Let’s talk about some simple ways to do competitive analysis. I’m just going to go through a couple of marketing tools I often use.
First and foremost is Ahrefs, which I use all the time. If you want to get access, just go to www.levelingup.com/ahrefs.
Let’s put Nike into Ahrefs, as an example. You can see that their domain ranking/domain authority is scored on a scale of 1-100. Nike has 73, which is great. They have over 105,000 referring domains pointing to their site. They ranked for over 500,000 organic keywords, which means that they drive over 8.8 million visits per month.
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Now, these are by no means exact numbers, but it does give you a realistic range in terms of where Nike’s at and how many keywords they’re bidding on. You can start with organic keywords and see the keywords they’re ranking for, the volume they drive, which pages they’re ranking for, and go from there.
You can also see what features they have for specific keywords. Do they have site links? Are they in the image pack? Are they in a knowledge panel as well?
If I were to search for Nike right now, just to show you what I mean…
…they have an ad showing. Then they have a link right there. They have images. They have the knowledge box, as well, and so on.
I also like to look at ads (to see what types of offers and images they’re using), as well as top pages (to see what I or my client can emulate). With Nike, there’s obviously a lot of Nike-related branded keywords, but we want to see what else they have that’s not tied to Nike specifically.
I can filter by position, from 5 to 30, if I want to look for low-hanging fruit keywords. Like “marathon training” for example or “half marathon training schedule.” Ahrefs shows me the types of low-hanging keywords that Nike is ranking well for, and then I just click on the page and ask myself, “Well, what I can do to emulate that? What can I do to beat this page?”
Alex Morgan, the soccer star, is ranking 14 for it. “Nike size chart,” “10K training plan,” I can see all these different keywords right here.
Obviously, for the brand-related keywords, they’re going to do well on those almost always. But I can get some ideas from their other top pages and see how I can emulate those.
Ahrefs can also help you see the content gap, which is just great. For example, I can type in Nike.com, Adidas.com, Reebok, etc. By doing this, we can see all the things that Nike and Adidas rank for, but that Reebok does not rank for.
Now let’s look at marketing blogs. Let’s look at Neil Patel, Quick Sprout, and Single Grain. This will give me some content ideas. We can see that Quick Sprout ranks for all the expected keywords: they’re #7 for “online marketing” and #12 for “marketing automation.” A lot of great keywords that can help me (if I were a competing marketing blog) come up with great ideas for the types of content I should be creating.
Learn More: 7 Tips to Creating Killer Blog Posts that No One Else Is Writing
Then I can just export this info, maybe select 1,000 rows, for example, and hit export.
We can also look at PPC keywords. Going back to Nike—what are they bidding on, exactly? What’s the URL? We can look at their top landing pages, too. All this will help us get an idea of what they’re doing.
So, there’s a lot that we can do with Ahrefs. Just go to www.levelingup.com/ahrefs.
Another great tool that I use is Adbeat.
Adbeat gives me a deeper look at how certain companies are spending, what ads they have, and where they’re spending. Let’s take Jet for example. Let’s say they spend $121 million. You can see that their ad spend is actually increasing over time. Most of their spend is going towards Google, and to Direct Buy as well.
Then we can look at the different kind of creative stuff they’re running, and how much spend went towards this creative component. We can also look at their newest campaigns. We can look at competitors, too. And, just as we did with Ahrefs, we can export all this Adbeat info and make it into a PowerPoint presentation. That’s a lot of actionable information at my fingertips.
One thing to keep in mind is that usually the spend amounts on these kinds of tools are incorrect. Same thing with a traffic map. I would say take the traffic or the ad spend with a grain of salt.
Finally, let’s look at SimilarWeb, another tool I love to use for investigating competitors.
Let’s go back to Nike and look at how they’re doing. We can see that this is their traffic trends over time. It’s saying that they get 54 million visits a month.
Category rank for shopping and sports, they’re number one. It shows you the different mobile apps that they have for Google Play, App Store as well. Lot of different stuff going on here. You can see their traffic by country and where the bulk of their traffic is coming from and where their referrals are coming from. It’s search, and then direct, and then you have referrals, too.
You can see keywords plus which are paid, their social and how they’re doing there. You can see their distribution and then display advertising. Their sub-domains, too. You can also dive deeper and look at certain categories.
So, with these three great competitive analysis tools, there’s a lot that you can see.
This post was adapted from Eric’s Facebook Live videos: Growth 90 – DAILY live broadcasts with Eric Siu on marketing and entrepreneurship. Watch the video version of this post:
Hi everyone, today we’re talking to Nanxi Liu, co-founder and CEO of Enplug, which is a cool software that helps businesses manage real-time, connected digital displays – sort of like a Chromecast for enterprise.
She’s worked hard to established a really tight-knit company culture and has some insights on hiring and workplace activities that are worth learning about and implementing.
Experimenting with Entrepreneurship in College
Nanxi Liu just graduated from UC Berkeley in 2012 – a mere three years ago.
When she started in 2008, she thought she wanted to get into law, but she started building small gadgets in her freshman year with her engineering classmates and thought that instead of letting gadgets die with the school assignments, she should try to make some money off of them.
The first thing she built after this realization only took her and her classmates one weekend to complete got $10,000 from the university. After that, she realized she could probably make more money with little side projects than a typical job, so she latched onto this type of entrepreneurship and kept at it.
Lots of projects failed, but in her sophomore year, she built a biomedical device company with a couple of her friends from high school. Her senior year, she started Nanoly Bioscience after meeting her co-founder at a bar and learning he was a famous biochemist. She served as the company’s CEO while she finished her degree, and it’s still going strong today.
Right before she graduated, she met her co-founders for Enplug. There were five of them in total and they didn’t know exactly what they wanted to do, but they thought they’d be able to do something cool with their combined brain power.
Even though Enplug started out making sales by going door-to-door to restaurants offering free TV installation in exchange for purchasing their software, they’ve gone through a few alterations and have a product so good that 90% of their leads come via inbound means.
Since they’re so reputable, they don’t have to worry about making small sales and offering free display installation in exchange – they can simply go after companies that already have big networks of displays and sell them $99/month licenses.
They’ve got over 300 paying companies from around the world, including Nigeria, Australia, Japan and Slovakia, and they’re most commonly found in stadiums, gyms, and shopping malls.
What it’s Like Running a Company with FIVE Co-Founders
Even though one co-founder is no longer with Enplug, having four captains of the ship is something that could get hectic if you’re not careful – most startup experts would recommend two co-founders at most.
But Nanxi said she thinks having so many people on board was actually what made them so successful. It took so many pieces coming together to build their business that they needed five fully dedicated people at the beginning.
Enplug on the Brink of Failure Meant a Revamped Hiring Process
Nancy says she’s the type of person who believes that if you don’t want something to fail, you won’t let it – you’ll work for it.
But that being said, a year into their business, they made a hire that wasn’t a good fit and could have destroyed their culture.
From that, they learned that instead of having just one co-founder interview a person, any new candidate had to be interviewed by all four of them.
Further, they’ve changed the process from Nanxi simply posting the job descriptions online herself to having a Director of HR & Culture who focusses on bringing new teammates on and making existing teammates really happy.
Company Activities & Teammates vs. Employees
Enplug has such a tight-knit, family-like company culture, that about 1/3 of them live in a house together.
For the ones that don’t live in the house, they do a lot of team activities together like rock climbing, ski trips, beach trips, and attending each others’ weddings.
Nancy always refers to people who work for Enplug as ‘teammates’ rather than ’employees’ because she and he co-founders feel that people who put the team first before themselves are the kind of workers they want at Enplug.
They recognize that success doesn’t come from one person. And when they’re interviewing people, they always want to know what type of team sports or efforts they’ve been a part of in the past to get an idea of their team mentality.
Being a Young Female CEO
As a woman in the tech startup world, Nanxi says there’s a lot of underlying psychological things you have to deal with and that it’s important to be tenacious.
For example, she says it’s important for young women in tech to know that they’ll have less time to make an impression than their male counterparts, and she notices that even though she’s the CEO, interviewees make eye contact more with her co-founders (who are all male) than her.
On the other hand, she says she’s got some amazing opportunities from her position.
She gave an example of sitting on a panel next to the Prime Minister of Italy, the Prime Minister of Finland, the CEO of the New York Times, and the CEO of Chrysler.
And living her life by Jim Rohn’s quote “You’re the average of the five people you spend the most time with,” she likes to punch above her weight class and hang out with other female entrepreneurs who are more successful than she is to find mentors and keep growing.
The Biggest Struggle as a New CEO: The 4th Month
According to Nanxi, somewhere between the 3rd to 5th month of operating a new business is a critical moment, especially as the CEO or a founder.
It’s in that time that you hit your first plateau. To boot, people realize they’re running out of savings and are getting poached by other companies.
To keep the momentum going, she says it’s important to have milestones set for beta products and getting investors, so your team doesn’t lose their passion.
Latching Onto Opportunities: How Nanxi Got to Write a Song with a Grammy Winner
“I don’t think it’s healthy to be constantly thinking about your business,” says Nanxi, whose extracurricular activities include the piano, cello, and violin.
In fact, she keeps herself open to opportunities unrelated to her businesses and latches onto them the moment they present themselves.
Recently, she met Pascal Guyon at a dinner, and once she realized who he was, she pulled him aside and said she wanted to write a song with him.
Because she knows that cool people like that get those kinds of offers all the time, she made an effort to set the date. “No, seriously,” she told him, “Next Saturday. What are you doing a week from now? Can we get together?”
The got together in the studio the next week and knocked a song out in four hours.
A Piece of Advice to Your 21-Year-Old Self
“Focus on the cool stuff you’re building. Boys in college don’t matter that much.”
Nanxi idolizes Elon Musk because she’s met him a couple of times and thinks he’s fantastic for the way he’s built so many successful companies in very different industries… it’s something she wants to do herself with her biotech company, Enplug, and music.
The female version of Tony Stark? Maybe.
Her Recommended Productivity Hack
Nanxi recommends a tip from Mark Suster’s blog which is to either respond immediately to an email or delete it… don’t leave it sitting to think about it and respond later.
She says that even though she might like to leave an email sit for a couple days so she can write back a really nice response, in business, people appreciate a quick turnaround, even if the message is short.
Two Must-Read Books
For business, Nanxi recommends The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz. (And she’s the 20th person on this show to do so.)
For her, it’s one of the most honest books she’s read about building startup. It really shows how difficult it is – and that running a business never really gets any easier, even when you’re out of the bootstrapping days.
For another type of read, she recommends Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua.
She likes the book because it’s about the spirit of making things happen. It’s about the fact that in life, you either pursue things or wait for them to come to you – and if you wait for them, they’ll never arrive.
She appreciates the story of the book because she sees parallels of it in her own life. When she was young, her mother only told her stories of successful women like Hilary Clinton, Amelia Earhart, and Condoleezza Rice.
The stories gave her confidence and helped shape her mind to prepare her for her future success at such a young age.
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