Researching Your Business's Competition Online
Wednesday, April 23, 2014
The Internet has taken the ability to watch the competition to a whole new level. Even the most obscure information is just a Google search away and with business Facebook pages, email newsletters and LinkedIn profiles, you can put yourself in a user’s shoes and actually ‘experience’ your competition and its dealings rather than just watching from afar.
But performing market research on your competitors isn’t just about stealth and keeping abreast of their activities, it’s also about learn from their mistakes and successes and, ultimately, using that knowledge to better your own business and its offerings.
Thank fully, by putting a few systems in place, you can have that information come to you with very little effort, yet you will still be on top of pretty much anything your competitors are doing
Visit their website and poke around
You’d be amazed how much you can glean from a company’s website and it goes beyond what’s written on their About Us pages. By digging deep into their website, reading their blogs, even looking at who created their website, you can learn a lot about a company’s behind-the-scenes workings as well as, obviously, anything they’ve shared consciously and publicly.
It may be something as simple as the names of employees, which when combined with a Google search, can inform you of what sort of skill set your competitors have at their disposal as well as
For example, I know of one company (Company A) that researched the Content Manager of a competitor (Company B) who was pounding them in the traffic and Content stakes. It turns out, he was an experienced journalist whose skill was churning out great content for an international media company. Company A did the same thing, hiring an even better journalist as their Content Manager and eventually overtook Company B in traffic.
Sign up for their Facebook, Google+, Twitter and Instagram accounts
Companies share a lot on social media, often more than they realise. By signing up to all your competitors’ social media presences you’ll have daily news of their activities and successes, and can keep an eye on new products, services and policies.
Even something as simple as images can give you an idea of how your competitors work. A group image taken of the customer support team may feature your competitor’s office layout in the background and that could shed light on their business’s capabilities.
Sign up for their newsletter, if they have one
Just as with your competitors’ social media presences, many companies have newsletters that they send out regularly and in their editorials, you can discover a lot about a company’s employees and even future plans.
A recent newsletter from a competing company I know of alerted its customers to watch for big news from them in the coming month, which automatically put its competitors on alert – and rightly-so. They launched an Australian first software product just weeks later. This little announcement may have gone un-noticed by its competitors, had they not been signed up for their newsletter but the kicker was that a few months later, they did an interview with their head developer who outlined everything from how long it took to build it to, roughly, how much it cost to build.
That’s invaluable data for the competition – and by staying alert, it was handed to them!
Sign up for Google Alerts
This free service from Google allows you to receive automated updates about the things that you search most.
While you might already have Google Alerts set up for your own business, you should also have it set up for your top five competitors.
This will let you know when they are releasing new products, having sales or putting out reports or are mentioned online.
You might also set up Google Alerts for key industry terms and leaders, so that you can immediately react to the most cutting-edge information in your field.
Use keywords to analyze your top 5 competitors
With the huge marketplace that is the world wide web, it can be difficult to know exactly who you’re competing against.
One of the easiest ways to find out is by doing a little competitor analysis in search engines such as Google and Bing.
All you have to do is type “related:www.yourURLhere.com” into the search, and you should get a list of sites that have been deemed to be related to your product or service.
Another easy way to see who your business competitors are is by simply using your top-ranked Google analytics search results and just see who’s coming up with you.
For example, if you get 80% of your traffic from the keyword “piano benches and accessories,” you simply type that search term in and see who is also being highly ranked for that keyword.
Whichever way you choose to do your market research, make sure that you are searching in the right region and time zone.
If you are only interested in US competitors, you can add '&gl=us' to the end of any URL to restrict your results to that area only.
Research your competitors Incognito
You may also consider doing your competitor analysis “incognito,” which is the name of the ‘private’ surfing mode on Google’s chrome. Most browsers offer a similar feature which lets you visit websites without providing your competition with a record of your visits or monitoring.
Of course, for most people, this won’t matter, but you’d be surprised at how many companies monitor visits from competing IP address.
Again, it’s just more information and, well, information is power, no?
5 great tools for competitor research
After simply analyzing what a competing site looks like, you are ready to begin a more thorough investigation of their traffic and conversion rates.
That being said, Google isn’t the only way to find out what the competition is up to. In fact, there are specific apps for monitoring almost every type of digital marketing on a remote site. Here are some of the best ways to keep an eye on what other businesses are doing and using that information to keep ahead.
Although this site has a free plan, the real magic happens with the Pro version. Open Site Explorer allows you to research up to four competitors in regards to domain authority, page authority, outside linking and social media referrals.
This is a great way to see who is linking to your competition and seeing how it might effect your overall SEO efficacy.
For $79 per month, you can secretly monitor your competition’s Adwords campaigns and take notes on which keywords people are using to find them.
The best part about this program is that it lets you track changes retroactively, so you can easily see what did or didn’t work for their Adwords ads from up to six years prior. Then, you can change your own campaign to avoid making their mistakes. This tool also gives SEO recommendations and monitors your SEO rankings.
Adwords is good for one thing: finding out which keywords are making and costing the most amount of money.
With Adwords, you can see which keywords are the hot tickets in your market, and how much they typically cost to advertise with. The Google Traffic Estimator also allows you to see how many people are searching for those specific terms each month, and what the current bid is for each of those keywords.
With SEO Book, you can compare your competitors’ meta information, titles and key phrases with your own. This is a great way to get ideas for your own metatags and headlines, as well as seeing what is working or not working for your competitors’ SEO campaigns.
They also have a free SEO Toolbar that lets you see how many unique visitors your competitors are getting each month, what their Google page ranking is and their estimated traffic value. Also, they provide a number of resources for those new to SEO, including reports and articles about optimizing your site.
Knowing what your competition is doing is crucial for running a business these days and the beauty is that it’s very easy and, often, absolutely free, so why wouldn’t you implement some of the suggestions above? After all, it’s likely your competition is already watching you!
Hey, guys - the above recommended tools are endorsements by Samantha only. We've not tested these ourselves, and while we trust her opinion greatly, wouldn't recommend a blind purchase of any of these without a little bit of research and understanding first. - Ed.