords — and more importantly, your competitors’ keywords? Here are some of the most powerful keyword research tools and some of their features.
This is a comprehensive competitor analysis tool that will help you uncover your competitors’ most profitable (paid) keywords, as well as their most successful ad copy and landing pages.
In other words, iSpionage offers deep insights into what’s working best for your competitors in the digital ad space, so you can go one step further and get two steps ahead of them.
Head over to Sistrix’s SEO tab and pop in a keyword that you want to rank for. Sistrix will then search its index and return data, including:
- Search volume
- Global search volume
- Similar keywords
- Related keywords
- SERP features
- Top ranking domains
The top-ranking domains will help you surface some of your competitors in the search results.
SEMrush works in a similar way. Simply dropping your keyword into the search function of the Keyword Explorer section brings back all the metrics you might expect, such as:
- Keyword difficulty
- Global volume
- Related keywords, variations, and questions
Now, you have many tools to track your competition, it’s time to test it. Whether you want to monitor ads, backlinks, content, or keywords, you now have your arsenal to get informed and get ahead.