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Researching and analyzing the competition should be at the heart of what you do, right from the very start of your business. It should be an active thread running through your business plan. It also needs to be the focus of where to set your price points and develop your marketing ideas.

It’s vital to know what your competitors are up to so that you can learn what they are doing right and what they are getting wrong. But how do you get started? Here are the basics of online competitor analysis for anyone out there who has plans for starting a new business.

The business of comparison

Online competitor analysis is all about comparing several companies with your business. Even if you are doing great with your startup, it’s sound business thinking to keep your eyes peeled for your rivals. The idea is not to copy what your competitors are doing, but instead, to benchmark yourself, find inspiration, and learn.

The tools of the trade

It’s much easier to get started with competitor analysis than you might think, and there are plenty of tools available to help you out. The great thing about the web is that it has made it far easier for companies to check out their rivals. You can find tools to find out where your opponents are getting links from, for example. Or, you can invest in full package white label SEO products to give you a complete overview of their current positions. You can even use free services like Google Insights to check the technical details of their websites.

The rivals

Once you have the tools of the trade in place, you can get started with some serious online competitor analysis. We’ll assume you already know who your rivals are, but it’s worth checking for any other companies showing up on organic and PPC results. You should also think about other industries that share your target demographics.

The stats

There are plenty of statistics that you need to check when undergoing competitor analysis. Search engine rankings for keywords are an important factor, of course – as is the volume of traffic your rivals are receiving. You will only have access to ballpark figures in most cases, but these stats are still valuable. The next step is to look at their SEO and on-site content. What are they blogging about, and what is bringing in their organic traffic? Is there site optimized properly? Not only will it tell you where they stand, but it will also reveal areas that are ripe for improvement on your site.

Other factors

Don’t forget to explore the UX and design of each rival’s site, too. The more user-friendly their website, the more business they will be doing – it’s as simple as that. Take care to explore your rivals’ offline marketing efforts as well. Things like branding and media relations can signify areas you can exploit, too.

While competitor analysis can be a complicated subject, as you can see, it won’t take much to get started. Make sure that it is part of your business planning at all times and you should start seeing better results.