SEMRush

Competitive Research Toolkit

Try out SEMrush tools for competitive research!

Recap

Contents

What is Competitive Analysis?

Hi! Welcome to the Competitor Analysis with SEMrush course! I’m your host, Navah Hopkins, international PPC speaker and SMB champion. I’ve used SEMrush on thousands of accounts, and I can’t wait to share lessons learned to empower you on the path to profit and victory!

In the first lesson of our course, we’ll cover the following:

  • The value of conducting competitive research
  • Outlining the various applications of competitive analysis
  • A brief overview of the Competitive Research Toolkit

What goes into a competitive analysis?

We all have competitors, and if you’re like the average company, you’re keeping tabs on at least 5 to 7 competitors at any given time (some of you go as high as 40)!

Competitive research can help you understand your brand’s probability of profit in a given market, as well as what the roadblocks to victory will be.

To conduct competitor analysis, you’re likely checking auction insights in your Google Ads account, doing manual searches to see what queries they’re coming up on, doing deep dives into your competitors’ landing page experiences… spending hours doing ad preview and diagnosis to see which regions they’re in, logging into multiple platforms to see competitive referring domains…

That’s a lot of work to fall on anyone’s shoulders, especially if you represent an international brand.

How to conduct competitive analysis

SEMrush allows us to have a single source of competitive research: saving us valuable time on the road to brand domination!

Whether we’re looking to assess a new promotional partnership, expand into a new market, or borrow brilliant strategies for our own profit, we need those valuable insights found in the Competitive Research Toolkit.

At a high level, the Competitive Research Toolkit provides data for all areas of competitive research that are critical for companies actively working online, starting from the big picture (market overview, competitive landscape, online presence strategies and tactics) to certain areas like website traffic, paid ads, organic performance, social media, content and PR. It also helps you understand your market, as well as prepare you for new markets.

We’ll dive into greater detail of these features in later lessons, but I wanted to take some time to introduce you to Traffic Analytics and Market Explorer! This is just an introduction — we’ll review their use cases as well as some of my favorite success stories in later lessons.

How does Traffic Analytics work?

Traffic Analytics sits at the top of the Competitive Research Toolkit’s menu.

It is designed to check any company’s website traffic and details of their online presence, including top destinations, best traffic sources, top pages, and visitor behavior.

In the tool, you’ll be able to see important metrics, including:

  • Visits
  • Unique Visitors
  • Pages Per Visit
  • Bounce Rate
  • Traffic Sources
  • Geo Distribution
  • Top Pages

You’ll also be able to segment the data by:

  • Device type — Mobile vs Desktop
  • Subdomains
  • Location
  • Period

The best way to think about Traffic Analytics is as your best friend who knows everything about everyone, and is willing to share, but doesn’t have a motive in mind. Asking which pages are performing the best, where your audiences overlap, and where their traffic comes from doesn’t inherently mean you want to ‘steal’ their strategies. You might be looking for insights on which media channels to partner with, or whether it makes sense to invest in a paid campaign.

In short,Traffic Analytics is about getting unbiased estimates, not suggestions, on your competitors’ direct, referral, search, social, and paid traffic.

How does Market Explorer work?

Let’s switch over to Market Explorer — you can find it right below Traffic Analytics.

With this tool, you’ll be able to see how you stack up against brands SEMrush sees as relevant to your industry AND those you select yourself! All you need is to type your website name into the search bar — and off we go!

On the overview page, you’ll see the SEMrush Growth Quadrant, which gives you the opportunity to get a competitive landscape for top industry players. Depending on the Traffic Growth rate and the Traffic Volume, the tool divides the market players into four segments:

Niche players — the websites that have a lower traffic volume relative to the rest and are slowly growing or not growing at all. These can be new companies, niche local players, or even old players that haven’t been very successful recently — or the selected country is not their main market.

Game Changers — their website traffic is low, but the growth rate is much higher than the market average. These can be startups, companies actively investing in growth, or large companies entering the market.

Leaders — their website traffic is significant, and their traffic continues to grow very actively.

Established players — companies with established popularity among the audience, but their traffic growth isn’t high enough compared to market growth — it’s small or even declining.

It’s important to pay attention to all quadrants, but particularly important to focus on the game changers who might be disrupting the space.

Each site listed will have insights on their traffic sources, share of visits, how your domain stacks up against the market, and the mechanics of the market.

Competitor Analysis: lesson summary

We discussed the importance of competitive research and how SEMrush makes it easier. We also introduced the Competitive Research Toolkit, which will be the star of our upcoming discussions.

That’s it for lesson one of the “Competitor Analysis with SEMrush” course, we hope you learned something new. If you have any questions, feel free to tweet them to me directly at @navahf, or the professionals at the SEMrush Academy at @semrushacademy.

From here, we recommend continuing on with our next lesson, Competitive Landscape and Market Trends. If you haven’t already, we encourage you to carve out a fixed 15 minutes each week for competitive analysis, or education time to grow your marketing perspective.

I’ll see you in the next lesson! Happy hunting, and may profit ever be with you!

Recap

Show contents

Competitive landscape analysis

Hello and welcome to the Competitor Analysis with SEMrush course! I’m your host, Navah Hopkins, international PPC speaker and SMB champion. I’ve used SEMrush on thousands of accounts, and I can’t wait to share lessons learned to empower you on the path to profit and victory!

In the second lesson of our course, we’ll cover:

  • Assessing the right competitors to target
  • Understanding how to build a plan based on their marketing choices
  • Trends to consider and how to understand your place in the market

While it might be tempting to see every brand who’s even slightly related to you as a competitor, there’s no way it will be profitable to come up with a custom plan for each. Additionally, some brands might seem like a competitor at first, but in reality they make for an amazing expansion partner.

Competitor Groupings

Understanding who’s who requires us to parse out the players into four categories:

The Game Changer is new on the scene, so they won’t have as much traffic yet, but they have explosive traffic growth. You’ll want to keep an eye on them and their disruptive presence in the market.

The Niche Player may be new to the market, or could be a long-time player — what defines them is their low traffic growth rate and low traffic volume. Don’t count them out, though, they know their niche REALLY well and might have intentionally set out to serve a smaller audience.

The Established Player is a veteran, with well-established presence and volume, but doesn’t grow their traffic really quickly. These are often the first targets of disruption and will either be shocked into the Leaders quadrant or might fall into obscurity.

The Leaders are dominating in both traffic volume and growth rate, and show no signs of stopping. Rather than outright competing with them, leverage the insights we’re about to unpack from SEMrush to create your own path to becoming a Leader.

How to build a competitor marketing plan

Speaking of SEMrush, it’s time to log into Market Explorer. Let’s type ‘wrike.com’ into the tool’s search bar.

As you can see, we have our quadrants and players, but you’ll notice that we can select and deselect players we may not feel are truly relevant to our plan. This may shift around the quadrants.

SEMrush will provide you with their recommended ‘hit’ list of competitors. From here, we may want to see how we’re doing in relation to the overall market, or we may want to unpack how a given competitor is getting their traffic.

By unpacking how a given player gets their traffic, you can give yourself realistic goals for your own marketing plan. For example, if none of the Leaders/Established Players have higher than 10% of their traffic coming from paid media, you might have an opportunity to close the gap on less competitive terms.

The best results will come from competitors you know are the right ones to compete against. We can enter up to 20 of them in the Custom Market.

If any of your quadrants are empty, you may have an outlier in the mix. Experiment by including and deselecting certain players.

You’ll be able to see the traffic distribution of each competitor, as well as which social channels they’re leveraging to win traffic. This will especially come in handy when taking on an Established Player who might be neglecting a channel, or picking up a channel a Leader has been too busy to focus on.

For example, while the market has Instagram as part of the mix, none of the players are leveraging Instagram. This would be a prime opportunity for a new brand to swoop in and claim that channel.

Vice versa, every brand has Facebook and Twitter as part of their strategy, so including it in the marketing plan only makes sense if there will be a focused effort there.

All of this is great, but at the end of the day we just care about how they are doing in relation to us. Also, has my plan helped and am I beating competitor xyz?

Market Explorer

This is where the Relevant Sites tab comes in. We’re able to see clearly how we stack up against the competition and create plans to address our specific shortcomings, rather than trying to tackle (and fail at) everything. This is also a great source for understanding where competitors aren’t focusing at all and have left themselves exposed to your brilliant campaigns.

Competitive landscape and market trends: lesson summary

So, to sum up:

  • We reviewed the different quadrants you and your competitors may fall under and how to assess the strengths and vulnerabilities of your top competitors.
  • We talked about the value of assessing your known and unknown competitors and how to build better marketing plans.
  • We also discussed how you can see how you stack up, using that knowledge to fuel future innovations in your campaigns.

That’s it for lesson two of the Competitor Analysis with SEMrush course, we hope you learned something new. If you have any questions, feel free to tweet them to me directly at @navahf, or the professionals at the SEMrush Academy at @semrushacademy.

From here, you can check how your brand stacks up in Market Explorer, as well as continue on learning more about Competitive Research.

Also, once you are ready, head over to the SEMrush Academy page and take the test for this course so you can get officially SEMrush certified.

If you want to learn more about this topic, you can see a list of useful links and further reading that will help inform your knowledge on the subject.

See you in the next video!

Recap

Benchmarking

Hi! Welcome to the Competitor Analysis with SEMrush course! I’m your host, Navah Hopkins, international PPC speaker and SMB champion. I’ve used SEMrush on thousands of accounts, and I can’t wait to share lessons learned to empower you on the path to profit and victory!

In the third lesson of our course, we’ll cover:

  • Establishing benchmarks for your brand based on competitors
  • Bulk analysis and how to include these metrics in your reports

It’s super tempting to just jump into a market and hope for the best. Don’t do that.

We need benchmarks to help us assess our success, failures, and plateau moments. Luckily, we don’t need to do this in a vacuum — we can use SEMrush to help us understand our numbers and how they stack up against our competitors.

This is a crucial step, because if we don’t get a sense of where we and our chosen competitors start, we’ll have no sense of progress. In turn, we may prioritize or deprioritize our initiatives without the proper context to achieve ultimate victory.

Let’s dive into the SEMrush interface to get started!

Traffic Analytics

We’re going to start in Traffic Analytics, where we can see:

  • The set of main user engagement metrics — Visits, Unique Visitors, Pages per Visit, Avg. Visit Duration, and Bounce Rate — for the last month — for up to 5 competitors
  • How competitors do on each device and region
  • What their traffic source mixes look like and how they’re trending over time

Beyond these basic metrics, we’ll also want to get a sense of how our brands do against our core competitors.

Let’s head over to the Traffic Sources tab in Traffic Analytics, where we’ll be able to get a sense of how our brand and our competitor brands are securing traffic, as well as insights into the domains themselves.

If your brand has historically done very little paid search or social, and you see your main competitor relies heavily on those channels, you can use their performance metrics as a framework to set realistic expectations and goals for those traffic sources.

When a traffic sourcing strategy is shared, you can use those metrics to help your team understand if you’re doing better than, on a par with, or falling behind your chief competitor.

Bulk Analysis

If you have more than 5 competitors on your shortlist and you need to see how all of them are performing, go over to the Bulk Analysis tab — there, you’ll be able to compare up to 200 competitors.

But what if you’re just breaking into a market and aren’t sure who the players are yet? Or how they stack up?

Not to worry! That’s why we have Market Explorer — this will help you understand who you should be thinking about if you’re just starting out, as well as let you learn how to model your marketing plans based on the existing players’ efforts. Beyond the macro market view, you’ll also want to leverage a more narrow focus, which will highlight competitors who are more similar to you.

We talked about the mechanics of Market Explorer in depth last lesson. If you need to refresh your memory,be sure to check it out. Otherwise, let’s press on!

Market Explorer

It’s important to see how you stack up on the traffic volume/growth quadrant, as well as seeing who the game changers and leaders are.

They will provide you with invaluable templates for how to position your own marketing strategies as well as give you a focus for your team discussions on realistic and unrealistic goals.

We can also see how we’re pacing against the overall market in traffic, and whether the traffic we’re getting fits our ideal persona.

For example, SEMrush loves empowering super-advanced SEOs in highly technical discussions, but the average decision maker who buys SEMrush may not have as technical a background. Understanding the interests and demographics of your traffic will help you benchmark quality as well as quantity of prospect interaction.

Once you’ve established your competitors, use the Custom Market tab to see up to 20 competitors and have a more personalized look into your market.

Summary

Let’s wrap it up:

  • We discussed the importance of benchmarking your campaigns against your known and unknown competitors.
  • We reviewed how to do bulk analysis as well as 1:1 competitor reviews.
  • We assessed the various metrics you can use to benchmark yourself against your competitors, including audiences, traffic volume, and channel.

That’s it for lesson three of the Competitor Analysis with SEMrush course, we hope you learned something new. If you have any questions, feel free to tweet them to me directly at @navahf, or the professionals at the SEMrush Academy at @semrushacademy.

From here, you can begin benchmarking your brand, and if you don’t know who to start with, definitely spend some time in Market Explorer so you can get more insights about the world you’re playing in.

Also, once you are ready, be sure to get certified via the SEMrush Academy page. It’s great for bragging rights, and a great way to make sure that you know what you know.

If you want to learn more about this topic, absolutely leverage the amazing resources we’ve included, as well as continuing on with this course.

Thanks for investing the time with me and SEMrush Academy — see you at the next lesson!

Recap

Analyzing Competitor Web Traffic and Online Strategies

Hi! Welcome to the Competitor Analysis with SEMrush course! I’m your host, Navah Hopkins, international PPC speaker and SMB champion. I’ve used SEMrush on thousands of accounts, and I can’t wait to share lessons learned to empower you on the path to profit and victory!

In the fourth lesson of our course, we’ll find out:

  • Which pages are successful for our competitors and how to borrow from their lessons learned.
  • Who are the people coming to our competitor sites, and whether they make sense for us to target
  • How to reveal our competitors’ website traffic, how they are getting it, and whether we’re in a position to replicate or take advantage of their strategy.

Before we get into the nitty gritty of this lesson, I want us to take a step back and think about us and the heart of our business model. We are never going to be everything to everyone, and it’s important to understand which fights are worth fighting.

We may be capable of going after a given competitor because we have the resources, but if their core audience isn’t the right fit, what would be the point?

We may be tasked with growing our volume in a given market, but if we see our closest competitors struggling to gain traction, we need to ask ourselves if we have the internal resources and external support to win where they failed.

Now that we’ve cleared my disclaimers — let’s go win!

I’ve touched on analyzing your competitor traffic makeup briefly in the previous two lessons — be sure to access them in the course menu. It’s always important to be learning from our competitors, and no lesson is more important than understanding what their “money” pages are.

Traffic Analytics

We’re going to start in Traffic Analytics, where we can see:

  • The set of main user engagement metrics — Visits, Unique Visitors, Pages per Visit, Avg. Visit Duration, and Bounce Rate — for the last month — for up to 5 competitors.
  • How competitors do on each device and region.
  • What their traffic source mixes look like and how they’re trending over time.

Beyond these basic metrics, we’ll also want to get a sense of how our brands do against our core competitors.

When we’re working in Traffic Analytics, we can also see the breakdown of any of our competitors and how they are getting their traffic. The nice thing about this is we can see:

  • If the page is so impactful that users have bookmarked it so they can access it on a whim. Any blog posts that show higher direct traffic than search traffic are great ideas to poach for yourself.
  • Pages that have higher referral traffic means that the page is such a fantastic resource that other brands are willing to link to it and it could be a good focus for your blog or free tool arsenal.
  • Pages that do well on mobile vs desktop can help you prioritize how you set yourself up for the mobile-first index and your customer journey.

We can also see these top pages by location — this is especially important if you know you’ll need to translate your brand abroad. If most of your content relies on one country’s social norms AND search engine rules of engagement to be successful, you might need to restrict the scope of analysis to that country.

Once we understand what content is working for our competitors, we can begin assessing the right ways to drive traffic to our versions of that content.

Audience Overlap Tab

When assessing audiences, a good first step is to understand how much your audience also engages with your competitor’s brand. If there’s a lot of crossover, that means similar tactics might work, but you have to be careful about copying a strategy too closely or your audience might not find as much value in you. If there’s less crossover, you might be able to get away with a closer copy, but you need to be careful you don’t alienate your existing users with content above or below their level.

Within SEMrush, we can see this interconnectivity and the scale of our competitors (include subtitles: up to five brands at a time).

We can see the percentage and monthly unique users who have overlap, as well as the unique visitors overall.

Market Explorer

Understanding the interests and buying power of your audiences is just as crucial as understanding what pages do well. If the only folks engaging with a resource are students, the odds of a sale are low. Conversely, if we can see a competitor has mostly established professionals with interests directly tied to what we sell, their strategies will be infinitely more valuable.

Now that we’ve unpacked which marketing strategies we might want to borrow, and who it makes sense to target, we can now dive into which channels will make the most sense to drive traffic. Many brands begin this conversation in reverse order (starting with the traffic sources and finishing with the content).

Good content often fails because it’s not matched with the right audience, or served in the right way. Only once we know what we’ll be serving, and to whom, can we make intelligent decisions about whether a search engine or a social channel is the best vehicle for it.

Market Explorer

As we’re assessing where our competitors get their traffic, it’s important to bear in mind whether they are a Game Changer (subtitle high growth/lower traffic) or an Established Player (subtitle low growth/high volume). You might be able to snipe a channel from a Game Changer if you have the resources, just as you might be able to out-innovate an Established Player if they neglected a channel.

Traffic Analytics

In Traffic Sources, we can see how our brand’s marketing mix stacks up against our competitors, as well as see the change over time. We’ll also be able to see the change over time on how much (or little) a given traffic source plays into the marketing mix. You can filter this view by country and device for more accurate message mapping and creative planning.

Geo Distribution tab

The final consideration is the overall international spread of our competitors. You’ll be able to get device breakdowns, as well as the main metrics for each country behind a given brand’s traffic. This will be helpful in understanding if a Leader has landed in a given market yet, or if there’s still time to win the first mover advantage.

Summary

So, to sum up:

  • We reviewed the importance of borrowing intelligence from our competitors’ initiatives and how to assess where they can be best applied.
  • We discussed auditing audiences for value and what channels represent the best chance to reach them.
  • We unpacked how to assess and optimize our and our competitors’ marketing mixes.

That’s it for lesson four of the Competitor Analysis with SEMrush course, we hope you learned something new. If you have any questions, feel free to tweet them to me directly at @navahf, or the professionals at the SEMrush Academy at @semrushacademy.

From here, you can begin auditing your competitors’ best pages to create brilliant marketing creative, as well as put some thought into who your best audience will be.

I really appreciate you taking the time to invest in yourself with me. And until the next time, I hope all is victory in profit!

Recap

Auditing Competitor Strategies and Execution

Hi! Welcome to the Competitor Analysis with SEMrush course! I’m your host, Navah Hopkins, international PPC speaker and SMB champion. I’ve used SEMrush on thousands of accounts, and I can’t wait to share lessons learned to empower you on the path to profit and victory!

In the fifth lesson of our course, we’re going to assess our competitors’ strategies and performance in:

  • SEO
  • PPC
  • PR, and
  • Social

This lesson is designed to give you a high-level overview of how each discipline will tackle competitive research via SEMrush. If you’re looking for more in-depth ideas and strategies, check out the resources under the ‘Read Further” tab linking you to recommended blogs and videos on SEO, PPC, PR, and Social.

Some of the analysis you’ll do for SEO will carry over into PPC and vice versa, so we’re going to begin with Organic Research!

Ready to get started? Let’s dive into the SEMrush interface!

Organic Research

When we’re assessing a competitor, it’s important to understand not only how many keywords they’re ranking for, but the value of those terms. This is where the traffic cost comes into play. If we were to bid on all the search result pages — or SERPs — corresponding to the keywords they rank for, the traffic cost gives us an estimate of what our monthly bill would be.

If you see a competitor ranking for more keywords than you, but the value is lower, this means you’re doing a better job of getting the right people to engage with your content as opposed to casting a wide net.

Position Tracking

This will become even more obvious as you assess the actual top organic keywords and their respective position changes. Sometimes high volume doesn’t equate to profit. Still, it’s important to keep tabs on your competitor — this is where Position Tracking comes in.

With this tool, you can track your and your competitors’ ranking changes for any set of keywords on a country-wide scale, down to specific zip codes. You’ll be able to add up to 20 competitors for your ranking comparison — they can be either added manually or selected from a suggested list of organic or paid competitors. As for keywords, you can:

  • Add them manually,
  • Receive suggestions based on SEMrush’s analytical organic or paid positions reports,
  • Receive suggestions from your Google Analytics account,
  • Import them from a file.

Inside the tool, you’ll see the trends and current values of:

  • Your website’s visibility,
  • Estimated traffic, and
  • Average position.

Visibility is a metric that reflects how visible your domain, subdomain or URL is for the list of keywords you’ve set up.

100% visibility means that the tracked domain, subdomain or URL has the first position for every keyword in the project, while zero visibility indicates that it doesn’t rank in Google’s top 100 for these keywords.

Estimated traffic is a calculation that predicts how many people will visit the domain daily from the keywords being tracked.

Average position is the average of all the rankings for the keywords in your campaign.

I recommend setting weekly reminders that go to a special email folder so you can stay up to date on your competitors without having to log in each time. For more thorough analysis, you’ll want to log in, as SEMrush will provide you with their own perspective on why traffic may have shifted around a given keyword.

Beyond seeing who your competitors are and how they’re ranking, you’ll want to take action. This is where Keyword Gap, Backlink Analytics, and Backlink Gap come in handy!

Keyword Gap

When selecting your competitors, make sure you’re choosing brands that are truly in-market for you, so you get the best analysis of where there’s crossover in keywords and where you might need to make up some ground.

Go over to the Keyword Gap tool, where you can compare up to 5 domains in terms of common and unique keywords. Type your competitor’s website in the first box and then yours in the second box, then choose the ‘Unique to the first domain’s keywords’ filter and sort by volume. If you’re losing out on a high-volume term, then you know that’s an important area to focus on. Depending on the average cost per click (CPC), you may decide it’s worth your while to invest in targeting that term via Google Ads and Microsoft Ads. Just be mindful that a healthy bid to budget ratio doesn’t allow any keyword to exceed 10% of the daily budget. This is because a 10% conversion rate for a non-branded keyword is very good, and if you’re banking on fewer than ten clicks per day, you’re setting your campaign up to fail.

Backlink Analytics

Back to SEO — let’s talk backlinks!

There’s a lot of insights you can draw from analyzing your competitors’ backlink profiles:

  • How often they are gaining and losing backlinks, so you can set realistic benchmarks for your own linking programs.
  • The categories and geographic profiles of the links, which will help you assess their relevance at a glance.
  • The specific backlinks and indexed pages, so you can get a sense of where your competitors are focusing their SEO efforts.

Organic Research — Competitors Tab

If you don’t have time to do an in-depth analysis of any single competitor, at least build checking the Competitor tab from the Organic research report into your workflow. It will help you see how you rank against similar sites for backlinks and authority score.

Now it’s time to actively focus on my favorite discipline — PPC! While keyword research and gaps are considered both SEO and PPC activities, there are some tasks that are solely in the PPC domain! While everyone can benefit from understanding what goes into creative strategy and targeting choices, I’ll understand if non-PPCs want to skip this section by clicking here.

When conducting competitive research into a brand’s paid campaigns, it’s important to understand what they think their main point of differentiation is, as well as how they articulate it.

What’s nice about working in SEMrush over the native platforms is we’re able to see our competitors’ creative, as well as potential keyword overlap in much more specific terms than Auction Insights.

I like getting a sense for what my competitors are bidding on, as well as how often they are adding/pausing keywords. If a given competitor is adding a lot of keywords, they are either just getting into advertising and building out a campaign, or they don’t know what they’re doing.

Advertising Research — Position Changes Tab

Under the Position Changes tab in the Advertising Research report, we can see new and lost keywords. We can also get estimates of what the keyword costs and which creatives are serving for those terms.

If we know we’re already bidding for a given term, and our creative isn’t as engaging as our competitor’s, we’ll want to spend some time working on ads. If we see that the keywords they’re going after are all out of our price range, we might decide to adapt our strategy and go after the variants of the terms.

Advertising Research — Ad Copies Tab

The Ad Copies tab can also help you understand the full width and breadth of a given competitor. If you see them advertising everything that they do and they are still Leaders, you’ll know you can’t compete with them on all ideas. Toggle back and forth between the ad copy and lost keywords to get an understanding of where they’re not as vigilant.

Display Advertising Report

PPC has evolved way beyond search ads, and the Display Advertising report empowers us to understand which sites our competitors have chosen to host their brand, as well as who they seek to speak with.

This is another place where you can learn how much focus your competitor has on their campaigns. If you see that text ads outpace display or HTML for display spots, you know the brand hasn’t taken pains to ensure the right creative is being used. This might also clue you in that they aren’t using responsive display ads, which make it easier for visually appealing ads to win spots.

You will want to audit both the Publishers and Landing Pages tabs for inspiration for your own campaigns.

Publishers provide insights into potential backlink partners, as well as pre-vetted placements for your own creative.

The Landing Pages tab will teach you:

  • Whether your competitor is using specific PPC experiences that don’t compromise or get bogged down by SEO best practices.
  • If the competitor has put effort into CRO (conversion rate optimization), or if they’re just running ads and their site without consideration for getting the most ROI out of their campaigns.

PLA Research

By using the PLA Research report, you can analyze how your competitors’ Google Shopping Ad campaigns perform, which is critical for analyzing e-commerce websites.

It enables you to:

  • Analyze your competitors’ best-performing Product Listing Ads
  • Obtain the lists of keywords that triggered these PLAs
  • Determine PLAs’ positions in the listings
  • See the prices of your competitors’ products

Keeping track of your brand’s mentions can be tough — never mind those of your competitors. Yet they can provide invaluable insight — either ideas of how to pitch your brand for similar opportunities, or the exact instance to pounce on a competitor’s misstep.

This exercise is important all the time, but especially important if you know you have a big publicity event coming up. For example, when I had a client go on Shark Tank, part of the prep included setting up pre-show brand mentions to benchmark, as well as for our top three competitors. We also made sure we set up a special branded PPC campaign to house the uptick in branded budget so it didn’t spike our numbers.

SEMrush Brand Monitoring empowers us to track our and our competitors’ brands so we can leverage these strategies in our content and campaigns. Let’s set up the tool.

Brand Monitoring tool

It will ask you to add a keyword that corresponds to a brand name we want to track. Then, generally you need to add up to three main keywords, up to five additional keywords, and exclude up to five keywords that you want to avoid tracking. By using different keyword combinations, you can adjust the breadth of the topic being researched.

At a base level, we’ll want to track all the mentions of our brand and our competitors, but it’s important to be focused in these audits. This is why you’ll want to include keywords to filter results for your specific needs.

For example, if I were an SEMrush competitor looking to break into the market, tracking all SEMrush mentions would inundate me. A far more practical strategy would be monitoring their brand plus awards, because I want to see which awards they often submit for and get shortlisted for/win. I’d build a Brand Monitoring project factoring that in, and I can begin to build my hit list of which awards to apply for.

In tracking a brand, you’ll also see how they are viewed in the market, and which publications have the most impact per mention. You’ll also be able to create a hit list for potential backlinks based on the authority score and volume these sites have.

Yet my favorite way to audit a competitor is not in who they get to mention them, but in how they are perceived by others.

Topic Research

Let’s then turn our heads to the Topic Research tool, which can show you how your competitors have a certain topic covered with their content. Enter a desired topic and a competitor into the tool — you’ll be able to see the content they’ve produced. Green cards contain subtopics that the queried domain already ranks for, and the subtopics that are not yet covered by our competitor can be found in blue cards. This way, you can see the top topics/ideas the brand is associated with.

Sometimes, it will make sense to borrow that clever idea and do your own version of that content. Other times, it will make sense to let the brand own the idea. As a general rule, if you see more than 10 instances of an idea under the Cards section, odds are it’s a losing battle, and you should adapt other content ideas for your brand.

Post Tracking

If you decide to borrow from your competitor, a great way to assess success is to track your version of the content in Post Tracking. Make sure you give yourself at least two weeks to fully assess the initiative.

You can also track your competitor’s content, which is particularly useful if they launch a free tool or a white paper/webinar. If you see lots of engagement from these resources, you may get the data needed to craft your version of the tool.

Keep in mind you can track 50 posts per project, so make sure you’re intentional when choosing which posts to track.

We’re going to finish this lesson on social, and it’s important to remember that social media represents a diverse collection of channels and paths to profit. In this lesson, we’re just going to focus on competitor research and strategies, but I highly encourage you to check out SEMrush Academy’s course on social media marketing.

There are two main guiding lights in social media competitor research:

  • Your brand is your brand, and the tactics and channels that work for your competitors may not work for you if they are not in brand.
  • Do a channel well or not at all — it’s not ok to hop on a channel simply because a competitor is there if you’re not going to generate content at the pace the channel demands.

With these ideas in mind, it’s deliciously fun to keep tabs on competitor social posts and capitalize on their missteps.

Let’s dive into the SEMrush interface once again!

With Brand Monitoring and Social Media Tracker, you’ll be able to track up to 20 competitors across all channels you’re connected to.

Before loading up your hashtags, take some time to see which ones are winning and #fail for your competitors. Given that you need to find anywhere between 11–13 hashtags for your content to be indexed by Instagram, and Twitter’s hashtags can expose you to new prospects and influencers, you’ll want to make sure your chosen tags are verified.

It’s also useful to use the competitor function when deciding where to do guest posts or make content agreements with. One of the reasons I love contributing to SEMrush and SEJ is because both brands do a lot of their own promotion. I know that my content will get active promotion by a proven social machine, as opposed to having to drive all the awareness myself.

When a competitor’s social initiative fails, use that as inspiration for what not to do, or play off their failure. For example, the Peloton ad created a viral moment highlighting abusive relationships, and Aviation Gin picked up on that moment, casting the actress in a funny and supportive follow-up commercial.

Summary

We covered a lot in this lesson, and it can be tempting to want to do everything! Here’s my main takeaways for you to add to your workflow:

  • When doing keyword research and gap analysis, allow those lessons learned to inform both PPC and SEO (odds are your competitors are still siloed and you can win by having a more integrated marketing department).
  • Check your competitor mentions for potential candidates for backlinks, as well as shaping how you structure your outreach.
  • Always be monitoring when your competitor dials up or dials down a given channel as a chance to swoop in as the new market leader.

That’s it for lesson five of the Competitor Analysis with SEMrush course, we hope you learned something new. If you have any questions, feel free to tweet them to me directly at @navahf, or the professionals at the SEMrush Academy at @semrushacademy.

From here, you can dive into any of the discussed disciplines in depth, or continue on to the next video on the competitive research path.

Also, once you are ready, head over to the SEMrush Academy page and take the test for this course so you can get officially SEMrush certified.

If you want to learn more about this topic, you can see a list of useful links and further reading that will help inform your knowledge on the subject.

Thank you for investing your time with me — see you in the next video!

Recap

Who’s Competing With You?

Hi! Welcome to the Competitor Analysis with SEMrush course! I’m your host, Navah Hopkins, international PPC speaker and SMB champion. I’ve used SEMrush on thousands of accounts, and I can’t wait to share lessons learned to empower you on the path to profit and victory!

In the sixth lesson of our course, we’ll cover:

  • How to pick your top competitors
  • Understanding who’s competing with you by channel.

Knowing who your top competitors are (and who might become one) is an important foundation of brand positioning. However, it can sometimes be hard to know who exactly we should consider our top competitors, especially if our industry is new, or there are a lot of players in the space.

We discussed Market Explorer in depth in lessons one and two, and if you missed those discussions, you can catch up here. I cannot overstate the importance of running Market Explorer at least once a quarter to reconfirm the competitive landscape.

The main metrics you’ll want to use in assessing your competitors are:

  • How closely aligned they are with your core brand, offerings, and messaging channels.
  • Scope and size of the potential competitor — you don’t want a brand that’s much bigger/smaller being the main force behind a business decision. However, they can still factor in the aggregate.
  • If you’re just starting out, actively targeting the Market Leader won’t make sense, but going after an Established Player might.

You’ll know the time is right to go after them if you see their marketing mix neglecting a given channel.

However, high-level thinking won’t give you an action plan. This is why SEMrush includes a Competitor tab in each major marketing discipline — as we go through Organic, PPC, Content, and Social, we are given the opportunity to see how brands other than ours are doing.

Now, let’s dive into the SEMrush interface.

Market Explorer

Your brand’s size and scope will play a part in which brands SEMrush suggests. For example, when looking at amazon.com for SEO, PPC and Social, Walmart and eBay come up in Market Explorer. Pinterest.com isn’t really a true service competitor, but in traffic and popularity, they share a lot of the same audiences Amazon’s goes after.

If you see a brand advertising far more aggressively than you/the other competitors, you’ll want to spend more time assessing their creative and keyword choices than a brand advertising less than you.

Go to the Advertising Research report — you can see the estimated paid traffic cost of your competitors there. To analyze their advertising tactics, go under the Ad Copies tab. There, you will be able to see all of your competition’s ads sorted by the number of keywords seen on Google.

Finally, the Social Media Tracker will teach you who is managing a channel well and needs to be actively monitored vs who is just dabbling. If you see a big burst of social posts from a brand that is historically quiet, this might mean they have just attended a marketing conference or hired someone new, and should be monitored for a week or two. If the uptick in content continues, they can become an active target, but in most instances, these big bursts will die down.

Summary

So, let’s sum up. In this lesson, we:

  • Reviewed how to identify competitors and a reasonable frequency at which to check for shifts in competitors.
  • Discussed strategies to leverage each marketing discipline in the competitive intelligence conversation.

That’s it for lesson six of the Competitor Analysis with SEMrush course, we hope you learned something new. If you have any questions, feel free to tweet them to me directly at @navahf, or the professionals at the SEMrush Academy at @semrushacademy.

From here, you can begin auditing your competitors and building projects to do so, or continue on with the lessons.

Also, once you are ready, head over to the SEMrush Academy page and take the test for this course so you can get officially SEMrush certified.

If you want to learn more about this topic, you can see a list of useful links and further reading that will help inform your knowledge on the subject.

Thank you for investing your time with me — see you in the next video!

Recap

Reporting

H! Welcome to the Competitor Analysis with SEMrush course! I’m your host, Navah Hopkins, international PPC speaker and SMB champion. I’ve used SEMrush on thousands of accounts, and I can’t wait to share lessons learned to empower you on the path to profit and victory!

In the seventh and last lesson of our course, we’ll cover:

  • How to use the SEMrush competitive research toolkit in your pitch decks, presentations, and reports
  • Using projects and auto-generated reports effectively.

There’s nothing quite like using a competitor’s success to make the case for your clever idea. Innovative ideas sometimes struggle to land with decision makers because they require a leap of faith based on creativity and data, as opposed to following safe forecasted numbers.

This is where presentation mode in SEMrush comes in handy — let’s take a look!

Social Media Tracker

Say you want to run a really clever Facebook campaign, but your boss says it deviates too much from what most brands are doing.

Switching into presentation mode in the Social Media Tracker section, you can show the sentiment these campaigns caused, as well as how many of these brands are Leaders vs Established Players.

Of course, you may want to parlay this intelligence into your own reports — this is where the monthly Competitor Analysis report template comes in.

My Reports

Go over to the My Reports tool, then click on the Monthly Competitor Analysis report and type in three domains for comparison.The report includes widgets from over 10 tools relevant to Competitive Research (TA, ME, Organic Research, KW Gap, Backlink tools, Advertising Research, Display Advertising, etc.). Most of them (except for Brand Monitoring and Social Media Tracker) do not require creating projects. If you want the report to be complete, you need to have two projects set up beforehand: Brand Monitoring and Social Media Tracker. If you’ve never created a project before, check out the tutorial in the Read Further section.

From this report, we’ll be able to get insights from our top competitor, as well as two additional competitors. Make sure the competitors you choose align with whatever Brand Monitoring project you had going (particularly if you have multiple buyer personas and product/service tiers).

If part of the report isn’t really needed, you can always remove it. Same goes for missing components — you can always add in missing data points by grabbing them from the left-hand navigation menu.

Once you’re satisfied with the report, generate a PDF, and you’re good to go!

Summary

So, to sum up:

  • We discussed the hows and whys behind leveraging SEMrush to convince your clients and team that an initiative makes sense or should be scrapped.
  • We worked through building a Competitive Analysis report.

That’s it for the last lesson of the Competitor Analysis with SEMrush course, we hope you learned something new. If you have any questions, feel free to tweet them to me directly at @navahf, or the professionals at the SEMrush Academy at @semrushacademy.

Congratulations — you’ve made it all the way through our course! Now you’re ready to put your newly acquired knowledge to the test! Go to the SEMrush Academy page and take the exam for this course so you can get officially SEMrush certified.

If you want to learn more about this topic, you can see a list of useful links and further reading that will help inform your knowledge on the subject.

Bye!

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