The Importance of Competitor Research

In the online universe, nearly all businesses, big and small, are aiming for the same outcome. Ranking at the top of search results is a top priority, and it should be. Recent statistics show that the most popular search engine, Google, receives an estimated 71,000 search queries per second. Millions of potential customers are looking for information online, and having your business show up in initial search results is a key to beating out the competition.

However, creating a strategy to rank highly in search engines, known as search engine optimisation (SEO), is not as easy as many think. There are several steps to understanding the SEO process and how to make it work for a business operating online. One of the components that is often overlooked in search engine optimisation is competitor research. Here’s what you need to know about competitor analysis when it comes to SEO, and how to get started as a new or small business.


Understanding Competitor Research and SEO

The first step in recognising the importance of competitor research as a new or small business is understanding what it is. In the simplest terms, competitor research is the process of analysing similar companies that operate online in a particular industry, gaining insight into how they are attracting traffic to their products or services on their websites. Competitor research involves taking a close look at trends and patterns across a variety of competitors, working to understand what strategies are being used to create success in generating high rankings on search engines.

Performing competitor research is necessary for any SEO or online marketing plan. This is because understanding what competing businesses are doing to gain the attention – and potential sales – of consumers online helps inform what a small business should focus their efforts on moving forward. Competitor research also helps identify the gaps that may be in place among competing companies, laying the groundwork for a new business to take hold of a share of the available market.

In many SEO strategies, whether a small business is going it alone or working with a digital marketing agency for expert assistance, competitor research often comes down to keywords. Analysing what keywords are relevant to a company’s customers when they are searching for information online starts with looking at the businesses already ranking highly for those keywords. This small step can also provide valuable insight into what is working and what is falling short with online search queries.


Tactics for Getting Started

Starting the process of competitor research is not always an easy or quick task, but small businesses that are new to the online marketplace may benefit from taking these proven steps first. Initially, performing keyword research for the company’s website is the best practise. This is accomplished through one or more online tools that are focused on keywords from multiple sources. Once a list of keywords is identified, businesses need to compare those against what information is on their current website to ensure it is aligned with what potential customers or a targeted audience is searching for online.

After company keyword research is in motion, it is helpful to identify which businesses are the biggest competitors in a specific industry or niche. Consider which companies share similar domain names, or search for the top keyword associated with a business and evaluate the top ten or 20 results from the search engine.

Next, analysing the keywords used by the top five competitors is essential. These companies may rank high in search engines for keywords not currently used by or found on a new or small business website. Identifying keyword gaps, both on the company’s site and among competitor sites allows for strategic focus on what keywords should be used in an SEO strategy.

Competitor research is not always a simple or straightforward part of a search engine marketing plan, but it is one of the most crucial components. Small businesses, new or old, need to focus some energy in this space, working to uncover and understand how competitors are standing out online. Paying attention to keywords among competing company sites is one way to begin a strategic SEO plan that may ultimately lead to stronger outcomes with online traffic and search engine rankings.