One of the guiding principles to succeeding as an online business is to analyse your competition before you launch your website. It’s not exactly difficult to do online research with regards your competitors; for example, if you search for certain sentences or phrases, you’ll find exactly which companies are the highest ranking on Google search. At Trent & Hanover, with our background in SEO, we have helped numerous clients to increase their ranking on Google and other online search engines; this has given us the ability to best advise them on this subject.

So just how important is this? If you take the few seconds required to make an online search, find out if you have the money to rank for a query – and let’s say you don’t – then you won’t waste funds when you don’t need to.

In short, searches give you the opportunity to analyse your competitors and thus strategise accordingly. From us at Trent & Hanover, here are some tips.

Do background checks on other companies

Look carefully at various aspects of another company: how long they’ve been active, how old is their actual website, how many clients do they have, when were they founded.

What these questions will answer for you is the general longevity of a company. It’s not guaranteed, but in general, active businesses which are decades old are going to be more difficult to outrank. Thus, take the time to research them; if you are going to compete with a company then you need to understand their owners.

What is the physical location?

There’s a big difference between competing with a huge corporation (or even just a brand) which has numerous offices in various countries on the one hand, and a tiny company with no more than a single building in a small town.

No matter how good you are at marketing or SEO (especially Local SEO), it’s never going to be easy to compete with massive companies; thus, you should use websites like Yelp to find the locations of your competitors’ businesses. In particular, ensure you search locally for potential competition if you wish to do local marketing or the like.

Look on Glassdoor

This is a website on which employees have the ability to share information – anonymously – about what it’s like to work for particular businesses. You may find info where an employee has talked about their experience of working for a company – or what kind of questions they were asked during their interview, for example.

Naturally, any employer whose reputation is poor will find it harder to find new workers. This is why checking Glassdoor reviews is so important.

Think about what you want to achieve as a competitor to other businesses. You can identify what kind of people are available if needed; whereas, if a competitor to you is seen as more desirable to work for, then you’ll lose potential employees before you could ever get them.

Thus, being aware of how another company conducts their management is a very effective way to understand why and how they’ve been successful (or unsuccessful).

Learn about other companies’ products

On the assumption that a particular company is directly competing with you, they are likely to be providing services or materials/goods etc which aren’t too different from your own. You need to be aware of these products and their main consumer base. Whatever you might think about the superior quality of your own, you need to understand what makes a competitor’s products so successful. So learn about them.

Look at the bigger picture of it all. Does your competitor appeal to certain types of people? Are your products focused on the same demographics as theirs or not? Analysing on this level helps you to gain fresh insight into your own products or services; it also enables you to see who your online audience is and who purchases the most from you.

Analyse the marketing of your competition

It’s a fascinating truth, but whatever your competitors use for marketing, you’ll be able to discover all about; whether it’s social media, back-linking or advertisements.

Remember that many companies use agencies to do their marketing – something we at Trent & Hanover do ourselves for all of our clients – and agencies’ methods of marketing tend to be a ‘template approach’. Find out who the agency is, too, and decide if you also want to use their services to your own advantage.

Through careful analysis of the adverts used by your competitors, you can also make a good estimation of how large or small their marketing budget is.

Adwords is not exactly known to be cheap; look up certain phrases and the resulting ads in Google search, then use your Adwords dashboard – you’ll be able to see how much the price per click for each phrase is. From there it should be easy to estimate how much your competitors are paying for their ads.

There is also the marketing tool known as “Majestic”, which enables you to view the backlinks used by your competitor(s). What does this mean? It gives you several advantages.

First, you can see how strong a competitor’s website is with regards to online searches; if they have a few thousand backlinks from popular websites, then they’ll be an extremely powerful opponent. But see if you are able to get backlinks for your website from the same places; it shouldn’t be impossible.

Do marketing tests before you launch

Once you’ve completed analysing your competition, it’s time to conduct some proper tests. There are a few options: one is to create a ‘landing page’ and have ads around which will lead your consumers to your landing page. While not cheap, it’s usefulness outweighs any monetary worries: it helps you to identify what kind of online traffic you’d get.

Also, if your landing page asks users for regular updates, when it comes to actually launching your website, you’ll already have leads waiting.

The best ways to improve the efficiency of your own marketing and reduce costs in general is in fact competitor analysis. Just be aware of how a company’s size can impact hugely; older, well established and popular brands will be tricky to match or beat in SEO or general advertisement, but there are ways around this too: find parts of the internet which are less competed and then use this analysis in targeting search phrases, particular kinds of people (demographics) and ad clicks, etc.

And the bottom line? Don’t ever launch your site until you’ve thoroughly completed analysis and competitor research. At Trent & Hanover, we always stress to our clients the need to prepare fully before sending their business out into the world.