By Gary Devine
Here, we will show you how to take a look under the bonnet of your competitors’ online presence and marketing in order to better understand the competitive landscape you operate in.
We will show you how to dig deep and find areas for growth that the competition doesn’t know about yet.
There are a few tricks, and a few tools that you can use at ZERO cost that will show you the below.
- Your competitor’s SEO rankings
- How to scan a competitor’s website to learn their Domain Authority
- All the ads and messages they are running on social media
- The frequency of their posting to social media and its engagement value
- All the ads and the messages they are running on Google Ads
- The speed of their website
- Bonus – What your competitor’s websites used to look like in the past
With this information, you will then be able to quantify the general levels of activity from your key competitors and assess whether your own marketing activities match up to theirs or not.
Generally, this sort of assessment would be done against five or six competitors at once, as it makes it easier to spot trends and opportunities when looking at the activity of multiple competitors at the same time.
Side note, this sort of report can be completed by anyone, but someone with Microsoft Excel skills will get the most out of it.
Reporting on SEO Rankings
There are a number of tools online that will let you look at a competitor’s SEO rankings, though they usually charge or require some sort of account creation.
By using this link you can pull stats and rankings directly from SEM rush without needing to pay or create any accounts.
Once on the page, you follow these steps.
- Paste the URL of your competitor in the search bar
- Hit ‘View Google Rankings’ and select that you are not a robot (unless you are…)
- Change the nationality to Australia
- Scroll down and view the rankings of your first competitor
At this point, you can just review the rankings for learnings, or if you have someone who knows a little bit more about Microsoft Excel they can download the report as a CSV.
To do that they would follow these steps.
- Download (as CSV) multiple reports based on multiple competitors
- Sew them together into one excel report
- Add a column at the beginning to show the primary URL of each data set
- Pivot table
- Look for the number of ranking pages a competitor has
- Look for the number of Page-1 rankings they have
- Look for the number of Position-1 rankings they have
- Look for any repeat keywords they share
- Look for any high-traffic keywords that one competitor has but that the others are missing
- Look for keywords that have gained positions in recent weeks (this shows that these are keywords a competitor is proactively SEOing for)
By comparing the search volume to the average click-through rate of a position on the Google search results page, you can even gauge how much traffic a competitor is getting, and from there how many leads they are getting.
The example below shows a consistent search volume of 10k searches per month. By using the approximate click-through rate of each position on the results page we can then estimate how much traffic they are getting and how many leads they are receiving.
Below, we are assuming they have a 5% conversion rate. (5% is a fair conversion rate for phone calls and emails and leads in general).
How to test a competitor’s domain authority
Domain Authority (DA) is the metric we use when we want to see at a glance how strong a website’s presence is online.
SEO is made up of many hundreds and hundreds of signals and factors that all have an impact on how well a website ranks, so to take all of these and distil them down to a single number may seem arbitrary, but it couldn’t be further from the truth.
Use this tool* to scan a website and see what DA they have a glance. If you are only a few points away from the competition then don’t despair, it can often be easy to climb a few points in a few months with the right work being done. If you are not close and your competition has a much greater domain authority, then you will need to put a plan in place to catch up.
Your low DA may be costing you valuable traffic, turnover and profit.
*you can only do one scan per day per IP address. If you need to use more, try connecting through different networks each time (e.g. Wi-Fi, then switch to mobile data for the second report).
How to assess their Social Media Ads
With social media, it is possible to see the ads a competitor is running at any given time, all in one place.
This is useful as it can be used to gauge the general level of activity a competitor has on different social media platforms.
Using the same competitors as we looked at before you would then manually input data to the same Excel sheet that was used to assess their SEO rankings.
To find their ads you would follow the below steps.
- Log in to Facebook
- Search for the competitor’s page
- Scroll down on the left-hand side to ‘Page transparency’
- It will now say if this page is presently running ads, if it is, click on ‘show ads’
From this page, we can see all the ads this account is currently running on both Facebook and Instagram.
The person writing the report in excel should manually add to the report the following information:
- Number of ads currently live
- Number of different types of messages
- Wether all the ads saying the same thing or if they all have very different messages and calls to action
- Expected number of audiences being targeted
- This is more conjecture based. However if an ad appears to be targeting mums and dads, and another appears to be targeting builders make a note of it
- Longevity of the ads
This information doesn’t show you anything about spend or conversion, but it is possible to estimate the minimum budget/investment each competitor is making.
As a general rule of thumb, each ad will require a minimum of $10 per day to run (there are some exceptions to this). Therefore if a competitor has 10 ads live they are spending at least $100 per day or $3,000 per month.
It is not possible to accurately gauge if the budget is higher.
Posts, not ads.
Reviewing the posts a competitor makes to its page is a lot easier than the ads. To do this simply scroll to the page and count how many posts there are over the last 6 months, then divide by 6 to calculate their monthly posting frequency.
It is also possible to gauge their reach from their posting. This is because a post is typically only seen by around 7% of a competitor’s audience (the people who have liked that page in the past).
This means that if a competitor has 10,000 likes, and posts once a week approximately 2,800 people who have previously liked their page will be shown a post.
If, however, they post once every two days then generally the full audience (all 10,000 people) will see at least one post per month from that competitor.
In sectors that rely heavily on repeat business and referrals, this is very important.
Side note – this process can be replicated on LinkedIn also, but the steps are slightly different. If you would like to know how to do this on LinkedIn please contact the author.
Google Ads Assessment
Only recently has Google made this function available, but now that it is here it is possible to see all the ads a competitor is running at any given time.
On each ad there is a small down-arrow at the end of the headline. If you click on that, you can see the full suite of ads your competitor is running.
This coupled with the auction insights report taken from a live Google Ads account will allow you to estimate the level of activity for each competitor.
You should look for the number of unique ads, and the number of different message types in those ads. This information should then be entered into the excel sheet that is slowly being compiled in line with the various competitors.
The Speed of their Website
Knowing the speed of your competitors’ websites can show you (or strongly hint) at a few different things.
For example, if all of their websites are slow, it would show you that there might be a quick win available to you by switching your website over to a faster hosting server.
If some are fast, but some are slow it might show you who prioritises their website and technology in their marketing and business and who does not.
This information can also be entered into the same matrix you have now been building in the the steps above.
To scan a website for speed you can follow this link to a tool provided by Google. It will rate a website’s speed on both desktop and mobile. For reference, mobile speed is given more weight these days than desktop speed.
Here we can see Google giving themselves 69 out of 100 when we check the speed of www.google.com
BONUS – What a competitor’s website used to look like in the past
Of all the ways we are showing you how to analyse your competitors this one is the most subjective. But that’s not to say it is not useful.
By using this tool we can take a competitor’s URL and go back in time to see what a website used to look like.
There is no way to really add this information to the matrix you have now been working on, but it is still very useful nonetheless.
Are you new to the market and want to see what companies were doing five years ago before they blew up? This is the way to do it.
Feeling nostalgic for the internet of yesterday? Below is a screenshot from this tool of the BBC news home page way back in 2008
So what does all of that tell us?
It tells us that with a little knowledge that I have now shared with you, it is possible to take a look under the bonnet of your competitors’ marketing and online activities to better understand what they are doing and how they are chasing growth.
- You can see the keywords they are pursuing in SEO
- You know how to scan their websites and how to test their domain authority.
- You can see how active they are on social media and will now know what that means.
- You can break down their Google Ads activities and quantify what you learn there
- You can check the speed of their website, and you can make changes to outpace them if there is an opportunity
- On top of all of that, you can go back in time to scan their websites in the past to see what messages worked for them a few years ago.
If you have any questions the author would love to hear from you!
You can contact me, Gary Devine, at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call us from anywhere in Australia on: