The Proven 10-Step Process to Perform a Thorough Competitive Analysis [incl. Template]
Competitive analysis is the process of understanding your competitors and client’s competitors and the tactics that “work” (or don’t) for them. The idea is to find the select few strategies they use to drive their business.
Competitor analysis mainly includes analyzing your competitors’ marketing channels, pricing strategies, functional finesse, customer engagement and more to uncover the insights that even you can use to grow your business.
Let’s now see how to do a competitive analysis for your company or agency business and gain competitive intelligence to get more subscribers and clients.
You want to get started RIGHT NOW? No problem. We’ve got you covered:
Step #1: Identifying Competitors
The first step to running a successful competitive analysis is to identify your competitors.
For this competitive analysis guide, we’ll only consider your direct competitors — competitors who sell the exact same product/service as yours to the same target audience.
Here are five quick ways to identify the candidates for your competitive analysis.
#1. Google it up
The simplest way to identify your competitors is to search Google for your target keywords.
For example, at Filestage, we help businesses with their review and approval processes for their design, video, and other creative content.
“Design review tool” or “design feedback tool” or an “online design review tool” are some of the key keywords we target.
So, any products that appear on Google’s results for these keywords are (most likely) our competitors whom we’d like to include in our competitor analysis.
In addition to the search results, any company running PPC ads for these keywords are also most likely our competitors.
#2. Browse through business directories
To find your competitors, search through your product/service category in these directories.
#3. Use crowdsourced review websites
(G2 Crowd works with both software and services while Capterra works exclusively with software products.)
#4. Go with web tools
In case you don’t have a popular website, enter the URL of one of your most popular competitors. Doing so will fetch more accurate competitor recommendations.
#5. Gather insights from your customers
Once your customers get onboard, send an email asking them about the alternative products or services they considered before deciding to go with your solution.
Post the same question to the leads who don’t convert. Send them a follow-up message enquiring about the service provider they finally went with.
TIP: There’s no right number of competitors to include in your competitive analysis, but going for about ten will ensure that you’ve enough (but not an overwhelming) amount of data to use at the end of the exercise.
Once you’ve identified your top competitors, it’s time to understand how they approach marketing, pricing, customer support and more. Step 3–9 will take you through these different types of competitive analysis.
Step #2: SEO Competitor Analysis
More than 40% of your competitors’ marketing budget goes into their SEO efforts alone. And understandably so. SEO leads — or the leads from search engines like Google and Bing — have a much higher close rate (14.6%) compared to that of outbound leads (at just 1.7%).
Unlocking your competitors’ SEO will tell you exactly how they’re getting these most conversion-friendly leads.
Here are a few things to analyze when performing an SEO competitor analysis:
The broad view: The first thing you should see when performing a competitive SEO analysis is the volume of organic traffic each of your competitors gets. This will tell you if they’ve a huge SEO head start over you or not.
Keywords: In most cases, your competitors have already done the hard work of finding the right keywords for their SEO. By performing a competitive SEO analysis, you can export all the keywords your competitors rank (or optimize) for.
Backlinks: Websites that link to your competitors’ websites (or resources like posts or pages) and improve their SEO are excellent targets for your link-building campaigns too. Use SEO competitor analysis to discover all these potential backlink sources.
Highest traffic pages/posts: A select few posts or pages on a website bring the most of its traffic. By finding out just these resources, you’ll know how you can generate similar organic traffic results as well.
Technical SEO: Many websites outrank their competitors with strong technical/on-page SEO. So look at how your competitors structure their page titles, the H1/H2 tags they use, their internal linking structure, image optimization, page load times, schema implementation and more.
While there are many awesome SEO competitor analysis tools, Ahrefs is one of the most complete solutions.
Just take the website of any of the competitors you identified in the first step and enter it inside Ahrefs. Ahrefs will then uncover all your competitors’ SEO wins.
Step #3: Content Marketing Competitor Analysis
After SEO, another area where your competitors invest in marketing is content. Your competitors — the ones who are successful at content marketing — spend about 40% of their marketing budget on it.
Performing content marketing competitor analysis shows you the most effective content of your competing brands. It helps you identify the best-performing blog posts, visuals, videos, downloadables and more of your competitors.
Once you know what content drives leads and engagement for your competitors, you can better serve your target audience’s content appetite.
Here are a few things to note in your content marketing competitor analysis:
The best-performing content: The best-performing content on a website is usually the one that generates the most leads. But since you can’t have that data, it’s best to look for content that gets the most organic traffic. So look for the highest traffic-generating contents on your competitors’ websites.
Content posting frequency: Here, you need to find out how many times your competitors post in a month or week.
The content types/length/format: This is basically taking inventory of the content on your competitors’ websites. You need to look closely and see what kinds of contents they product. For example — Are they producing lead-generating contents like case studies, whitepapers, or reports? Or, are they focusing on educational blog content? What’s the average length of the content? And so on.
Again, Ahrefs is a great option here. Ahrefs identifies the top performing content on your competitors’ websites.
Buzzsumo is also a great competitor content analysis that shows you the most engaging content from your competitors’ websites and also shows you the people who have shared it.
Step #4: Email Marketing Competitor Analysis
If you’re in B2B, then about 59% of your competitors find email to be their most effective revenue-generating channel.
Doing email marketing competitor analysis shows you how your competitors use emails to generate revenue and engagement. It helps you uncover the different emails your competitors send, their sending frequency, their ask in their emails and more.
You can use all this information to fine-tune your email communications.
Here are a few things to check in your email marketing competitor analysis:
Their subject line style: The effectiveness of a subject line decides how powerful an email campaign gets. So look at how your competitors’ write their subject lines. Do they use emojis? Are their subject lines just 3-word long?
Basically, you need to understand what makes your competitors’ email subject lines enticing.
The email campaigns: Find out what kinds of email campaigns your competitors send — for example, onboarding sequences, sales emails, discount offers, monthly newsletters, blog post updates, etc.
The frequency of emails: Learn how frequently your competitors reach out to their email lists. Decode their sending patterns — for instance, find out if they send a sales email after three or four educational emails. Also, observe their days and times of sending.
Email design and copy: Study the design and copy (including the call to action) of your competitors.
Landing pages: Find out what landing pages your competitors’ emails link to. Study the structure and layout of their landing pages and decide if you can improve yours based on theirs.
Owletter is an awesome tool that helps you gain a competitive edge for your email marketing. With Owletter, you get alerts each time a competitor website pushes out an email. It also has its analytics. MailCharts and Competitor Monitoring Tool are also great tools for the same.
Step #5: Social Media Marketing Competitor Analysis
Performing social media competitor analysis helps you see how your competitors are doing on their social media. It gives you the insights you need to improve your social media posting so it’s more engaging, effective and traffic-generating.
Here are a few key things to analyze for a thorough social media competitor analysis:
The broad view: Again, just like SEO, the first thing to note is what social media profiles your competitors maintain and how many followers they have along with how engaged their social followings seem to be.
Profiles/pages: This, again, is more of a manual check to see how your competitors’ profiles/pages look and feel like. It includes checking out their cover images bios, tabs, etc.
Content types/Content mix: Just like in the case of content marketing analysis, here you need to take inventory of the social updates your competitors publish. It includes checking if they post images, GIFs, videos, or simple text messages. You should also study the style of responses they post to their users’ posts.
Engagement: Check how many reshares and responses your competitors’ posts get on an average. Also, see if your competitors use certain post types simply because they generate more responses and are good for getting engagement.
Growth rate: Finally, you should see how your social profiles/pages are growing compared to your competitors’ profiles and pages.
Step #6: PPC Marketing Competitor Analysis
Your competitors make $2 in revenue for every $1 they spend on AdWords.
Social paid ads campaigns are also more popular than you think. In fact, if you’re in B2B, about 21% of your competitors advertise on LinkedIn whereas 66% of them use Facebook ads.
Decoding your competitors’ paid advertising campaigns shows you what keywords they run ads for, how they write and design their landing pages, what kind of forms they use, and so on.
Analyzing their social ad campaigns shows you how they target social media users for promoting their products.
Here are a few things to keep in mind when analyzing your competitors’ PPC campaigns:
Keywords: You can uncover some of the most high-commercial intent keywords for your ad campaigns by looking at the keywords your competitors run ads for.
Ad copy and CTR: Read your competitors’ ad copy and see what CTR their ads get. If it’s better than yours, then you can use the same benefits your competitors use in their ads to write your ads.
Landing page: Just like the ad copy, the landing page is also an important part of the PPC lead generation process. So check out how your competitors’ landing pages are structured, their copywriting style, lead-gen forms and more. Notice if your landing page forms ask for too much information or if your landing page CTA isn’t as clear as your competitors’.
Ad spend: Check out how much money your competitors are spending on paid campaigns. This will help you convince your bosses about increasing (or adjusting) your ad spend.
SEMRush, iSpionage, SpyFu and (again) Ahrefs are all excellent PPC marketing competitor analysis tools. They show you the keywords your competitors are running campaigns for, their monthly ad spends, positions, ad copies and more.
Step #7: Pricing Competitor Analysis
Your competitors that make even a 1% improvement in their realized price enjoy an 8% increase in operating profits.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re selling a service or a SaaS solution, most buyers have a range in mind. And it’s common for clients to set cost/fee filters — which means, if you fall out of their range, you’ll not even make it to their shortlist.
So getting the pricing right is important.
Even if you don’t compete on pricing, staying on top of the pricing trends in your competitors can’t harm.
Serial SaaS entrepreneur and investor Hiten Shah explains why SaaS companies need to think about pricing now more than ever:
“When customers have countless choices available to them in the market, they are prone to shop around for the best price. They do more research before making a decision to purchase a product, and if the products all appear to have similar features and the reviews make them seem about equal, they’ll often just buy the cheapest one they can find.
Sounds like a race to the bottom. It’s not.”
It applies to agencies as well. With the growing competition, pricing can get tricky. HubSpot (with a huge partner agency network) has discovered that in 89% of the agencies, the CEO sets the pricing.
However, given the tight competition agencies face today, this scenario is changing and “business development and client services departments are steadily increasing their influence” on pricing.
“These departments (or individuals depending on the size of your agency) have more direct contact with prospects and clients than anyone else in the business. They’re tuned in to the clients’ expectations and needs, and probably have a good idea of what customers are willing to pay to get problems solved. They likely also have some valuable insights into your agency’s biggest competition and what they’re charging.“
Miriam Christof from JustJump Marketing and pricing coach Jenny Wholly recommend performing competitive pricing analysis and finding out what pricing strategy your competitors use. They suggest a good “Competitive pricing” strategy that needs you to “Set the price equal to what your competitors are charging and win the service game.”
There’s no B2B pricing monitoring solution as such. That leaves you with having to manually visit your competitors’ pricing pages and learn about their different plans or packages.
Step #8: User Experience Competitor Analysis
You can expect your competitors who have revamped their customer experience processes to see high client-satisfaction scores, about 10–20% savings in the cost to serve, and 10-15% revenue growth — all of this while getting increased employee satisfaction.
User experience — whether it’s that of an agency’s client or a SaaS subscriber — is the biggest competitive advantage for any company.
Now, a lot of things contribute to the user experience, but for this competitive analysis, let’s check out a few key areas:
Design: As users land on a website, the first thing they note is the design. So compare how your website’s design stacks up against that of your competitors.
Pay attention to their call to action buttons, color schemes (Do they use blue? And should you be using blue too?), visual cues like whitespace on the homepage and more.
Check out their lead-generation forms and how they display their pricing.
Notice details of the images they use — for instance, how are their hero images, product screenshots, GIFs, etc. Find out if they use a video on the homepage or product pages.
Copy: Pay attention to the headlines your competitors use and learn what key benefit they’re promising there.
Find out what their best-selling benefits are, how they’re addressing their users’ common objections, how they’re writing their CTAs, if they post FAQs and so on.
Also, notice how much copy they use. This will help you decide if you’re using “clever” but a really short copy that may be losing sales. Look at all their product/service pages as well.
Journey: Visit your competitors’ websites as if you were a customer and see how much information you get on the home page, what page you’re asked to encourage to read from the homepage, what does buying a plan feel like. And so on.
The user competitive analysis process is almost a fully manual process.. But when done right, this can help you identify key issues with your design, copy, or flow — all of which cost sales.
Step #9: Competitor Technology Analysis
A company’s tech stack powers its overall performance. This tech includes all the tools it uses for marketing, lead generation, analytics, content management, hiring and more.
Doing competitor technology analysis gives you a sneak peek into your competitors’ tech tool choices. So whenever you need to make a tech decision — for example, deciding if investing in the HubSpot marketing automation solution is a good idea or not — you can run through your competitor websites and see if anyone is using it.
Built With or WhatRuns are two of the coolest competitor tech analysis tools. They work as browser extensions and list all the software a website uses. They even alert when your competitors stop using a service or make a switch.
Step #10: Putting it All Together in Snapshot Summaries
At this point, you have a lot of data about how your competitors are generating leads and making sales.
But to make this data useful, you need to collect it all together.
Here’s a competitive analysis spreadsheet template you can add all your findings from the above steps to:
Once you move the data to the sheet, you’ll be ready to analyze how you can improve.
Wrapping it up – Unlocking Insights from the Data
Once you have all the data in front of you, study the patterns and decide your next steps.
Here’s an example:
Suppose in your SEO analysis, you find that you get just 100 organic visitors a month whereas your competitors get an average of 1500 monthly visitors.
This means you need to work on your SEO.
Now check out your competitors’ content analysis, and you’ll most likely find that either your competitors publish content more frequently than you or they’ve totally nailed 4-5 evergreen (or cornerstone) content pieces that get them consistent traffic.
You can easily identify their top content using your SEO/content analysis data.
Here’s another example:
If you find that one of your competitors has a very social high engagement rate, then analyzing their social feeds will show you if they post product teasers, seek feedback, or simply ask open-ended questions that boost engagement.
If that’s the case, even you can create more of those to build engagement on your social channels.
Just knowing is never enough. You need to act upon the data you collect from the above competitor analysis exercise. A thorough competitor analysis will not just help you make more informed business decisions but it will also help you with your daily business generation activities.
If you’ve any questions or need help with any of the above steps, tell us in the comments. Also, what are your best tips for doing competitor analysis?
Max is a SaaS enthusiast and loves actionable content that provides direct value.