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How to Reverse Engineer Your Competitors’ Marketing Strategy for Free

Written by Brad McElroy

Mapping out your customer journey is a key element of leveraging your marketing efforts. However, it is very time-consuming and can be difficult to understand where to start your market research. Instead of going through research-heavy and time-consuming processes, we’re going to show you how to analyze what competitors are doing so you can see what’s working and how you can leverage that for your own marketing strategy.

Find a set of competitors that have a successful marketing strategy

It is important to find someone who has a well-defined content strategy in play, regardless if they are in your pool of local competitors. Often, this can be a competitor that is an industry leader and offers similar products and services. They need to have a healthy amount of traffic, and most likely, they are using paid advertising and social media to reach their marketing goals.

A quick way to do this is with the SEO Quake plugin for Chrome. It allows you to access the analytical data behind any webpage quickly and easily, so you can see what your competitors are doing right.

Steal their audience data

Now that you’ve found a good competitor who is utilizing a healthy marketing mix, find out what you can learn about their audience and their existing customers.

  • Creating a custom affinity audience in AdWords can pull demographic and audience interest data very easily.
  • Simply go to your AdWords account, select “audiences” and then “+” for new audiences. Choose an ad group (preferably a paused one). Next, choose “affinity” and “+ Custom Affinity Audience.” Finally, add your competitor’s URL, select “GET ESTIMATE,” and you should see your competitor’s target market.

See how they are pulling traffic

SEMRush is a great tool for seeing what your competition is doing, and it can provide great insight into how they are getting traffic. First, look at what your top competitor’s most valuable traffic sources are.

  • See what keywords are generating the most traffic for both paid and organic search.
  • What level of intent do these traffic-generating terms have?
  • What are their main channels to pull from? Is it organic or paid?
  • What keywords are they using to pull the majority of their traffic?
  • Are they focusing more of their budget on one device, or is it evenly spread across multiple devices?

What kind of content are they pushing?

  • Buzzsumo is a great source for looking at which content types do best and what networks they are being pushed on.
  • What kind of content are they pushing and on which networks?

What ads are they pushing?

  • Moat is another great free tool that lets you see your competitors’ creative elements.
  • What CTAs are they using? How are they framing their messaging?

How are their email drip campaigns?

  • Milled will show you a chronological history of competitor emails.
  • How are they following up on their leads? What information are they giving their audience?

How are they retargeting?

  • Here is the fun part. Clear your cookies and browsers, and then search for your competitor using one of their high-value paid keywords. Make sure you engage with the page they give you and qualify for their retargeting list.
  • Over the next few days, pay attention to where they are advertising to you and how they are following you.

This isn’t a process to use just once; it is something you can use regularly to target customers over time. As new data becomes available, see how your marketing tactics can be improved and how your competitors are making efforts to improve theirs.

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