Digital Profits Podcast – Episode 4: Comepetitive Intelligence in Digital Marketing Strategy

Are you looking to build a digital marketing strategy that gives you an edge over your competition? With the right competitive intelligence and analysis, you can unlock insights that will allow your business to stay ahead of the curve. But how do you identify those advantages and gain actionable intelligence about your opponents’ strategies? Let’s detail exactly what competitive intelligence is and why it’s so important for developing effective online marketing strategies. Get ready to take your strategy game up a notch!

What Is Competitive Intelligence and Why Does It Matter in Digital Marketing Strategy

You may have heard the buzz surrounding competitive intelligence, but do you really understand its relevance to your digital marketing strategy? Essentially, competitive intelligence is the practice of gathering and analyzing information about your industry competitors. It tells you what their digital marketing does well and what they could do better, which can help you improve your own strategy.

By keeping tabs on your competition, you gain a better understanding of market trends, potential threats, and opportunities for growth. In today’s fast-paced digital landscape, staying ahead of the game is crucial. Competitive intelligence is the tool that can help you do just that.

Identifying Competitors and Their Strategies in the Digital Space

When it comes to identifying competitors and their strategies in the digital space, you want to approach it like an expert friend. While it may seem overwhelming at first, there are a few key steps you can take that will help you navigate the competitive landscape with ease.

First, take the time to research your industry and identify the top players. Once you have a list of potential competitors, examine their online presence, analyzing their website, social media accounts, and any digital marketing campaigns they have in place. By understanding their tactics, you can better position yourself and tailor your own strategy to stand out in a crowded market. Remember, being an expert in your field means constantly learning and adapting, so stay curious and keep exploring!

Gathering Data to Analyze Your Competition

So, let’s say you’re now looking to analyze your competition. First things first, you need to gather data. And not just any data, but data that will give you a real understanding of what your competitors are doing. This means you need to take a deep dive into their website, social media accounts, and any other public-facing platforms they use. Look for things like how often they post, what kind of content they share, and how engaged their followers are.

This information will give you a clear picture of what’s working for them and what’s not. Once you’ve gathered this data, it’s time to analyze it and use it to your advantage. Your competition won’t know what hit them.

Key Factors for Creating a Winning Digital Marketing Strategy 

To create a winning digital marketing strategy, there are a few key factors that you need to consider. First, you must have a deep understanding of your target audience. Without this understanding, your messaging could fall on deaf ears. Second, you need to establish clear and measurable goals for your campaign. You need to know what you want to achieve so that you can track your progress and make adjustments as needed.

Third, you must have a comprehensive plan for your content creation and distribution. Your content needs to be high-quality, timely, and relevant to your audience in order to be effective. Finally, you must be willing to continuously analyze and evaluate your results so that you can refine your strategy and stay ahead of the competition. When these factors are in place, you’ll be well on your way to creating a digital marketing strategy that truly delivers results.

Leveraging Your Competitive Intelligence to Outrank Your Competitors

You’ve done your research, collected data, and analyzed the competition’s moves, now what? Leveraging your competitive intelligence is crucial if you want to outrank your competitors. It’s not just about knowing what they’re up to but using that information to your advantage. Dig deeper into their strategies and tactics, and find ways to improve upon them.

Think about what sets you apart and how you can capitalize on your strengths. Remember, it’s not just about copying what others are doing but finding your own unique approach. With the right mindset and strategy, you can use your competitive intelligence as a strategic advantage to take your business to the next level.

Staying Ahead of the Curve with Regular Assessments and Adjustments  

How can you stay ahead of the curve? You can do so by regularly assessing and adjusting your strategies. Whether you’re a business owner, a student, or simply working toward a personal goal, taking the time to evaluate your progress and identify areas for improvement can be incredibly valuable.

By regularly assessing your performance and making adjustments as needed, you can stay on track toward your goals and ensure that you’re making the most out of your efforts. Remember, success requires not just hard work but also a willingness to adapt and change over time. So, don’t be afraid to evaluate your progress, make adjustments, and keep moving forward.

This is all easier said than done, but it doesn’t have to be overwhelming, given the right research tools and resources. Ultimately, competitive intelligence helps ensure that you’re putting your business in the best position to succeed in today’s ever-changing digital landscape.

Don’t let your competitors outsmart you in the digital marketing game. If you’re serious about taking your digital marketing strategy to the next level, listen to the latest episode of the Digital Profits Podcast on Competitive Intelligence in Digital Marketing Strategy. Gain insights on how to identify your true digital competitors, understand their tech stack, tools, and strategies, and analyze their site structure to identify gaps that your business can fill. Discover how tools such as Call Tracking Metrics, Salesforce, Hot Jar, Microsoft Clarity, and Screaming Frog can help you gain a competitive edge. Plus, learn about keyword gap analysis, content gaps, and user intents, and how they can improve your SEO efforts. Take action now and outsmart your competition to grow your business faster!

Welcome to the Digital Profits Podcast, where you’ll learn how to grow your business faster using paid traffic and SEO. Each episode will feature a breakdown of digital marketing trends and answers to your burning questions that will provide actionable takeaways to make your marketing better. So join us, Ben Page, Ray Sawvell and Blake John, as we guide you on your journey to higher profits. Remember to join the profit squad and get ready to profit in 3, 2, 1.

Ben Page: Hey, guys, we’re back with another exciting episode. What are we talking about today?

Ray Sawvell: Ben we are talking about competitive intelligence today. That’s a great question.

Ben Page: Yeah. And guys, how often does it happen that the competitors you want to look at in search or in paid traffic situations are the same ones that clients bring to you in the first place?

Blake John: It’s rare. I feel like clients, they have a few, that are kind of a few competitors that are a thorn in their side, and they kind of keep those close by, keep your enemies close. But their digital competitors are often very different from the competitors that they’re listing. When we’re kind of doing an onboarding process and talking about this sort of competitive analysis process in general.

Ray Sawvell: It can be a good conversation starter, too. If a client knows who their actual competitor is, they’re going to share that. But then you can also share what’s out in the space as well, which is a pretty good conversation starter, and can demonstrate what’s actually happening out in practice.

Ben Page: Yeah. So often they might have a known competitor from trade shows or from a product overlap that they’re aware of big picture, or based on kind of institutional knowledge, competitor size, revenue, market news, and so on. But when we get into digital, what we find is that whether you’re looking at search result pages or you’re looking at, let’s say, in Google Ads, Ray, the Auction Insights report the domains that appear for the types of searches and audiences that you want to target, that you want to acquire new customers from, those are very often a different set than what clients are aware of. And so it’s really interesting. Let’s kind of like, zoom out, though, and talk about why is competitive intelligence important? What’s the purpose of doing these exercises in the first place?

Blake John: Well, I think just from a basic level, it kind of helps you understand where you stand amongst your competitors. Right. And it’s going to help you specifically, the biggest opportunity is just identifying what you can do to beat them or overcome them or become like the competitor that everyone wants to do this analysis on. Right. So I think that’s where it starts, and that’s why it’s so important. Yeah.

Ray Sawvell: For me, on the paid side, it’s tracking how that competitive landscape shifts over time. So, Ben, you mentioned the auction insight report. It’s a really great report in Google Microsoft that allows you to see here’s how a competitor is pacing and changing day over day, week over week. And it really shows you how that shifts and it allows you to be adaptive and determine, do I want to be really aggressive during this time? Should I fall back? Should I figure out how to pace my budget differently? It allows you to think about your campaigns differently and then react accordingly with strategy.

Ben Page: Yeah, that’s interesting. There’s the idea that if you’re always pursuing your competition and chasing after them, that you’re always going to be in second place. So I think on the one hand, you need to concern yourself with your customers and your product and just serving their needs more effectively, more efficiently, to gain an edge. However, I think it is still useful to keep an eye on the market and your competitive set. And I think, first of all, getting that awareness of in the marketing and digital marketing channels that you’re pursuing, who are the competitors vying for that same customer as you? Because whether it’s SEO, whether it’s PPC, these are competitive systems by their very nature, both in terms of trying to get content to rank and become visible in the search result page, or very literally with the auction based system in pay per click. So that’s important. But I think big Picture, before we get into the tactics, thinking about big Picture strategy, for me, the goal starting out is sort of mapping the landscape. So you want to gain that base level awareness of who are the players in these different arenas, these different channels that are part of your mix. But once you identify one or more that you think are significant and relevant based on product market overlap with yourself, or at the very least, they’re a significant player in a given acquisition channel that you’re working on. You want to try to almost reverse engineer the data that you receive from this competitive intelligence in order to understand their model of acquisition.

And what I mean by that is if you can get a sense of their economics, if you can get a sense of the size of their presence on a particular channel and also which channels they’re using more or less heavily as part of their digital marketing mix. I think that’s helpful because imagine sort of a matrix at the end of that where you’ve got multiple competitors. You understand their model, how they’re acquiring customers, perhaps how much that might cost them or what their ballpark investment in these different approaches might be and finally a sense of what a customer could be worth to them. If you can do those things and then also start to understand some of their approaches to be successful, at least on some level, in these different channels, that can tell you a lot and it can also alert you to any blind spots in your own strategy. So, big Picture, let’s think about how would you well, I don’t know, guys, what should we do? Should we talk about how do you first find out who the competitors are? Or once you have a competitor, how to start big picture and learn about things like their tech stack and their site structure and the channels that they’re playing in.

Ray Sawvell: I think step one is identifying those competitors just because the awareness piece is so key. And if there is a difference between who the actual competitors are digitally versus who a client may think their competitors are, understanding that awareness piece is key. So I think discussing tools or ways to identify who they are is really important.

Ben Page: Yeah. So, Ray, client comes to you. Maybe you’re auditing a Google Ads account. How do you determine the domains or the competitors that are truly their competitors in paid search? What’s kind of that step one to get the awareness, what do you recommend?

Ray Sawvell: It kind of depends if there is a current Google Ads or Microsoft Ads account in place. We’ve already mentioned this report called the Auction Insights Report, which just go ahead and Google that or it’ll be in the show notes. But you can run an Auction Insights Report, and this report will tell you the domains that are firing when your keywords are searched or when that search term is searched. It’ll give you different information, things called like impression share and overlap rate and a bunch of different information, but really high level, it’ll tell you who those competitors are from a domain standpoint. Now, if you don’t have the luxury of having a Google Ads account in place right now and you’re thinking about launching it, you can use third party tools like Semrush or Ahrefs to find who competitors are at a search term or keyword level. Now, these tools aren’t going to be completely accurate, as it would be within Google Ads, but it’ll at least give you a general sense of who those competitors are and you’ll be able to establish generally who you can start to start monitoring, like we discussed earlier.

Ben Page: Yeah, so let’s go deeper on that. If you have an existing account, the Auction Insights Report can be run at different levels. Correct. So you could run at campaign level, ad group level, keyword level, and so on. And so what I’ve found helpful in the past is running it for some of your non-brand kind of primary keywords. Right, Ray? Because there’s, depending on the industry and your brand and just the space in general, it can be hit or miss as to who is bidding on whose branded terms. We see a lot of variance sometimes.

Ray Sawvell: It’s like it’s always a battle.

Ben Page: It’s quiet or sometimes right. It’s like totally stacked. And it’s just common practice in an industry where everyone bids on each other’s names. So I think going in at that level of specificity is helpful. And Ray, what kind of day range would you look at if you’re just first glance, trying to understand who’s even in the auction for these keywords that I care about.

Ray Sawvell: Generally, you’re pretty good to look at. The last 30, 60 is a good date range to look at, just to get a bunch of data to understand generally who those competitors are. However, if you do have a Google or Microsoft account and you see a major shift in your cost per click or cost per conversion, you may then want to start looking at a shorter time range to find out when did that spike in whatever KPI happened. And then you can set the date range to whenever that KPI spiked. So that could be another way to look at that information.

Ben Page: So if you’re looking at your performance report essentially over time, and there’s a blip on the radar in one of these metrics CPC cost per Click, CPM cost per thousand impressions, cost per conversion, et cetera, then you would dial in the date range around that and look for any changes in things like the overlap rate by domain. So all of a sudden competitor C say that in the 30 days before that time was sitting at a 10% overlap rate and suddenly they jumped to 50%. They’ve done something, they’ve increased their budget, perhaps they’ve raised their bids in the paid sense. Right? Yeah, it’s interesting. I think the key would be selecting a date range in general that has enough impression data within it to make it a meaningful analysis. And sometimes, like Ray mentioned right, a competitor can slowly mount a strategy that if you looked at a smaller window of time, it may not be apparent that their presence is there. So looking at a longer term would also alert you, I think, to who the more durable competitors are as well.

Ray Sawvell: Yeah, and this is more of an advanced strategy, but if you are getting a ton of impressions, and if you’re able to run reporting week over week, you can really map things out and say over the last twelve week period, here’s exactly what impression share looks like by week in this Auction Insights report. And this is getting a little bit more tactical, but that’s another advanced strategy that you can look at to find exactly how these competitors changed week over week.

Ben Page: Yeah, that’s so cool. And then imagine segmenting that further. If you have brick and mortar or you have different territories for your business, and maybe there are regional competitors, national competitors, and local competitors, having that ability to actually slice and dice this by geo as well, depending on your campaign structure, could be really beneficial. Because, again, I think it’s about the level of resolution that you can bring to this analysis where the details are incredibly important and you’d want to take those localized factors into account, I think. Ray, what about if a client doesn’t have an account already? We see that sometimes, right, in the sales process, prospect will come to us, they are successfully executing on another channel, perhaps SEO, perhaps email. No matter the case, they want to begin a new strategy on paid traffic. PPC. Google ads. Microsoft ads. How could they start to just map that landscape, gain that awareness of who’s playing in the paid space? For the keywords that I care about.

Ray Sawvell: The first thing I do is I cry a little bit inside because there’s no Google Ads account. But after that I would go to external tools like I mentioned earlier, semrush or Ahrefs, or even using Google Keyword Planner just to get a general idea of what are some of the keyword phrases and then taking those keywords, moving them over to tools like Semrush and then running that through database to find out exactly what domains are firing for specific search terms. So that’s a decent way to get an idea, but until you actually start running Ads, things may shift, sometimes drastically based on the market.

Blake John: I’ll jump in because we don’t have as many levers to pull as you do. On the paid side, we don’t have the Auction Insights report. So I think, truthfully, you have to step back a second and really think about where you want to be. What products do you offer, what services do you offer? What are you giving to the world? Where’s your client going to be when they are searching for you? And what search term is that? If you really don’t know, just give that some thought, really think about it, and then literally Google that.

Ben Page: Thank you for saying that.

Blake John:
Start Googling it, because who your competitors are, are likely there already, right? That’s who you want to compete with. So start doing that. That’s literally step one. Number one is go to Google. Google whatever search term you think is relevant, and you’ll find 10, 12, 15 competitors on that search end result page. That Serp. You can kind of go back from there. And then I think really, especially if you don’t have an Ads account already, that’s when you jump into Semrush and you go, okay, let’s plug this in. Let’s see where this competitor is and what they’re ranking for. But I think don’t underestimate the power of Google as a tool in this competitive analysis process because it does give you so much information. It’s literally, oh, these are the people that are winning. These are the brands that are winning. So take that into consideration. Use Google in this process for sure.

Ray Sawvell: And you can also break that down by intent, too. So if you don’t see Ads on a specific page, it’s likely that’s an informational or navigational query that is firing, not saying that it doesn’t make sense to run Ads on those search terms.

Blake John: My favorite, search for the ones without ads.

Ben Page: Yes, which ones are those?

Blake John: Yeah, they’re few and far between these days.

Ben Page: Well, you could also Bing it. I’m just going to throw that out there guys, you could Bing it.

Ray Sawvell: I have switched to Microsoft Edge for my default browser. Highly recommend it.

Ben Page: Oh, man.

Blake John: I will say, if your target audience is older and it’s more of a B2B type industry or niche, Bing is relevant because a lot of people are on work computers. They’re doing their searching. They’re doing their looking for their next supplier or whatever it might be on their company laptop. And a lot of times the default browser and the default search engine is Bing. And so, honestly, it could be relevant. But for most almost every other industry, though, I would recommend Google.

Ray Sawvell: My grandma uses Bing, right?

Blake John: Exactly.

Ben Page: I would say, why not both? I mean, I think Bing is going to become even more relevant, right? And their sort of market share in the US. Internationally has shifted over time. But obviously with the developments on their end, with the new Bing and AI technology being infused into that search experience that could change. That could change some things. But either way, I guess my point is, why not have both, right? Like, Google it and then Bing it. But I think circling back to the big picture conceptual, right, mapping the landscape, like, step one, understand who’s even out there. It’s like, all right, understand who’s out there. But in order to do that, what I’m hearing you guys both say is you first need to get clear on the kinds of Blake you’d call them, user needs, or the kinds of searches that your prospective customer would be performing on the journey to discovering your brand, your products, your solutions. It’s only once you’ve kind of gotten clear on at least a subset of those keywords that you can then begin your kind of next steps of conducting some of that competitive intelligence. So let’s just kind of paint the picture like, we’re going through this exercise, and now we’ve done this for a prospect client for ourselves, and now we understand, like, here’s the subset of keywords that are kind of our core that we’re going to build from. And then we know it looks like there are these three competitors, and they’re in Google organically for several of these keywords on page one, or they’re occupying top spots. Currently, we’re intermittently, like, if we’re just using the Googling method, Googling It method, they’re intermittently having Ads fire on these different search result pages. We’ve identified that. It’s like, what’s the next step? Because now we’ve kind of got competitors A, B, and C identified, at least for this product or solution. How do we then begin to get that big picture understanding of what they’re up to in their digital marketing strategy? Do you guys want to think about or talk through some of these big picture things and then drill into SEO and PPC methodologies?

Ray Sawvell: Yeah, I think, Ben, you covered this earlier. It’s like gap analysis. Once you determine who those competitors are, it’s determining where there might be some blind spots in either your current strategy, whether its keyword gaps, creative gaps, offer gaps, whatever that may be, you need to understand how are your competitors going to market, and then what are some viable strategies for you to consider for your business.

Blake John: I would agree. For me, it’s hard to think about a higher level of this analysis. I’m immediately wanting to go into the SEO analysis and the process that I would take. And I think this could be valuable on the paid side as well, to be honest. Because really, this process, the keyword gap analysis will give you the full keyword universe and what’s out there, what’s the whole keyword matrix, whatever you want to call it, right? You go to Semrush again, not a sponsor, but maybe one day, and you plug in on the left hand sidebar. There will be a whole list of tools and whatnot, and there’s going to be one that says keyword gap analysis. You click on that and you’ll just plug in yourself. And then I think it’s up to four. It might be five, I can’t remember exactly. But you’ll plug each one in and you just hit submit and it’ll run a report and it’ll literally show every keyword that you have in common with your competitors that you don’t have in common with your competitors, where you’re weak, where you’re strong, what’s, quote, unquote, untapped, and you can filter out and see quite literally everything. And this is like a great place from a keyword perspective. Say, okay, I know where I stand right now. I know where I am weak. Let’s sort of drill down from here and identify, as you said, Ben, like the user needs or the specific user intents to start actually building out that content and starting to rank for it. Now, taking it to the paid side again, this will just give you a better idea of like, okay, what keywords can I target still? It’s still valuable information, but my brain is working kind of from an organic perspective when we’re doing this.

Ben Page: Right and the output of that report, it’s like essentially a really Gnarly Venn diagram. And you can imagine understanding then where there’s overlap among the competitors, where there are unique opportunities, and then kind of where you fit as far as coverage. But I guess you guys want to hear something wild, like zooming out to the big picture again, because now it kind of goes like mapping the landscape. And I wanted to include this. So Chat GPT is only trained on data through September 2021, currently, right now, GPT 4 is out at the time of this recording. What I found helpful in some cases is in a similar manner as, hey, let’s go on Google, let’s identify the target keywords, and then let’s look at who’s visible for the target keywords. Take your product and or your brand, if you’ve been established for some time, or if you’re in a market that has some history to it and start querying chat GPT about your market. Say, I offer widgets who are the best known providers of widgets and what users, what markets, what industry like, what use cases do they serve? Okay, who is the leader in widget production? Okay, what’s the best way for widget producer to acquire new customers? I think with that line of inquiry, you can also get a lot of that landscape mapping accomplished. You can also understand, just based on whether it returns a result with a competitor’s name, if there’s content out in the wild about that competitor or not. If they’re like, I’m sorry, I’m only trained to this point and I don’t understand or I’m not familiar with that entity, then you’re like, okay, I am going to have to do my own research a little bit more in depth, but I just want to throw that out there because I think you can get some insights. And that big picture strategy, again, using AI to kind of augment your manual research process.

Ray Sawvell: And to build off that and this is a whole other episode, but if you don’t have that historical knowledge in Chat GPT, you could prompt and tell chat GPT and say you are an expert widget maker over the past 30 years and are well established in XYZ, brainstorm some target market ideas for me. And you can even go that route just to get some ideas of what that may look like. And you can just prompt and prime and tell chat GPT who it is and then have it spit back information for you, which is cool.

Ben Page: Sure. And I mean, getting even more tactical. You’d say, what are likely keywords I would target in Google Ads if I was that widget manufacturer? What are the most important pieces of content my website should include if I am a widget manufacturer? And as we discuss these other sort of analyses or competitive intelligence methodologies, you can prime GPT with this data to get even more useful insights. So what are the best non paid traffic strategies for widget manufacturer that are inclusive of digital marketing and how would I execute and what are the best tools and so on and so forth. But I don’t want to go down that whole AI next time. Yeah, sometime, for sure. What about I mean, for me guys, right? Still in this mapping landscape and coverage. So now you’ve got your set of A, B and C figured out. We talked about getting clear on the keyword spaces and so on.
Blake, you mentioned the coverage. For me, I’m thinking even bigger picture, it’s doing that same kind of Venn diagram comparative analysis, but almost at the channel level. It takes a little bit of legwork, but it’s sort of like what I’m going to do is I’m going to use a tool like similar web, I’m going to use a tool like CrunchBase. I’m going to try to understand what are their company sizes, who are their key players, what’s their annual revenue, any historical knowledge about the markets that they’re in. So I would do that. I would set up a Google alert for their company names or these key players in their company. I would then go on I mean, obviously I’d be Googling and Binging and seeing are they inorganic? Are they in paid? I would go on their websites. I would sign up for their email lists. I would stalk them. Well, basically, I mean, right? Like go on social, right? Yeah. Who are their followers? What channels are they playing? Oh, they’re on LinkedIn and Twitter. Great. And then if you start to notice like, wow, all three competitors are here, here, and here, but they’re not here, that can give you some hints. So I want to do that and I also want to understand what are their offerings, what are the price points, if that’s kind of publicly available information, and so on. I guess the other one, this is super critical, is reading reviews of the competitors so you can understand in their customers words what the value that competitor is bringing to that customer is. It’s a pretty thorough kind of mapping landscape, what are the channels, strategies, mixed business model? If you can understand that for some of these top competitors, then I think you’re primed to start to go deeper into the two channels and to peel.

Ray Sawvell: Back just quickly the gap analysis side of things you mentioned. If competitor A, B and C. If you’re noticing that all of your competitors are on LinkedIn or some channel, for example, and they’re putting a lot of effort content posts, they’re getting engagement and your brand does not have coverage on that channel that may lead you to believe, not just because everybody else is doing it, you should do it too type of thing. But if they’re getting a lot of engagement, there’s a reason why they’re putting so much effort in a channel. And you should consider that too, because your target audience is likely on the channels that your competitors are putting effort in as well.

Ben Page: Right? Yeah. It’s at least a signal. And it’s kind of like the misleading or maybe it’s not as intuitive as it’s a good sign. If there are paid ads showing up for a set of keywords that you think are relevant to your product or service because it’s a signal that someone is likely making money on those keywords from an advertiser standpoint. And yeah, I think when you are the brand, you are the advertiser, you are the company, and you’re looking at your competitors and you’re sort of trying to map that landscape so that you can develop your digital marketing strategy and your budget allocation that we talked about in episode two, it’s going to be challenging. Like if a given channel is at Saturation with legacy competitors that have better economics or more budget or more effort, like even if it’s just organic social right? Like take the LinkedIn example and they’re cranking out content. They got tons of engagement and following and they’ve got personal and company brands working in tandem and they’re boosting posts on page that might be a tough nut to crack if you’re just starting out and depending on your resources. It’s like A, cool, customers are on LinkedIn, competitors A, B, and C are finding success here, but do you stand a chance of breaking through the threshold of noise and ad dollars there? Maybe, maybe not. So depending on your situation, it may make sense to focus all of your effort there or to say, where is their blue sky? Where is there a channel with better or more favorable economics of acquisition? And should I go there instead because I’ve only got this much resources, time, energy, human capital, dollars, whatever. What about guys like the tech stack that someone’s running on? Any thoughts on that? Have you guys dug into that in the past?

Blake John: I think there can be some value in it.

Ben Page: Specifically when you find out they’re running on Drupal and then you’re like, cool, we’re on WordPress.

Blake John: Yeah, then that’s a huge advantage. There’s a tool called built with, It’s a chrome extension that you can get really a lot of juicy information, like kind of behind the scenes back end type stuff. I think it’s a little more advanced truthfully, and I think that, like I said, there could be some insights that you can pull from, like are they using HubSpot? Are they using you can see the CMS, you can get some details, but generally it’s not going to be game changing insights. For the most part, I think you might come across something that could be really enlightening, but overall, I’d say that there’s not going to be something that’s going to push you into a new channel or something. You’ll find the blue skies there. I’m not sure that’s going to happen.

Ben Page: Yeah, for me, it’s the best things I found from looking at Built With or even probably even just view sourcing a competitor’s site or like tag assistant, using a tag assistant extension and seeing what kind of tags they have installed in their site. It’s either got to be identifying pixels for advertising channels that I wasn’t aware of, like, oh cool, they’re un-programmatic. I wouldn’t have guessed that. Or it’s identifying plugins for things like WordPress. And I’m like, oh, I should look into that. It’s a WooCommerce plugin. And then you can kind of look at the landing pages and figure out how it’s integrated and then like, oh wow, I bet that’s really reducing friction on the path to conversion. That’s a use case I found helpful. I don’t know, Ray, if you found anything else.

Ray Sawvell: With Built With specifically you mentioned the spend finding what tags are on the site, but also third party tools like Call Tracking metrics or Salesforce. Like understanding if a competitor has some tech on their site where they’re recording and listening to phone calls is interesting and that might be a route for your business to consider. So it’s kind of going back to that gap analysis piece that we talked about earlier where competitor A is running XYZ tech stacked. Maybe we should consider it too for our business, if it makes sense. So that could be another route to consider.

Ben Page: Yeah, maybe it’s like an evaluation of how sophisticated they are in terms of their tools and strategies. Like if they’re stacked and they’ve just got CRM and full suite of tools and all the analytics and they’ve got like a hot jar. If you can kind of glean some of those details, you could get some interesting insights.

Ray Sawvell: These are all real tools that better listing off. By the way, these are not fictitious tools. Everything is real.

Blake John: It is true. One I didn’t consider is Hot Jar and Microsoft Clarity. If you can see that they’re recording user sessions on the site while you’re browsing and obviously their customers are browsing, maybe that’s another episode to be another podcast episode, but you can get a lot of really helpful information from Microsoft Clarity, Hot Jar, and other session recording tools.

Ben Page: Yeah. So guys, I’m taking us from the big picture down to the fine details. And it’s like now we’ve got understanding of the keyword spaces, we’ve mapped the landscape, you’ve run them through these different analyses and you’re kind of watching and following their movements. So you’ve got this ongoing monitoring component. What about things like site structure Blake?

Blake John: Yeah, so specifically you can use a tool like Screaming Frog if that’s where you want to. It’s kind of a more technical tool, but there’s a lot of really solid information to be gained from Screaming Frog. But you could just download it. It is free. It’ll only crawl up to 500 URLs on the free version. But there’s a sitemap tool where it’ll literally show you an illustration of what the sitemap looks like for that website, basically. And you can see the taxonomy of all the things and how they fit in together, which is really, really interesting. You can see things like spoken wheel concept if they’re using that, which is basically you have a hub, like a content hub or pillar page is what I usually call it. And then all the related content and how it’s all linked together, which is really, really cool. But if we’re kind of drilling down into I think there’s sort of the way that I think about it from an organic perspective, there’s really like two levels of analysis. There’s sort of like the domain level and I think we’ve been talking about that for the most part so far. And then now that we are drilling down there’s like the page level and that’s where you can get into things, specific things that you can understand about your competitors, like what types of content they’re actually offering, and not necessarily from a keyword level, but literally, like, what is the question that they’re answering? What solution are they providing? What need are they fulfilling? Because that’s what you need to do if they’re winning, right? If we’re looking at the right competitors, those are the ones who are winning and driving the most traffic. Understanding that kind of conceptual level, like page by page, a huge next step for you to undertake and say, okay, how can I improve on this? What kind of value can I add that they’re not? And how can I basically two x or ten x this web page to make it so much better that we beat them, essentially. Yeah.

Ben Page: Sometimes called the skyscraper method, right? Yeah. That idea of how do you look at if you treat a search engine result page, like, if you do an 80:20 analysis on one of them for one of these relevant keywords to your business, it’s like, all right, the results at the top, organically paid, they’re going to get the majority click share. And so if you’re looking at the top examples in the Serp, you’re sort of intuiting that, or at least like Google is evaluating them as the result that is currently best serving the user needs. And so then the idea is, like Blake mentioned, right? Like, yeah, how can I add more value to that to raise the bar significantly? And that’s the level of effort required to kind of reach the next level. So, I mean, Blake, we talked about that keyword gap analysis. I suppose if you sort of map the structure of your competitor’s sites from an SEO perspective, you’re also doing effectively a content gap analysis, right?

Blake John: Yeah, absolutely. That’s definitely going to be a part of it. And I think that is sort of where if this is your first time doing that competitor analysis, where you’ll sort of get keywords and the user needs or that user intent sort of mixed up because one keyword that someone might rank for that might be a whole user need, but it might be multiple user needs. It might be irrelevant to your business, too. It might not be worthwhile. So really understanding the whole taxonomy of all the things, really, and how it all fits in and where you can provide that value is extremely important.

Ben Page: Yeah, that’s so interesting because in a sense, it’s very elegant. You can do this at both the macro level. What topics, what user needs am I missing or haven’t I thought of becoming aware of what you don’t know? And then you can do it at the micro level on a given page. And really, like you said, what questions literally, what kinds of content? Is it video? Is it audio? Is it visual? Yeah.

Blake John: Do they have FAQ section, literally getting that specific saying, okay, if you have a blog post that you want to rank for maybe it’s, I don’t know, Best XYZ Company. Okay. Just for an example, okay. And you’ll take a look and it’s going to be you’re going to have all your comparative posts, right? And they’re all going to have a list of the top ten, top twelve. Okay. Well, if you want to rank for this, you need to have a list of competitors. So those types of posts are usually off the table. But if you’re looking at we were talking about this is kind of funny, but a recent drug that’s available to the public that’s legal right now, but for a competitor or excuse me, one of our clients, to realize that it’s actually being used as a recreational drug when it’s not supposed to be. And it’s being used its being outlawed, essentially. Yeah, it’s being abused and it’s being outlawed in some states and they’re a mental health and substance use treatment center. So we’re taking a look, okay, for that specific drug, there’s going to be what is this drug, how does it affect you, et cetera, et cetera. And you’re going to see what specific pieces of content, like literally like a paragraph by paragraph level, are ranking for the top ranking pages have on their page, right? And that’s what you need to do. And I want to make sure that you’re not just copying pasting, right? We’re not trying to literally steal, but it’s understanding at a conceptual level how a page ranks and what makes Google as a machine, right? Because that’s who we’re trying to satisfy here. To rank what makes Google as a machine tick. And it’s the specific pieces of content that these winners have. You need to recreate something similar, reverse engineer it, as you mentioned earlier, and then also add a unique value that these other competitors are either missing or just don’t have altogether or maybe they’re not doing it very well. You need to be able to add a unique value because that’s how you’re going to ultimately win.

Ben Page: Right, In order to create a blockbuster that is going its like engineered to rank organically, you need to more effectively communicate the solutions or meet the user needs for those existing queries questions. User needs. And or I would say, and if you really want to create a blockbuster, you need to anticipate or research or go back to that keyword user need gap analysis and say, well, great. I mean, for this topic here’s, kind of like the current state where the bar is, the kinds of content they’re hitting on these three different angles of this user need. But it looks like people also ask research, other kinds of research. They’re not even touching three new aspects of this user need and so identifying those and developing content for those, because then you have a more comprehensive article. On that topic or a more authoritative one or a more compelling one, a more entertaining one. That’s the value that we can bring to a user that ultimately results in the machine ranking us more highly or whatever.
Blake John: But absolutely.

Ray Sawvell: just hearing you guys talk about it, it almost sounds like a recipe of sorts where it’s like, you got to find out what other folks are doing and then how do we want to structure said blog or article. Is that a decent way to think about it?

Blake John: I think it is. And what’s interesting about this process so if you’re going down this process and you’re looking at a user need level or a page by page level of your competitors, you want to take the top three to four, I would say competitors, and perform an analysis on each one individually. And what you’re going to find out is they’re not all the same, obviously, and one page might do a really good job of covering this topic when another page does a good job of covering this topic. And you might say to yourself, why not create a true, helpful resource and do both and combine them? And that’s the unique value of the ten X that you can provide because they’re not doing that. There could be, like you said, multiple angles on how to meet this user need and they’re being satisfied on separate pages but not together. And you want to create one resource that’ll solve all their problems, the user’s problems, and be like the one stop shop and end their search. That’s ultimately what you want to do from an organic perspective and from a page perspective as well. You want to be the last website they click on for that specific search. Like, you want them to stop there. You want to satisfy their need. And so that’s how you can do it. You can understand on a page by page level what are they doing? Doing well? What is this other competitor doing well? How can we take all that and put it on our page to make sure we’re beating them out and we’re providing the best user experience possible?

Ben Page: Yeah, that’s how you get to end game for a given user need. That’s so cool. I mean, Ray on the paid side, man, we got to talk about this. You’ve got the competitors now. What do you do next? So on organic, right, we talked about keywords content, kind of reverse engineering that what do we do on the paid side to now drill into each one and get that insight that ultimately leads to action and us taking some measure.

Ray Sawvell: Let’s talk about creative for a minute. So creative is like one of the biggest insights you can gather from competitive analysis. And again, I want to preface all this with we’re not going to copy paste like Blake mentioned and just take everything and put it into our ad copy, but there are tools out there or we can Google it to find exactly what are our competitors going to market with from a visual format copy offer. There’s a lot of different ways to look at this and then you can determine how you may want to go to market for a specific product or offer as well. Getting more tactical, you can use tools like Facebook or Meta Ads Library where you can literally see the ads that they are running on Facebook today. And you can find out, are they running videos? Carousel ads? Are they doing memes? Like, what are they doing for their marketing strategy? And then what might be gaps in your current marketing strategy from an advertising standpoint. So a really good resource for you to try right now or in the future is just to Google Facebook or Meta Ads Library and type your competitors name into the search bar and see how are they going to market on Facebook today. It’s a really quick and easy way to find the ads that your competitors are running.

Blake John: Have you seen a lot of success in using memes as a creative?

Ray Sawvell: It depends on your goal. If you’re looking for engagement and you’re looking for awareness, yes. If you’re looking for conversions, not so much. But you can get a ton of engagement with memes and everybody loves a good Meme Blake. So you can go that route, right?

BEN PAGE: Yeah, that’s interesting. I mean, with creative, right, you can literally go back to the Googling It method. So now you’ve got competitor A, B and C. You can do that, just googling various keywords and analyzing their ad copy. I think that’d be the most manual and tedious method. You could use something like Semrush where depending on your plan, you can see copies of their ad text for given keywords, which is pretty helpful. And then yeah, on paid social, actually, Ray, like Google selectively fires a pseudo ad library now too, mainly on YouTube.

Ray Sawvell: I’ve seen it, I’ve seen some on Search, but there’s like a little button you can click on YouTube that shows you more info from that advertiser and it’ll show you the video assets that are typically running for a specific brand.

Ben Page: Which is interesting, right? Time to time, if you click the it’s like, why am I seeing this ad? It’s like you hover over the ad and you click I think it’s three dots. And then, why am I seeing this ad selectively? In that tool tip that pops up, you’ll get like, I see other ads from this advertiser type of result and then it pops up something resembling an inad library, which is really pretty cool. But I just want to circle back to what you said about the Ads library piece because what you’re looking for, at least when I’m looking at this, it’s like, what ad formats? Like you mentioned, video, single image carousel, et cetera. What’s the nature of the visuals being used? What’s the angle? Are they using influencers? Are they using product shots? Is it lifestyle stuff? Is it just random? Is it memes? So kind of mapping that out again. And also looking for patterns, but then also looking at the copy, the structure of the copy, is it long text, short text? Is it filled with emojis? What are the hooks? What are the angles? And then also looking at the offers, are they offer first? Are they bogo? Are they free shipping? Is it a trial? What’s the structure of the offer? Is there an offer? And then finally looking at the landers. And again, this is going to go back all the way to the u of digital marketing. Like the stalker mode. Like going to their site, going through their funnel, their path to purchase. If it’s ecom, adding it to Cart, abandoning Cart. I mean, if you want to go endgame here, I’m checking out. I want to see that whole user experience. How long does it take to get it? What’s the packaging? What follow up sequences do I receive? Or if you abandon Cart, do you then get retargeted with different offers? Is it multichannel? Like, how does it work? Just getting a much deeper understanding throughout that whole journey of because now we’re talking about competitors, channels, targeting creative, landing pages, possibly even product in endgame. If it’s SaaS, it’s Legion. Same thing. You could submit an inquiry, sign up for their newsletter, just try to immerse yourself as much as you can as though you were a prospective customer. And I think you’re going to get some deep insights.

Ray Sawvell: Yeah, a really quick tip when it comes to if you’re going to be stalking these different sites and trying to enter the remarketing audiences or things like that, I would highly recommend setting up a separate Chrome profile or a separate Edge profile. So then that way it’s not like bleeding into either your work user account or your personal account. Because then you can really say, this is my Chrome profile for A competitor or B, competitor. And it lasers. Very specifically, if you’re trying to enter into those remarketing audiences.

Ben Page: it’s like Yes, if you’re signing up for widget competitors, nice guys. Well, I feel like we should wrap this up. We’ve given a lot here and just to kind of like bring it all home. Right. So we talked about how do you identify the landscape, how do you get clear on what even constitutes a competitor in digital marketing and paid search, organic search, et cetera. So we got that. We got some really cool methods to do some comparative analysis and some tactics. I think with creative targeting, structure, website, tech stack, hopefully it’s been helpful, right, to get these frameworks and processes and tools. We’ve equipped you well to do that. And I’ll just say I think it’s a worthwhile analysis to do this. How frequently probably depends on how active you are in these different channels. But at a minimum, do it once, do it now, get your baseline and then maybe it’s something you revisit annually or periodically as needed. But I will say this. These processes are very much built into the work that we do every single day and, like, Blake, what you were describing Is effectively.

Blake John: Yeah, it’s a huge part of my process. Specifically, on a page by page level, we don’t kind of zoom out. We do we do that, of course, but it’s not as often zooming out to, like, the quote unquote domain level. But on the page by page level, that’s something that I do probably every single day.

Ben Page: Right. And it’s part of one of the products that we offer, in a sense, which is cool. And on the paid side, this is understanding that user need and journey and then stepping through the targeting, the creative, the landing page, and kind of that fulfillment and that journey to lifetime value. And we look at that continually for the most important user needs or keywords or audiences. And that’s very much built in. So if you need help, reach out to us. And we’d also love to answer all the questions that you have on this topic. So please join the Profit squad. Send us your questions, and we’ll answer them either in the community or on an upcoming episode. But thanks for listening. Make sure you subscribe, and let’s level up our competitive intelligence.

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