Who doesn’t want to stand out, get noticed and win more business?

Yup. It’s a tough world out there and competition is something that one cannot avoid.

But making the competition work for you and your growth is something that can be done with a little bit of research. In this article, I am going to cover how competitor auditing can benefit you, and how to do a basic audit in a simple 3-step process.

  • Step1: Identifying your competition
  • Step 2: Competitor Auditing
  • Step 3: How to get action items from your analysis

Why Competitor Auditing?

If you are a marketer yourself, you probably spend a lot of time researching about your potential customers and marketing strategies.

You’d have probably created an ideal customer profile for your business and so you’ll know their interests, likes and dislikes, what they google online, where they hang out online, what their problems are and even their favourite brands.

You would’ve probably mapped out their entire shopping experience starting from information gathering to the actual buying stage using multiple personas and storylines.

But here’s the truth. Every niche is super competitive and if you want to be number #1 in yours, you should spend at least as much time researching your competitors as you do your customers.

Your competitors have a treasure house of information that can inform every aspect of both your business as well as technical side.

Hence, I thought of putting together a simple analysis in 3 steps and 2 tools to understand where you stand with respect to your competitors.

Step 1: Identifying Your Competition

The first step to do a competitor audit is to identify your competitors. This is quite easy if you know how your potential customers search for you online.

Just enter those keywords/phrases into the search bar and see the results.

To make things easier for you to understand, I am going to imagine that I run an online marketplace where freelancers meet potential employers.

Putting myself into my potential customer’s shoes I figured out the phrase that they might be using to search for my services online would be very close to “hire freelancers online”.

Running a quick google search on these keywords gave me the following result:

Looks like our top competitors have come up for both paid as well as organic search results. So Upwork.com, Freelancer.com, Guru.com, and Fiverr.com are the top competition in this niche.

For now, I am adding these key stats to a spreadsheet.

Step 2: Competitor Auditing

We know who our top competitors are. But how do we grab their key metrics? How do we know what matters and what might not.

Marketers get easily lost in different marketing channels and touchpoints. It is vital to understand where exactly to focus to avoid confusion and increase productivity.

Recently I’ve realised that growth of any company depends on how visible their website is on the internet and how often they test and experiment various growth hypothesis.

Hence I have split this step into two parts: Part A which will analyse a particular competitor’s incoming traffic and part B will be on the competitor’s rate of experimentation.

Part A

In this part, let’s look at the website traffic details of our competitors. Specifically let’s look at:

  • Where does their traffic come from
  • Which countries provide their traffic
  • Total monthly traffic & a few other key stats (pages/session, average time on page, and bounce rate)

All these stats can be pulled out easily from a very useful website called similarweb.com.

Understanding where your competitor’s get their traffic from, will give you a fair idea on where you should focus your marketing efforts.

For instance, if you own a website in the publishing space you might want to create highly shareable content as most of your traffic will come from social media. In the travel and tourism industry, maximum traffic might come from Google search. So you would probably concentrate on SEO and link building efforts if you worked in that particular sector. Likewise if you run an ecommerce website, you might want to concentrate on paid search more.

We’ll start by entering one of our competitors (freelancer.com) in the similarweb search bar.

Clicking on the suggestion, freelancer.com, takes us to an overview page that looks like this:

Now, looking closely at some important stats, starting with a split in website traffic.

Clearly, freelancer.com attracts maximum traffic from referrals and search. Now, I am going to repeat this exercise for all our other competitors and create a structured table with all the stats.

Freelancer Upwork Guru Fiverr Niche Average
Direct Search 39.64% 43.99% 50.04% 48.43% 45.52%
Referrals 23.03% 30.45% 22.36% 29.32% 26.29%
Search 22.71% 13.30% 20.54% 11.13% 16.92%
Social 3.69% 3.79% 2.05% 5.53% 3.765%
Mail 10.83% 8.44% 5.00% 5.34% 7.4025%
Display 0.10% 0.03% 0.02% 0.26% 0.10%

When we look at the niche average (the last column in the table), almost 90% of the traffic comes from direct search (typed in URLS and bookmarks), Referrals (backlinks from other websites) and Search (Google search- both organic as well as paid traffic). This suggests our strategy should be to:

  • Focus on acquiring new customers from Google search (both organic as well as paid)

For this the marketing efforts have to be focussed on link building tactics to improve the site’s SEO and paid search (mostly Google Ads) for better SEM.

Which countries provide their traffic?

As we scroll down the overview page on similarweb.com after searching for freelancer.com’s stats, we can see the traffic in percentage from each country. In the freemium service, the top 5 countries are shown.

The same can be repeated for all our other competitors and a table can be created as given below.

Freelancer Upwork Guru Fiverr
Country 1 India (19.40%) USA (23.44%) India (29.13%) USA (28.11%)
Country 2 USA (11.70%) India (17.61%) USA (22.91%) India (12.96%)
Country 3 Pakistan (5.68%) Philippines (6.54%) Pakistan (3.16%) Pakistan (6.94%)
Country 4 Egypt (3.06%) Pakistan (5.03% UK (2.97%) UK (6.00%)
Country 5 Vietnam (2.76%) UK (4.35%) Canada (2.45%) Canada (2.44%)

Clearly, there is a decent amount of traffic coming from USA, India and Pakistan for all our competitors. Our marketing efforts must be focussed to suit these geographic areas specifically. (Setting up geographic location targeting on PPC campaigns, promotional campaigns running on local levels etc.)

What’s their total traffic and key stats?

The key website stats that I have pulled out from similarweb.com are monthly traffic (total traffic for 6 months taken on average), visit duration, pages per session and bounce rate.

The monthly traffic gives an idea on the overall size and potential of that particular niche. The biggest players can also be easily spotted. In this case, it will be upwork.com.

Visit duration is simply the average time spent on the website by a visitor. A high figure shows that visitors to the website are better engaged. Clearly, Fiverr.com looks like the top contender here.

A high number of pages viewed per session again indicates better engagement. In this case, it is again upwork.com.

A bounce happens when a visitor lands on a website and immediately leaves it. High bounce rates can be a sign of visitors not finding what they were looking for. Here again, upwork.com has a very low bounce rate.

  Freelancer Upwork Guru Fiverr
Monthly traffic 1,650,000 5,216,667 250,000 4,150,000
Visit Duration 00:09:04 00:10:26 00:07:23 00:11:02
Pages/Session 7.68 8.62 6.19 6.83
Bounce Rate 40.22% 29.98% 38.05% 32.14%

After completing Part A of Step 2, my spreadsheet now looks like this:

Part B

In Part B, I am planning to look at the competitor’s rate of experimentation, website loading speed, content and pricing changes. From this, we can understand where our competitor is right now and where exactly they are planning to go. For this I used Competeshark.com.

Freelancer Upwork Guru Fiverr
Website Loading Speed 3 sec 6.3 sec 0.9 sec 2.1 sec

Website loading speed is an important aspect of a website’s user experience. Moreover, page loading time is an important factor in Google’s algorithm for you rank better in google search results. Page abandonment, bounce rates and visitor engagement depends on the web page loading speed. If you’d like to read more on this topic, head off to this article I found on Kissmetrics

In the above table, Guru and Fiverr has better loading speeds compared to Freelancer and Upwork.

Let us find out how Freelancer is doing through Competeshark with respect to content changes and rate of experimentation.

The heatmap shown above depicts the rate of website changes made by the four competitors on their websites. Clearly, activity was highest in the months of July, August, September and October.

With a tool like Competeshark, these website changes can be monitored easily on a daily basis from your mailbox. Interestingly, many SaaS companies have noticed changes in pricing, marketing strategy and positioning, product changes etc. through them getting notified by this tool. For instance, the link given below shows an interesting change that Freelancer did to their website.

My updated spreadsheet after Part B:

Step 3: How to get action items from your analysis

Since you have already identified your competitors in Step 1, you must have a solid understanding of where they’re posting their promotions and the respective landing pages and URLs. It’s critical that you keep a tracking document that allows you to easily collect and update this information. This will be a dynamic, living document, so it’s best to store it in a cloud-based database, such as Google Drive or Dropbox so you can quickly share it and collaborate with your team.

Staying on top of your competitors’ promotions on a daily basis is 90% of the battle. Without the most up-to-date information on your competitors’ latest ads and promotions, you’re flying blind. Accurate, real-time information is paramount for staying ahead of the competition!

In order to improve your ROI for marketing, make sure your tracking document is updated regularly and is shared with important decision makers of your team. Since tracking competitors, their important URL’s, A/B tests, campaigns and landing pages is time consuming, it is easier to automate this process by using a competitive tracking tool like Competeshark. Of course you might think I am biased, but currently Competeshark is the best amongst such tools in the market.

From the initial traffic analysis in Part A of step 2, you can easily decide where to focus your marketing efforts on. Almost 90% of traffic in this niche comes from Direct search, Google Search (SEO+SEM) and Referrals (Backlinks from other websites). Hence spending wisely on Google ads can be a good starting point for your strategy for growth.

This way you can monitor what exactly is happening in your niche easily and make smart decisions quickly.

Finally my spreadsheet looks like this:

I am sure many of you would want to conduct a similar audit for your own company. We’ve sat down written this in detail so that you and your company can also benefit from this analysis. You can easily download this re-usable spreadsheet for your company from this link (Click here)

Have you as a marketing professional faced situations that call for reflecting and analysing your competitors? Please let me know your views and thoughts in the comment section below!

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Kirti Nambisan

Resident Marketer at Competeshark. Part time singer 🙂

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