How To Do Competitive Research Analysis (Plus Tools)

Competitive Research is one of the most important skills you can have. It is especially important if you are just starting a new company and website. You can learn a lot from your competitors, both with what they do, and don’t do! You will save a lot of time and money with this process. Thanks to the variety of tools online, competitive research is also easier to accomplish than ever.

The steps look like this: you identify competitors, find out how they’re built, look at their top advertising channels, find out where they’re getting mentioned, and then finally, see how they’re performing in these areas. In the age of globalism and the internet, there are dozens of competitors in every industry. This model will have you focusing on the few key competitors that are succeeding above everyone else.

The SPECTRE Competitive Research Method

Identify Top Competitors

You can do this either through publicly available data or through interviews with customers. If you’re looking at SEO in particular, you’ll generally find that the top competitors are the ones that are ranking the highest on the SERPs and (if local) reviews and map packs.

SEO: The best way to find top competitors quickly is to input all of them into SERPWoo (which I’ll discuss more in a later section) for the key search terms you want to rank for. You’ll quickly discover the ones that are consistently in the 1-3, 4-6, and 5-10 spots.

Glassdoor – The Inside Look. Glassdoor is known for its review and salary system where employees can talk about the good and bad of a company. Research-wise, this data is absolutely invaluable. Never before have we had such a good, inside look at how non-public companies function. You can even get a good idea of salary information. If you are looking to hijack employees, it really is as easy as looking at their salary ranges and caps. I don’t necessarily believe in hijacking, but if you wanted to, it’s all right there for you.

I remember taking a look at one competitor’s Glassdoor and discovered that they had just had a round of layoffs. Negative reviews abounded, talking about issues with management, projects, and a whole host of other issues. This helped us figure out that they weren’t going to be as much of an issue in the future, and we were right.

During the early days of the age of sail, the Spanish fleet had the biggest ships. It didn’t count for much, because the morale of the crew on those ships was abysmal. Contrast it with the English, whose ships might not have been as big or tough, but had expert crews and morale. What does this have to do with Glassdoor? Company morale is important. If I were you, I’d be more cautious around companies with good reviews, than those with bad reviews. Motivated employees accomplish much more!

Once you’ve identified your top competitors, assemble them into tiers.

Tier 1 competitors are the biggest in the business. Next, Tier 2 competitors are big, but not exactly Tier 1. Finally, Tier 3 companies are companies that are a bit smaller. If you’ve already been in the business for a while, you should try and figure out where you stand. If you are just starting out, I recommend taking a look at Tier 1 and 3 companies. Shoot for getting to Tier 3 as quick as you can, but see what you can replicate from the Tier 1 businesses.

Find out how they’re built with BuiltWith

A short step, but an important one. Enter your competitor’s site on and you’ll be more aware of their capabilities. You can find out, for example, if they’re using a certain sales software, or what type of eCommerce platform they’re using.

Since you’re all in the same industry, you likely have similar issues. I have been able to reverse engineer multiple sites and discover new software solutions to solve problems that the competitor likely had as well. If you’re a new business, you can’t afford to spend time and money on solving problems while your larger competitors get ahead. Use their own experiences for your benefit.

Discover Top Search Terms And Advertising Platforms With Spyfu

SpyFu gives you a ton of useful information. It gives you estimated Search and PPC traffic, plus a calculation of how much they might be spending on PPC.

You can also see most closely linked competitors in terms of search keywords, search traffic, and paid keywords. This is a beneficial “second opinion” to see if you’re on-point with the competitors you are looking at.

One of my favorite things about Spy is their Adwords History page. You get to see how their Adwords ads change over time. You’ll save yourself a lot of low-converting traffic you take a look and see how certain ads or phrases are changed. Poor performing ads are dropped over time. You can confidently think that the most recent ads are the ones that are performing the best.

SpyFu offers a free program and a paid program that is fairly inexpensive for its most basic version.

Traffic Information With SimilarWeb

Now you know how they advertise, now it’s time to find out how it’s serving them. SimilarWeb gives you monthly traffic data for the last 6 months, except the month before the current one. Similarweb lists monthly visits, average time on page, the average number of pages visited, and bounce rate. It also gives you traffic source information. It has a free version, and a paid version, with the paid version giving you more information.

See How They’re Performing On Search

Now you know how they’re built, and their current traffic estimates. Time to next figure out how they’re doing SEO wise. The best way to figure this out is with SERP Tracker SERPWoo. When it comes to figuring out how to determine the competition you should be looking out for, this software is by far the best in class. I like to create two projects, one tracking my site, and one tracking all of my competitors. It gives you updates by email based on how your search positions are looking.

Knowing backlinks is important, but it’s just as important for competitive research to know what competitors you need to watch out for, and the ones that are paper tigers. This tool will also show you up-and-coming competitors so that you’ll have time to react. You can be proactive, and reactive.

Reverse Engineer Their Backlinks With Ahrefs

Now you know what competitors are doing well. Now, it’s time to see where they’re getting their rankings from, and how to reverse-engineer it. I recommend using Ahrefs to put the main domain and its ranking pages in its engine, and learning how their anchor text percentages and backlinks are structured. You can then attempt to do something similar with your own site.

Wrapping Up

You’ll notice that the SPECTRE Competitive Research Method is focused on first discovering the capabilities, and then measuring them against their success. For example, first, look and identify competitors, see how their site is built, and their advertising platforms. Then, you compare it against traffic information and their search rankings. As always, trust, but verify. This method will give you a solid place to start if you’re a new business, or a good action plan to make changes if you’re already online.







Photo by Cezary Kukowka on Unsplash

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