If your organization is looking to become more sophisticated with its online presence – think revamping the website, starting a blog, sending out an e-newsletter or rebranding social media accounts – there is one thing your organization should do before starting this extensive project: a competitive analysis.

An online competitive analysis is a critical part to your organization’s PR and marketing plan. This evaluation helps you better understand your competitors and gives you the insight needed to elevate your online communications program.

Here are four benefits of a successful online competitive analysis:

  1. Know what You’re Up Against

You don’t have to be a detective to understand the nature of your competitors’ businesses. Evaluating their websites and online marketing efforts, examining their social media campaigns and searching their name in a web browser will show you exactly what they’re up to. This will also help you determine how a company positions itself, who they market to and what strategies they use to reach consumers online.

  1. Identify Trends and Opportunities

Regularly monitoring your competitors will help you recognize different online trends in your industry and identify opportunities for your organization in different arenas.

  1. Establish What Makes Your Brand Unique

A glance at your competition’s online activity will help you see where your product or service fits in, and what specific attributes you should focus on in your content marketing program. Analyze what they feature on their websites and how they position their brands on social media, then develop and share content that highlights what makes your organization different and better than the competition.

  1. Understand the Strengths and Weaknesses of Your Online Marketing Plan

A competitive analysis does more than help you understand your competition. It can also help you identify changes that need to be made to your online marketing strategy. Look to your competitor’s strengths to emulate activities that appear to be working. And if you identify online marketing tactics your competitors aren’t using, consider leveraging those to stand out from the crowd and reach prospects in ways that your competition is not.

When working with a PR firm or marketing agency, make sure the team understands your organization’s position in the marketplace before launching into tactical activities. An online competitive analysis is an important first step in building a successful online content marketing program.

What success have you found in utilizing a competitive analysis? Tell us in the comments below.