Stay Ahead of Your Competition by Identifying Gaps in Digital Marketing

Competition across every industry in the digital space is stronger than ever. New entrants are constantly joining the fray, forcing brands to challenge both their current competitors and newcomers.

Luke DeMarco

In the United States, ecommerce sales are expected to grow by 59% by 2024. As industries continue to evolve, it can be difficult to manage and focus on your brand’s performance, let alone that of your competition.

Running analysis on your key competitors is not only important but necessary. Without a proper understanding of the gaps in your competitors’ marketing efforts, it is not possible to both grow and maintain a strong position in your industry.

Gap analysis can be confusing if you don’t have prior experience – what metrics matter? What tools should I be using? How is my competition performing? Luckily, these questions can be answered, and even simplified.

So how do you effectively analyze your competitors’ gaps in marketing? The same way you would analyze your own. Let’s explore the various ways you can evaluate your digital marketing efforts and competitors.

Search Engine Analysis

Search engines are one of the most significant opportunities for both finding gaps in digital marketing strategies and staying ahead of the competition. If you or your competitors do not have strong positions in organic or paid search results, this can greatly affect website performance. The top 3 Google organic search results receive 75.1% of all clicks and paid search position is just as important.

When analyzing organic rank and paid performance, simply search for your brand, the most popular products/services, and your competitors on each search engine. If your company is on the first page (preferably ranked first) for your branded terms with no others outbidding you, great! However, evaluating paid search strategy requires more granular methods.

Google offers powerful tools through their ad platform, and one that can greatly supplement your search engine analysis is the Ad Preview and Diagnostics Tool. A downside to using search engines to review paid search results is the inability to narrow your results by regions outside of your current location. 

With the Ad Preview tool, you can see search results from any city in any country within Google’s reach. You can also define what language your search results are in, what device the results will display on, and what type of audience is querying the search (similar audience, visitors of certain sites, etc.)


Google’s Ad Preview and Diagnosis Tool

If you find your company ranked outside of the first page for non-branded terms related to your product/service, search engine optimization (SEO) should become a priority. If competitors are outbidding you on your branded keywords or other related terms, you might want to consider shifting your focus into paid search campaigns to recapture your market share.

Site Performance

Evaluating site performance is also an effective way to identify gaps. Site performance data gives you an overview of how many people are visiting a website, what source this traffic is coming from, and which locations the traffic is coming from, which can expose certain gaps.

One of the strongest and simplest tools to use is SimilarWeb, a web analytic site that provides a comprehensive list of metrics to help brands assess site performance. 

SimilarWeb’s Chrome Extension

The best thing, however, is that they have a free Google Chrome extension that provides you with a snapshot of any site’s traffic, geography, and traffic sources.  If you don’t use Google Chrome as your web browser, you can still access SimilarWeb’s site and receive the same data.

If you’re looking for more in-depth data, SimilarWeb also offers premium models that provide you with a robust set of data that covers everything from search traffic, to demographics, to competitors (yes, they can tell who your competitors are).

One useful feature in SimilarWeb is the compare button, which allows you to compare up to 5 different sites’ performance across all of the various metrics. This is one of the fastest ways to identify gaps between you and your competitors’ digital marketing campaigns. 

The compare function can be used multiple ways, including comparing traffic sources to see how customers typically find sites in your industry, comparing keywords to identify which search terms your audience prefers and traffic share for those keywords, or comparing advertisers to determine which channels provide the greatest amount of traffic.

Identifying Trends

Discovering gaps in digital marketing also involves identifying opportunities. Every industry has trend periods where opportunity is high or low, and being aware of these shifts gives you a massive edge as a brand when optimizing your efforts. A great tool to investigate trends is Google Trends. Using Google Trends is very simple and provides you with four metrics: interest, interest by region, related topics, and related queries.

Google Trends

To use the tool, just type in a keyword related to your product or service and you’ll see a results page like the one above.

Following the example of “basketball sneakers”, there is a low trend/stagnation in the spring and summer months, and a strong uptrend in the fall/winter. This uptick can be easily explained by the fact that basketball season for most players begins in November, so players are looking to buy new shoes starting in October.

Notice how the metric used in these results is interest, not search volume. Interest is a normalized and indexed metric created by Google to show awareness and intent for keywords and key phrases. This means that all of the data points are relative to the highest level of interest. Therefore, a data point with an interest score of 100 has twice as much interest as one with a score of 50.

Keeping this in mind, let’s look at interest by subregion. The top 5 results can be interpreted as New Jersey and New York showing the highest amount of interest, while the surrounding states show very similar levels of interest. Therefore, the northeast region has the highest relative level of interest for the term “basketball sneakers” in the United States.

Using this approach, you can easily understand your industry’s trends, its popular regions, and what topics are trending.

Filling The Gaps

While all of these tools provide oversight and tons of data in a flashy, interesting manner, it is up to you as the marketer to correctly use them. These tools are only as effective as the person using it, so be sure not to incorrectly interpret data, as this can be counterproductive in improving your digital marketing strategy. 

For example, when using Google Trends, I also searched for “basketball shoes”, and the results for interest by subregion were completely different. The new results centered around Midwestern states (Nebraska, The Dakotas, Wyoming). The terms “basketball shoes” and “basketball sneakers” have no physical difference, yet their interests by subregion are concentrated in very different areas. 

So if you are a sneaker retailer and want to sell basketball shoes, targeting the terms “basketball sneakers” and “basketball shoes” will allow you to effectively cover a larger part of the United States in your paid search campaigns.

It’s important to do your due diligence and be thorough in your analysis efforts. If you find all of these data sets overwhelming and hard to interpret for your industry, it might be best to consult a marketing partner to help effectively manage your digital efforts and consolidate the data into simpler terms for your brand.


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