Wouldn’t it be nice if you had an easy way to learn about your competitor’s deepest and darkest secrets? An ethical way to peer inside their business — anytime you wanted?
Your competitor’s review portfolio provides you with just that. And conducting an audit of their portfolio will give you precious, must-have data that competitors are simply unwilling to share. It’s a treasure trove of secrets, pointing to your competitor’s strengths, weaknesses, goals, and objectives.
But how do you audit your competitor’s review portfolio? More importantly, how do you use this data to inform your review acquisition and marketing strategy?
I’ll show you how in three easy steps. Feel free to download this spreadsheet if you’d like to add data as we go along.
Why competitor review audits are essential
But first: What’s so special about the review audit anyway? At first glance, it might seem like more work than it’s worth. Your competitors have more (or less) reviews than you do, which means you’ll work harder — and if they add more reviews, you’ll have to put in more work to earn more reviews.
Seems like the usual marketing arms race, right? Where you and your competitors are jockeying for first place.
Sophisticated agencies will know better. They see the competitor review audit for what it is: A chance to gain leverage, clarity, and intelligence from their most unwilling competitors. Because a competitor audit shows you:
- What competitor’s customers are unhappy about
- Your competitor’s desires, goals, fears and frustrations
- The core issues and challenges costing your competitors leads, sales and revenue
- The objections and risks that keep their prospects from buying
- Customer perception in the marketplace
- Why customers choose to work with your competitors specifically
- What customers want (but aren’t getting) from your competitors
- What needs to be done to grow your business exponentially
- Their customer’s knowledge/level of sophistication
- Changes in your competitor’s business (past, present, and future)
These details are are an exceptional opportunity in the right hands —it’s an indispensable assessment tool for local search agencies and their clients. Not to mention it’s a straightforward way to learn about your competitor’s deepest and darkest secrets: you have literal competitive intel from their customer’s perspective.
Before you begin your audit…
You’ll want to take stock of the top three competitors in your local market. There are two ways to approach this. If you’re part of a smaller local market or you already have a list of competitors, start there. What if you’re a new business and you’re not fully established in your local market yet? Which competitors should you audit?
The businesses that are consistently listed in the local three pack or page one of the Google Maps search results, when you click ‘More Places’ on the local pack or the search results (page one) for your queries!
All set with your list of competitors? You’re ready to begin your audit!
Step #1: Assess their review profiles
You’ll want to take an inventory of your competitor’s review profiles. You’re looking for three types of review profiles:
- Mainstream reviews via large providers like Google, Facebook, and Yelp
- Industry-specific reviews via specialty sites like TripAdvisor for hotels, Avvo for attorneys or Healthgrades for doctors
- ‘Niche’ platforms like the BBB, Angie’s list, or Clutch.co
You also want to take note of a few cursory details.
- Have competitors claimed each/all of their profiles?
- How many reviews do they have?
- Are the aggregate reviews on each platform – positive, neutral or negative?
- What’s the overall sentiment for each profile – positive, neutral or negative?
- How recent are their reviews?
- How many of their reviews were received over the past one to three months?
- Is their NAP data consistent across each of their profiles? Consistent across multiple locations?
- Do their profile links lead to active and relevant pages? Any broken links?
You’re looking for inconsistencies. Outdated data, inaccurate details, 404 errors, etc.
Step #2: Search for their business + reviews
Let’s say you’re working with a client in the personal injury space. You’re analyzing the three competitors we mentioned earlier.
Where should you start?
First, you’ll want to gather a list of branded and unbranded keywords. You can use Moz’s Keyword Explorer or your keyword tool of choice to quickly suss out the organic keywords your competitors are using.
You can use a tool like the Permutator to rapidly expand your list of keywords. You can use this tool to identify missed opportunities or further refine the keywords in your list.
Head over to Google and run a search of the unbranded keywords in your list.
- Best personal injury lawyer
- Best personal injury lawyers near me
- Best personal injury lawyers in Chicago
- Best personal injury lawyers Chicago Loop
- Chicagoland personal injury firm
- Chicagoland personal injury firm in Chicago
- Chicagoland personal injury firm near me
- Chicagoland personal injury firms
- Personal injury firm
- Personal injury firm in Chicago
- Personal injury firm near me
- Personal injury firms
Next, run a search of the branded queries in your list
- Staver Accident Injury Lawyers
- Staver Accident Injury Lawyers reviews
- Staver Accident Injury Lawyers testimonials
- Staver Accident Injury Lawyers in Chicago
- Salvi, Schostok & Pritchard
- Salvi, Schostok & Pritchard reviews
- Salvi, Schostok & Pritchard testimonials
- Salvi, Schostok & Pritchard in Chicago
Take screenshots of the local three pack when it appears, whether it includes the competitors in your list or not.
You also want to take screenshots of the knowledge panel and search results. There are all kinds of juicy data we can work with here! Use a descriptive file name so it’s easy to remember key details later.
Here’s a short list of the details you’re looking for:
- Are aggregate reviews listed in the search results? Are these reviews positive, neutral or negative?
- Are keywords used on review profiles, media (via images, videos or slides) and landing pages?
- Citations/NAP data, is it consistent/inconsistent?
- What types of content channels are used (e.g. keyword rich video testimonials via YouTube, on-site reviews, Facebook recommendations, etc.)?
Next, you’ll want to read through your competitor’s reviews. At this point, you’re looking to collect data. You’ll want:
- Positive, neutral and negative reviews
- Featured, highlighted or recommended reviews
- To assess the general tone and quality of the reviews listed in each profile (are reviews shallow, detailed or comprehensive e.g. reviews with text, images and/or video?)
- To gauge the ratio of positive-to-negative and neutral-to-negative reviews
- To identify profiles that are potential outliers (e.g. unclaimed review profiles with no/poor reviews)
You’re looking for positive reviews…
…as well as neutral and negative reviews.
The balanced, comprehensive inventory of each review profile gives us more data to work with later on.
You’ll want to run these audits at regular intervals. If you’re serving clients in a highly competitive market like insurance, real estate mortgage banking, you’ll want to run these audits more often.
Why is this important?
You already know the answer! You and your clients are playing a competitive game of moves and countermoves. If they’re smart, your competitors will eventually take note of the aggressive changes you’re making. They’ll quickly adapt, working to circumvent any advantage you’ve gained. If you’re using a review management tool, these details are simple to automate and easy to track on a recurring basis.
It’s not rocket science, but it does take work. Now we’ve arrived at the best part of our analysis.
Step #3: Using your audit to inform your review acquisition strategy
You’ve uncovered a significant amount of data in your competitor audit. How do we go about putting this valuable data to good use?
We ask questions!
Asking questions gives us a chance to dive deep into the data, uncovering insights that are actionable and useful. Here’s a list of sample questions you should be able to extract from your audit. Here’s what you’ll want to know.
Which competitor has:
- The most reviews, per platform? The most reviews overall?
- The largest amount of high-quality reviews (e.g. detailed four and five-star reviews)?
- The largest amount of low-quality reviews (e.g. four and five-star reviews with little to no text)?
- The largest amount of aggregate reviews listed in the search results?
These questions enable you to identify the review sites where your competitors are strongest/weakest. This is important because it helps you identify opportunities for quick wins and big gains.
Next, you’ll want to assess trends in your competitor’s reviews:
- What motivates reviewers to share (e.g. satisfactory outcome, altruism, displeasure, etc.)?
- Which customer objections appear repeatedly?
- Do competitors respond to customer reviews? Do they respond more to positive, neutral, negative or all reviews?
- How long does it take them to respond to a review?
- How do competitors respond to negative reviews?
- Do customers feel the business’ performance has improved or declined overall?
- What desires, goals, fears, frustrations, and problems did customers bring into the relationship?
- How did competitors handle these issues?
- What risks did reviewers face in the relationship?
- How sophisticated are their reviewers (e.g. educated and discerning buyer, experienced and unsure, clear and confident, etc.)
- Which themes appear consistently in reviewer responses? (E.g. poor communication, open and transparent, patient and knowledgeable, etc.)
So, here’s the million-dollar question. How do you use these details to inform your review acquisition strategy? Imagine that we come across 25 to 35 reviews like these in our audit of a single competitor. Customers are consistently complaining about poor communication and poor follow-through in their reviews.
How can you help your clients capitalize on this problem? You…
- Brainstorm: You work with your law firm client to come up with a client “Bill of Rights.” They commit to daily and weekly communication with their clients or they take 25 percent off next month’s invoice. You interview, survey and conversion data to test the effectiveness of this risk reversal.
- Advertise: Your client uses their client “Bill of Rights” and their promise to communicate daily and weekly in your PPC and display campaigns. Click through rates begin to climb as the message begins to resonate with clients in the Chicagoland area.
- Re-target: Prospects who visit the website are added to a retargeting campaign. This campaign consists of four distinct ingredients (1.) A strong value proposition (2.) An irresistible offer (3.) Strong reviews showing your client communicates daily and weekly as promised (4.) Your clients produce extraordinary results for their clients. Using your client’s retargeting campaign, you drive prospects to relevant landing pages and review profiles.
- Convert: Your marketing strategy is effective. You’re able to convert a significant amount of prospects on your client’s behalf. You ensure that your client under promises and over delivers, producing extraordinary results and wowing their clients.
- Request: You set up a review funnel for your client. Their customers are invited to write a review via SMS and email autoresponder campaigns. Their clients are sent to a review landing page, where they’re directed to the appropriate review profile (e.g. Google My Business, Facebook recommendations, or Yelp reviews). Their clients are encouraged to share openly and honestly.
- Respond: You work with your client to respond to positive and negative reviews on their behalf. You work with your clients to maintain a 5:1 ratio. Five positive reviews for every negative review. You use review response protocols to provide reviewers with an appropriate, customized and empathetic response. Traffic and conversion rates skyrocket.
Can you see what’s happening? You’re using your competitor’s strategy to inform your own. Your clients continue to win whether their competitors win or lose. Here’s the significant part about competitor review audit. The possibilities are there. You can use their competitor’s success or failure to boost their marketing results. You can use this strategy with webinars, guest posts advertising, partnerships, workshops, and even events.
A chance to gain leverage, clarity, and insight
Don’t underestimate the power of conducting competitor review audits. It’s a powerful strategy, especially when combined with Review management tools as well as display and PPC intelligence tools like Moat, WordStream, and SpyFu.
If you’re a boutique Local Search, SEO, or Marketing agency working with a variety of local clients, providing review management guidance can be an incredibly valuable supplemental service. In fact, according to Moz’s 2019 The State of Local SEO Industry Report, 91 percent of marketers believe that aspects of reviews, including ratings, quality, positive/negative sentiment, presence of keywords, and/or recency can impact local pack rankings. So if you’re providing local digital services and not touching on reviews, you’re probably doing your clients a disservice.
A competitor review audit gives you actionable data on your competitor’s strengths, weaknesses, goals, and objectives. With the right approach and consistent effort, your competitors will supply you with everything you need to inform and improve your client’s review acquisition strategy.