A Digital Marketer’s Guide to Competitor Intelligence

Your competitors are a treasure trove of ideas. You can use them to find new sales channels, optimize your ad copy, increase revenue, and decrease customer acquisition costs. Now, more revenue and lower cost equal more $$$ and a happy boss, board, VC, PE, investors, etc.

If you feel a bit uneasy about copying your competition, remember what Sam Walton once said:

Most everything I’ve done, I’ve copied from somebody else. — Sam Walton

So now that you’re excited to be inspired by competition, let’s see some efficient ways to mine your competitors for information.

How to find additional sales/marketing channels

An easy and free way to get a high-level sense is to use similarweb.com. SimilarWeb provides digital market intelligence on almost any website of decent size.

For example, when we search “LendingClub” on SimilarWeb, it will show us where they’re getting their website visitors from. This in turn will show us what marketing channels they’re utilizing, and we can use that to start deconstructing their marketing strategy.

Source

These three traffic sources account for 92% of LendingClub’s website traffic. But before diving deeper into what insights we can glean from each source, let’s expand on what they mean:

Referrals: Clicking a link on a different website that leads to lendingclub.com.
Search: Using Google/Bing to find LendingClub.
Direct: Typing “lendingclub.com” into the address bar of the browser.

Useful for finding new partnerships.

Source

If you’re not working with your competitor’s top referring sites, there better be a good reason. They can help you uncover great opportunities to drive more traffic to your site.

SimilarWeb gives a decent high level overview of how your competitors perform on paid and organic search.

Source

For example, here we can see LendingClub is getting almost 10x more free/organic traffic than paid traffic for the keyword, “personal loans”. This has a strong impact on LendingClub’s customer acquisition cost, it’s hard to compete with free. If your company isn’t capturing a good portion of organic traffic it is time for an in-depth competitive review of your competitor’s SEO strategy.

For more information, I’d look at several other competitors in the space to get a better sense of their search profile strengths.

And for a deeper dive into search, I recommend specialized tools such as SpyFu for pay per click (PPC) insights and ahrefs for search engine optimization (SEO).

Though this is the largest portion of traffic, it provides a limited number of hard insights. When looking at direct traffic, it is important to remember that this traffic is made up of many sub-sources, such as current customers interacting with the website (checking their account balance), former customers coming back, and new customers responding to traditional advertising (like snail mail or TV).

Limited usefulness for mining your competitors for digital marketing ideas.

How to optimize your ad copy via your competitors

Your competitors have spent millions of dollars learning how to speak to your customers. So why not use their messaging to give your company inspiration?

I don’t recommend copying your competitor’s messaging exactly; however, it’s still useful to a get a sense of the key themes they are targeting. A quick way to do this is to explore your competitors’ title tags.

Title tags are what appear when someone searches for their company on a search engine.

You can use this google sheet as a template — it should work to find your competitors’ <Title> tags without visiting their sites.

By looking this over you can see that though all five companies are competitors, they have different approaches to the lending space. Avant & Prosper appear to be focused solely on personal loans, while the other companies have broader messaging that encompasses savings & investing products.

For a 5 minute overview, this process is fine — but I still recommend you do a comprehensive review of your competitors and focus on the key value propositions they offer. It’s amazing what can be deduced.

For a comprehensive review of your competitor’s messaging, I’d recommend you use this template.

Template

Once this is filled in, new copy ideas will practically fly off the page.

In conclusion, your competitors’ websites are bountiful lands, and it is up to you to harvest them. Use their resources to leapfrog them, and don’t be ashamed when you feel a little bit of schadenfreude. They spent their resources so you don’t have to!

If you enjoyed this article, let me know what else you’d like me to write about.

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