For most of you, the busy season is almost here. In some warmer climate markets, you may already be fielding calls from customers turning on their air conditioning systems for the first time this year. Hopefully, during your slower months, you had the opportunity to create and/or review your digital marketing strategy and begin executing the plan to implement it. Having overseen my fair share of digital marketing plans, I know that the creation part is only the tip of the iceberg. It’s the execution that really matters, and measuring the success of your execution is every bit as important.
One of the best ways to measure your success is with competitive analysis.
Traditional Competitive Analysis
When it comes to competitive analysis, a lot of business owners think about frameworks like SWOT – strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. But what they probably don’t realize is that frameworks like SWOT, while time-tested and certainly valuable, were developed back in the 1960s and 70s – decades before the digital revolution. One of the biggest drawbacks to the traditional approach to competitive analysis is that it’s highly subjective; therefore, it can be considerably more difficult to develop actionable insights from such analyses.
If you want to get ahead in today’s marketplace, you’ll need to adopt a new, more objective form of competitive analysis. What you really need to do is a digital competitive analysis.
Digital Competitive Analysis
When a company hires Blue Corona, we create their digital marketing strategy, we execute it, and we weave competitive analysis through the entire process. We use the insights gleaned from such analysis to tweak our strategies for the client and constantly improve them moving forward.
How exactly do we go about doing a digital competitive analysis? Well, we use a variety of tools to answer five key questions about our client and each of their competitors. The simplified version looks like this:
1. Which companies are tracking activity on their website?
2. How accessible is each company’s website?
3. How much and what types of digital content does each company have?
4. How visible is each company on major search engines?
5. What does each company’s social media presence look like and how many online reviews do they have?
While a thorough competitive analysis can take a considerable amount of time (not to mention some proprietary software tools our team uses to collect many of the key data points), it is possible for you to measure many of the most important factors yourself for free. Today, I’m going to focus on just a few segments of the analysis: content, accessibility, and social media.
If you want to get started on a digital competitive analysis of your own, pause here and download the template at: www.marketing-toolkit.com. Once you’ve printed it out, follow along with the remainder of the article.
As I’ve touched on in the previous articles, content is KING when it comes to your digital marketing strategy. In fact, it’s arguably the most cost-effective way to grow your business and build your brand.
What constitutes content? Every page of your website. That includes blog posts, case studies, white papers, service pages, and more – and, remember, Google ranks webpages individually, not websites as a whole. If your competitors are doing a BETTER job at content marketing, your efforts will not be as successful.
So, how do you measure your content against that of your competitors? We recommend looking at the following metrics for both your site and your competitors’ sites:
• Number of pages
• The presence of a blog
• How often they blog
While these are somewhat basic metrics when it comes to analyzing digital content, it’s a good start and should give you at least one or two actionable items. For example, do all of your competitors blog? Do you? If they do and you don’t, you should add one to your site ASAP! Do they have more pages than you? If yes, what types of content do they have that you don’t – service-specific pages, geo-targeted pages for areas you serve, a testimonials page featuring happy customers? Incorporate these into your strategy to contend with your competitors on the major search engines. Content has a direct correlation to your search visibility.
Do you know the number one reason users leave a website? Site speed.
Have you ever watched a video online? Is anything more frustrating than watching the buffering symbol spin repeatedly while your video is loading? Well, think of your site as a video. If that buffering symbol is up too long, users are going to give up and move on to another one. In fact, 70% of online users will leave a site if it takes too long to load.
Fortunately, there’s an easy way to evaluate your site speed and to see how it compares to that of your competitors’ sites. Head to https://developers.google.com/speed/pagespeed/insights (or Google “Google PageSpeed Insights”), where you can simply enter the URL of the site you want to evaluate into the toolbar and voila! Within a short time, you’ll know the site’s mobile and desktop speed (and tips from Google for how to improve both).
Your site’s mobile-friendliness also affects its accessibility. Have you ever looked something up on your phone, only to be greeted by a hard-to-read website? Because the HVAC industry is NEED based, your consumers will often be searching for your services on their phones. I’ve seen some HVAC companies get more than 80% of their web traffic from a mobile device.
Just like the site speed test, there is a mobile friendliness test on Google. Go to https://search.google.com/search-console/mobile-friendly and enter the URL(s) you want to assess. Mobile-friendly sites outrank non-mobile friendly sites on Google, so this analysis is worth executing ASAP.
Lastly, check to see if your site is secure (using HTTPS) or not. One of Google’s current goals is to create a 100% secure internet environment, and they have encouraged all website owners to make sure their website is secure. Popular internet browsers like Chrome and Firefox now tell you if the website you are viewing is secure or not – so, open a browser, enter the URL you want to check, and look for an icon (secure sites have a green padlock) next to the URL indicating its security.
The third and final area you should evaluate is your social media presence compared to your competitors’. You should, at a minimum, look at the following:
• Who has a Facebook page? And are they tending to that page?
• How many Facebook followers do they have?
• Do they have any Facebook reviews?
• What is the average Facebook review rating?
These metrics will give you a good start on understanding which of your competitors are using Facebook and if they’ve invested in growing their presence. You can repeat the above exercise and look at similar metrics on platforms like Twitter, LinkedIn, Glassdoor, Instagram, etc. The larger the audience they have, the more they are probably investing in social media.
While a strong social media presence and positive online reviews don’t promise leads, they are a fantastic way to build brand awareness, authority, and trust.
To be competitive in today’s digital world, you need to perform a comprehensive digital competitive analysis at least annually. Performing mini-analyses once every quarter is prudent if you did the analysis above and realized you have some work to do. If you don’t, you’re likely to find yourself falling behind competitors who know exactly where they stand in the digital world and are working hard to improve their position.
If you’re too busy to sit down and run your own competitive analysis, drop me a line – Blue Corona can definitely help you!
After starting his career in online media, recruitment advertising, and software sales at HotJobs.com, Ben spent time in the telecommunications industry and later went on to become the East Coast regional manager of an advertising and marketing agency. Shortly thereafter, Ben met Bob Perini. Together, they developed the concept that would become Blue Corona.
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