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Watching Your Competition: Conducting Competitor Research 101

competitor research

Did Intel CEO Andrew Grove get it right? Do “Only the Paranoid Survive”? Well, yes, sort of. You’ve probably never been so vulnerable as you are now with the Internet and the great efficiency with which it spreads data and ideas. But it’s also easier than ever to track competing companies.

Often, a company’s team members can rattle off numerous competing brands. And they might even know major differentiating factors like product features. But most of the time, what a company wants to know is not quickly available, like marketing techniques and levels of consumer interaction.

If your company wants to compete on inbound marketing techniques, then you should perform competitor analysis. A deep dive into your competitors’ strengths and weaknesses will help revamp your own content strategy. You’ll be able to see what opportunities exist for outperforming your competitors and be able to identify where more time and resources need to be directed. Analyzing your competitors and gaining insights into their online marketing efforts and SEO strategies will help you catch up to and surpass them.

Do you know where you rank compared to your competition? If not, put together a list of your main competitors, read the following competitor research tips, and then get going with your own analysis!

Here’s how to run a competitor analysis

Once you have your list of competitors, it’s time to pull key stats and metrics for each and record them in a spreadsheet.

Website Grade:

Perform a website audit of your competitor’s domains. Run their websites through a tool like Website Grader. It’s a free online tool that will grade the site against key metrics such as performance, mobile readiness, social, and SEO.

There are also other options –,,, to name a few. This preliminary step will provide you with a benchmark of where you stand.

Hubspot's Website Grader

Content Audit:

Analyzing your competitor’s content strategy is an important step in your overall research. Going through your competitor’s website, note whether they have a blog, are producing whitepapers or ebooks or case studies, post videos, have a FAQs section, have a press release area, or a media kit.

Look at the:

  • various types of content,
  • quantity of these items,
  • frequency of content published, and
  • promotion and reach of topics
  • quality of content.

Evaluating the content quality can be done by picking a few samples to review and considering the following questions:

  • Is their content accurate and factual?
  • Is the content well-written? Check for spelling and grammar mistakes.
  • Are they presenting introductory level material or more advanced topics?
  • What tone of voice do they use?
  • Do readers have to pay for the content or subscribe?
  • Is the content created in-house? if not, who is writing the content?
  • How is the content structured?
  • What kinds of imagery are being used?

SEO Evaluation:

You can do a qualitative assessment of your competitors’ SEO by examining how keywords are used in content samples, like a few relevant blogs.


  • page title,
  • URL architecture,
  • title,
  • H1 and H2 tags,
  • keyword density,
  • image alt text, and
  • use of internal linking.

(Free and paid tools exist to help you comprehensively evaluate competitors’ SEO.)

Social Media Tracking:

Gauging how your competitors are doing on social media is crucial. Visit the following social site to see if your competitors have a presence:

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
  • Instagram
  • YouTube
  • Google+
  • Pinterest

These might not all be relevant to your industry and maybe there are a few niche sites you and your competitors are on, but start with the ones listed above. Perhaps you’ll find a competitor is using a social platform to great success that you didn’t think was applicable to your brand. If you do, take a page out of their marketing handbook and get it on the social game.

For every social network, record

  • how many fans/followers your competitors have,
  • how frequently they post to the site,
  • what kinds of content they publish, and
  • how people are interacting and engaging with that content.

Applying your competitor research

Now that you’ve put in the time and proven your sleuthing skills, what do you do with this great competitive findings? Knowing where you stand among your competitors is a powerful thing. If you are lagging behind certain competitors, look specifically at what they are doing better than you. Maybe it’s as simple as increasing the volume of content you publish and promote. Then, you’ll be able to see what might need to be down to surpass them. Look at your findings as a whole and use them to inform your content and marketing strategies.

All of these metrics should be monitored fairly frequently; I suggest on a quarterly basis. Just don’t get too hung up on staying up to speed on every action your competitors take. That’s a surefire way to go crazy and possibly end up simply replicating what they do, rather than using the information you gather to come up with better ideas and practices to grow your business.

inbound marketing

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