It’s a cliché in sports interviews that the player or competitor talks about being unconcerned with their opponents, and how they choose to concentrate on upping their own game. It’s sensible advice though. Many of us will have worked in businesses where certain senior people seem to be obsessed with the opposition. They’ll spend time compiling charts of market share when they should be improving their own performance.
However, that’s not to say you can’t learn from your opponents. In search marketing, that means identifying who’s doing better than you, and analysing what they’re doing. Sometimes the businesses concerned won’t be the competitors you encounter most often in the field. But it’s important to focus on the evidence, and not worry about the competitors whose names spring most readily to mind. If they’re not up there ahead of you, there’s little to learn from them.
I think the most basic exercise to undertake would be to identify a small number of the most important search terms for your business (look at your Google Search Console and Google AdWords data). Then compile a spreadsheet of the sites appearing in Google’s ‘natural’ search results, and those appearing consistently with search adverts. You might need to go back a few times to check the latter, because Google rotates ads fiercely in competitive sectors.
Once that’s done, grit your teeth and try to get under the skin of the best performers’ websites. Is their on-page SEO (titles, use of search terms, etc) better than yours? What about their link profile? Tools like Moz, Majestic and ahrefs can be useful. Is their site a more modern, responsive design? Does it load more quickly? There are tools you may have used on your own site which you can apply to analysing others. If you’re a client of ours, we’ll happily take a look at a particular site for you, once you’ve identified it.
But as the sportsmen and sportswomen say, at the end of the day you know what to do. By all means learn from the best, but concentrate on your own game as a priority.