Avinash Kaushik wrote a killer piece that he calls the “ultimate guide for learning how to do amazing competitive analysis”.
You should definitely check it out and read through the dozens of painstakingly assembled links.
But there’s one glaring issue: it was written in 2015 but assumes the world is still like 2005.
Nothing wrong with using Google Analytics to measure what’s going on at your website. And certainly there are fundamental things you should be doing with Google AdWords to drive traffic and conversions.
However, if you’re doing competitive analysis, you’ll need to see not just your competitor’s website, but the reviews their customers leave on various sites, their Facebook page, their mobile app, their offline media strategy (we don’t live in a digital only world), and all manner of social properties that don’t live in keyword land. Keep in mind this advice from Heather Dopson (pictured):
When you are looking at current or potential competitors (you’re doing that, right?), it’s vital to look beyond websites to build a comprehensive picture of their strengths, weaknesses, objectives, and other critical components.
Your competitive analysis should not only inform you about your competitors, but also give you insight into ways to improve your own business. There is no way you can gain a deeper understanding of a business by only using website stats. If the company is brick and mortar, you should visit their locations to see what the customer experience is like.
What does their advertising (on and offline) look like? Do they have raving fans talking about them on social? What platforms are they using? The online presence of a business is only a small sliver of a slice of a larger pie.
Granted, Mr. Kaushik is the web analytics evangelist at Google, so he’s paid to present a keyword search-based world.
But consider how many companies have grown via a mobile app strategy and don’t even have websites.
If you apply these competitive analysis techniques, you’ll completely miss someone who is about to eat your lunch.
Nor is it even enough to say that the “internet of things”, where everything is a computer or the computer is everything, changes things.
Rather, your website is just one property among many; it’s the one owned item among your portfolio of owned, earned, and paid media. Most of your marketing power occurs in social networks and offline, never making it to your website, no matter how many UTM parameters you assign and no matter how fancy your attribution model for website clicks.
Think about the posts on Facebook that people see, but don’t click on.
How about the TV ads, radio commercials, and other offline media that may drive in-store traffic?
What about the entire app ecosystem that cannot be fully solved with deep links?
How about the traffic that is “direct/none” from your site not being site-wide https or the “not provided” of Google?
Looking at just website or Google-only data for your analytics is like putting a helmet but going into war with the rest of your body naked.