Business owners are juggling multiple priorities, and digital marketing is just one of them. Whether you use an agency or not, you want to feel like you are on top of your marketing program.

One way to keep online marketing on the agenda is to have a simple but regular competitor monitoring routine. It gives you a start point from which to evaluate your own performance, and adjust your course as necessary.

Here are some suggestions to get you started:

How are you doing in search rankings?

You will know which search terms you would like to rank well for in Google’s search results. These might be words that describe your services and your location, or just your services for the popular ‘near me’ search. You should be aware of how you sit against other businesses who are trying to rank well for the same search terms.

You can, of course, use Google search to see where you sit, but there are tools that reveal much more information. Some of these have free versions with a subset of the total functionality.

The tool that I am going to use for my examples is called SE Ranking – I have chosen this one because it offers quite a lot of functionality without having to create an account. Other tools that are well-known in this arena include SEMrush, SimilarWeb, Moz Pro and the Ahrefs suite of products.

Get started on the home page (seranking.com) and scroll down to find the search box. Enter a keyword (search term) that describes your business and choose Google Australia (or your country) as your context.

The resulting page tells you all about this keyword. You can see the monthly search volume, which indicates the popularity of this keyword as a search term.

Scroll a bit further down to Organic Search Results, where you’ll see the websites that are ranking in the first few positions for the keyword (calculated on average over the month).

Expand this to see the detailed report, which lists many more websites ranking for the keyword, along with estimated search traffic (from all keywords). Note that when looking at organic search, the estimated monthly traffic cost is theoretical – it estimates what this traffic would have cost if generated from paid search.

SERanking keyword organic search report

Repeat the exercise for other keywords that you expect to rank for (once you get into the tool, the search box is at the top of the page). You can also change from keyword mode to domain mode and enter a website URL if you want to take a closer look at a particular competitor.

Traffic numbers are only estimates because these kinds of tools use lots of data points and some assumptions to come up with their numbers. A search marketing professional would use multiple sources and still accept that there is a degree of uncertainty in the numbers.
However, don’t be deterred – although the numbers may not be spot-on, this is very useful information for comparing websites and for seeing trends over time.

Which of your competitors are advertising on Google?

Searching in Google won’t always tell you who is advertising in your niche. The search ads you see may depend on your location, the time of day and the strategy of your competitors. Tools such as SE Ranking are also useful to look at paid search. You can see which businesses are advertising on Google paid search for your chosen keyword, with examples of ads they’re running.

SERanking keyword paid search report

Switch to domain mode and you can analyse a specific website URL and see examples of ads from that business over the past months.

What are they saying in social media?

It’s not hard to see what your competitors are doing in social media by checking out their profiles and following them. If you want to take a slightly more systematic approach, here are a couple of suggestions.

To keep your finger on the pulse of your main competitors, you can use Facebook’s ‘Pages to Watch’ feature, which is found in the ‘Insights’ area in Manage Page. Simply ‘Add Pages’ for up to 5 competitors and you will see their metrics below your own.

One thing that you won’t see by following a page in Facebook or Instagram is their paid ads (these are intended to attract new business so they are not shown to page followers). However, Facebook makes these public at facebook.com/ads/library – just type a business name in the search box.

As in the search world, there are paid tools for social media competitor monitoring. These are often the same tools that facilitate scheduling of your own social media activity. One that looks promising for competitor monitoring is Fanpage Karma, which has a free plan which allows analysis of one page and any number of competitors.

Tap into your agency’s research capabilities

One last thing – if you are working with a marketing agency, they may well have access to tools for this kind of research. Ask them what they can provide.

In conclusion, a small amount of time regularly allocated to competitor monitoring can yield valuable data. Some research tools offer free functionality that can make this a relatively simple process. Happy sleuthing!