Harnessing AI for a Digital Competitive Evaluation

Tom Snyder photo by Tom Snyder on Jun 17, 2024

In today's fast-paced digital landscape, understanding your competition is more crucial than ever. Conducting a digital competitive evaluation can be the difference between thriving and merely surviving online. When creating and executing your digital marketing strategy, competitive research is vital and avoiding common pitfalls is critical. 

Reflecting on my blog from last year, How to Do a Digital Competitive Evaluation, it's clear that AI tools have progressed significantly, necessitating an update in our approach. Let's dive into how AI can now enhance this process.

Why Conduct Competitive Research?

Understanding Real vs. Perceived Strategies

Avoiding Deceptive Impressions: Last year, I discussed how competitors might engage in strategies that appear successful but aren’t. For example, they might churn out a lot of content like blogs and white papers that seem effective but don't yield the desired results. Today, marketers are able to analyze the true impact of these efforts with greater precision with AI tools that identify the real ROI of such strategies.

Revealing the Ineffectiveness of Common Strategies: Previously, I noted that many businesses invest heavily in content creation without achieving significant rankings, often due to targeting highly competitive keywords or lacking SEO-optimized content. Now, identification of these gaps and suggestions for more effective strategies, is quicker with AI streamlining the process and providing actionable insights faster.

Discovering Hidden Competitors

Identifying Direct and Indirect Competitors: Beyond known competitors, it's crucial to identify others who might be vying for the same online presence, users, and keywords, including those not immediately apparent. Last year, manual methods were emphasized, but AI-powered tools now uncover these hidden competitors by analyzing patterns and trends, offering a more comprehensive view.

Evading Marketing by Imitation

Creating Unique Strategies: Copying competitors doesn't lead to a successful marketing strategy. Differentiation is key, as customers will choose based on unique features if they can't distinguish between two similar offerings. Insights into what makes your brand unique and how to capitalize on those features is a key function of AI, offering data-driven suggestions to set you apart.

How to Conduct a Competitive Audit

Tools and Techniques

Using AI-Enhanced Tools: Last year, tools like SEMrush and Moz were recommended for insights into keywords, domain authority, inbound links, traffic volume, and social media engagement. Today, these tools integrate AI to provide deeper insights, automate data analysis, and highlight trends and opportunities you might miss manually.

DIY Techniques: For those without access to professional tools, AI-powered free tools like Google's Keyword Planner and Uber Suggest can offer substantial insights. Simple strategies like searching on Google in Incognito mode can also provide basic competitive information.

Key Metrics to Analyze

Keyword Performance: Understanding which keywords you and your competitors rank for, including overlaps and untapped opportunities, was a key point last year. It's important to use AI to predict future trends and suggest keywords that are gaining traction, making your keyword strategy more proactive.

Advertising Insights: Estimating competitors' ad spend and identifying their advertising strategies was essential last year. AI is able to provide a more accurate analysis of ad performance and potential ROI, giving you a clearer picture of where to invest your ad dollars.

Traffic Analysis: Comparing traffic volumes and understanding the source of traffic (branded vs. non-branded) remains crucial. Last year, this required manual effort, but AI data segmentation tools now more effectively show you which strategies drive the most valuable traffic.

Social Media Engagement: Monitoring competitors' social media for changes in engagement and strategy was advised last year. AI's ability to track and analyze sentiment and engagement metrics in real-time, provide you with a comprehensive view of your competitors' social media effectiveness.

Common Pitfalls to Avoid

Not Just Copying Competitors: The goal is to find opportunities for differentiation and improvement, not to imitate. AI's suggestions for innovative strategies based on your unique strengths offer more tailored recommendations than manual methods.

Realistic Planning: Align your strategies with available resources. Last year, I emphasized not committing to unsustainable strategies. With AI's assistance, you can plan realistically by forecasting the resources needed for various strategies, ensuring your efforts are both ambitious and achievable.

Technical Aspects of SEO: Many overlook the technical aspects of their websites, which are critical for SEO. Regular technical audits were recommended last year, but now with AI being able to automate these audits, you can make sure that no critical issues are missed and saving you time.

The Importance of an Objective Perspective

The Value of AI and External Agencies: Last year, I highlighted the importance of external agencies for their objective viewpoint. AI brings unparalleled analytical capabilities, essential for identifying unique strategies and avoiding the common pitfall of internal bias. Agencies equipped with AI tools can provide even deeper insights and more tailored strategies.

Questioning Established Norms: Continuously questioning and reevaluating your business strategies was emphasized last year. AI has become the most important tool to help by identifying shifts in consumer behavior and suggesting adjustments to your strategies, ensuring you stay ahead of the curve.

The Caveat

Conducting a digital competitive evaluation is not just about understanding your competitors; it's about comprehensively analyzing the digital landscape to carve out your unique space. The goal remains the same: to use all the tools available to gain a deeper understanding of your competitive landscape and leverage that knowledge to create a more effective digital presence. AI is playing an increasingly pivotal role in this process, helping you look beyond what's visible, question preconceptions, and ensure your strategies are not only different but also feasible and aligned with your business goals.

But as we've pointed out, AI is still in its infancy as a tool. It's important to note that, as with all powerful tools, the damage and danger in doing it wrong are amplified. At this point in its development, AI still has limitations that require human experience and expertise to make sure that what it produces is accurate, correct, and helpful. So until AI reaches a level of maturity where it can autonomously handle complex strategic tasks, businesses must use it judiciously, integrating human oversight with AI capabilities. This balanced approach ensures that while you harness the speed and data-processing power of AI, you also mitigate risks associated with its current limitations.

Ultimately, the key to leveraging AI effectively lies in knowing when to rely on its analytical power and when to step in with human intuition and experience. By doing so, you can avoid the pitfalls of misuse and truly enhance your strategic endeavors in the digital realm.

Until you've developed that talent and expertise, it will be critical for you to have the guidance from an expert, consultant, or agency that has.

About Tom Snyder

Tom Snyder - TriveraTom Snyder, founder, president and CEO of Trivera, a 28-year-old strategic digital marketing firm based in suburban Milwaukee. Tom has been blogging since 1998, sharing the insight gained from helping businesses and organizations reinforce their brands by taking full advantage of digital and web technology as powerful tactics.

Photo Credit: Adobe Stock

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