If you have a small business, chances are you like to keep an eye on your competitors. It's not a crime. Some might say it's spying. But it's just good business. You need to know where the marker is so you can go one step further. The key is to study your competitors' best practices, so you can create bigger goals and ultimately, sway more customers to buy from you. If you're an online business, this is one of the most important steps in the creation of your digital strategy. The old saying is true, keep your friends close but your enemies closer!

1 Social Media

85% of consumers will buy from a brand they follow on social over competitors. It's an obvious one but keeping an eye on competitors' social media accounts is one of the best insights into another brand and how their customers perceive them, making it a brilliant way to learn from their successes or failures.

Look at what they are offering through the lens of a potential customer:

  • Watch what type of content they are creating, how they tell their brand story. 
  • See which posts are getting the most engagement from their followers and notice which ones don't have any impact. 
  • How do they handle their customer service? Are they quick to respond to customer queries, or do they deal with negative comments in the right way? 
  • Monitor how quickly their audience is growing.

Take it one step further with these brilliant social media listening tools that allow in-depth competitor social media monitoring: Mention, tracks fundamental metrics across Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and compares them against your own profiles. Sprout Social is expensive but one of the best tools on the market for social scheduling and listening.

2 Reviews

Do your competitors have Google, Facebook or Trustpilot reviews online? This is a brilliant way to snoop on what they are offering and the satisfaction rates of their customers.

You will learn things like:

  • What their customers value with a brand that is similar to yours. 
  • How their customers perceive their customer service. 
  • Feedback on promotions or pricing. 
  • Their weaknesses. This might provide you with valuable information on how you can turn their weaknesses into your strengths.

3 Website

With Google reducing the organic presence of websites, knowing who your online competitors are is key. It's an obvious one, but have you reviewed your competitor's site objectively? Imagine you have never visited their website, now, try to view it from a new users' perspective. Open your eyes; get critical, think about:

  • What is the user experience like? Is it easy to navigate around the website, is the customer's path to purchase or get in touch easier than your site?
  • What is the content like? How does it compare to yours? Does it have good calls-to-action?Are they delivering their brand story in the right way?
  • How does the site make you feel?               

SimilarWeb is a nifty tool for traffic insights to websites. It includes traffic sources from social, referrals, blogs; you name it. You can also add competitors to a watch list. Semrush is the most widely-used SEO tool, and its competitor analysis reports are unrivalled. If you are spending on Google Adwords, it gives an understanding of your competition from an SEO perspective, highlighting the keywords your competitors are targeting, which can directly influence your own content strategy.

4 Newsletters

Rule number one of competitor analysis is to subscribe to all your competitors' email marketing lists. This is how you'll also be the first to know of their offers, promotions and news.

  • Take note of the subject lines and subheads, are they attention-grabbing?
  • Learn the frequency of newsletters, take note to see if a pattern emerges you can use to your advantage.
  • What are the calls-to-action like? Do they make you want to click-through to their website?

If that means too much work or if you have too many competitors to watch, use MailCharts. This brilliant tool saves you the trouble of secretly subscribing to your competition's emails and spending hours trying to find something actionable. Instead, it aggregates emails from competing campaigns to help influence your own.

5 Google and Google maps

It may seem like an obvious one, but the simple act of Googling business and keywords in your industry can be so valuable. Take note of the keywords used to get to certain websites or who is appearing in the top page positions. Take time to see why these pages might be appearing before yours and make this a regular practice to determine trends. 

Google Maps will help you locate other local bricks and mortar businesses. This will give you a greater understanding of them; you might even find some ideas to improve your listing. 
– Check do they have Google review rating? 
- Do they have good imagery? 
- How many reviews do they have, more of less than yours? 
- Are they using tools that you are not, maybe they have a 360 degree tour of their premises that can be an advantage over you?

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