So you’ve determined that a growth-focused content strategy has definitively moved up your priority list. We wholeheartedly approve. A holistic SEO content strategy really pulls its weight in the acquisition department. It’s a great compliment to a paid strategy, and although it doesn’t drive immediate wins like a Facebook or Google Ads campaign can, the power it has to be an integral pillar of real, sustainable growth makes it an important strategy for almost any company serious about growing over time.
Before you jump in both feet, though, it’s important to lay the groundwork. And a super important part of that is identifying the right competitors.
Here at Tuff when we’re creating a content strategy for one of our clients, we’ll think of competitors in two different ways.
- An organization that directly competes with you; your customer or clients might consistently pitch you against them.
- The competitor that ranks high on the search terms we’d like to rank for.
Step One: Define Your Market Competitors
A market competitor is an organization that directly competes with you in your market or industry; your customer or clients might consistently pitch you against them.
If you’ve been in business for any amount of time, you should be familiar with your market competitors. You likely performed competitive research about your market and industry before you even started your business and incorporated it into your business plan.
Why is it so essential to research your market competitors? There are tons of reasons, including:
- Differentiating yourself from the competition
- Replicating their strengths
- Leveraging their weaknesses to your advantage
- Honing in the market your product or service
- Staying ahead of trends in your industry
It’s also important for us at Tuff to know. It’s a foundational part of our onboarding process and helps guide our strategic recommendations. We’ll lean on you to bring us juicy information here – so if you haven’t identified these organizations yet, here’s how to get started.
Interview customers and clients
Competitive research can seem overwhelming – where do you even start? Reaching out to your clients and customers is a great first step. Interview both new and long-time customers to determine not only what brought them to your company, but what keeps them coming back.
Phone calls and email are reliable ways to gather this type of information. You can also incorporate social media by asking your followers to fill out a survey. Both qualitative (descriptive) and quantitative (numerical) information will be useful to inform your business and marketing strategies.
Talk to your sales and customer service teams
You need more than external data to create a well-rounded competitive analysis. Don’t ignore your internal teams – they have a wealth of information about your competitors that you won’t be able to get anywhere else. You especially need to talk to your sales and customer service teams.
Your sales team will have great insights from pitches and discovery calls, where they’re sure to hear a lot about what’s great and not-so-great about your competitors. And your customer service team has probably gotten an earful about what your competitors do better than you. Make sure you create an environment of trust and confidentiality so they feel comfortable being honest.
Find the right tools
There’s never a shortage of tools in the marketing industry, and that’s true of competitive research, too. Which one (or more) is right for you?
- Klue: Research and track your competitors through a combination of news tracking and internal data, then track them so you know when they change their website, update their products or get new customer reviews.
- Crayon: Capture data from hundreds of millions of sources and use AI to filter it down into key insights. Identify and follow market trends to stay ahead of the competition.
- FirstRain: Get high-quality and relevant information that’s categorized, prioritized and ready to be put into action. Stay up-to-date on current information like management changes, M&A and industry trends.
- Kompyte: Differentiate your product or service with information about your competition’s features, pricing and messaging, learn what works for them and discover how it all fits into a high-level view of your market.
Enlist help from the pros
Don’t have the time to perform competitive research yourself? We’re not afraid to tell you that this isn’t necessarily our expertise. But there are companies out there that focus specifically on digging into this type of information – and hiring one can be a smart move for enterprise-level businesses.
If you have the resources to spend, getting help from the pros can actually be more efficient than doing it yourself. Just make sure the company you choose is fluent in your industry and check their references.
Step Two: Hone in On Your SEO Competitors
An SEO competitor is an organization that ranks highly on the search terms we’d like to rank for.
Your SEO competitors are the businesses you’ll be directly competing with in order to rank higher on search engine results pages (SERPs). While SEO competitors sometimes overlap with market competitors this list will likely shorter than the first. It could also be composed of businesses that aren’t direct competitors, for example one that is within your industry but has a different product or service than you.
Once you identify your competitors, you can create a plan of attack to understand what content is generating their strong results, and how you can do better.
This all starts with focused competitive research. And the benefits of doing so go far beyond the satisfaction of unseating your competitor from the number one spot.
What are the benefits of SEO competitive research? There are tons of reasons, including:
- Increasing organic website traffic
- Driving high-quality traffic to your site
- Improving conversions by providing value to potential customers
- Earning more revenue and grow your business
This is Tuff’s wheelhouse; our bread and butter. We’ll perform and leverage SEO competitive research to create content strategies that outrank your competitors and win on critical keywords. Here’s how we identify your SEO competitors.
Identify your keywords
Your SEO competitors are only your competitors because they have keywords you want. To identify competitors through keywords, you must know what keywords you want! What are the keywords that your best customer is most likely to use to find your service? What are related keywords and longtail keywords?
Now narrow down your list using the following criteria:
- Relevance. Will this keyword bring you the type of traffic you want? Is it highly relevant to your business goals?
- Business strength. Is your business strong in this area or topic? Will a search engine believe that you’re an expert?
- Current rankings. Are you currently ranking on page two or three for a keyword? That will make it easier for you to reach page one.
- Volume. Monthly volume isn’t the end-all, be-all (in fact, sometimes you may want to choose lower volume keywords). But it does give you an idea of what people are searching for.
Find your competitors
Now you can identify your competitors for your chosen keywords. You can choose the free way: manually searching Google by typing in each keyword and taking note of the businesses that show up on page one – but that can be time-consuming. It’s much more efficient to use a tool like Semrush to see who is ranking for each keyword.
The best way is to have someone do it for you. Tuff will conduct a full on-page SEO analysis, including choosing the keywords that are right for you, identifying your competitors and building you a strategy that can beat them!
Think you’re ready to fire up your content engine with Tuff? Let’s talk!
Ellen is the founder at Tuff and one of the team’s core growth marketers. She is a versatile marketer with expertise in multiple channels – from ppc to seo to email to others – responsible for the experiments and testing. She is happiest when she’s on the ski hill or outside pointing her mountain bike downhill.