A Step by Step Guide How to Find Your Competitors

Creating great content always starts with research, but how do you kick off that research? The first question you need to ask yourself when you start a new website online is: who are my competitors?

So let’s take a look at the simplest steps to help you find your competitors.

But before we do, we have to understand what we mean by competitor.

Who are your competitors?

While there are still many brands out there with minimal online presence, in the 21st century we live our lives on the internet. We discover new trends online, we research products online, we make buying decisions online, and we buy online.

So it’s easy to think that, as our lives are played out online, all your competitors must be online, too. While it’s true most of them will be online, many will be either offline or not targeting as you are. And that's especially true if you are setting up a geographically specific business.

You should not only be interested about local competitors. Look to international examples to gain ideas to promote your own business from similar markets to your own.

As well as that, there are the core competitors you thought of when you set up your business. The companies you wanted to do better than. Sometimes you won’t offer the same product or service as these companies, but they are useful barometers for what you are doing.

So, in reality, you actually have several types of competitor.

For kicking off your content marketing, though, you’re really targeting your online competitors, those who are taking up space you want to be present in.

Offline competitors are not competing for online eyeballs, so they’re not going to encroach on your space. But keep an eye out for them later on: who knows if or when they’ll pop up online.

One note: for some businesses, where you are the monopoly player in a region - energy, transport, network solutions, etc., you have another form of competitor: investment competitors. These companies are not direct competitors, as they are not interested in your customers, but they are interested in the same investors as you.

But that is for another time.

How do you find your competitors?

Which brings us neatly onto the actual steps needed to find your competitors.

Step 1 - What is your core product or service?

Your first port of call is nailing down your core service. What is it you are offering, exactly. Let’s say you’re a home improvement company, what is the core feature of your offer? If you offer to match home owners with local decorators, then you’ve got a core product.

From this, you can easily figure out a few simple keywords. “Find Local Decorators” may be a good starting point. Even better if you’re targeted a specific town, city or region.

Make a list of these keywords.

Step 2 - Search for Competitors

I always find it best to get an easy win under my belt when working on a task. So step 2 is a great place to start. With your short list of core keywords, you can find a few potential competitors without too much work.

And it couldn’t be easier.

Simply open up Google and search for each keyword in your list.

Then make a note of every result on the first 2 pages of Google, especially the ads.

Now this may be a long list, but it’s easier to shorten a list later than lengthen it.

Step 3 - Discover associated keywords

So now you’ve had that easy win, it’s time to get down to the nitty gritty. First up is discovering associated keywords.

There are plenty of keyword tools out there you can use to discover associated keywords. We find the best is Rank Tracker. We’ll discuss that in a minute.

First, we’ll do it the old fashioned way.

Take your keyword list from before. Enter the first one into Google manually, but stop after every word and check the autocomplete. For instance, when searching for “Find local decorators”, I get the following:

Google Autocomplete Search

Do the same for each keyword until you have a long list.

Next, enter the keyword into Google and scroll to the bottom of the screen. You should see this:

Google Related Searches

These are Google Related Searches. More on those later.

Again, add them to your keyword list.

With Rank Tracker, you can use the program to search Google for both autocomplete options and related searches.

Rank Tracker Keyword Research

You can only select one option at a time to find new keywords. The best to use would be Related Searches and Autocomplete, plus AdWords by Target Page.

You may also want to find more potential keywords using other tools. One useful tool is keyword.io. Here, just enter your keyword of choice and it will suggest many more.

There is a good chance you'll end up with a huge list of keywords, though. Which is where Rank Tracker comes in handy again. Update the SEO/PPC data for the keywords in your list. Now you'll see the SEO data for them, plus a load of keywords completely unrelated to your niche. In this case: apprenticeships.

Rank Tracker SEO Results

So you're going to want to remove all those keywords that have nothing to do with your business, as well as any with No data in the # of Searches column.

Now go back to step 2, run your search again, and add those competitors to your list. Make sure to also stress anyone who comes up more than once.

Step 4 - Use online tools to research your competitor list

This is where you discover if your list of competitors is actually a list of competitors. First up, you’ll want to shorten the list. Go through and delete any duplicates, or any sites that do not fit your profile.

Next, run the remaining competitors through SEMRush. Here you can take a look at their data and decide whether they’re actually competitors.

Step 5 - Use SimilarWeb and SEMRush to discover hidden competitors

There’s always a chance you’ll miss a few competitors from a simple keyword search, though. Perhaps the competitor is related, but not directly with those keywords. This is where SimilarWeb comes in handy.

Enter your own domain, and if you get more than 5,000 visits a month, it will display a list of similar sites.

SimilarWeb Similar Sites

If you have fewer than 5,000 visits, then SimilarWeb will not display any results. So here you could use your competitor list from before.

SEMRush also displays main organic competitors, and you may find a few more brands to add to your list here.

Step 6 - Narrow down your competitors

Your long list of competitors can now be narrowed down, to give you a clean short list. You can even split the short list into different parts - for instance geographically. Then you can have a general competitor list, a state competitor list, and a city/county competitor list.

Check every competitor to see whether they actually are competitors. This means manually looking at their site and checking for relevancy.

You may also want to exclude sites who have either too little or too much traffic, or are geographically irrelevant. For instance, a small shop gaining a tiny amount of traffic may not figure in your competitor plans. On the other hand, an online giant like houzz.com may be too big to compete with just yet.

After you’re done, you should come out with a sheet of competitors for your business’ online presence. Your next step is taking a deeper dive and finding out how to beat them.