The main goal of competitor analysis is to provide you with the information you need to make a decision on steps to take in the business that will increase your competitive edge over other players in your niche/industry. It is unwise to design a PR strategy or marketing campaign plan without having gone through comprehensive benchmarking and competitor analysis.

Depending on your line of business, there are different aspects to competitor analysis that you should focus on, but majority of the metrics are focused on four main aspects, which must be included in any online competition analysis strategy. Using these strategies, you can improve your positioning over competitors hence drive your business ahead despite changes and new entrants into your niche.

1.Opposition vs. benefit

The first thing you must know is where your greatest opposition lies, and where the highest support comes from. Having this information, you can now create a strategy that maximises on the low competition areas – much like low-hanging fruits on a tree – and therefore maximise your ROI.

The opposition vs. benefit ratio is not only common sense, it will help keep your marketing strategy grounded and focused on real achievables rather than putting effort into strategies that have lesser returns. This is not to say that you shouldn’t apply yourself to the latter; rather, don’t miss what’s right in front of you chasing for the fruits at the top-most branches.

2. Knowing your vertical

Your vertical market is the name given to market niches immediately above your specific field/industry. For instance, if your product is motion-sensitive security lighting, your vertical competition includes all other businesses that deal in security lights (of other kinds). From these target markets, you now have a different target audience you can focus on and pursue. Look at the bigger picture and find out where else your products might be in demand.

3. Go behind the scenes

Next, you need to find out where your competitors are exerting their web presence. One great tool to help you with this is the Open Site Explorer. Type in their URL and you’ll get a list of all sites that link back to their website. If it’s a blog or a news site, you can submit content for your site also.

By staying on top of your competitors’ online strategies, you can make sure you’re a step ahead of them. You’ll also gain a glimpse of their goals and strategies in time, and then you can respond in a strategic manner to ensure your business maintains the upper hand.

4. Find out why

It’s one thing to know where competitors are beating you. More importantly, you need to find out why this is happening. Read customer online reviews, social media posts and comments and analyse your, as well as their, strategies using the SWOT approach.

You can use online tools to identify real-time keyword specific searches so that you know what exactly your market is searching for. These will help you establish how consumers view you and your competitors so that you can adjust accordingly.