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March 9, 2015

Marketing 101: Finding Out Who You are ACTUALLY Competing Against Online

It’s not an easy task to take a company that was born and raised in a traditional media age and transition it to the digital era. It requires significant research and planning. All too often we see businesses set out to get themselves on page one of the SERPs without any idea who their competition is, what keywords they should be targeting, or what industry trends they need to be aware of when marketing online. Today I want to address the value of online competitor analysis.

Types Of Online Competitors

In our industry you can have two types of competitors that sometimes overlap. You have organic competitors and paid competitors. Interestingly enough, we’ve had clients come to our office requesting that we help them beat out competitor A and competitor B, only to realize they didn’t even know that competitor C, D, and E were dominating search, paid and social results. Just because a company competes with you in traditional marketing spaces does not mean it will be a top competitor online. The truth is, when you are engaging in Internet marketing, you may have to look past some of those traditional competitors and focus on your true online competition.

Finding The Competition

There are multiple ways for you to find your true competition, but I always start in Google. I take the keywords or phrases I want to rank for and plug them into the search bar. I take all the competitors off page one for every term and rank them based on how many queries they show up for, keeping track of their average position. You can do this for both paid and organic search.

Then I go to Spyfu and plug the keyword into the main products tool. This search gives you an overview of profitable related keywords, the most successful ads and who placed them, rankings history, currents ads, and cached SERP pages for the specified term or phrase. You can see all the top competitors and where they are positioned. This is your true online competition for paid and organic search. If company A, and B are not showing up in search, they should not be a focus in your digital marketing efforts.

Evaluating The Competition

Now that you have identified the competition, you are ready to begin one of the most important parts of the marketing process: competitive analysis. While doing your competitive analysis, you should be looking at the design of their website, its navigation, page titles, Meta descriptions, headings, alt text, and overall website usability. You should read their site content to understand where they are being effective and where you can capitalize on an information gap or weak resource.

This knowledge provides you with a great start for your online marketing plan. When evaluating paid ads, you should be looking at the keywords your competition is bidding on, the ads they are writing, and the landing pages they are directing traffic to. Also take a look at their social platforms and how they are optimized. Are they using brand consistency on all levels? What kind of images are they using? What are they posting about? And what sorts of posts receive the most likes and user engagement?

Knowing the Competition Through Competitor Analysis

This is a brief look into how you can find your online competitors and what to do once you’ve identified them. Remember, your online competition is not always the same as your offline competition. Make sure you evaluate what companies are showing up in the SERPs before going full-steam ahead with a half-baked marketing strategy.


Marcus Howling, the SEO Doctor, is a SEO strategist at Amuse Digital. As one of the largest full-service digital marketing firms in Houston, it is able to help you increase your online visibility. Marcus excels at on-page optimization, natural link building, keyword research and analysis.