Spying on your Online Competition January 5, 2011 by Brett Prince Let’s face it, SEO is tough! Even those who work in the 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? 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 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. 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!