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Digital Battlefield: How to Master Online Competitive Analysis

From Twin Creek Media's YouTube Channel:

In this episode of the “Between Two Creeks Podcast”, James and Teresa will guide you through the crucial aspects of measuring your company's performance against your competitors. We'll explore why understanding your competitors' strengths and weaknesses is vital, the importance of consistent branding, creating clear conversion paths, and leveraging testimonials for trust. Additionally, we'll dive into the significance of Google rankings and maintaining a robust digital footprint. 

Let’s go!

James: Hi everybody, it's James

Teresa: And Teresa!

James: Here we are talking about the Digital Battlefield: How to Master Online Competitive Analysis. Effectively, how to measure your own company versus your direct competition. And what is important and why. Actually, starting with why—that would be a good question to put over to Teresa, who's an Account Manager and manages many projects across BC and Canada.

Teresa: You really do want to have an understanding of the importance of why you're doing the competitive analysis and the digital landscape that it's on. Basically, by understanding your competitor's strengths and weaknesses - you know where you can basically be better and where you can hit them. When you see that they're doing something poor; you want to make sure that you're doing it better. If they're doing something great, you want to make sure you're doing it even greater.

James: Exactly! I mean, knowing who's the best at something puts a target on their back or allows you to at least paint a target on their back and go after them. Knowing where you are already the best is something that you can either double down on because you're so far ahead of people or you're like, “That doesn't need our attention right now because we already are killing it in that area; we should focus on these other things.” Kind of SWOT analysis.

Teresa: Exactly, because a lot of times, actually, you get so consumed working in your own walls and within your own doors that you forget to pull your head up and look at the actual industry. What are they doing? What's going on? So this is a really good chance to not only learn about your competitors but even the industry as a whole and what's happening in it.

James: The information that we're gathering in our competitive analysis is just something that you can literally open up your laptop and start hunting and searching for. It's not behind closed doors, secret files or anything.

Teresa: There are quick tools that you can use to check things such as page speed and overall technical performance, but it really starts with a person, and them actually being able to digest what they're seeing and make some analysis based on it.

James: I had a good laugh when Teresa wrote the notes for this episode, and she's like tools and the big one was Humans.

Teresa: Well, it's true!

James: Which is a double meaning. I like that you're calling people tools. But it's funny because this goes hand in hand with the other episode, which was very heavily technology-driven. The episode was called Baseline Website Reporting and the importance of that and it uses a lot of software to do a lot of number crunching and analysis. But this is the completely opposite side of things; where that was all about tech, all about data and numbers, this is all about Human Experience - User Experience because there's no good substitute for human beings yet. (Ahem, AI)

So let's just run over some of the really important things that that you're actually looking for during a competitive analysis. It's going to be a little bit different for each industry, but the criteria is pretty similar. So even though the findings are going to be different and what you're focusing on - if it's an e-commerce website - it's all about the products and shopping carts etc etc, but if it's a Service Company, you're looking at different pages - about the team and interactivity with downloads and quote forms etc.

Let's open it up and say, what would be the common things for all companies that they really should be aware of, how they stack up against their competitors?

Consistency of the Message

Teresa: I think one of the ways is to start with just branding and that overarching presence or message. Is there a consistent marketing message or tagline that is used across digital spaces? Does it change all the time? Or is it in some places and not in others, and it’s inconsistent? Or is it really kind of everywhere you go in the digital world, is it consistent? What is yours compared to your competitors? The more often a marketing message is told, the thicker it becomes and the longer it resonates.

James: It's funny - there's an old saying in the marketing world,

5 seconds is what you have

When people land on your website, they'll start judging you within 5 seconds and almost subconsciously make a decision on whether they're going to stick around a lot longer or realize that this is not what I wanted at all. Consistency is part of that puzzle. So when they go to your social media profiles and your website or your YouTube channel or online business directory, your Google Business Listing etc, and they're seeing radically different things and different messages and different logos and different addresses and service listings etc, they're just confused. And you're not reinforcing anything, you're actually telling people that you're massively disorganized or out of date or don't care or not sure how to use stuff. It's just a bad idea, isn't it?

Teresa: It is, and they (your customers) know it right away. They feel it, they're confused that you've missed an expectation, and they're going to walk away.

James: Exactly. So what are some of the other criteria that we're looking for when it comes to you versus them?

A Clear Conversion Path

Teresa: Looking at your website and understanding if you have clear paths or calls to action for people to take compared to your competitors. That could be for them to Call You or Learn More or Request a Quote, if you're providing a service. But is it really clear what you want people to do? Or is there too many options? Having over nine calls to action on one page, people don't know what to do. They're just going to throw up their hands and go somewhere else. So really, clear journeys and Calls To Action for users to take are so important so they know what they're supposed to do on your website.

Clear Conversion Path

James: The case of not keeping the main thing - the main thing. And not even giving any hints of what you think people should do next. They are just left to wander around and get lost in your website and ultimately leave without putting any information in. They're not calling you, they're not asking for a quote, they're not buying anything, they're not downloading anything. It's a lost opportunity. 

Teresa: And then when you recognize that different people are coming to your site, are you sharing information with them in different ways? For example, text versus video versus pictures or images, charts, versus graphics, infographics; things like that. You want to have a nice varied kind of “Playbook” that these people can go through. And you want to make sure that you know if you're in an industry that's heavily visual, for example, real estate, you better have great pictures on your website. And if you're a lot more technical, maybe there needs to be more of the how-to guides and those kinds of explanation documents that people can absorb or a video explaining something…


James: We see a lot of people not paying attention or caring about reviews in general. And we're not talking about Google reviews this time, although they're important, but what's on your website. Because this is an online competitive analysis, where we're measuring what's on your site – what's on your own website, because that's where people are landing on. But many many businesses will have absolutely no mention of any customer or client that they've ever worked with, ever! And they've been in business for 20 years, and they have an amazing reputation but there's not a peep from anyone who's not at the company. 

They might have a a message from the president, you know the old days when that was really important, but not so much these days; it should be more about messages from your top 100 customers. People are going to care about that! 

client testimonials

And that's a huge opportunity that we see all the time with competitive analysis. Did you know your top three competitors have a ton of happy success stories on their websites? Happy people saying how much they like working with the company and with you guys, even though you're successful too—it's like crickets.

Teresa: It's part of building that trust factor. So those testimonials or those reviews from clients are really important.

James: On that trust level, we're trying to convince people to trust your company; obviously, when we're doing this analysis, we're looking for opportunities to increase that trust. 

Google Rankings

James: We're also looking to increase Google's trust in your company, which is a whole other side of it which goes to Page Ranking, Domain Score and Authority, Keyword Rankings and how you measure up against your competitors on that side of things as well. So who is ranking the best on Google? Who has really good authority on Google? Blogging is something we measure for; Do people have a Blog on their website? And the reason I mentioned that right after the Google ranking is because it plays such a big part in it.

Blogging is going to be a big indication to Google that you know what you're talking about, and then Google's like, ah yeah, these guys should be ranked higher than company X because they talk about the subject in eight different ways, from 10 different angles. It's really, really powerful.

marketing blog

The “Content is King” phrase doesn't apply quite like it used to because this has changed a little bit, but it's still so so powerful. Online content proving your Authority is a big deal, and that's something you want to be measured against your competitors as well.

Teresa: The one thing I'll say about that, too, is that in a lot of the competitive analysis that I've done for my clients, you go to their competitors, and you look, and they're like, “Oh yeah, they have a Blog and there's 14 articles and the last one was written in 2016 and the one before that was 2011 and oh, you can tell in 2008 they hired somebody to write blog articles for them because there's six in a week”. So, not only just having those blogs, but actually, they're proving to have value.

To put that into a real example is that, so you and your competitor; each have a blog. You see that they're blogging about once every two months. To gain a competitive advantage for your business, Blog every three weeks! So you can really easily distinguish how you can actually be better than your competitor, and that's what the whole point of this is, putting those little parts of a website or your digital space under the microscope compared to your competitors and finding out what can I do to be better than them.

Digital Footprint

James: Another massive area of measuring your company against other companies is not just on your website but also on external sites. So other places like all your social media profiles if that is important in your industry. If your competitors are heavily using social media and they're all over Facebook or Instagram YouTube, Pinterest, LinkedIn or TikTok for the younger demographic, why aren't you there even more? If you're not doing it yourself, what can you learn from what they're doing?

The neat thing about analyzing multiple competitors and not just one company is you're going to find that some companies are really really good at some things but not everything. so you can be like, “Here's the example of the best of the best in this area, but this other company is rocking it in this other area,” - and you can just pull ideas together. And then your new game plan could be being the best in all areas! At least you have targets to shoot for because you're making a hybrid plan with the very best of the best in every single area.

By pulling examples from all these different places, you can also actively choose to ignore certain things. For example, you do not care about being better in this area because of your reasons but you're going to focus your energy and time on something else because that's more important to you. You're educated enough to know that it's a great decision not to focus on that and focus on this instead.

Information is your friend in that perspective. Without doing the analysis, you don't know. You're just making an opinion based on your feelings or what you're personally interested in. The number of CEOs who don't do stuff because they personally don't care about it is staggering. What about your customers? What do they care about? Maybe you should do something that is important to them.

Why Conduct A Competitive Analysis?

Teresa: James, if you think how many times we start to have a new client partnership and such, and they come in with their requests; I want this this this and this, and we ask why? And they say, well, shouldn't I? And we say we don't know!

James: So we ask based on what? What are your reasons? People should ask why a lot more. Before we started the show, Teresa had a really cool example of a competitive analysis that turned into a cool strategy.

Teresa: I learned this a long time ago when I first started going and studying and getting my marketing degree but Avis, the car rental company, had decided it really needed to figure out how to own the market, and so they did a very in-depth Market Analysis or Competitive Analysis against Budget, who was number one. They were very close to being better in everything, but they also realized that they weren't, and they also realized that they were never going to be and instead of going okay and kind of giving up, they saw it as an opportunity! And they said, okay, we're second, so what do we do about that and they said, well, if we're not first and we're second, we're going to try harder, and that's how they got their tagline “We try harder” and it really actually resonated with their customers and their clients because they knew that Avis would maybe go a little bit above and beyond to try to beat Budget.

They just accepted that they're the underdog and then turned it around as their positioning statement and strength and said we're going to do this better; we're going to try harder.

James: Yeah, that's cool! Information is your friend, so we encourage everybody to do online competitive analysis as well as offline competitive analysis!

Check out our previous episode: Baseline Website Performance: 5 Things Every Business Must Know - Part 2

“Between Two Creeks” is Twin Creek Media’s weekly podcast series. You can find us on YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, and Spotify. If you enjoy listening to the latest and wonkiest in marketing every week, don’t forget to hit that subscribe button! If you want us to amp up your marketing, click here to contact us and let’s chat!