What your competitors can teach you about your digital marketing

Glancing over at your competitors can be a wonderful, if unexpected, way to improve your own digital marketing. Here’s how to take a creative look at your market to improve your understanding of your audience and find new ways of reaching out.

There’s no substitute for originality

Keep that in mind.

There’s no substitute for being imaginative and proactive and evocative and creative with your digital marketing. Sitting back and copying the zeitgeist is too passive. But keeping an eye on your competitors really can be useful — even if it’s just a case of learning from their mistakes. With a bit of thought you can find new link-building opportunities, new outreach strategies, and new places to shout about what you do best.

Finding your indirect competitors

You know who your main competitors are. Maybe you already keep tabs on what they’re up to online. But what about your indirect competitors? That’s where you can learn some digital marketing lessons. An indirect competitor is a business in your industry that is marketing to the same audience as you, without selling the same product.

Run a dog kennel? See how pet shops behave online.

Got a B2B design agency? Think about what B2B developers are doing.

Own a gym? Research how sports brands are reaching out.

What should you look for?


All else being equal, if one of your competitors is getting lots of traffic, it suggests they’re doing something right. Services like Compete, comScore, and Hitwise can help you find out just how often people are visiting your competitors’ websites.

Content types

Is there a certain type of content that’s getting lots of social shares? Whether it’s a weekly survey, a Q&A or well-written blog posts — if it’s working for them, there’s a good chance it will work for you.

Social media

What type of content is getting the most and least engagement on your competitors’ social media channels? How long does it take for them to reply to interactions? What kind of content do they share? Remember, don’t just look for the stuff that is getting the most traction. Sometimes the best way to learn is through (other people’s) mistakes.

Open Site Explorer by Moz and SEMrush are two powerful SEO tools that you can use to see which websites are referring the most traffic to your competitors’ websites. With a little digging you can draw up a roadmap of websites to target for backlinks. After all, if they are linking to your competitors, they could well do the same for you. You can also find out what keywords your competitors are targeting.

Audience profiling

You need to know about SimilarWeb — a great-looking, easy to use web app that shows you what type of people are visiting your competitors’ websites and how they are getting there.

The power of partnerships

Building partnerships with your indirect competitors is a proven way to ante up your business growth. Essentially you form bonds with other businesses that have the same audience as the one you are trying to market to. It works well between two companies that offer complementary services. Car dealerships and car insurers. Wedding dress shops and wedding caterers. Online accounting software and web design agencies. With partnerships, the heavy-lifting of introducing your services to prospective leads is done for you.

Over to you…

There are oodles of tools out there on the www that can help you drill down into your competitors’ digital marketing. And while it’s important to repeat that you can’t trump originality, a basic understanding of what is and isn’t working for your competitors can only help your own marketing efforts.

Choose the tool that you think is right for your business and give it a try today!