4 Ways to Tell if a Competitor’s Marketing Is Better Than Yours
It doesn’t matter if you’re a small business or a larger corporation, inevitably, you’re going to run into competitors who are marketing services similar to yours – and may, in fact, be doing it better than you. You can learn a lot by studying what competitors are doing and also help yourself to better compete against them with your own efforts. What are the ways to tell if your competitor markets better than you? We’ve produced a free guide, How to Analyze a Competitor’s Digital Marketing Presence, that can help you. Just download it for free.
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Need a few quick indicators? Here are a few clues that can help you tell right away if your competitors are kicking your ass, marketing-wise.
1. They show up higher in search results.
Search engine optimization (SEO), done the right way, requires building your brand authority, creating robust and relevant content, and paying attention, on-page, to little details. Competitors that do this well inevitably will be rewarded by Google with a higher ranking.
What can you do if that’s the case? You have a few options:
Hire an SEO expert. At Marketing Nice Guys, we provide a full-suite of ongoing services for SEO that can help you with on-page optimizations, strategy and approach when starting initiatives, and building your brand authority.
Do it yourself. If you don’t have a great starting foundation in SEO, that’s OK. There are lots of free resources that can help you:
- Our free SEO glossary
- Our on-page SEO checklist for copywriters
- Our blog on the 5 Steps of SEO for small businesses
- Competitive research software programs that focus on SEO/SEM. While there are lots of paid tools, definitely make use of free tools as well. And many of the paid tools have trials you can do for free or have monthly limits for a free registration:
- iSpionage: https://www.ispionage.com/
- Answer the Public:https://answerthepublic.com/
- Check My Links(Chrome extension): https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/check-my-links/ojkcdipcgfaekbeaelaapakgnjflfglf?hl=en
- Keywords Everywhere(Chrome and Mozilla extensions for looking at keyword search volume and competitive data): https://keywordseverywhere.com/
Do it yourself, but get a little extra help. One thing we offer at Marketing Nice Guys is a Marketing Help Desk that allows you to get guidance on anything you like, including SEO initiatives. It costs less than full-service consulting services but you get the same good advice and recommendations for anything you’re trying to do in SEO.
Regardless of which option you choose, once you’ve gotten the basics down, commit yourself to implementing a little bit every day and see if your pages are making progress.
2. They produce a lot more content, and it’s a lot better than yours.
There’s an old saying in marketing that content is king. But just because you produce content doesn’t mean it’s “good” or getting the engagement of potential or current customers. It’s also unclear if the content itself is being produced at an efficient scale. Here are some things to look for when analyzing a competitor’s content:
- Do they have a consistent approach/voice/tone? Great content marketers produce content in a generally consistent approach with a clear focus of what they’re trying to accomplish. A simple rule about content is that it should generally embody the “3 Ss” – shareable, snackable, and searchable. Is the content easily shared in social? Is it getting engagement on the social platform or on the site itself? Is the content short (in the sense of not being too long that people don’t get through the whole thing? And similar, to the SEO piece above, is it relevant and accessible for users searching specific keywords in Google? But even more than that, what makes a piece of content “good”? When we run our training on digital marketing, one of the big areas that we emphasize is that content isn’t just about creation. It’s about creating compelling content that users come back for. We use a framework created by author and Wharton professor Jonah Berger called STEPPS to evaluate the effectiveness of marketing content. In the book, he breaks down various approaches:
- Social currency. Does reading/viewing/listening to the content make the customer seem smarter, more interesting, funnier when they pass on what they now know.
- Triggers. A piece of content that makes you think of a product or service. (Example: Hump Day/Wednesday, which makes people think of the Geico camel.)
- Emotion. Does the content move you? Make you laugh? Cry? Stir your patriotic emotions?
- Practical. The most common type of content. Does the content help customer solve simple problems? Or, does it provide tips and advice that helps improve the customers’ lives?
- Public. Does the content show other customers using the product? Or enjoying it?
- Storytelling. Does the brand tell a backstory using characters Or perhaps tells the story of a famous person’s struggle?
Bottom line: To determine whether a piece of content is good, it certainly needs the “3 Ss” but it also likely falls into one of these above six areas.
- Do they have a strong YouTube presence? What we mean by that is a channel with lots of subscribers, views, and great engagement on regularly produced videos. Regularly produced video is a sign that a company is dedicating resources to getting the word out. And it means they have the technical capability to do it well.
- Do they create content on a single topic across multiple types? One indicator of a company with its content “ducks in a row” is that it produces scalable content. In other words, if a blog has done well on a particular topic, it’s likely a video or podcast would also do well.
What do you do if competitors are beating you in content? Here are a few things you can take a look at:
Access some free resources to start. At Marketing Nice Guys, we’ve done several blogs on the importance of content for small businesses. Here are a few blogs that might help:
Develop a content plan and approach. If you need help in this area, we provide services for starting a content plan and approach, that includes our SEO audit.
Invest the time and energy to create more video. Regardless of your business, video will likely play a key role in helping better market your business. If you don’t have the resources to hire a production and post-production crew, try to produce some do-it-yourself videos. We show you how in this webinar, of How to Do Video on a Budget.
3. They dominate search ads and appear on your branded searches.
Unless you have access to a company’s Google Ads platform, Google Analytics, or analytics from social media, it’s tough to get the exact picture of the volume or spend on paid media. But there are a few things you can do to get a rough idea of what a competitor does in paid search.
Like the previous SEO area, paid tools with free trials and some free tools will help get you started to understand a company’s paid media presence. Some of those tools include the ones we mentioned in the first section.
On the paid search side, these tools can provide insights into keyword buys and even some dollar volume spend – at least on a total dollar basis – and generally what each keyword costs. You can see traffic data, and traffic from particular keywords to both your target company and a list of competitors. An example of Target.com below in SEM Rush (From April 2020):
Outside of those tools, one of the first things you can do is to research if the organization buys its own “branded keywords” – keywords that include the company name or product names. Typically, sophisticated companies that have an e-commerce or a lead-generation function will buy their own keywords for two reasons: 1. To keep competitors from buying their brand and showing up on the top of results; 2. Because branded terms often prove to be the best converting keywords (as people searching for a brand already are familiar with that organization). An exception to this might be a company such as Coca-Cola, which generally has no need to do so, as it has no e-commerce or lead-generation function.
Next, take a look at whether the company buys non-branded terms – those keywords that indicate searches where its products or services might be relevant. A few things to look at:
- Does the competitor showing up on the same general terms you do? Is the target company bidding high enough to show up high in rankings?
- When you click on the competitor’s ad, what’s the landing page experience like? Is it relevant?
- Also, how deep is the coverage of terms? Is the company buying long-tail terms – those keywords that indicate an in-market buyer who knows exactly what they want?
- How relevant is the ad they’re doing to the search query itself?
Finally, with paid search, companies can often waste a lot of money in Google (there’s a reason parent company Alphabet’s valuation is more than $1 trillion as of 2021). So, it’s important to look at areas where this might be happening to a competitor, or your own company. In particular, is the company adding negative keywords to campaigns and/or accounts. Because customers often click on paid ads that have nothing to do with their original intent just because they show up. Pointing out where competitors might be wasting money can give you an advantage in understanding how their operations are working.
If a competitor is dominating you when it comes to search ads, here are a few things you can do.
Hire an SEM expert. At Marketing Nice Guys (similar to SEO), we provide a full suite of ongoing services for paid search management to set up and run your campaigns and improve your performance and ROI. If your reticent about spending without knowing the approach, we can also audit your current paid search campaigns to at least give you an idea where you stand.
Do it yourself. We would suggest that paid search isn’t for the average business to try by themselves. You can definitely do it as a small business person, but it will take time for you to learn and get up to speed and you can waste a lot of money doing so. If you still want to take a shot at it, we applaud you – and you can start with some free resources:
Do it yourself, but get a little extra help. Similar to SEO, our Marketing Help Desk covers questions you have about paid search, including guidance for campaign setup, ad copy and creation, keyword matching, bidding and more. It costs less than full-service management, but you get the same good advice and recommendations for anything you’re trying to do in SEM/paid search.
4. Their websites beat yours hands down.
First, let’s start with the website basics. When we provide training through our SEO Boot Camp, in particular, we focus on seven key areas when it comes to producing a great website:
- Mobile experience
- Visual design
- Colors and fonts
For the purposes of the blog, let’s focus on two of those areas, page speed and mobile, (the rest are discussed in the free guide, How to Analyze a Competitor’s Digital Marketing Presence).
Page Speed. One of the great tools available for analyzing a website’s speed is Google’s PageSpeed Insights, which is available free to the public. Just enter the URL of the site or the page and Google will analyze the site speed. (One note to keep in mind: Google’s default PageSpeed ranking is mobile. To see, desktop speed, you will need to click the tab for that.)
When you look at the results – 0-49 is poor; 50-89 is average; 90-100 is great. So, let’s analyze a bellwether such as Amazon.com. Google PageSpeed gives us the following result – 92 in mobile, 85 in desktop. Really solid. (Obviously, Amazon works hard on ensuring a fast-loading page experience.)
Mobile experience. Today, most websites are responsive, which means they have breakpoints for different devices so the viewing of the site is tailored to each one. Obviously, if your competitor has a website that is responsive but you don’t, that’s a red flag right there that probably indicates that you need to redesign on a platform that enables responsive templates out of the box. But more than that, here are a few other things to look at.
- How do the images look in mobile? Even if it’s a responsive template, the break points can render in funny areas, so take a look at how your competitor’s site renders, then compare your own.
- How easy is the checkout in mobile?
- How is the browsing /flow of the site for the mobile device? Again, because of the way certain templates work (which are usually designed in desktop), a particular page flow may not make sense in mobile when you actually look closely.
The bottom line: Always look at a competitor’s site in a mobile device and browse through it, as you may find tricks to improving your own site’s mobile experience.
We hope this has been a helpful read. To get more information, definitely download the aforementioned guide. Or, you can connect with us anytime to get started doing an audit of your website SEO or paid media efforts. We wish you the best of luck in all your marketing endeavors.