Your Mission and Main Objective
Hello, comrade. Your mission — should you choose to accept it — is to find out where and why our biggest competitor is pulling all that extra traffic. With competitor analysis, we want to know why it is so effective for them and how you can gain the upper hand. Good luck!
Alright, with the power of the internet and the competitive intelligence tools that come with it, there’s no excuse to thoroughly research our biggest competitors. This is my personal “competitor analysis framework” I use before I start a marketing project. The best thing about the online clandestine method is the fact that no-one will ever notice we’ve paid a visit.
Here you will find out 90% of the process I use before making a content strategy plan. First, you have to know who your competitors are before you meet them on the battlegrounds.
With Ghost Recon Competitor Analysis you will find out:
- The organizational structure of your competitors
- See what keywords, landing pages, and even creative assets your arch nemesis is using to advertise itself
- (legally) spy their real-time web analytics whenever you want
- Discover the most popular messages your evil overlord is using to connect with its audience
- Find opportunities to exploit in your own business to discover quick wins and intel for long-term planning
iSpionage (Paid Acquisition) — see what your competitor is spending on Google Ads (Link)
AdBeat (Paid Acquisition) — see exactly what kind of creatives your nemesis are using to advertise their brand (Link)
Buzzsumo (most popular content) — check what’s the most popular content in your industry (Link)
Vicinitas (Twitter) — scrapes the last 3,200 tweets from any Twitter handle (Link)
GrowthBot (Slack) — a nifty, light-weight Slack app by Dharmesh Shah. Ask it questions and you get an answer (Link)
SocialBlade (social) — Social media stats and analytics (Link)
CrunchBase — A bunch of public data such as acquisitions, press releases, and investments in one place. (Link)
SimilarWeb — web traffic, marketing channels and demographics. Your first tool before Nacho Analytics. (Link)
Ahrefs (SEO, Traffic) — The Swiss Army tool for SEO and Content. (Link)
Social Media Channels — doesn’t hurt to see what’s going on Social. Check the most popular content and look at organizational structure with LinkedIn Insights
GTmetrix — check the loading performance between you and your competitor. (Link)
Clearbit — Basic company data and a place to verify and enrich employee emails (Link)
PREP WORK – List your Competition
Insert top 5 companies which are direct competitors to your business. Pick one that is your arch nemesis a.k.a. your biggest rival (The Galaxy to your iPhone, the Burger King to your McDonalds, the Pepsi to your Coca-Cola, the Trojan to your Durex,..)
Your Company Website:
The Arch Nemesis Website
OK, seriously now… If you have trouble finding your direct competitors use the keywords for your main value proposition in Google search. This should show you the top results for that problem. Chances are your competitors are listed among them.
Check each competitor with SimilarWeb and Ahrefs to list them in order of mischievousness, I mean, traffic and domain strength. The Ahrefs’ quick batch analysis can do this in a few seconds
One of the tools you can use to monitor all 4-5 beside Ahrefs is SEranking.
1. Traffic and SEO of your Arch Nemesis
First things first. Let’s prepare and layout the players on the board.
1) Put your arch nemesis website into Nacho Analytics website.
2) Check the top Content of your main nemesis and copy it down (Buzzsumo)
3) Get the basic traffic, referrals and other marketing data using SimilarWeb
b) Geographic Data?
c) Main Channels
d) Top Referring Websites
4) Use CrunchBase to see what are the main PR statements and partnerships and/or acquisitions. Did they raise any money recently or have they partnered with a strong brand?
5) Ahrefs website analysis — one of the best tools for content research. We will be looking for the top pages, strong backlinks, traffic data to those pages. There are a bunch of others like Moz, SEMRush and Majestic, but I;m focusing on Ahrefs reports the most.
What are we looking for?
Were there any traffic spikes? Find out what those occasions are. Which are the top articles? Why are they so popular? Analyze the content.
Settle down, we will answer all of those questions 🙂
2. SOCIAL MEDIA OVERVIEW
- Use your Nemesis website and check the numbers on Social Blade.
- Check into LinkedIn (you will need Premium Account)
- How does the Organizational structure look like?
- What’s the employee distribution and who are the main hires? (L
Look for the video which is the most popular (All Videos > Sort By: Most Popular). What kind of video is it (Product, Tutorial, Ad?)
Going deeper into the data by using Social Blade will uncover even more nuggets.
When I was researching Jordan Peterson’s rise to the cultural icon I’ve noticed significant bumps in his YouTube channel subscriber growth.
If you look at those big fins in YouTube history, those are all either controversial appearances or guest appearances on big influencers podcasts.
How to find the most successful videos?
Look at the dates of those daily subscribers’ growth and manually find the corresponding videos on company-owned YouTube account.
Twitter isn’t dead and some companies which invested time building a follower base can enjoy extra exposure on this social media channel that doesn’t require a lot of resources.
To see exactly what kind of messaging worked the most, I do the following:
Scrape the last 3200 tweets using Vicinitas
Glance the analytics and note if anything pops out (usually it’s not important)
Export the tweets and order time by the number of favorites and number favorites.
Record the top 10 results
Do the same by the Top 10 Retweets (if different)
Neato burrito! Now you have top 10/top 100/top 3200 tweets that have been most shared or most retweeted.
3. CONTENT ANALYSIS
When it comes to content, Ahrefs is absolutely amazing. In a few clicks, you will find out the most popular content, their whole backlink profile (who is linking to them) and keywords they are ranking for.
For a free alternative, try Neil Patels’ recently acquired Ubersuggest web software.
The Main Overview
Content — Top Pages
Tells you how many pages are showing up for certain keywords on Google at this time. You can export them so you have the list. |
Analyze the best-performing sites on the webpage.
Keep in mind that the homepage will always have the most traffic. The second will probably be the product page. To analyze exactly what are their best content pieces make sure to enter the URL of their blog in the search bar i.e.: https://www.domo.com/blog/
Top Referring Domains
Referring domains tells you which website sources are linking to your nemesis website.
Export the top 1000 results and play around to see which ones you could potentially acquire.
It’s always interesting to see which are the most dominant sources that link to your competitor site. Why the heck can’t we get those juicy links as well?
Choose Group Similar and filter by DoFollow links. If there are more than 1,000 rows to export, introduce the traffic filter to get rid of the bulk of irrelevant backlinks (let’s say to cut off all the pages where the traffic is less than 100).
Export the whole thing and check it out.
Once you filter out the data, you should clearly which are the main sources that point into your nemesis website, where they are pointing to and what that content is.
Bonus: Link Intersect
Link Intersect allows you to see the backlinks your competitors are already having but you don’t.
For example, if all local pizza joints you are competing against have backlinks from a local magazine online website or gastro review aggregator page and you’re not on it, this serves as a great opportunity for you to reach out to those websites and introduce your place.
Since they are already linking to similar websites, there’s a high probability to include you as well. (Not only they will include you, but your entry will be better than Mario’s and Mamma Mia’s since you already noticed the mistakes they did on their entries.
The content gap is another super useful information which tells you which keywords your competitors are ranking for already but you aren’t.
These keywords serve as an opportunity to get ranked for exact keywords which are already searched for but aren’t being leveraged by your competitors.
4. PAID ACQUISITIONS – What is my competitor spending money on?
Sometimes the biggest change in traffic is the fact that it’s accelerated by paid marketing channels.
SimilarWeb isn’t the most reliable source, so double-check with iSpionage and Slack’s extension GrowthBot (made by Dharmesh Shah, CEO of Hubspot).
Check the Landing Pages report to see which keywords lead to which landing pages. Analyze the landing pages for main value propositions, creatives, and call-to-actions.
Needless to say, opt-in for their CTA and see how the onboarding/nurturing phase looks like.
Keyword report in GrowthBot
One quick look for keywords is also Slack’s app GrowthBot (made by Dharmesh Shah, Hubspot).
Check creatives with AdBeat
Check the creatives of your main competitors and study the Call-To-Actions and Ad Copy. Companies have spent thousands to get down to these creatives. We can learn a lot from it.
4. OFFLINE RESOURCES
Where do you go if a company has a big price tag attached to their product and its target are enterprises and B2B companies? Usually to events
CrunchBase allows you to see which events did your competitor visit as an exhibitor or as a sponsor.
5. THE UNDERLYING TECH
Sometimes the piece of their secret is their technology hidden under the hood. The clever combination of marketing and sales automation stacks are the norm, and any company which values optimized workflows uses those tools.
These tools change with times however apart from copy, the tools that are being used by the company now, are a good indication about the quality.
Here’s just a portion of tech Lululemon Athletica is having under the hood.
My first trip is a website BuiltWith. With the free registration, you can look at the detailed technology profile for 5 websites.
I’d double check and fish for additional information on Siftery as well, however, they usually offer less info than BuiltWith.
For lightweight informational view WhatRuns Chrome Extension might be enough.
Speed Performance Lookup – ARE THEY FAST-er?
Google has been warning that UX is one of the most important features of websites. That and the best content and you will enjoy more traffic than you can manage. One of the bigger parts of decent UX is also the page speed.
There are two tools that tell us what’s going on.
First, Google’s own Lighthouse PageSpeed Insights. Don’t cry crocodile tears if you’re seeing red. Only the biggest companies can boast with results like GetDrift below.
However, Insights are great checkup if you look at one site. My preferred go-to is the GTmetrix web app.
With the free account you can compare two or more websites. Check how slow of a website Adidas is rocking.
But that’s not that important as getting a closer look at what is going on during the load time.
That’s why I love the waterfall report:
And of course you can zoom in and look them up even closer:
Advice: It’s a good idea to execute the page speed analysis on your site and download the PDF report. GTmetrix has a bunch of recommendations on how to accelerate your website.
6. THE SECRET SAUCE: Nacho Analytics
Update: Nacho has recenlty been suspending and unfortunately there’s no alternative service/product which could provide similar results. R.I.P. my sweet prince.
Nacho Analytics is one of the best tools I’ve ever encountered. Apart from the awesome name it allows you to leech to almost any website and monitor their Google Analytics.
It sounds too good to be true? Well, is it?
How is it possible for this to be legal? I don’t know but they claim that it is.
The data collection starts from the day you sign-up for the service. For example, after 7 days of website subscription, you will have 7 days worth of data.
What are you looking for in Nacho Analytics?
Basically, everything that you look for in your own Google Analytics.
I’m interested in a few things:
I’m dying to know what portion of traffic individuals channels are getting and what makes them so successful.
Referrals — big websites get traffic based on their brand power itself. I’ll go down specifically on referral sections of the acquisition part and see which sources are bringing the majority of the traffic as well.
Filter by the “Most Visited Content on Website” — With one click I can see exactly which domains are visited the most.
At any given time, I can log in and check what is happening on my competitor’s site.
Yes, the entire pathways of my competitor’s interaction displayed in front of me!
Best of all, leave the Nacho Analytics running for as long as you want. For a thorough analysis, I’m double checking the reports after 30/60 days to get even better statistical data.
Since it gives you almost identical control of your own Google Analytics, this means you can export data in Google Sheets and manipulate until you get interesting info.
If I download all organic traffic that visited the rival page (Google Analytics -> Behavior -> Site Content -> All Pages), I can segment them all based on the traffic. Then you export the whole thing in Google Sheets. What you’ll end up is the neatly laid down content report coming from Search marketing channel. For more detail check Chris Von Wilperts’ Facebook post.
7. Connecting the Dots
Until now we have the raw data which is already valuable by itself. But that’s the machine work. All that data paints a picture and it’s up to the researcher to connect the dots.
If most of the traffic is coming from Facebook and paid channels, then you have to break down the strategy behind that channel itself.
If they are big in content marketing, then it’s up to us to sketch out the content marketing funnel and analyze the stages of it. For example, high-level content is usually on Top of the Funnel (TOFU). What are they saying in that article, where do referrals come from for that page? What’s the CTA of that specific content.
Mid to Bottom of the Funnel (MOFU/BOFU) are usually trust-building pieces like case studies or testimonials. I’m going to be looking at what exactly is highlighted in those case studies, how do they represent the most valuable results and what’s the next step?
Here’s the breakdown case study from Rancher Labs
If you look closely the case studies have thought out structure.
You can recognize the company and industry vertical on the left. The content immediately shows the highlights (2), which invites the interested reader to read further.
On top of the page, they have a video testimonial which is great — it offers the reader to watch the video instead and gives Rancher another marketing channel to bring people in.
And lastly, there’s an appropriate call-to-action — the guide on Rancher, which collects an email of the prospect. The reader will be faced with the number of sequenced emails which, if everything goes right, will lead to a sales call.
Things like that cannot be discovered with business intelligence tools. It demands marketing experience. With the proper knowledge of content marketing, you can shell out the content marketing funnel by yourself.
Know when to form your hypothesis
It’s always enticing to jump to conclusions. But refrain from doing so until you have a good amount of information that supports your hypothesis.
A good example is looking at your arch nemesis’ landing page copy. Depending on the growth stage they are, I am willing to bet my functional liver and half of my premium tea collection that the head title and call-to-actions have changed throughout the years.
When a brand is relatively unknown, in many cases it is not recommended to be too creative in their offer. It’s better to be clear at the start. You can afford to more playful after the brand is already known.
How do you know when the brand earned its place? When they have enough traffic and a good portion is coming from the direct marketing channel.
It’s best to see it on the example.
Here’s the landing page of Shopify on June 6, 2019:
Here’s the Shopify’s landing page on December 12th, 2013:
You can see that the earlier version of the page is much clearer. Shopify specifically talks about the online shop (and not building a business), the subheadline mentions they have today’s’ tools and not “the way”.
If made our decisions about the page’s copy today, we might give the client the wrong perception about Shopify. Shopify didn’t start getting traffic because of clever copy but probably because they had a clear benefit for users who landed on their site in the past.
Similar thinking might go with martech stack. Big companies might use Marketo and Salesforce today, but those tools are clumsy, hard to integrate and more expensive than a 1st class seat on a plane overseas. In the early phases, those companies had to hustle it out just like startups and small companies are doing it right now.
What’s most important may be hidden from plain sight. That’s why you should be more curious than a hyper-hormonal teenager on a spring break.
What does the onboarding for demo call look like? Click on schedule the demo call.
How do they talk to you in their email drip sequence? What happens in the nurturing phase?
Use Caution: What Works For Them May Not Work For You
Here’s the thing. This playbook is absolutely fantastic to see and reverse-engineer your biggest rivals and found out what made them great.
Don’t deceive yourself and blatantly copy-paste your competitors’ tactics/strategy. What works for them may not work for you.
a) Your competitor used a marketing channel which was working amazingly well at that time.
b) They have grown in the time when the market was ripe.
c) They had other important factors that are hard to replicate i.e.: partnership connections, hardware technology advantage, a favor from the national supreme warlord who got them into the government space…
Use competitor research for inspiration, not to dictate your strategy. Form hypotheses, and run tests to see what works for you and what doesn’t.
Also take into account the required investments and resources. Use the growth framework and principles to prioritize and execute experiments according to the ICE Score Test (Impact, Confidence, Ease).
Experiment 1: Bribe the local militia to hand out flyers and brutalize villagers to accept their POS system for selling vegetables? Might work for your nemesis, but the experiment would completely fail.
Experiment 2: Find customers who have used the same or similar underlying marketing tech and pitch them a “better solution” than your rival. Maybe not the best, but a certainly better tactic than pillaging the town.
How Can You Use Competitor Research Analysis?
If you’re in the company already…
This is a crucial activity to check where your competitors are, what they’re doing great, and what are they missing out on. Picking the #1 contender in the space (which may also be your arch nemesis) is especially revealing and eye-opening.
Think about it, they’ve already spent enormous resources (time and money) to get to where they are today. They have walked the path before, made the a/b tests and aligned the copy to fit their audience needs. So if you look at their ad copy on Facebook ads, you can estimate that those value props are working pretty well.
Now, I’m not saying you should copy their message (don’t be that guy) because they have carved their own niche and are banking on their own unique selling point.
If you’re looking to get into the company…
When you’re trying to get your foot in the door and work for your dream company, chances are there are hundreds if not thousands of other candidates trying to get that position. It’s common knowledge that online resumes just aren’t cutting it anymore.
You have to show initiative. You need to do something else to show you are proactive, you can deliver value and you’re willing to do more than well… your personal competitors.
Delivering this detailed 30+ page report on their competitor will show a couple of things:
- You are showing how bad you want the job and you’re not waiting and praying to be called for an interview.
- You’ve demonstrated knowledge about the industry, it’s market and specific competitors in the space
- You already gave the valuable takeaways and learnings up front. Guess who is the best person to execute on those learnings? Ummmmm…… you perhaps?
In the end, you’re not competing against hundreds of people for that position, but only a handful of finalists. Even if you don’t get in, you’ve got the training in and the company will remember your name.
You’re building your marketing knowledge
If this isn’t just fun and interesting you might be in the wrong industry already.
Finding out the points of victory and putting the pieces together to see the competitor’s strategy is one of the key roles a marketer does. Researching a company is something anyone can do with (almost) zero budget. If these kinds of exercises don’t move the needle in your marketer’s serotonin levels, then seriously think if you’ve chosen the right vocation.
These researches will not only get you better in thinking strategically but it will help you to translate the knowledge of one industry to another.
Can you apply Slack’s word-of-mouth marketing to your product?
Is it possible to think of Trader Joe’s ingenious copy to your (boring) industry?
How about lifting the whole category (paired with traveling adventure) with amazing video materials like Landyachtz Longboards?
Want me to ghost recon your nemesis? Email me