February 8, 2024

What is Competitor Research And How To Do It?

To successfully bring anything to market, you have to understand the market that you are bringing it into. In this blog, we thought that it would be beneficial to introduce you to the idea of understanding your competitors when marketing, whilst paying particular attention to the SEO practices involved. So, what is competitor research? 

Competitor research is carried out by marketers to help them better understand the strengths and weaknesses of their campaign when compared to other actors in the market. You then position your campaign to bridge the gap between you and your best-performing competition or move your brand away from other competition using an SEO strategy. 

At Wildcat Digital, we often review other players in the market to best inform our SEO campaigns and strategy. Here are our top tips for anyone wanting to bridge the gap between their competition, find their niche and increase their online presence. 

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What is Competitor Research?

Competitor research is an investigation into how your prospective customers view the market that you want to enter. It’s also a fact-finding mission into how these potential customers interact with your competitors. 

You can investigate how your competitors perform in a number of different ways, namely; by pulling commonly available data from marketing research tools such as SEMrush, Ahrefs or Google’s Keyword Planner, or by manually taking the time to view your competitors’ sites themselves. 

Another less data-based method may help you find new layouts for pages, inspire ideas about structure, tone of voice or added value services that you could shout about. This aspect of competitor research can be circumstantial, and change depending on the industry in which the business operates. Simply searching online for certain phrases (also known as ‘keywords’, which we will get to shortly) that relate to your product or service will bring up these key players online. Leafing through their sites can yield some positive results, but only on a surface level. 

Instead, for now, let’s look at how you can analyse your competitors to gain insights into how they market their business effectively. 

A business owner would want to conduct competitive research to identify:

Understanding your competition by using SEO tools should help you identify the four above goals. 

But wait, who exactly are you in competition with anyway? The answer isn’t always straightforward. 

How to Identify Your Competition

Many businesses already know their competitors. If you run a completely unique business then all you need to do is find your customers, however, in the real world there can be hundreds of different businesses with competing online presences for similar services or products for sale. So where do you begin?

Direct Competitors – These competitors are competitors that directly compete in your market. Consider Coca-Cola and Pepsi here, where the product and brand operate very similarly in the same field. Customers of Pepsi will already know of and may have already tried Coke. 

Indirect competitors – This form of competition may be harder to identify for some businesses, but bottled water would be an indirect competitor for either of the cola brands mentioned above. They are both drinks, sure, but Pepsi wouldn’t worry about bottled water taking their shelf space any time soon. They do operate in the same space, however. So there is competition there which needs to be considered with your overarching market strategy. 

How to Conduct Market Research

There are many ways in which you can conduct market research, the most important for SEO and online marketing would be research into ‘keywords’. 

When your business is online, you could have many competitors from different areas of the world that you might not be aware of. This is due to how your website is understood by crawlers and the keywords on your website. 

How Are Sites Recognised?

To appear on Google and other search engines, your website must first be read by something called a ‘crawler’. These crawlers read your site and build an understanding of the content that is present on the site, such as finding keywords in the text. 

These keywords are the main topics or points of discussion of the webpage in question. They are found by crawlers because they find repeat mentions of these keywords across the page and the site as a whole. For a simple example, one of our keywords might be ‘Buy Bananas’.

Across our site, we will offer information on who we are and the services that our business offers. This might look like ‘buy melons’ or ‘buy apples’, which is read by crawlers and helps website crawlers build up an idea of the different services or products that we offer. 

This allows Search Engines to build up a profile of who we are and what we do. A Search Engine then provides its service by helping searchers find appropriate sites online by matching these keywords with the queries. 

Website crawlers will do the same across your competition, building an understanding of nearly all websites that offer this kind of information, and adding it to the crawler’s index. 

Market research tools such as SEMrush, Ahrefs or Google’s Keyword Planner access the information gathered by crawlers and offer it to market researchers to inform their campaigns.

Using this information, we can see how other players in your specific field are understood by search engines, which gives us further insight into their marketing strategy.

For more information on Crawling and Indexing, why not read one of our latest blogs? ‘What is crawling and indexing

What Data Do Marketing Tools Provide? 

Using Semrush as an example, this tool allows marketers the opportunity to see any gaps in keyword usage between you and a number of your competitors. 

This can be plotted on a chart, where your competitors’ rankings for these keywords are compared against yours. 

Marketing Data Explained

Using our example from earlier, let’s see how we can see where our fruit-selling business ranks up against its competitors for some essential keywords from our field. 

What Does This Data Tell Us?

This data shows us that we are performing well for ‘buy bananas’, in fact, we are ranking in first position on Google’s search results. Great. However, it is clear that our competition is targeting keywords and phrases, such as ‘buy apples’. This keyword is much more commonly searched than ‘buy bananas’, and they are ranking for it on our search engine results page. 

This tells us that our competitors are established in our chosen field of fruit-selling. Competitor 1 seems to focus much of their online presence on selling apples online, with a few other services being promoted. This is a keyword with a high search volume, so it would be difficult to rank for. This is likely their main service as a business, to focus on the sale of apples.

Competitor 2, however, has a good spread of keyword rankings and could be seen as a key player in the world of online fruit shopping. Their presence is established and they appear to sell fruit generally, with no focal point to their campaign. 

Looking at this data, we can see that some players in our field rank for a spread of keywords (Competitor 2), and others rank for a limited number of keywords, such as Competitor 1. They are targeting ‘apples’ as a keyword.

This information gives us information about how these established players market themselves online, and it also shows us possible gaps where we can emerge and market your products efficiently. 

What Would a Business Do With Marketing Information?

Again, using our fruit example above, an SEO such as myself might suggest that the ‘apple’ market is difficult to get into due to a high search volume combined with a relatively high keyword difficulty. This metric can change depending on which tool you use, but it essentially tells us how difficult it may be for any site to rank for this keyword due to market saturation. 

A huge site can rank for keywords with a high difficulty, however, a much smaller site which is happy targeting smaller keywords in our market niche may struggle. It therefore might be better to target something else to help our business grow. 

Notice that ‘buy melons’ as a keyword has a relatively high search volume, but a lower keyword difficulty

At a glance, it seems that ‘buy melons’ might be a keyword that we would want to target right away, filling this gap in the market with our presence. 

This is how an SEO company may use marketing tools to search the market and other players within that market to find a niche. 

So, How Would Our Market Research Change A Marketing Campaign? 

Using our market research, we now have found a suitable field into which we can market our products to hopefully turn a profit. 

As an SEO, businesses might choose to partner with our business and help them find gaps within the market, using their competitors as we go. 

Of course, as the business in question builds its online presence, its ability to rank for more and more difficult keywords becomes easier as it grows in its niche. This, in turn, allows the business to target more and more areas using keywords, and diversify within its field. 

As the campaign grows, we will strategise and target more and more difficult keywords (with higher search volumes), allowing your business to compete against the major players.

Competitor Research With Wildcat Digital

Ready to start your digital marketing journey with an award-winning agency?

Here at Wildcat, we specialise in helping businesses punch above their weight online. But it is only after the weigh-in of your competitors that we can get a good idea of your business’s size and position in relation to the market and your competitors. 

At the start of every campaign, we review your competition to see viable gaps in your market where you can successfully market your products, services or information. 

As your campaign progresses, we will conduct more and more market research into your field and improve your strategy accordingly. 

For a discussion with the Wildcat Team, why not get in touch with us by giving us a call or dropping us an email using the link below? 

Post by

Jon Herdman

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