Your digital marketing landscape is your marketing stomping ground. Every business, product or service has its most ideal place on the Internet for digital marketing. Researching your own industry will give you an invaluable amount of actionable information.
What follows is for the most part, fairly simple and straight forward and actually quite fun. At this point, you're not really getting into deep research. This is more a case of just familiarising yourself with the digital marketing landscape you are about to enter.
By "Digital Marketing Landscape" we mean your existing digital competition. Their websites, social media networks and 3rd party sales avenues.
The chances are, your top-performing competitors have been through all sorts of learning curves and will have their own web presence set up to do the job as well as it can be done. That gives you a lot of inside information. Imagine being able to go into your competitor's physical locations and have a right good rummage around.
On the internet, you can!
Sidenote: With what follows, always take notes. The point in spending time going through the process of looking into your digital landscape is to create a picture or blueprint of your own web properties. If you like something about a websites design, make a note. If a certain brand keeps cropping up make a note. If you see a clever function on a website, make a note.
Start with your competitors websites.
It doesn't get much easier than this. Simply go to Google and start looking into your competitors. And if you're not sure who your competitors are, then search for your main products and services.
Sidenote: The idea here is to look for industry-specific competitors and not the generic giants that have top results just by sheer size (think Amazon, TripAdvisor etc). You won't get much in the way of actionable information from sites like that.
If Google is good at doing what it does - and it is - you will quickly find your main competitors. The best news is that those at the top of the search results are the ones that have got it right. Those are the ones that have done the SEO, got the best content and have been recognised as worthy of the top positions in the search results.
You can gain a huge amount of insight from how your competitors are set up. Spend as much time as possible looking into how your competitors are doing things. The chances are those at the top of the search results know a thing or two you have yet to learn.
Test the functionality of their websites. Go through the process as if you're a customer. Add things to the basket. Ask a question if they have a chatbox. Do they actually answer?
When you spend some time browsing and using your competitor's websites - instead of just glancing at them - you will see plenty of inspiring ideas and get a better overall understanding of the kind of website you need for your business.
Follow your competitors through to social media.
It's hard to think of a business-type that cannot benefit from social media. Social media is, after all, just people connecting with each other. Because of this, the chances are your digitally established competitors will be there.
You should be able to find your competitor's social media profiles linked somewhere on their websites. Usually in either the header, footer or contact page. If not you'll just have to do a search and see what you can find. (Just go to Google and search for things like "competitor name facebook" or "competitor name LinkedIn". If they have even half-decent profiles, they should pop up.)
Sidenote: Some social networks won't let you browse full profiles or business pages unless you are logged in. It's worth taking the time to create accounts.
Again, be the customer. Take time to really have a good look around. Be sure to check out how frequently they post. Are their posts popular and get plenty of likes and comments? How many followers do they have? Are they historically consistent (scroll down 😉).
Social media might surprise you. A company that looked weak in the website area might be flourishing on social media. And vice versa. It's not uncommon. Of course, the key is to be strong everywhere. And that's part of the reason it's important to get to know your own digital marketing landscape. It gives you something of a roadmap to work from.
Going Deeper With Professional Research Tools
For many people, simply going through the above motions will give them a good idea of the digital marketing landscape. We can go much further though with professional research tools.
A full overview of these tools is beyond the scope of this page so we'll concentrate on one that is probably the most popular digital marketing research tools available today. SEMrush alone has over 60 online courses on the Udemy Learning Network because it's a genuine beast of a tool. Speaking of which!
SEMrush is a full suite of digital marketing tools and our best recommendation for competitor research. SEMrush does have a free option but the scope is limited. If you really want to get deep into your competitor research then the base subscription model is worth its weight in gold.
Sidenote: This is not a sponsored link to SEMrush. Just a normal link to their own homepage. We are not influenced by cash in any way, our recommendation is here is purely based on merit.
SEMrush is much more than just a suite of marketing tools too. They also provide a ton of helpful information and guides to help you get the most out of your subscription.
One SEMrush article we highly recommend is this one. It gives you - in SEMrushes own words, a 5 step guide to deep competitor research. You won't get much better than that. 😉
As the first part of this entire guide, we have purposefully kept this page fairly basic. That said, the information you garner from going through these steps will prove invaluable if you are genuinely new to the digital marketing.
Knowing your digital marketing landscape is essential before you make any other moves in digital marketing. You should now be in a good position to put a solid web design plan together.