Have You Checked Out Your Online Competitors Recently?

A Simple “How To” Guide For Competitor Analysis.

No, you don’t have to hire your local Sherlock Holmes to do this, but it does make good sense for all businesses to carry out competitive analysis.

Bricks and mortar businesses know who their immediate and local competition is, and are very aware (or should be) who else their customers are considering buying from. However, in the world of search engine shopping, competition is a lot more involved. Not only are you competing with businesses who have the same product as you, you’re also competing for the content and information which shows up in search engine results. This competition isn’t just local, this is worldwide!

Wow! That makes you an international entrepreneur!

Competitive analysis is a really good (and legal) way for you to assess your market, to see what everyone else is doing and hopefully, to learn from it.

So, how’s it done? Well, this is one (free) way.

Firstly, never underestimate the value of simply typing your keyword phrase which your customers themselves are likely to use in the search engine, and looking at the results. Apart from seeing how their websites are laid out, take note of features that you like (and those you don’t). You can then use this to improve your own website. Pay particular note of the webpage which they ranked for, because this, after all, is in direct competition for your own. Take a note of this webpage address (URL) because we’re going to check it out.

Next, go to http://www.alexa.com, and on the first page result, click on “toolbar”. Follow the instructions to install the alexa toolbar. It will appear in the top right hand corner of your toolbar as an “a” in a blue circle when done.

Click on this icon and then click onto any of the highlighted boxes to open. It will more than likely open in “site info”, but if it doesn’t, click on “site info” on the toolbar across the top of the page.

Type your competitors webpage URL into the box at the top and hit the search button.

Voila! You will now see the Alexa ranking for this site. The lower the number, the better the ranking. Beneath that, you’ll see the number of sites linking in to your competitors site. (I’ll write about links soon.) If you click the “get details” button, a whole new page of information appears.

The graph you can see shows the amount of traffic the site receives. If it shows a peak, maybe they’ve had a promotion. If it shows a trough, what happened? Maybe there was a public holiday or were they lax in updating the website?

As you move down the page, you’ll see a box with the top search queries for the site and the percentage of traffic which looked for these keyphrases. Click on the “search analytics” button below this, and you have each of those phrases and their search popularity.

Ignore the most popular phrases and concentrate on the rest. You can now do your own keyword search to broaden your own list of keywords. Remember that it’s easier to rank for a less obvious phrase than the ones that everyone is after.

There is plenty of software out there, both free and paid, which will help you with your research, but I have used this one as an example because it’s so easy to access and understand and it makes a good starting point if you’ve never tried your own competitor analysis before.

It is rather addictive though, especially if you enjoy being nosey!