Knowing what your competition is up to – how they are thinking about the market, the tactics they are utilizing – can make all the difference in the battle for share. This is an adage that holds true in virtually any vertical, but nowhere is it more true than in search.
The insight that thorough search competitive analysis can provide could fill several articles on their own, but a few examples include:
- Backlinks: Where do your competitors have backlinks where you don't?
- Content: How are your competitors reaching your audience through content?
- Site Structure: How have your competitors structured their website? How do the search crawlers see their sites as compared to yours?
There's a great deal that can be gained from a thorough, regular competitive analysis process. But, competitive analysis is a lot like flossing – everyone agrees it's important but not everyone does it (or does it well).
A recent Conductor (full disclosure: I'm Director of Research there) study of 467 marketers found that nearly three quarters (74 percent) agreed competitive analysis to be "important or very important," but nearly six out of 10 (57 percent) admitted they weren't very good at it.
Only 40% of Marketers Integrate Competitive Analysis Insight Into Strategy
Given the insight that can be gained from competitive analysis and its potential to influence overall strategy, we were surprised to find only 40 percent of marketers surveyed say they do competitive analysis and that the analysis strongly influences their natural search strategy.
There's something to be said for a head-down approach, but ignoring competitive analysis is a little like ignoring directional road signs because you are focused on the act of driving.
Ultimately, I think the reason a fair few search marketers aren't incorporating competitive analysis into their strategies isn't because they don't think it's valuable, but because it doesn't get prioritized on their lengthy to-do lists.
Competitive Analysis Correlated With Higher Conversion Growth
We wondered if the data could give us any insight as to whether those who do competitive analysis experience improved performance in search. We segmented the competitive analysis groups in the chart above by degree of search conversion growth, grouping respondents into those who experienced a decline or slight increase and those who experienced moderate to heavy growth.
This segmentation told us that 44 percent of high-growth respondents were those who do competitive analysis and it influences their search strategy, compared to only 30 percent of no/low growth respondents who do so.
To be sure, there are other variables that influence search success and we don't want to conflate correlation with causation, but the data is enough to suggest that those who are giving little to no mindshare to competitive analysis rethink that approach. Those who do may find that adding regular competitive analysis and adapting strategy based on that analysis positively impacts their bottom line.
To get started with competitive analysis check out Josh McCoy's excellent article.