How to Research Your Competitors’ Marketing Strategy

By December 2, 2016Tools and Tips

marketing strategy ecommerce web e-commerce shoppingWhatever your marketing strategy, knowing what your competitors are doing is invaluable information to help your website get ahead. New and established businesses alike can benefit from understanding how their successful competitors stay ahead.

Finding their marketing strategy

The first task is finding the information. Few companies will broadcast how and where they advertise, or what keywords they target. Fortunately, sites like Similar Web do a lot of the hard work for you. Here you can examine how a site promotes itself across the web.

How to interpret what you’ve found

Getting the marketing strategy information is easy once you know where to look. Interpreting it is another matter. Why do some sites have so much direct traffic? What does it mean if their display ad audience is low, or referrals are high? Understanding these elements is key to evaluating the effectiveness of their strategy, and deciding whether or not it could work for you.

Most web traffic comes from one of six sources:

  • Direct traffic—users who type your website directly into their browser without clicking a link to it from another site
  • Search—users who come from search engines such as Google
  • Referrals—users who visit the site as a result of clicking a link from another site (not a search engine)
  • Social media—users who visit your site from a link found on a social media platform such as Facebook or Reddit
  • Mail—users who click links contained in emails, usually a mailing list
  • Display ads—users who click on the ads usually displayed at the top/bottom/side of websites

The source will tell you a lot about a businesses’ marketing strategy. Or what market they should be focusing on. This information is important to know for your own website too, although there is always room for interpretation. For example, if all a site’s web traffic comes from Facebook and none from Google, does the owner advertise exclusively on Facebook to capitalize on the existing market, or focus on Google to grow a new one?

By examining multiple competitor websites, you can develop a broader picture of where your target audience congregates online, and see where your website is over- or underperforming in comparison. You can also get good leads for sites that will feature yours by looking at repeat referrals your competitors get.


Display ads tend to be the smallest traffic source of popular websites. This is simply because of the unpopularity of ads on the web. That doesn’t mean they’re not a useful marketing stream, but paid searches often outperform them for generating web traffic. A lot of the paid search results come from sponsored keywords. These result in a website ranking higher on search engines such as Google in response to certain phrases being researched. Popular websites often sponsor keywords relating to their business. Amazon’s best-performing keywords are “Amazon,” “Amazon Prime,” “,” “AWS,” and “Amazon books.” For smaller sites lacking name recognition, generic keywords will be more effective. For example, an Amazon competitor might promote the search terms “buy books online,” or “buy ebooks.”

Social media

Social media is a powerful tool to generate web traffic to your site. We’ve already looked at how to market on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and Instagram. Seeing how your competitors perform on social sites will provide valuable insight into what audiences respond best to your product, and where you should be focusing your marketing efforts.


In all likelihood, the biggest competitors in your field employ a multi-stream approach to generating hits, with incoming traffic from multiple sources. A diverse business model helps ensure your site is seen by the maximum number of web users. Knowing how and where your competition’s popularity comes from is an important step towards emulating their success.

If you’re not sure how to start, pick a plan and let’s friendly experts help.

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