9 minute read

When you know how to do a competitive analysis, you can create a more informed and effective marketing plan. Researching competitors in your industry helps you clearly see the competitive landscape, where your brand fits in it, and what you need to do to stand out and succeed.

The rest of this guide will walk you through the definition and benefits of a competitive analysis, show you how to do a competitive analysis, and share competitor analysis tools to help you along the way.

Researching competitors in your industry helps you clearly see the competitive landscape, where your brand fits in it, and what you need to do to stand out and succeed. Click To Tweet

What Is a Competitive Analysis?

A competitive analysis is a research process that uncovers who your competitors are and how their products, positioning, strengths, and weaknesses compare to your brand. It’s an analysis that helps you answer competitive research questions like:

  • Where does our brand stand?
  • What can we do that’s the same as our competitors?
  • What can we do that’s different from our competitors?
  • What are the opportunities in our market?
  • What can we do to beat competitors?
  • Where do we need to focus?

Benefits of a Competitive Analysis

When you know how to do a competitive analysis, you can gain insights that direct your marketing strategies, market direction, and goals. You can:

  • See the strengths of others in your industry and opportunities where you can gain an edge.
  • See what strategies and channels are working well for competitors and industry leaders that might work for you too
  • Identify needs in the market that you can fill
  • Identify gaps in your marketing strategy
  • Set benchmarks for what you need to do to be competitive with others in your industry

If you’re working with SEO clients, knowing how to do a competitive analysis has added benefits. You can perform a competitive website analysis to:

  • Set expectations by showing clients what they need to do to be competitive
  • Prove the value of your services by comparing success metrics to competitors

Now that you know the benefits of a competitive analysis in marketing, let’s look at how you can perform one for your brand or your clients.

Leverage a Competitive Analysis Template

To make your competitive analysis more effective, start by downloading our competitive analysis template to guide you through the process. It will help you keep track of important data and insights. The template is designed as a competitor analysis PPT file so you can use it to easily create competitive analysis presentations or reports.

As a primer, it might also be helpful to read through this competitive analysis example we created for project management sites. That way you’ll have a foundational understanding of how to approach the competitive analysis process.

download free competitive analysis template

How to Do a Competitive Analysis in 7 Simple Steps

To help you learn how to do a competitive analysis, we put together this guide that explains what to do during each step, what competitor analysis tools you can use to uncover the data, and how to use the information to guide your marketing plan.

  1. Identify your competitors
  2. Compare marketing positioning
  3. Compare site traffic and performance
  4. Compare keywords
  5. Compare share of voice
  6. Compare backlinks
  7. Compare SEO effectiveness

1. Identify your competitors

You can only perform a competitive analysis in marketing if you know who your competitors are. Start by researching your industry to identify top players and leading brands. You may already know some of your competitors, but don’t rely exclusively on assumptions and existing knowledge. Research to make sure you aren’t missing any competitors flying under the radar.

Takeaways

In this step, you learn:

  • What other leading brands are in your industry
  • What sites and brands attract the most traffic for top industry keywords
  • Who you need to compete with
  • Where you can market to get in front of customers

Tools to Use

  • Audience Overlap Tool
  • Keyword Share of Voice

Alexa’s Audience Overlap Tool

To find competitors, enter your site or a site of one of your known competitors into Alexa’s Audience Overlap tool. The tool generates a list of sites that share an audience with the target site. From this list, you can identify competitors in your space and other brands that your audience is interested in.

how to do a competitive analysis: identify competitors

Try the free version of the Audience Overlap tool now to find similar sites that share your audience.

Alexa’s Keyword Share of Voice Tool

Enter a top keyword related to your industry or brand into Alexa’s Keyword Share of Voice tool. The report generates a list of websites with the highest share of voice for the term.

Share of voice refers to the percentage of search traffic that the site receives for the search term. This information helps you see which brands capture the most traffic for top terms in your space.

how to do a competitive analysis: find competitors using keywords

2. Compare marketing positioning

Once you have a list of competitors, start analyzing them. Conduct a SWOT analysis that compares details related to both the brands and their customers.

An easy way to display this information is through a competitive matrix. A competitive matrix is a chart that plots a brand’s strengths, weaknesses, feature offerings, and other qualities. You can use it to identify gaps, opportunities, and threats related to:

  • Product features
  • Quality
  • Benefits
  • Pricing
  • Messaging
  • Customer sentiment
  • Customer segments

Takeaways

In this step, you learn:

  • What features you are missing
  • What features set you apart
  • Ways to differentiate your offerings
  • What content you can create to appeal to audiences
  • Gaps in the market that you can fill

Tool to Use

  • Audience Interest

Alexa’s Audience Interest Tool

To gather insights about customers, perform an audience analysis using Alexa’s Audience Interest tool. Enter the site of one of your competitors to produce a target audience analysis that shows what topics and categories interest the audience most.

how to do a competitive analysis: run audience analysis

Click on a category to view a list of keywords and topics that are related to the grouping. The list of terms helps you see what customers want and need. You can identify the terms they are searching for and what is most important to them.

understand audience interests

Cross-reference the terms you find with the content your competitors have created or features they offer. Consider where they are meeting the needs or answering questions your audience has. Are you also meeting these needs?

Additional Resources

3. Compare site traffic and performance

Next, research the reach of your competitors’ web presence and compare it to your brand and others in your industry. Collect data that shows how users engage with other websites. This data includes:

  • Monthly unique visitors
  • Number of pageviews
  • Traffic sources
  • Bounce rates
  • Time on site
  • Pageviews per user
  • Engagement rate metrics

Takeaways

In this step, you learn:

  • Which brands customers are interested in most
  • How much customers engage with other brands
  • What you need to do to compete
  • What traffic sources work for competitors that might also work for you

Tools to Use

  • Site Overview
  • Site Comparisons

Alexa’s Site Overview Tool

Research individual competitors by entering their site into Alexa’s Site Overview tool.

You’ll receive a full Site Overview report that includes site engagement metrics like unique visitors, visits, pageviews, pageviews per visit, bounce rates, and more. 

how to do a competitive analysis: compare traffic metrics

Try the free version of Site Overview now to start gathering initial data.

Alexa’s Site Comparisons Tool

To compare multiple sites from one report, use Alexa’s Site Comparisons tool. Enter up to ten competitors to produce a report with side-by-side site metrics.

how to do a competitive analysis: compare visitor metrics

4. Compare keywords

Take a deeper look at your web presence compared to competitors by looking at competitor keywords. Conduct a keyword analysis that shows which organic keywords drive the most traffic to their site. Also, look at what paid keywords they target to see what terms they are paying to promote.

Takeaways

In this step, you learn how to:

Tools to Use

  • Competitor Keyword Matrix

Alexa’s Competitor Keyword Matrix

Enter your site and up to nine competitors into Alexa’s Competitor Keyword Matrix tool. The tool analyzes which keywords drive traffic to the sites in the set and shows the top keywords that the sites have in common.

It also displays:

  • Organic traffic scores, which show relative traffic estimated to a site for a particular keyword.
  • Paid impression scores, which show relative number of impressions a site is getting for pay-per-click advertisements for that keyword in the major search engines.

how to do a competitive analysis: run keyword matrix

Use the report to see which keywords are most common among competitors. And, use filters and use cases to single out different types of keywords that could be opportunities for your brand.

  • Add a filter to show keyword gaps for your brand.
  • Add a use case to find low competition organic keywords.
  • Add a filter to show buyer keywords.

find buyer keywords using Alexa

Additional Resources

5. Compare share of voice

In step one, we looked at how you can use share of voice to identify leaders in your industry.

Now, use share of voice to compare keyword performance and search authority between you and your competitors. Perform a keyword analysis to see which competitors drive the most traffic for top keywords in your industry.

Takeaways

In this step, you learn:

  • Who is the leader in your industry
  • Who has the strongest keyword influence
  • What you need to do to compete
  • What keywords you can target

Tools to Use

  • Competitor Keyword Matrix
  • Keyword Share of Voice

Alexa’s Competitor Keyword Matrix

Using Alexa’s Competitor Keyword Matrix, enter your site and up to nine competitors. The tool finds the top keywords that the sites have in common. It then determines which sites have the highest share of voice for the group of keywords.

how to do a competitive analysis: compare share of voice

In other words, the report shows which brands own the highest percentage of traffic for top keywords in your industry or niche. The brands with the highest share of voice are driving the most traffic from keywords related to you and your competitors.

Alexa’s Keyword Share of Voice Tool

Use Alexa’s Keyword Share of Voice tool to find keywords to target. Enter a top keyword for your industry, and identify a brand with the highest share of voice. Then, click to view the site’s keywords to see if there are new opportunities you could take advantage of and create content for.

view site keywords using Alexa

6. Compare backlinks

Another way to compare the online authority of your competitors is by looking at their backlink portfolio. Compare the quantity and quality of backlinks pointing to your site and your competitors. Also, look at the linking sites that your competitors have in common. If your competitors have links from the same site, you should also aim to get a link from the same site. 

To estimate the quality of a backlink, look at the linking site’s Alexa Rank. Sites with a low Alexa Rank have high online authority; therefore, the link is more valuable than a link from a site that has very high Alexa Rank.

Takeaways

In this step, you learn:

Tools to Use

  • Sites Linking In
  • Competitor Backlink Checker

Alexa’s Site Linking In Tool

To view backlinks for an individual site, use Alexa’s Site Linking In tool. Enter the site URL to view the number of backlinks, as well as the site, specific linking URL, and Alexa Rank of the linking site. 

how to do a competitive analysis: backlink check

Alexa’s Competitor Backlink Checker

To backlinks for up to ten competitors at once, use Alexa’s Competitor Backlink Checker. The tool analyzes the backlink portfolio of each site and produces a report of the linking sites that the competitors have in common.

run backlink analysis using Alexa

To easily see which sites link to your competitors sites but not your own, include your site in the report and add a filter to show backlinks gaps for your site.

find backlink gaps using Alexa

Additional Resources

7. Compare SEO effectiveness

Finally, end your competitive analysis by looking at the SEO performance of your competitors. Do this by analyzing website metrics that illustrate SEO effectiveness. By including SEO as a benchmark in your competitive analysis, you’ll be able to understand if and how your on-page, off-page, and technical SEO health could be affecting your ability to compete in search.

Metrics in this part of your analysis may include:

  • Percent of traffic that comes from organic traffic
  • Volume of traffic from search (MUV x % traffic from search)
  • Page speed
  • Number of non-branded keywords
  • Alexa Rank

Takeaways

In this step, you learn:

  • What you need to do to compete
  • What SEO improvements you need to make

Tools to Use

Alexa’s Site Overview Tool

Enter a website URL into Alexa’s Site Overview tool to find SEO effectiveness metrics. The report shows keywords by traffic type (organic vs. paid), Alexa Rank (which measures online authority), traffic sources (search, social, referral, or direct), and other performance-related metrics.

Another way to compare SEO effectiveness is by using a formula to estimate the volume of traffic from search for each competitor. To do this, take monthly unique visitors (MUV) and multiply it by the percentage of traffic from search. You can use the Site Overview Tool to find the metrics for this calculation.

how to do a competitive analysis: compare SEO effectiveness

Enter the numbers into the formula to generate a metric that allows you to estimate and compare SEO effectiveness.

compare traffic sources using Alexa

For example:

Marketo MUV: 953,000
Marketo % Traffic from Search: 35%
953,000 x 0.35 = 333,500

OptinMonster MUV = 919,000
OptinMonster % Traffic from Search = 69%
919,000 x 0.69 = 634,100

Pro Tip: To make sure your SEO health is fully optimized, run an SEO analysis on your site using our Site Audit tool. It will help you uncover any technical issues that may keep you from ranking, and advise you on ways to fix them quickly.

How to Start Your Competitive Analysis

Now you know how to do a competitive analysis in seven simple steps, and why it’s so important for your brand. We’ve also covered several important competitor analysis tools that can help you with your process.

Start your full competitive analysis today by downloading our competitive analysis template. Then streamline your research by signing up for a free trial of Alexa’s Advanced Plan to access all of the competitive analysis tools mentioned in this post.

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