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Published April 5th 2024

The Ultimate Guide to Competitor Analysis

We take you through what a competitor analysis is, how to evaluate your competition, and how to get all the data in order.

Over time, businesses across all industries have faced the tough challenge of gaining and retaining a market share in an increasingly competitive landscape. 

Do you know how your brand stacks up against your competitors? Undertaking a competitive analysis is key to defining your competitive advantage.

What exactly is competitive intelligence, and how does one gather it? This guide will help you navigate the fierce competition and gain a competitive edge. 

Below are the exact steps to help you undertake a competitive analysis. Combine these steps with your own understanding of your industry and business to regularly aid in defining your positioning and strategic direction.

Keep reading or jump directly to each section.

What is competitive intelligence?

Competitive intelligence represents insights garnered from extensive research looking into your market and competition, discovering your key strengths to help you gain the upper hand.

What is a competitor analysis?

Definition: Competitor analysis is the process of identifying and evaluating your competitors, their products, services, and strategies to understand their strengths and weaknesses in comparison to your own.

The concept might be simple, but the process is more complicated. The better you understand your competitors, the better your chance of beating them.

A comprehensive competitor analysis can cover a whole range of areas, including assessing your competitors’ social media presence, evaluating their social and content strategies, and benchmarking performance metrics.

Some of these metrics may be less important to your business, but ultimately, the more exhaustive you are when analyzing your competition, the more effective your competitive analysis will be.

How to identify competitors

First, you need to work out who your brand is really competing against. You’ll probably already have a list of competitors, but have you considered every angle?

Let’s start with the basics for those running new businesses where the environment is yet to be explored.

Types of competitors

There isn’t just one type of competitor out there. There are direct and indirect competitors, also known as primary and secondary, respectively.

Direct competitors

These companies offer the same service or products as you in the same geographical area – targeting the same audience and serving the same needs.

Indirect competitors

These companies offer the same or similar services and products to you in the same area but serve a different need or purpose or target a different audience.

As an example, say you sell beer. Your product is stocked in supermarkets around the country.

A direct competitor would be someone who also sells beer and has their product stocked in the same kind of places as you do. The beers are similarly priced, and both are targeted at the same group of people.

An indirect competitor would be someone who sells wine. The wine is sold in the same place, but the product is different, while the target market is also different but with some overlap. This would not be a direct competitor, but they could still be taking some of your business if their product convinces someone to go for a glass of red over a beer that evening.

Tertiary competitors

There is also a third type of competitor: a tertiary competitor. This is someone who sells a product that might be vaguely linked to yours but doesn’t really compete. A brand selling flavored sparkling water or artisanal soda could be a tertiary competitor to a beer brand. 

Identifying these types of competitors is equally important.

Why? These competitors could become direct or indirect if they decide to pivot, or if their audience decides to embrace sobriety, temporarily or permanently. 

You don’t need to do as much research on them, but keeping an eye on any big changes or developments on their end could be beneficial.

Now we know how to define the type of competitor, it’s time to start finding them.

Google and search engines

Google Search is a prime starting point. Here, you can do a number of things to dig up competitors, all through the use of algorithms.

Following its recent E-E-A-T update, Google now prioritizes and rewards user-generated content (UGC) with more visibility than ever before. 

That means search engine result pages (SERPs) will now display answers from social media platforms like TikTok, Reddit, and LinkedIn. These will appear above other results, but below paid ads, right at the top of the page.

So, when looking to identify your competitors, you can first go on Google and search for your company name and its alternatives. 

By reading through some of these Reddit threads, you’ll find many Slack competitors consumers are not only using but actively recommending or not recommending to others – and their reasons why. 

Beyond searching your brand name and its alternatives, you can also search for terms related to your business to see who else pops up. 

If you are a project management software, like Slack, just search for “project management tools,” and there’ll be a bunch of results in SERPs below paid ads (most of them are likely your direct competitors, too.)

Make a big list of keywords and phrases that are linked to your products and searches and get Googling (or Binging or DuckDuckGoing), and you’ll soon have a massive list of potential competitors to evaluate.

Search engine ads

Speaking of paid Google ad placements, in this section, we’re referring to the ads we get served in the SERPs. We can follow the same process as we did in the previous section, except this time, we’re just looking at the ads that appear right below the search bar, and you may see some at the bottom of the page, too.

Here are some ad results for searching for “Slack alternatives” and “project management company” on Google:

Brandwatch image
Slide right to see another example
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And there we go. This can also work by searching company names, as competitors will often bid on each. Throw in a few things (the keyword list you created in the previous section will be useful here) to see what comes up.

Why do we do this as well as look at normal Google results? Because some companies might not be ranking for certain terms, either because they’re too new or not putting much effort into SEO. Meanwhile, chucking money into ads can be a quick way to get noticed.Make sure you do the searches multiple times to see as many ads as possible, and try doing it in Incognito, too. It’ll also give you some insight into what terms your competitors are targeting.

Prospects and customers

The people you’re trying to sell to, or have sold to, can also help you discover competitors. Simply asking them about competitors will furnish you with some names.

Be sure to keep this up, as well. New companies will be proactive in approaching your clients, so they can often be the first warning of a new rival on the scene.

You can do this as part of your sales process by asking about previous suppliers when getting customer information. Also, if you’ve got a particularly good relationship with a client, just ask them to send over any sales material they get sent by other firms.

Trade publications

If there are any publications in your industry, physical or digital, make sure you’re checking these regularly. Competitors will pop up, but they’ll also help you keep an eye out for new companies or others changing up their plans that might affect you. You can find an incomplete list of trade publications on Wikipedia.

Press monitoring

There’s a wealth of intel in the media coverage, whether it’s positive or negative press about a competitor. If a rival gets caught in a scandal, you can strategically take advantage with some well-placed advertising or content.

On the flip side, if competitors earn great press, it’s crucial to understand what they’ve been doing well to make it happen. Discovering the insights into what works for your competitors could be highly beneficial and aid your brand strategy. 

For free tracking, Google Alerts can monitor brand mentions online and automatically send you email notifications. Platforms like Cision enable companies to track print coverage, too.

Social media and forums

This is similar to speaking to prospects and customers, but you won’t be talking to them directly here. We talk about anything and everything online, from large social media networks like Facebook and X to small niche forums and blogs. This means there’s a wealth of information out there.

Use the search functions for various platforms and forums to dig up mentions or discussions on products and services. Have a read around, and you’ll likely find some competitors pop up – for example, when people ask for recommendations. 

It’s even better if there’s a subreddit dedicated to your industry (such as this one on smart home devices, for example). You’ll be able to discover plenty of competitors this way. 

Later in the blog, we’ll talk about how to simplify your manual competitor research tasks using tools.

How to conduct an effective competitive analysis

Now that we have our list of competitors, it’s time to start the actual competitive analysis. Not all of these steps will be useful or relevant to you, but each one should at least be explored.

Each step is broken down so that you’ll get a description of how to conduct this part of a competitive analysis and then some guiding questions or ideas to lead the analysis.

When you’ve got all the data together, you can compare yourself to your competitors in a useful way and discover areas to improve, as well as how your rivals might start taking business from you.

It’s a good idea to build out a spreadsheet or Google Sheet where you can keep all this information in one place. Consider setting up multiple tabs: one for your main direct competitors, one for your main indirect competitors, and then a list of any competitors you want to keep an eye on. The third tab will likely be quite extensive, but use it more as an index and data resource than something you check and update regularly.

The basic stats and metrics

Before we get into the nitty-gritty, we want to get a general overview of a competitor, including their size, reach, activities, and personnel. This will help you get a basic comparison going between you and your competitors.

Data points to consider:

  • Revenue
  • Number of clients
  • Number of offices and locations
  • Number of employees
  • Information on noteworthy employees (such as high achievers or brand advocates?)
  • Products and services they offer
  • Areas the company operates in
  • The websites and social channels the company owns
  • Company history and significant milestones

Financial records and reports

This one is mainly for public competitors who have to publish their financial reports. Knowing the revenue and profits (or lack thereof) of your rivals is always useful information, especially if you can see it broken down by products, services, or whatever else.

So what if they’re not public? You might still be able to find some of this information elsewhere.

There’s no one place to look, but plenty of our other steps might help. Companies will often talk about their financial progress in blogs, press releases, interviews, talks, conferences, and other mediums. In other words, useful data might just pop up, so you should always be on the lookout.

Take it with a pinch of salt, though. A passing comment on a blog post might not tell the whole story or even be accurate.


This is an area where we can start to get a good idea about how a company sees themselves and what they’re trying to achieve. Remember, their messaging will be spread across a range of mediums and channels, such as:

  • Website copy
  • Social media
  • Physical materials (such as brochures and trade materials)
  • Employees speaking at events
  • Emails
  • Press appearances
  • Interviews given by employees
  • Product copy (such as on packaging or in an app)

Each of these (and any others we’ve not covered) will give you an insight into what your competitor sees as important, their key areas, and the kind of people they’re targeting. It’s worth mentioning that the above examples are not created equal. Be wary of discerning a company’s direction from a CEO’s speech at one conference. Their website and material copy will likely be more illuminating.

Example: A tale of two Mars travel agencies

It’s the year 2320, and traveling to Mars for a leisure trip or work is just an everyday thing. Two companies offer this service: Starcrest Executive and SimpleShuttle.

If we look at their websites, Starcrest Executive talks about luxury and comfort on their Mars trips, with the actual cost not mentioned except on a specific page. With SimpleShuttle, the costs are upfront, appear on multiple pages, and are presented as cheap, while the copy talks about value and efficiency.

From that, we can make an assumption that Starcrest Executive is targeting people with a higher income than SimpleShuttle, and that their selling points differ (comfort as opposed to cost).

It’s a simple example, and indicators like this might depend on your industry, but it’ll help you get an idea of the kinds of things to look for.

Questions to consider:

  • What is the opening piece of copy on their homepage?
  • What features/products do they emphasize?
  • What are their selling points?
  • How do they talk/what language do they use?
  • Who are they talking to?
  • What imagery do they use?
  • What competitors do they talk about?
  • What clients do they highlight?

Competitor pricing

Analyzing competitor pricing may seem straightforward at first glance – conduct some research, compile a competitor pricing list, and compare it to your own. This process is relatively straightforward when dealing with closely aligned products; however, the task becomes more complicated when there are many product variations.

When products or services differ, the optimal approach involves identifying common ground wherever possible and conducting a thorough and appropriate comparison. In some instances, you will need to introduce additional or unique features to provide a contextual understanding of pricing. Even without a direct side-by-side comparison, you can discern the fairness of a product's pricing relative to your own offerings.

The challenge intensifies for products that are tailored to specific customer needs, particularly in software. In such instances, adopting a Sherlock Holmes mindset becomes imperative. Techniques may include:

  • Soliciting feedback from existing or potential clients regarding their experiences with similar products.
  • Participating in networking opportunities to establish connections and gather insights.
  • Delving into industry reports and case studies that may contain pertinent pricing information.

This investigative approach will empower you to navigate the intricacies of tailored software pricing models and ensure your own offerings remain competitive and aligned with market standards.

Recruitment and careers

You can never know for sure what a competitor is planning on doing, but you can make educated guesses. Careers and recruitment pages can be really helpful here.Job postings can give us an insight into the inner workings of a company. If they’re on a recruitment drive for devs and engineers, they’ve obviously got a big project in the works. If they’re getting in lots of new salespeople, they’re looking to drum up a bunch of new customers.

These pages could also give clues or signs of turmoil or trouble. A big increase in job openings across the board could suggest a lot of people leaving. There’s nothing hard and fast to take in this situation, but it could be a starting point to start sniffing around.

Website content analysis

It isn’t news to anyone that websites are incredibly valuable for selling and getting leads. But, of course, it’s also easy to have a website that fails at doing either. Keeping up to date with technology and the latest trends is important for website conversions.

This is why it’s important to look at what your competitors are doing. Are they getting ahead or falling behind? What gaps can you fill that they’re failing to? What are they attempting but doing badly?

For a start, look at the type of content they produce. Most will have blogs, so see what topics they cover, how often they post, and how well they perform. Do they do any long-form content, such as guides or reports?

Have a good root around their entire website and see what you can dig up. See if there’s a common theme between your competitors and compare their resources to yours. Of course, an important part of this is seeing what actually works. There’s no reason to copy something that fails.

Tools like BuzzSumo’s Content Analyzer will help you start with this. Paste a domain URL, and it’ll tell you what kind of content gets the most shares, ultimately signaling what works well with the audience.

You’ll also notice that Buzzsumo includes the number of links pieces get. This is good for looking at referral traffic, but it’s also important for search engine optimization (SEO). 

Questions to consider:

  • What types of content do my competitors create?
  • What topics and themes do they focus on?
  • Who are they targeting?
  • What needs are they trying to meet?
  • How well does it perform?
  • What types of content and topics perform best?
  • How are they using this content to get leads or sell products?

Social media analysis

There’s a huge amount of insight to be gained looking at how your competitors use social media, but also at how people on social media talk about them.

One of the first things to do is to get an understanding of what your competitors are up to. What platforms do they use? Who do they talk to? What kind of posts do they make? This will be very surface-level, but take a look at who is performing best and what’s causing that success. Then, you can start to go a bit deeper.

Using Brandwatch’s Social Panels, you can analyze a competitor’s following on X, including who they are, what they talk about, and who influences them. You can also stretch your research to include Reddit, one of the most visited websites in the world, and find generational insights of those discussing your competitor using Reddit Social Panels

It’s also important to see who has the biggest share of voice on social media. You’ll need tools to do this, and we’ve got an explainer on how to calculate social share of voice to help. Take a look at that, and make sure you keep an eye on the percentages regularly. “Set and forget” is not a good idea – things can change rapidly.

Another of our tools, Consumer Research, can help you analyze your competitors extensively. You’ll be able to track reach, sentiment, conversations, and topics over time, getting data from a whole range of social platforms – from X, Instagram, and Reddit to forums and news platforms.

You can also get really detailed with rules and categories that will help you organize everything. 

Very soon, you’ll have a real-time dashboard that will help you keep updated on competitor activities and see how well they perform on social media.

Be sure to look at this from an owned (channels actually owned by a competitor) and unowned (posts from people outside the company) separately. They will often tell two very different stories.

Questions to consider:

  • What platforms are working for your competitors?
  • Are conversations different on different platforms?
  • What is your share of voice compared to your competitors’?
  • What content works?
  • What kind of language do they use?
  • Who do they interact with it?
  • What are the sentiments and emotions around conversations?
  • What are the demographics of your competitor’s followings?
  • Are they working with influencers (and to what success)?

Search engine optimization (SEO) analysis

It’s important to see how your competitors are ranking in Google.

Google and other search engines can send huge amounts of traffic to a website and, by extension, can be an excellent source of revenue.

SEO tools like Ahrefs will be able to give you an overview of a domain, citing key metrics such as the keywords they rank for and the links pointing to their website. For this guide, we’ll look at these two SEO areas: keywords and domains.


Looking at keywords first, what you’ll want to do is write down a bunch of them that are relevant and important – the ones that convert the best, for example. These are the terms you’re going to want to compete on.

As an example, we’ll take an electrician from the city of Derby. A great way for them to get business will be to rank for terms like “derby electrician,” and the same goes for all their competitors.

Be warned: searching on Google yourself, even in Incognito mode, will not always bring accurate results. Google will personalize results based on your profile, location, and other characteristics. Don’t take these results at face value.

To really do this properly, you’ll need to use SEO tools.

The outcome of this will be a good idea of how your various competitors are performing, how much effort they’re putting into content and SEO, and what you need to keep up. It might even uncover some new competitors.

From here, you can plan your own SEO work and get a content plan on the go. Here’s a simplistic piece of advice but a good starting point: Find out what your competitors do, then do it better.

In the below screenshot, you can see an example of a keywords list generated in Ahrefs. We’ve typed in Google’s website, and you can see the terms they generate the most traffic from. You can also look at keywords by country and see the SERP results for each one, too.

Links and domains

A website’s SEO performance is connected to how many links they get pointed to their website and the number of websites that create those links. Again, this is simplified. Relevancy, what it is linked to, and where it is from also play a big part (among loads of other things).

Knowing what links your competitors have got is useful for several reasons:

  1. It gives you an idea of what you'll need to do to beat them.
  2. It gives you a list of websites you should try and get links from, too.
  3. It reveals the type of content that receives links.

Just like the keyword analysis, these three things can be used to guide your content strategy. What works and what doesn’t changes from sector to sector, and this is the best way to find out what works for you.

Finally, just to reiterate, SEO is a huge discipline. Do your research beyond links and domains, as there’s a lot more to it if you want to be really successful.

Questions to consider:

  • What keywords do they rank for?
  • What do your competitors rank for that you don’t?
  • What content ranks well and attracts links?
  • How often are competitors releasing SEO-focused content?
  • What websites link to your competitors?
  • How have they achieved these links?
  • What content of yours is directly competing with theirs?

3 Must-try competitor analysis tools

We’ve talked a lot about the importance of understanding your competitors’ strengths and weaknesses, and how these insights should form the basis of your strategy. 

There’s a wide range of competitor analysis tools available that can be used in your competitor research, all falling under these nine main categories:

  • General competitor analysis tools
  • Social media conversation tools
  • SEO and keyword analysis Tools
  • Backlink analysis tools
  • Content discovery tools
  • Paid advert and PPC tools
  • SERP rankings tools
  • E-commerce tools
  • A/B testing tool

In this section, we’ll cover three of the most comprehensive tools for you to consider. Together, these three tools provide a solid foundation for conducting a successful competitor analysis.

You can also find the full list of tools in our The Best Competitor Analysis Tools blog.

1. Benchmark

Brands must know how they stack up against their competitors in terms of their social media efforts. Companies that don’t prioritize social media are bound to fail in our highly digital environment. 

With Benchmark, you’ll gain confidence in your social media strategy. This solution will help you benchmark your social media performance against the competition for a winning social media content and engagement strategy. 

Benchmark compares your social media strategy against more than 300k brands across all major social media platforms, including X, YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram. It supports hundreds of social metrics and data points, including post-level metrics, audience metrics, the share of voice, reach, impressions, and engagement.

Benchmark also enables you to analyze competitors’ content to learn their content ideas and campaigns to inspire and gauge your own content strategy.

2. Ahrefs

One might say that Ahrefs is like the Swiss army knife for SEOs. This tool can help you understand what competitors organically rank for and how much traffic they get. You can also discover competitors’ highest-traffic pages, most lucrative keywords, and backlink profiles.

With data on over seven billion web pages, Ahrefs enables in-depth audits revealing opportunities and benchmarking around SEO performance. 

3. iSpionage

Knowing what paid keywords and terms your competitors target is invaluable market intelligence. With tools like iSpionage, you can sift through over 100 million historical search data points across Google, Bing, and Yahoo, spanning back over seven years. You can gain insights into your competitors’ campaigns and approaches, their A/B testing, and paid search budgets, and the platform can notify you if your competitors are about to try something new. 

Putting it all together

Once you’ve got all this information, it might be a bit overwhelming. It’s time to sort it and make it valuable.

To start, try to order each area according to your current aims and goals. For some, there might be one competitor you’re looking to beat, so going after their strong areas will be a focus. For others, you might just be starting out and looking for ways to break into your sector.

It’s also good to categorize your findings to see where they fit into your strategy. Here’s a very simple table as an example. It takes your specific conclusions from your research and then assigns an area (or areas) of work it sits under.

As you can see, all competitors get links to glossary content, this will be a consideration for your content team (in creating it) and your SEO team (in optimizing and building links to it). This will help you with strategy and planning when it comes to putting your research into action.

Work through the findings with your co-workers. Make sure the information is disseminated rather than sitting in some massive document and never looked at again. It’s also important to keep it updated.

Another important resource to create is battle cards. These will be fact sheets on your competitor’s strengths and weaknesses and are used specifically to convince potential customers or clients why you’re better. Here’s an example of a battle card from Vbout, a marketing automation platform.

Sales battle cards are an excellent way to get your sales team prepped and always on-message.

Here’s a good rundown on creating battle cards.

You can take this a step further and create full profiles of all your competitors that go beyond selling points. Here, you can bring together all the information you’ve uncovered in an ordered and useful manner.

The ultimate aim is to put all the research to good use. That means making it accessible and putting it into formats that your organization can use. In other words, if someone asks who a certain competitor is, what information can you send them straight away?

A strong competitive analysis takes a lot of work, but the rewards are huge. It removes blind spots, helps you improve, and is essential for excelling in your industry. Make sure all your hard work doesn’t go to waste.

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