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10 ways to identify your key competitors online


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Victoria Roscow
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Whatever the sector you operate in and regardless of the service you provide, you will always have competitors. You might know you’re better than them (we sure as hell do) but your prospective customers don’t. Now more than ever, industries are saturated with international companies. You’re not just trying to win over the town or city that you’re based in. In the age of digital dominance, you now have to battle for the attention of customers all across the globe. That’s a lot of competition. And it can be extremely difficult to identify them all – unless you know what you’re doing…

1. Start off with a Google search

This step is as simple as it sounds. So, if you’ve already stumbled at this hurdling block then it might be time to shutter your windows. To keep it simple, if you sell flowers in Manchester, then your first search should be ‘Florists in Manchester’. From there you should create a list of all the websites that appear on the top couple of pages, but mostly focusing on the top 10 results. That’s what users will see first after all. After that, try searching for your individual products and services. Beyond that, it’s getting into the nitty-gritty of your sector and making sure that every item in your list is relevant to you.

You should now have a substantial number of competitors on this list. At this point, it’s time to crack out the black trench coat, fedora and shades because you’re going to be doing some basic espionage. You’re looking for very basic information. Simple things like what services they offer, the price of their product, how many people they employ and so on. This allows you to see how you compare to other people in your sector.


2. Scour local business directories

Not everybody has a website, but most businesses have a directory of some kind. The most common would be Google Business. However, you can simply type in ‘your sector’ directories into Google and you will be faced with hundreds or thousands of different businesses. This can give you additional information on how each business markets itself, as well as provide you with their address, contact information and opening hours. This information can help inform your future business decisions. It can also help you find competitors you may have missed in your Google search.


3. Use Google maps

A conglomerate across the globe will take just as many clients as a small business across the street. That’s why you shouldn’t just focus on businesses with a strong online presence. Look for similar businesses in the local area. If they’re customer-facing then why not go into their place of business and find out what it is that they are doing. Nobody is saying to copy them outright, but there’s no harm in looking for a good idea. It simply means you can have a really comprehensive overview of who could be taking your potential customers.


4. Set up X Pro

You refuse to use social media because it’s a cesspool of fake news and influencers. After all, what are you without your principles? In all honesty, running a failing business. Nobody is telling you to be active on social media, but it is an invaluable tool. That’s why people recommend X Pro (formerly Tweet Deck). It organises posts into categories of your choosing. You can receive constant updates about industry-related hashtags. This lets you see who is talking about your sector and allows you to keep up with the conversation. You can also follow the accounts and mentions of known competitors. This lets you keep an eye on their marketing practices, to see what works and adapt your own approach.


5. Keep an eye on social media and forums

Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and LinkedIn are all social media sites that could be relevant to your sector. Making sure that you know where your potential customers spend their time is critical in getting them to purchase your products and services. However, it is also important to remember that forums still exist. They didn’t all die out when the internet merged into 4 websites. There are popular ones like Reddit and Quora, but you should also search for industry-specific forums. These will help you see who your potential customers are shopping from and their sentiment towards you and your competitors.


6. Set up Talkwalker alerts

Talkwalker scours the internet in search of keywords that you select. So by choosing industry-specific keywords, you will get an email in your inbox showing all the websites that are talking about those keywords. This can identify new actions taken by competitors, it is also useful for identifying relevant trade publications and opportunities to liaise with journalists as part of your Digital PR efforts. You can choose to only get an email a day that has all of the relevant sector keywords, making sure you’re not getting inundated with information.


7. Ask your customers

The customer is always right, in so much as they know what they want. What they want could be stupid but if they’re spending money on it then it’s not stupid to you. Your customers will know your direct competitors better than you do because deciding between your product and your competitors’ is what they do all the time. Take to social media or the forums that you discovered and ask them who they prefer and why. Any feedback is useful in ensuring that you improve your products and services. It also means you are keeping up with all your competitors by finding out what they do differently from you. 


8. Keyword research

Keyword research is the best way to identify your indirect competition. By conducting a competitive SEO analysis, you can determine which businesses or publishers are competing for people’s attention on Google. Most customers typically search for products and services on Google rather than looking for specific companies. The better your keyword ranking, the higher you will appear on the Google Search results. Bigger companies often take the top spot, which is why businesses are frequently competing with international companies.


9. Take a look at the sponsored results

Sponsored search results are paid for by the website. These usually appear at the top of the Google page and have the word ‘Ad’ next to the URL of the website. These websites are using pay-per-click advertising to reach more potential customers. This obviously costs money. If you cannot afford pay-per-click advertising in your budget, then it is best practice to focus on these competitors and see how you can beat them in quality of service or price. 


10. Hire an SEO agency

As part of improving your Search Engine Optimisation, an SEO agency will do a competitor analysis to see how you compare to other businesses in your sector. This will include things like a keyword and a backlink analysis. A keyword analysis allows you to see who else is using relevant search engine terms and a backlink analysis will help you identify trade magazines and other sites that are linking to your competitor. Both are incredibly useful when it comes to identifying your competitors. 


Want to terrify your competition and leave ‘em quivering with nightmares about your success? Send us a signal. Contact Dark Horse for immediate salvation.


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