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A Quick Guide to Monitoring Your Competitors in 2019 Competitor analysis can help you unearth untapped opportunities in a variety of verticals.

By Thomas Smale Edited by Dan Bova

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Hoxton | Paul Bradbury | Getty Images

Regardless of whether your competitors are ahead of you or behind, you can safely assume that they're always going to be up to something. And you need to be paying attention. But as a small company, you have an advantage, because small companies are typically more agile than well-established ones.

Related: 3 Reasons to Start Copying Your Competitors Today

And that gives your smaller company the upper hand in both creating disruptive offers and shifting in line with market demand.

But you're not yet off the hook because if you aren't keeping up with your competition, you could be blindsided by sudden changes. Your sales numbers could dip. Feedback and customers' reviews could sour. And, if you have a membership program, your churn rate could go through the roof.

So, now that you've newly committed to keeping up with competitors, know that, fortunately, monitoring them isn't complicated. In fact, the following tools and strategies can help you streamline the process. Here's what you should be using them for:

1. Discover what keywords competitors are targeting. Analyze their rankings.

Although you're in the same industry, you have no guarantees that your peers are targeting the same keywords as you. They may have found clever workarounds you haven't yet identified. In addition, long-tail keywords with a small search volume may be passed over; but if you create enough relevant content on these topics, the traffic generated adds up.

With the help of a tool like SpyFu, you can identify exactly what keywords your competitors are targeting for paid and organic search. In addition to uncovering missed opportunities, this tool also gives a sense of what keywords you could be ranking for but aren't.

Once you've done keyword research, next compare your progress against your peers'. AccuRanker and other similar tools make this a simple task, giving you the opportunity to see where you stand in relation to companies that are in the same niche.

2. Analyze their backlinks and identify opportunities.

Checking competitors' backlinks can also give you a better idea of where your target audience is hanging out online. Businesses in your niche might be getting traffic from places you aren't aware of. While it's not necessary to duplicate all their link-building efforts, by doing a bit of digging, you might determine a few sites you can get links from.

Related: 10 Business Lessons I Learned Studying My Competition

Also, note that backlink profiles change over time. So, it may be wise to use LinkResearchTools to keep an eye on any new links your competitors are getting too.

3. Examine their content and determine what's getting shared.

Content is an incredible business-building tool. It can drive traffic to your website, build trust and authority with your target audience and even convert sales without your doing any extra work.

If you haven't been taking content seriously to this point, it may be time to get in the habit of producing value-adding content for your audience regularly. If you have a content strategy and have been executing it for a while, then it may only be a matter of making a few small tweaks to outperform other similar businesses.

With the help of an app like BuzzSumo, you can easily find the most shared content by topic or brand. This should give you an idea of whose content is getting attention in your industry. And, the results may surprise you.

You may uncover potential competitors you weren't even aware of. You may even find that the competitors who you thought were nipping at your heels aren't even contenders. Either way, it's worth your doing the research.

Also, know that content doesn't remain stagnant. The research you do today may show one thing, but that could change a few months or even a few weeks down the line. So, it's worth staying abreast of the content being produced in your industry. Setting up alerts for specific keywords is a good way to keep informed.

4. Study competitors' social activity. Understand how they're connecting.

For most businesses, social media is a secondary source of traffic, playing back seat to organic and paid traffic. But that doesn't mean it's not important. There's a lot you can learn about other businesses and your target audience by watching competitor social feeds.

For instance, you'll see what they're sharing, how they're positioning themselves and what their messaging is, as well as what topics are driving engagement and which aren't. This should offer some clues as to how you could be more effective on social media.

5. Read their blogs and emails to grasp their messaging and strategy.

Reading other companies' blogs and emails can be a huge time sink and is something that should only be done on your time, when it's most convenient for you. With that in mind, you may still uncover a gold mine by keeping an ear to the ground.

You may find valuable blog topics you have yet to cover. You may learn about the types of questions your target audience is asking by scanning the comments. And, you can even see the kinds of offers your peers are creating to entice, engage and nurture your target customers.

You may consider using a feed aggregator to subscribe to specific blogs and set up rules within your email system so that email campaigns land in specific folders and not in your primary tab.

Related: How Small Startups Can Profit From Competitor's Woes

Final thoughts

Competitor analysis can help you unearth untapped opportunities in a variety of verticals. It should be carried out regularly so you can create offers that are both relevant and valuable to your audience. Remember, getting an overview of industry trends will be important for building your ongoing business strategy.

Thomas Smale

Entrepreneur Leadership Network® Contributor

Co-founder of FE International

Thomas Smale co-founded FE International in 2010, growing the business with zero funds from scratch to a seven-figure-a-year business. Specializing in advising and brokering the sale of established websites and online businesses, FE International has completed over 300 transactions. Smale has been interviewed on podcasts, blogs and also spoken at a number of industry events on online businesses, exit strategy and selling businesses.

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