Are your online competitors really who you think they are? You may be surprised who is competing with you for keywords in the digital space.
Your online competitors are the websites which are competing with you for visibility in the search engines. You are likely to have quite a wide range of them and you probably have a slightly different set of competitors for each of your key phrases. In this blog post, I’m going to show you some simple ways to find out who your competitors are.
Establish Your Key Phrases
Before getting started, you need to establish your key phrases because you’ll need them to help you identify your competitors. If you don’t know which phrases you should be targeting, try using Google’s Keyword Planner to find phrases with a mixture of high volume, intent and an achievable difficulty.
Once you have established your key phrases, it’s time to find your competitors. There are many ways to do this using manual searches, as well as free and paid-for tools. I’m going to show you five free and quick ways to pin down your competitors.
1. Google Your Key Phrases to Find Your Top Online Competitors
This is a simple but effective technique. Simply take the key phrases that you’ve already established and use Google to find out who else ranks well for the same terms.
You’ll need to create a list of companies and domain names that are ranking well for your top key phrases. Your competitors will include those who are buying their way to the top of the rankings using online advertising, as well as those who are ranking naturally.
In the example below you can see helium balloons in Nottingham has a wide range of competitors, from florists to party planners and specialist balloon retailers:
If your business specialises in supplying goods or services to a local market, then you need to find out who your local competitors are. A simple and quick way to do this is to include the words ‘near me’ in your search phrase.
In this example, notice how we have identified a whole new set of online competitors for the phrase “helium balloons near me”
You could stop here and make a list of what you find and see whether your online competitors really are who you thought they were. To take it a step further, why not look at one of our posts on how to find out what you competitors are doing and how they are optimising their site.
2. Use the “Related:” search operator in Google
You can also use Google’s related: search operator to help you identify high quality sites that Google thinks are similar to yours and are therefore seen as your competitors.
In this example, I searched for British Airways’ competitors:
Not used search operators before? Find out how they can help you get better search results.
3. Check Your Niche Directory Listings
Directories can help you identify competitors in your niche or local areas. If you have submitted your company to niche or local directories, then look at who else is providing similar services in your niche or area.
In this example, I’ve done more helium balloons research and found a local Nottingham directory listing party suppliers in Nottingham. Once again, I’ve identified an even greater variety of online competitors:
Tip: Make sure your directory listings are up to date with all the correct information about your business. This can help you improve your local search presence. You can find out more about this here.
4. Use SEM Rush for a Quick Online Competitor Overview
SEMRush is a competitive research tool providing keyword, ranking and traffic data. It is a subscription based service but there is valuable, albeit limited, data available in the free version. To see five websites that SEMRush considers to be your competitors, enter your domain and scroll down the page to ‘Main Organic Competitors’. Be sure to also take a look at the paid advertising competitors, which is a rich source of competitor data.
In this example, looking at British Airways, SEMRush provides a list of competitor websites that have a high number of common keywords ranking in Google’s top 20 results.
Notice that we have a significantly different list to the companies listed in Step 2 above:
5. Ask Who Your Online Competitors Are
Finally, don’t overlook the obvious! Sometimes the simplest thing to do is just ask a long-standing member of staff, or the owner of the business you work for. Manual searches and tools don’t always uncover everything and sometimes key threats can be missed out – especially if you are new to a business or industry. I’ve also come across business owners who set their sights on ‘beating’ a certain competitor who I then notice doesn’t have a strong online prescence.
Hopefully this article will stop you wondering “Who are my online competitors?” and help you to start finding out what you can do to compete. How do you find out about your competitors? Let us know in the comments section!