Beginner’s guide to competitor analysis


What is competitor analysis, why you need it, and how to find competing brands.

No matter how niche your product is, you’re bound to have competitors. So you need to know what you’re up against if you’re going to grow your business and retain your customers

But we get it, researching competitors can sometimes be draining, stressful, and plain not fun. But it’s a necessary part of running a business that many companies overlook. Here’s our beginner’s guide to competitor analysis, including what it is, why you should do it, and how to find competing brands. 

What is competitor analysis?

Competitor analysis is the the process of finding competitors of your business and learning about their various marketing methods. It involves gathering data to determine your company’s advantages and disadvantages compared to others in the market. 

You might know the basics of why competitor research is so important, but many business owners overlook just how crucial it is. To some extent, just by having competitors – and knowing what they’re doing – can be vital to your business’s success.

Competitor research can:

  • Help you further understand your target audience or market
  • Allow you to distinguish your strengths (and weaknesses), meaning you know what to focus on
  • Help you identify the competitor’s strengths and weaknesses to take into consideration 
  • Aid you in recognising trends in the industry, so you can keep up with them and anticipate new trends
  • Encourage creative ideas to innovate and develop your company and public image

The more effort you put into competitor research and analysis, the more you’ll be able to reap the rewards. Let’s dive in. 

What are the types of competitors?

There are three types of competitors, with varying levels of importance: primary, secondary, and tertiary.

Primary competitors

Primary competitors are direct competitors with the same product type and same target audience as you. Both your product and their product serve the same needs – so a  customer could choose either company and get the same results. An example of a direct competitor would be another crisp manufacturer, if you sell crisps.

Secondary competitors 

Secondary competitors are companies that offer a similar product to yours, but who have a different target audience. For example, a company selling nuts may be a secondary competitor to your theoretical crisp company. If someone really wants crisps, then the secondary competitor isn’t an issue, but a customer may choose a different snack that day, meaning they’re still an important competitor to consider.

Tertiary competitors

Tertiary competitors and less obvious competitors – ones who offer a different product, potentially in a different market, but that’s linked to your product. These companies often fall between the cracks, but their lack of similarity doesn’t indicate a lack of importance. Being aware of the company and any changes they make could be beneficial in the long run. 

How to find out your competitors

In order to check yourself against your competitors, you first need to find them. You’ll need to keep a list of competitors and update it regularly. Here’s how to get started with finding them. 

Finding competitors using search engines and SEO

Simply search for your company name and see what else shows up. Google will suggest other companies that they correlate with yours. For example, searching for Coca-Cola on Google not only brings up information about the brand, but also what people searched for:

These may not be direct competitors, and it’s certainly not a comprehensive list, but it gives you a starting point. 

You can also search for a keyword or phrase that describes your product or brand, rather than using the competing company’s name. 

Finding competitors using PPC (pay-per-click)

PPC is where a company pays to have the top spot on a search result, and can be identified by the word ‘ad’ next to the listing. Using the keywords from the previous step, search for them again, but this time focus on the ads rather than the organic results. 

This gives you an idea of companies that are paying for the top spot, which could be different from the results list if, for example, it’s a smaller brand hoping for more exposure. 

Finding competitors using content tools and social media

Content tools such as Buzzsumo allow you to search for a keyword or brand to get the highest trending content relevant to it. Often used in marketing to create or develop a content strategy, you can also sift through results to find competitive brands to add to your list. 

Similarly, you can also use ‘explore’ pages of social media platforms, although this may take more specific searching. Hashtags are searchable on Instagram and Twitter, and Twitter also has an advanced search option that includes a tweet’s engagement, allowing you to filter through tweets quicker and find competitors faster. 

Finding competitors using surveys

Your customers are one of your most valuable resources, so use them! Send a survey (with an incentive) asking for any competitors they can think of, and you could even give them a theoretical scenario to assess your strengths and weaknesses against them. This could give you further insight into why customers choose you over your competitors, helping you develop marketing or content strategies. 

Alternatively, if you want a more subtle approach, it could be part of the sales process, asking about prior experiences and previous companies they’ve used. 

How to carry out a competitive analysis

Now that you know who your competitors are, you can do a competitive analysis. There are many ways to conduct one of these, but here’s a step-by step guide to simplifying the process. 

Step 1: Gather basic company data 

Before any formal analysis can occur, make sure you have a spreadsheet with every competitor on it, as well as their basic data, such as:

  • How you found them (including keywords if relevant)
  • Revenue
  • Their product/service
  • How many clients they have
  • Location, and how many offices
  • Number of employees
  • A link to their website and social media channels

Having this data set allows you to compare your competitors – not only with your company, but with other competitors. Then you can see who’s your biggest threat. 

Step 2: Take time to really think

An obvious (yet often overlooked) part of competitive analysis is actually thinking about your competitors in a holistic sense, and keeping a record of your thoughts. 

Try separating your thoughts into these categories:

  • Strengths: What do you do better than the competitor? Stay as objective as you can, and think about your unique selling point (USP) along with any customer reviews or testimonials you have. 
  • Weaknesses: Where can you improve? In what areas does your competitor ‘win’ over you? Do you lack anything they have? 
  • Threats: Are any competitors actually threatening your revenue? What are the other things out of your control that could impact you negatively, like current events or new laws? 

These points will help you see where you stand in relation to other competitors, and give you insight into how to improve or prepare for change. 

Step 3: Analyse their website and social media content 

One of the best ways to begin your competitor analysis is to look at their website. This gives you an idea of how they’re presenting their product or service, and what aspects they’re pushing (eg. low price, accessibility, luxury etc). Here are a few things you can look out for on their website when carrying out competitor research: 

  • The home page – are they focusing on the product/service, cost, or another selling point?
  • What kind of language are they using?
  • What does the website look like? Is it geared towards a particular target audience. 
  • What’s on the careers/vacancy page? Does it looks like they’re expanding or struggling?

It’s also worth looking at their social media for the same reasons, especially as you’re more likely to see how the competitor interacts with their customers. See which selling points they’re pushing – what is it about the product or service that entices customers? You can also see how well their social media campaigns are received, and compare them to your own. 

Step 4: Check their website traffic 

Website analysis shouldn’t stop at simply looking at their digital “shop window”. Analyzing your competitors’ web traffic can give even more insight. Google Analytics and Buzzsumo are great tools for finding out your competitors’ web traffic. And it doesn’t just stop at visitor numbers, you can find out things like: 

  • Whether they’ve had a rise or fall in traffic (and why that may have occurred)
  • How consistent their web traffic is
  • If there’s any correlation between social media engagement and website visits

From these, you can identify what the competitor does well, and where they fall behind compared to you.

Step 5: Test their SEO

SEO can be used in an analytical way to conduct further competitor research. Further to seeing what brands show up when you use certain keywords, you can start to analyse things such as: 

  • What does their content normally look like? Is it long or short form? Do they accept guest posts?
  • What keywords do they rank highly for? Are there any that are different from yours? 
  • What keywords generate the most traffic for them? How does that compare to yours?
  • Which websites (and how many) link back to their site? 

These comparisons will give you greater insight into your competitors’ strategies. 

Sales engagement to beat your competitors 

Competitor analysis may feel daunting, but the results are well worth it. By doing your homework, you can identify and correct weak spots in your brand, and ensure that you’re several steps ahead of your competitors. Awareness of competing brands keeps you on your toes and constantly innovating all the time, which ultimately results in a better business. 

Outbase provides customizable email templates which can be personalized to multiple different demographics, meaning you’re less likely to lose customers to a competitor. Using your knowledge of competing businesses, you can adapt your messaging, engage more clients, and stay at the top of your market. Try Outbase for free

Written by:
Colette Hagan-Young Content Writer