How to find out what your competitors are doing, so you can do it better

spying on competitors

Knowing who your competitors are isn’t enough – you have to know what they’re doing, how they’re doing it and if they are costing you business. It’s also no good paying attention to a competitor if you aren’t willing to go a step further and do things better, evolving into a more engaging and efficient business along the way.

Worried you don’t have time for all of that? Today’s modern competitor analysis tools and practices are easier than ever to master. Here are several methods for 2016 that you should keep handy.

Down-funnel analysis

If you are losing sales to competition, it’s a good idea to start looking down-funnel first, toward the decision making process and payment process. When it comes to marketing and generating leads, companies tend to be very similar, even when competing. But the closer you move to payment and the farther you get from ads, the more differences tend to emerge.

Often, successful competitors have better funnels that channel customers more quickly to a purchase decision – and then they make that purchase very easy. Check out payment options, what types of payment are commonly accepted by competitors, how easy it is to save financial information and manage your “cart” and what competitors do about credit. If you see any noticeable differences that seem to encourage customers to spend more, this is where you should focus.

Social media analysis

Simply looking at your competitor’s social profiles isn’t enough.  Analysing the type of content they share and taking note of their recent posts and tweets is helpful to gain an overview of their strategy, however, this won’t let you know what’s working and what isn’t.

To properly understand how you can do social media better than your competitors, you should do an in-depth analysis using key metrics such as amplification, conversation and applause rates.

How many total followers do they have? On average, how many of their followers like, comment, or share their posts? At what time do they get the most engagement? Do they have a unified presence across all social profiles? Who are their influencers and do they often amplify their content? How are they getting their audiences to engage in order to increase conversation rate?  A comprehensive social media audit is important if you want to one-up your competitors in social media.


Surveys have a limited but valuable place when it comes to competitor analysis: It’s okay to ask customers directly which brands they prefer and why. If you are having serious competitor issues, create a few of these surveys and post them on blogs or social media.

You’ll get a lots of honest answers if the survey is made widely available and if there are some glaring issues with your value offering then you can quickly find out this way.  If you haven’t already, try using Survey Monkey or Google Surveys to leverage ready-made tools to improve this process.

Keyword tools

Keyword tools seek to dig down deep into how your competitors are using SEO and how people are talking about their brands vs your own. There are many keyword research tools and platforms available online for this, such as Spyfu. Most walk you through how to seek out competitor keywords and compare social discussions of competitor products to your own, then capitalize on what you have learned.

Knowing what keywords you share with competitors and where you differ can prove very helpful when creating targeted content. Most importantly, using Ahrefs, SEMrush, or Spyfu you can identify other keywords that you had overlooked, which you can then start targeting within your content marketing strategy.

Website analysis

Closely compare your website to those of your competitors. Pay particular attention to navigability and design:

  • Is a competitor site easier to read?
  • How easy is it to find what you want?
  • Do they have a blog?
  • Do they frequently update their site?
  • Is their site optimized for mobile use while yours is not?
  • Do they offer links to whitepapers or industry news?
  • Run their site on Page Speed Insights – does their site have a good grade?

You can find out a lot about the marketing efforts of a competitor simply by going through their site and noting its performance and content.

Industry best practices

When in doubt, turn to industry best practices. No matter what industry you are in, there are probably at least a few publications devoted to outlining current best practices in many different areas. Never study a competitor without also studying what the very businesses in the market are doing – you’ll learn how they measure up, as well as how you compare.

Whether you use tools like SEMrush or Ahrefs for competitor research, Truesocialmetrics for social audits, or simply perform a content audit on their social profiles and blog, competitor analysis can help you improve your visibility.  Emulating what’s working for competitors is a powerful strategy – granted you do it better than your competitors.

The goal is not to copy what they are doing, but to see what is working for them and make sure you’re doing it much better!