How to Get Started with Competitor Monitoring (and Why You Should Be Doing It)

9th November 2020

As a digital marketer, a lot of your objectives revolve around moving the needle: driving more organic traffic, boosting the ROI of paid campaigns, and capturing leads to feed the sales funnel.

One often overlooked area is monitoring competitors. This task is often viewed as both of secondary importance and to be very time-consuming.

But with the right competitor monitoring strategy in place, it can be a real insight gold mine. It can even help you run more effective marketing campaigns and achieve your business goals.

However, to do it right you need to be monitoring the right channels using the right strategy. This post will provide a quick start guide to get you up and running with competitor monitoring.

Let’s jump in.

Why should you track competitors?

There is a lot of buzz about monitoring competitors. But why is it actually a good thing to do? In my opinion, there are three key areas that make monitoring competitors essential, particularly to small and medium-sized businesses or younger startups. 

1. Understand your niche

Regardless of what business you are operating, you are in a niche. By monitoring your competitors, you can map out the business landscape of your niche. Who is strong on social? Who is getting a lot of organic traffic? And most important of all – Why?

Competitor monitoring helps you lay the guideposts that inform your business objectives. Where are you now and where do you want to be? The more you understand your business niche, the more accurate your strategic planning will be.

2. Inform high-level strategic decisions

The insights you gain from competitor monitoring can inform high-level business decisions. For example, if you notice that a rival is crushing it in one particular area, it may be best for you to find a new angle rather than compete. 

One well-known example of this comes from Drift. Instead of competing with other chatbot apps, they created a new organic term “conversational marketing” and reaped the ranking rewards for the following couple of years. This would not have been possible without careful competitor monitoring.

3. Become a better marketer

The more you understand about what makes any marketing strategy either successful or not will ultimately make you a more proficient marketer. Learning from the mistakes competitors make is a risk-free way of gaining more marketing insights. The more you learn, the more you will be able to help your business meet its objectives.

Is a competitor really worth the effort?

The short answer is yes. In my experience, larger companies, in particular, are so focused on the next marketing campaign that they tend to lose sight of what their competitors are doing. This is a real chance for smaller companies to use their agility to their advantage. By knowing what your rivals are doing, you can optimize your marketing campaigns for maximum reach and awareness. 

Which channels should you monitor?

We marketers often think the more data the merrier. But if you are just getting started with competitor monitoring I would recommend focussing on the following areas: 

  • Social media – social media is a key battleground for marketers nowadays, so monitoring your competitors’ mentions, the content they are sharing, and their success over time can help you build a great social strategy.
  • PR – how much press are your rivals getting? By tracking press mentions you can see how your competitors are steering the narrative, and you can potentially use this to your advantage.
  • Paid ads – what type of paid ads are your rivals running? How successful are they? Decoding their PPC strategy can help inform your own paid campaigns.
  • Organic traffic/SEO – when it comes to organic traffic, a large part of the monitoring is seeing which pieces of content rank for which keywords. This can help you identify potential gaps and create an effective, data-driven content strategy. 

Of course, there are more areas you could focus on, and there is no one-size-fits-all strategy, so take it as a rough blueprint and see what works for you.

How to get started tracking competitors

When it comes to competitor monitoring, the right tool can make your life a whole lot easier.

For social monitoring,  the easiest way to get started is to use a social monitoring tool like Metigy. You can add multiple social accounts, follow competitor mentions, and get automated insights. While you can use the native insights from each social channel, typically these are less detailed and not really designed for competitor monitoring. Also, switching between 4+ dashboards is tedious and time-consuming, whereas standalone solutions like Metigy house all the insights in one place.

For PR, the most affordable way to get up and running is with Google Alerts – simply add the keywords you are interested in tracking and get a report emailed right to you.

For Organic & paid traffic/SEO –  when it comes to monitoring, tools like SpyFu or Ubersuggest are better (and more affordable) than a standalone SEO suite. Better in the sense that it’s easy to use and really does focus on competitive insights. You can see your competitors paid campaigns and how successful they were, including keywords.

To get started with SpyFu head over to their site and type in a domain of interest. Let’s try a quick example with Canva. See the analysis yourself here

From this dashboard, you can see at a glance how many organic and paid keywords Canva is ranking for. Let’s say we are interested in seeing the PPC ads they are running: click on Paid Keywords. 

This will take you to a new dashboard where you can see the keywords Canva is paying for and offer an estimate of how much they are spending.

Looking at the example of the paid keyword “flyer maker” we can see Canva spends almost 19k on this ad alone and has a monthly paid budget or around 370k. 

This information is really useful because it is effectively handing you Canva’s PPC strategy. By using the same technique with your own competitors, you can hone the paid keywords that you target.

Head back over to Google and type in “flyer maker”.

You can see that Canva is indeed running an ad for the keyword. Once you’ve found the paid keywords your competitors are using, you can see how they structure their ads and what copy they use. If you are just getting started in PPC, this is a great way to learn best practice ad writing.  

How to turn insights into strategy

It’s all well and good having all this data. But how do you turn it into an actionable strategy? More importantly, how do you build a strategy that will actually help your business?

1. Identify gaps in the narrative

Marketing is all about narratives. Identifying gaps is often where you will find the most profitable opportunities. From an SEO perspective, this could mean finding keywords that fit your niche but that your competitors don’t rank for. On social, this may be topics that your competitors have not covered with their content, but that resonates with your target audience.

2. Make better content but don’t compete

To explain this point let’s look at a simple real-life example. Say you notice that a rival company is doing a monthly round-up of the best upcoming marketing conferences. Can you make your own round-up that is both more comprehensive and interactive?

If they send their round-up out as a static email newsletter, why not try getting your CEO or Marketing Director to shoot a live video for social media with their personal recommendations? In this way, you are not competing for the same channel (email), and – providing their round-up is successful – you are sharing content that already has social proof.

Get started tracking competitors today

Hopefully, you got some useful tips from our quick start guide. Remember, our tips are just a starting point. Use them to get up and running and see what works for you. Monitoring your competitors can unlock a goldmine of insights for your business. Learn how Metigy can help keep tabs on your competitors’ marketing efforts today.

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