9 Tools that Simplify Competitive Analysis

Learning about competitors is a fundamental task in building a business. Entrepreneurs get a basic notion about their competitors when they start their business. Most founders develop a detailed business plan in which they conduct a comprehensive competitive analysis. However, only a few keep monitoring for new competitors down the road. Competitor research should be a continuous task, as much as monitoring a company’s analytics and performance – for two main reasons:

  1. Rapidly growing competitors: early-stage competitors which used to be too small or didn’t yet exist need to be included in a competitive analysis. Their sudden growth poses a potential threat to the company. For instance: Facebook was an early-stage, unknown competitor of MySpace back in 2004.
  2. Companies adding products or services, or pivoting, to become competitors: Companies sometimes expanding their offering to include more products and services or pivoting into a new space, thus becoming competitors of incumbents. For instance, Blue Apron was established in 2012, pioneering the multi-billion dollar meal kit delivery industry, only to have Amazon as a fresh new competitor five years later.

Before we start with recommendations, let’s define competitors. Direct competitors are the ones in your customer’s short list when they make their buying decision. These companies pose an immediate threat, offering a similar product or a service to yours, and compete for the same customer dollars. Indirect competitors offer alternative products or services to your offering, which can answer the same customer needs. For instance, Microsoft Excel is not a direct competitor to CRM or marketing automation systems, but some businesses still use it for such purpose.

Dozens of competitive analysis tools are available today to help entrepreneurs monitor their competitors by their social network activity, traffic, backlinks or content, but very few of them produce original lists of possible competitors. Most services ask users to come up with an already made list of competitors, which they have to type into their search engine.  

Zirra- The first NLP-powered company analysis engine

Zirra is the only business intelligence tool available that automatically builds a competitive landscape using Machine Learning techniques.

Searching for a company in Zirra’s company analysis engine results in a list of companies ranked from zero to one. This indicates how closely those companies are related to each other on a multidimensional semantic model. Scores of above 0.5 are almost always direct competitors, while a score of 0.3-0.5 tells about some relationship, although it is often mild competition. Zirra’s algorithms produce the list after scanning the internet for articles, putting the data extracted into a large NLP module that closes out all the semantic relationship between companies.

This technology is already implemented in two of the company’s assets: The automatic company analysis reports engine, accessible through Zirra’s website; and the company’s interactive company analysis bot called Emmet. Emmet is an A.I.-powered analysis chat-bot for Slack that can be communicated with using simple English and is now in a closed beta. (Click here to join the beta.)

Typing “show me competitors for Taboola,” as seen in the images below, resulted in a list of companies, and a rating that measures the extent of the competition. For instance, the closest competitors of Taboola in this example are Outbrain (79%), Revcontent (63%), and Zergnet (54%).


Provides original list of competitors: Yes

Level of automation: High

Price: Creates automatic lists of up to 5 competitors for free through Zirra’s website; Digital analysis chatbot (Emmet) now in a closed beta. For a deeper competitive analysis, Zirra sells company premium insight reports at a minimum price $149 a month per for three reports.

Owler and CrunchBase- Bringing crowdsourcing into competitive analysis

Owler and CrunchBase are business intelligence databases for tech companies that curate information using the power of crowdsourcing. CrunchBase, once under the umbrella of TechCrunch, is now a part of Oath (formerly AOL). Both Owler and CrunchBase allow free access to their database, which contains basic information such as a company’s team, the offering, the funding, and the investors.

CrunchBase is considered to be the more accurate of the two, as it double-checks some of the information provided by the users. Also, the list of contributors on each company is visible to anyone so that manipulators stay out of the game. On the other hand, since most of the contributors are related to the subject company, information on unwanted competitors or hidden investors will not appear in that database.

Owler uses the crowd in a slightly different way: anyone can contribute information on every company, what makes the information presented more prone to manipulations. On the other hand, the competitive landscape of companies is generally more extensive and accurate than other crowdsourcing databases. According to Owler, it has about one million members in its network, second only to LinkedIn, the largest business community. Owler proactively asks users questions regarding companies they view, letting them share their opinion about the company even if they are not directly related to it.


Provides original list of competitors: Yes

Level of automation: None (Manual)

Price: Competitive analysis features are free. CrunchBase offers a premium service under the brand CrunchBase Pro that provides elaborate search such as “show me all the gaming start-ups in Sweden” or “How many A rounds did Sequoia Ventures did last year?”

SimilarWeb Pro & Apptopia – Competitor’s traffic analysis:

SimilarWeb is a service that monitors traffic using a myriad of sources such as monitored devices, ISPs, and proprietary web crawlers that scan the web. However, SimilarWeb’s competitive comparison feature demands a premium (“SimilarWeb Pro”) subscription. SimilarWeb Pro allows comparing the web traffic of up to five competitors. Its traffic monitoring engine has been operating effectively over web traffic for years, but in recent months (and particularly after raising a whopping $75 million) the company refurbished its mobile traffic monitoring abilities. However, SimilarWeb does not provide the list of competitors, and the user needs to enter them into the tool’s search engine.

In addition to competitor’s mobile and desktop traffic, SimilarWeb also provides some similar features to Google Analytics with a twist of competitive intelligence: a list of competitor’s traffic sources and referrals destinations, the distribution of traffic sources across channels (direct, referrals, search, social and email), average daily visits and duration, bounce rate, number of pages per visit, and an audience feature that includes traffic by leading countries, and the audience’s interests.


Provides original list of competitors: No

Level of automation: High

Price: SimilarWeb’s competitive comparison feature demands a premium (“SimilarWeb Pro”). SimilarWeb Pro is on average $12,000, but exact pricing depends on how much data, functions and features the customer needs”.

Apptopia is a performance analytics service focused wholly on mobile apps. Apptopia includes some of its performance estimates and competitor tracking capabilities for free, while the comparison between apps belongs to the premium service.

The free service allows users to search for every app’s performance pattern in the last 30 days in a manner of: downloads patterns, leading country in downloading, total downloads so far, usage patterns such as MAU, DAU and frequency of use, and estimated revenues for the last three months. The premium service includes the best features of the service such as the ability to track downloads, usage, and revenues for more than the last 30 days, and a feature that breaks down revenue to in-app purchase, advertising, paid networks, and ARPU. In addition to MAU/DAU analysis, Apptopia also knows to measure engagement via its engagement index, retention and session data.


Provides original list of competitors: No

Level of automation: High

Price: $50 for a package of analytics of up to 5 apps.

Ahrefs Competitor’s backlinks and content strategies:

Ahrefs was voted as the top tool for researching competitors’ backlinks by 67 marketing experts surveyed by Robbie Richards’ marketing blog. It is a premium service for paying customers only (starting with two free weeks).

Ahrefs can suggest new competitors by showing users the most popular content backlinks of domains competing for the same keywords on search engines. Also, it allows to do the opposite: type in competing domains and pages and get their backlink sources profile, discovering their content strategy and their major referrals sources. Ahrefs also presented the Link Intersect tool to identify sites linking to multiple competitor domains, and the Best by Links report to find out which content types and topics generate the most backlinks to competitors.

Ahrefs allows users to get daily or weekly alerts on their competitors’ new referring domains and new backlinks, allowing users to constantly monitor their competitors, learning how their competitors build their backlinks strategy, learning about them in almost real time.


Provides original list of competitors: Only those who compete for the same keywords

Level of automation: High

Price: From $99 and up to $999 for agencies

However, if you choose to focus on analyzing competitor’s content, Buzzsumo is considered to be the most comprehensive. It was also chosen by 67 marketers to be the leading content analysis tool. In contrast to Ahrefs, some of its competitive analysis features are free.

First, you can discover new competitors with a simple keyword search which will show the most shared content made by others on the same topic. Regarding competitors you already know, here you can identify the top-performing pieces of content from your competitors, and get the statistics about the number of shares for each of the pieces. More features include identifying the audience engaging with competitor’s content and alerts to follow on competitors.

SEMrush – The destination for competitive research over keywords

SEMrush is one of the few competitive assessment tools that suggests an original list of competitors, based on performance on organic search. These might not be the real competitors on the same market niche, but rather companies competing for the same keywords. SEMrush presents the five companies with the highest level of competition, rates the level of competition, and presents the number of common keywords with each competitor. Users get the total number of keywords for which a competitor is a leader (i.e. ranked at Google’s first results page per keyword). Additionally, users get the common leading keywords their company shares with a competitor (i.e. the keywords for which the user’s company and the competitor are on the first Google’s page together). SEMrush presents different lists for organic and paid competitors.

In contrast to Ahrefs, SEMrush allows a bunch of free trials to let you get used to the platform and to understand its capabilities before subscribing. Besides identifying competitors, SEMrush allows diving into competitor’s ads and PPC strategies, find their most profitable keywords and successful ad campaigns. Calculating all of the above can result in estimating competitor’s advertising and PPC budget.


Provides original list of competitors: Only those who compete for the same keywords

Level of automation: High

Price: From $99 and up, while higher values can be tailor made.

Google Adwords Keyword Planner

Google Adwords gives you some of the features presented in SEMrush, for free. With Adwords analytics platform, you’ll be able to analyze organic and paid keywords used by your competitors and analyze their cost and the number of clicks they bring. Working hard on the tool will let you estimate the total cost of online advertising for competitors.

Provides original list of competitors: No

Level of automation: High

Price: Free. Access is through a free Adwords account.

Is Quora Worth $1.8 Billion?

This article based on a Zirra Premium Insights Report on Quora. Use our search engine to get free data on startup companies and order a report. 

Q&A is not a new thing. In fact, it belongs to the “web 2.0” era of the last decade. It was the decade of user-generated content, in which giant tech companies believed in their ability to commercialize other people’s content. YouTube’s acquisition by Google so early and for so much ($1.65B in 2006) was a good sign that web 2.0 is, indeed, a profitable reality.

Yahoo Answers was launched in 2005. AOL acquired Q&A startup Yedda. A few years after, in times that marked the end of Q&A gold rush, Answers.com was sold to AFCV for $127 million and became an e-commerce site. That is why it was surprising to hear that Adam D’Angelo, former CTO of Facebook, left the social network at its heyday of 2009 to found a Q&A system.

But slowly and steadily, Quora became one of the most pleasant places on the web to read and share written content with a significant value, attracting a curious and knowledgeable user base. D’angelo, which saw how Facebook challenged MySpace and Friendster with a neat and convenient user experience, presented the world with the most viable Q&A platform in recent years.

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In Wikipedia’s Playground

According to SimilarWeb, Quora experienced an increase of 13.3% in monthly visits in the last six months. Between October 2016 and Mars 2017, the website generated an average of 343 million visits per month. The great year has some consequences in the competitive landscape: for the first time, Quora surpassed Yahoo Answers in popularity this April.

Visits over time. Source: SimilarWeb

Media sites suggested that this positive trend will allow Quora to challenge bigger players such as Wikipedia and Reddit. D’Angelo rejected this thesis in an interview with VentureBeat. He sees Quora as a primary source of information, while Wikipedia is a secondary source. Moreover, Wikipedia is a non-profit organization that presents encyclopedic information, the closest possible to objective truth, while Quora is an encyclopedia of people’s subjective opinions that represents their views only. But let’s admit – Wikipedia, Reddit, and Quora are all competing for our attention when we google for information.

Speaking of Google, it is not Quora, but Yahoo Answers that gains the most traffic by search engines. It followed by Wikipedia and Quora. Reddit does a better job in engaging a loyal community and users in social networks: it leads in generating direct traffic and in referrals. Here too, Quora is not doing well enough.

Source: SimilarWeb

Going Public

The big news, apart from raising funds at a $1.8 billion valuation (that said, our algorithms value Quora at about $1.6-$1.7 billion), is Quora’s decision to launch sponsored content as a primary business model. This will enable it to reach an IPO down the road. Yes, D’angelo not only went to school with Mark Zuckerberg and worked for him, but he’s also following his steps: Take your time to build a great product, then launch an ad platform that will create high revenue at once, then go public. Snap has used the same model recently.

Quora’s recent hires could hint at a future IPO. Soon after its head of business and community, Marc Bodnick, left the company in 2016, Quora hired a considerable number of employees, including Kelly Battles, Wikimedia Foundation Trustee, who will be Quora’s first CFO, Helen Min, Quora’s first head of marketing, and Karen Kramer, the company’s first general counsel.

Quora also hired Tami Rosen, who will be joining from Apple to the role of VP People this month. That means Quora has plans to grow further, after it had already grown in the workforce at about 26% last year, according to LinkedIn.

Total employee count. Source: LinkedIn


But going public will demand Quora to become a global service. Until very recently, Quora served English speakers only, that is why it is popular mainly in English speaking countries. According to SimilarWeb, the top three countries regarding traffic to the site are the United States (32.1% of visits), India (20.3%) and the United Kingdom (6.1%).

In August 2016, the company launched a Spanish version, and early in 2017, it added a French version. Quora said it would soon start a German and Italian version. For new users of Quora, the platform considers several factors, including their IP address, to guess which language they prefer. That means that Quora will launch in four more languages in 1.5 years. The company, however, doesn’t have plans to launch a Chinese version or operate in China at all.

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Social Network Advertising is on the Rise, But How Much Will be left for Quora?

Global ad spending on social networks is on the rise, which explains Facebook’s good numbers and Snap’s decision to go public. According to eMarketer, by 2017, social network ad spending is estimated to reach $35.98 billion, representing 16.0% of all digital ad spending globally. Advertising agency Zenith Optimedia, owned by France’s Publicis, estimates global advertising spend on social media will equate to 20% of all internet advertising in 2019, reaching $50 billion and coming in just 1% smaller than newspaper ads. It expects social media to overtake newspapers comfortably by 2020, making the market for their business model promising. The big question, though, is how much of it will be left for other players besides Facebook, Instagram, Google, and Snap.

Source: Zirra.com 

Taking all of the above, valuing Quora is like a shot in the dark, considering the company has only now started to make money. According to our research, Quora could be worth $1.6-$1.7 billion, a little short of the valuation estimated by VentureBeat or TechCrunch, stating a $1.8 billion valuation. Zirra’s algorithms predict that Quora could go public (or be acquired) in about 3-4 years. In case the company would be negotiating an acquisition, it could ask for up to $2.5 billion.

Quora’s ratings according to  Zirra’s research report. Source: Zirra.com