Spying on your Online Competition

Let’s face it, SEO is tough! Even those who work in the high speed internet industry can find it hard to keep up to date with all the new elements and changes – what if you’re a small company with a limited marketing budget?  Budgeting for SEO and PPC can certainly get confusing. Luckily we live in an age where information is available to those who seek it, it just takes time. When it comes to Internet Marketing, ‘trade secrets’ are generally close guarded, however there are marketers who are willing to share some of their best ideas. Even though this knowledge may be accessible, how do you ultimately decide which tactics are best for you and your company?

SEO Competitive Analysis - Marketaire.com

The reality is that you’ll never have the time to operate a full-fledged business and undertake all Internet Marketing activities that bigger businesses or corporations can. It’s just not practical. What is practical is analyzing what your competition is doing (in your industry or niche) and note what it is that sets them apart. What’s making them rank well? Where are they getting visibility? Wouldn’t it be cool to figure that out?

Well suit up folks, we’re going James Bonding.

Tactic One: Google Alerts

A lot of people have heard about Google Alerts, people tend to use it for news keywords; businesses tend to use it for online reputation management. For those who aren’t familiar, Google Alerts is a free service offered by Google that provides ‘alerts’ for specific keyword terms that you specify. When Google finds something new that’s related to your keyword, it will fire you off an email to let you know. Again, this is great tool for reputation management.

A key to any solid campaign is measurability, spying on your competition is no different. First, set up Alerts for your competitors – you can do a business name or URL, whichever you feel is more applicable. You can track competitor mentions by setting up a spreadsheet for each competitor. You can add whatever tabs you like, but including a tab for links, blogs, directories, and industry publications is a good start. There are clearly a lot of different types of sites you can track, but try to focus on the ones that are most relevant to your industry. Now, every time you get an Alert from Google, you’ll be able to see specific sites mentioning your competition and why. This is potentially valuable information to add to your Internet Marketing strategy, just remember to track all relevant information, maybe even add future tasks if there’s a website of interest.

Tactic Two: Social Mention

Social Mention

Social media activity is becoming increasingly important, even for your SEO campaign – Google and Bing recently confirmed that they are actively measuring and weighing this. It’s more important than ever to make sure you’re being mentioned in the right places.

Social Mention allows you to access real time social media searches – it pulls information from blogs, microblogs, video, audio – essentially any aspect of the web you can think of. By saving your competition as search terms, you will receive email alerts, much like Google Alerts, allowing you to see where your competitors are popping up in the social web, and if the sentiment is good or bad.

This is a great way to connect with potential customers directly, especially if you feel that your business offers a superior product or service. Icerocket, Addict-o-matic, Seesmic, Tweetdeck and a variety of other terrific tools are a great way to search and connect socially.

Tactic Three: Sniping with SEO

Everyone talks about the best SEO tools and almost everyone has read a thousand articles that boast the ‘best SEO tools’ – but which do you need for your spy tool kit?

Open Site Explorer is a great backlink analysis tool that presents detailed breakdowns of sites that are linking to your competition. This is great for finding valuable sites that your competition has used for anchor text placement! It will also give you a nice overview of the types of sites your competition has anchor text on, and you can always do a PR check on individual pages to help measure actual backlink weight.

Tactic Four: PPC Campaign Spying

If you’re presently running a PPC campaign or are considering running one for your business, you need SpyFu.

Spy Fu - Competitor's Keywords - Marketaire.com

This is a terrific tool that will allow you to see what your competitors are doing in the PPC world. With SpyFu, you can download keywords that your competitors are targeting and then emulate successful campaigns. Remember, there’s nothing wrong with taking shortcuts, especially if you have a limited marketing budget, however you will need to improve on the campaigns of your competitors. Stealing is one thing, using competitive information to enhance your own campaigns is another.

That about does it for our quick overview of how to spy on your online competition. Remember, this wasn’t meant as an exhaustive list, but as a taste of what’s available in the Internet Marketing world. It’s always important to think outside the box and investigate for yourself; you need to find the tools that will suit you best.

Remember, Marketaire is a social site, so please share your tools, experiences and thoughts below!

Join the discussion 17 Comments

  • Jackson Lo says:

    Open Site Explorer is a fantastic tool. First time hearing about Social Mention, and it looks powerful. Will try it out 🙂

    Another tool that I find is helpful to evaluate how well a site is optimized is if you use Website Grader, a tool put together by HubSpot. It scores your site based on key components that you should have.

  • Jackson Lo says:

    Open Site Explorer is a fantastic tool. First time hearing about Social Mention, and it looks powerful. Will try it out 🙂

    Another tool that I find is helpful to evaluate how well a site is optimized is if you use Website Grader, a tool put together by HubSpot. It scores your site based on key components that you should have.

  • Brankica U says:

    Just what I needed. Off to check out some of there links straight away.

    I use Google Alerts and I can say that I find new ways to maximize on what I find out. It is sucha great tool and coming from Google probably the best source to get some interesting info.

    By the way, I love when people show us how to work with free tools so we can check them out straight away 🙂 Thanks

    • Not a problem! There’s always something useful to add to an Internet marketing strategy, and free tools certainly help with that. If you have any questions about anything feel free to ask, myself and others are always here to help! =)

  • Brankica says:

    Just what I needed. Off to check out some of there links straight away.

    I use Google Alerts and I can say that I find new ways to maximize on what I find out. It is sucha great tool and coming from Google probably the best source to get some interesting info.

    By the way, I love when people show us how to work with free tools so we can check them out straight away 🙂 Thanks

    • Not a problem! There’s always something useful to add to an Internet marketing strategy, and free tools certainly help with that. If you have any questions about anything feel free to ask, myself and others are always here to help! =)

  • […] Spying on your Online Competition | Social Media & Internet Marketing News for Business | Market…. […]

  • Jan Wong says:

    Great stuff, Brett. Thanks for sharing! I would also add Research.ly to the list as it is a great tool to listen to keywords on Twitter.. like your competitor’s business name 😉

  • Jan Wong says:

    Great stuff, Brett. Thanks for sharing! I would also add Research.ly to the list as it is a great tool to listen to keywords on Twitter.. like your competitor’s business name 😉

  • This is a great article, but there’s something quite amiss in keeping such thorough tabs on one’s competition.

    The reason I say this is that there is more than enough business to go around, and if a business spends a great deal of time trying to keep pace with their competition, they lose out on a powerful point of difference, their own originality.

    There’s a great saying, “all things being equal, people like to do business with their friends, all things being not so equal, people still like to do business with their friends” meaning that our customers gravitate to our businesses because of the feel of them.People don’t buy from us because of features, they buy from us because they like the person behind the business, or the sales people behind the business. I am continually encouraging my clients to be aware of what is happening in their industry, and this article does provide great tools to keep the finger on the pulse, but I also encourage my clients to put their blinkers on and focus on their own strategy, their own vision, and their own business. 

    I’ve seen so many businesses carve a hole of despair when they’ve been trying to keep up with the  competition, only to find out that the competition’s strategies don’t work, and they’re always just that one step behind.

    Test and measure you’re own campaigns – focus on your mission, and get on with the business of doing business.

  • This is a great article, but there’s something quite amiss in keeping such thorough tabs on one’s competition.

    The reason I say this is that there is more than enough business to go around, and if a business spends a great deal of time trying to keep pace with their competition, they lose out on a powerful point of difference, their own originality.

    There’s a great saying, “all things being equal, people like to do business with their friends, all things being not so equal, people still like to do business with their friends” meaning that our customers gravitate to our businesses because of the feel of them.People don’t buy from us because of features, they buy from us because they like the person behind the business, or the sales people behind the business. I am continually encouraging my clients to be aware of what is happening in their industry, and this article does provide great tools to keep the finger on the pulse, but I also encourage my clients to put their blinkers on and focus on their own strategy, their own vision, and their own business. 

    I’ve seen so many businesses carve a hole of despair when they’ve been trying to keep up with the  competition, only to find out that the competition’s strategies don’t work, and they’re always just that one step behind.

    Test and measure you’re own campaigns – focus on your mission, and get on with the business of doing business.

  • Anonymous says:

    Compete.com is an obvious one to add to the list.

  • Anonymous says:

    Compete.com is an obvious one to add to the list.

  • BusinessOwner4 says:

    Compete.com is an obvious one to add to the list.

  • Thanks for sharing!  Students of the Social Media Academy did a report some years ago with the  topic:Winning customer mindshare – a competitive advantage and a customer benefit.

    All data and information used within the reports were aggregated without any dialog or conversation with the respective company and was built exclusively based on publically
    available data. Amazing what you can learn about a company by using monitoring tools. http://www.socialmedia-academy.com/index.php/resources/mindshare-report/

    Marita
    http://xeeme.com/MaritaR

  • Nathan says:

    I really enjoyed reading this and it gave me some new insight into some things I hadn’t previously known. One thing I’m wondering is if there’s a way to judge the saturation of your competition with social media marketing. Surely there must be some way to see the number of competing pages/profiles. 

  • Nathan says:

    I really enjoyed reading this and it gave me some new insight into some things I hadn’t previously known. One thing I’m wondering is if there’s a way to judge the saturation of your competition with social media marketing. Surely there must be some way to see the number of competing pages/profiles. 

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