How to Monitor Your Competition With Under-the-Radar Tools
In an increasingly digital economy, it’s more important than ever to put your best foot forward online. While you may like to think you’re leagues ahead of your competitors, it’s still possible to learn from them. I’ve compiled a list of tools that will help you discover your competitors’ digital secrets and apply them to your own online presence.
Your business probably isn’t the only option for your customers. This can also be a benefit. Analysis of your competitors can provide you a wealth of ideas to improve your own product offerings and marketing.
While your competitors may be reluctant to hand over their business plan, there are several less direct ways to gain insights into their efforts through online resources that enhance your digital marketing.
The first—a well-known tool—is Google Alerts. This news alert system allows you to monitor your competition’s public-facing events and announcements. By adding alerts for each of your competitors, you’ll start receiving email recaps of their digital mentions.
Google Alerts offers many customization options, so match the settings to each competitor. You may need to hear about moves from major players as they happen, while weekly updates may be sufficient for others.
There’s more information out there than what your competitors put in their press releases, though. We’ve curated a list of social media, SEO, PPC, and content tools that will put your competitor’s strategy under a microscope.
How to Monitor Your Competitors
- Dominate social media
- Use SEO and PPC ads that work
- Invest in content tools
Step 1: Dominate Social Media
Customers use social media in a variety of ways. When a product doesn’t live up to expectations or a flight is delayed or a download doesn’t work, many people head to social media to vent their frustration.
They also turn to social to share great customer service stories and show off their latest gear.
While there are a lot of tools for social media monitoring, such as Sprout Social for Facebook competitor reports and Phlanx for Instagram engagement, here are two more tools that provide additional data and context:
1. Social Mention
Social media is the place for brand wins and failures. The size of it, however, can make this a difficult place to monitor. That’s why we use Social Mention. It’s been one of the more popular social media search tools for years.
The health of companies and marketing campaigns are measured by how many times a brand is mentioned and the context of those mentions.
In the example below, you see all of the mentions about Super Bowl LIII collected in one place on Social Mention.
The toolbar on the left side of the page provides valuable information for social media teams, such as positive and negative sentiment about the tag, top keywords, and minutes spent on each mention.
Finding out where your competitors are struggling is as important as discovering their strengths. Some brands use Social Mention to find angry customers to poach from a competitor. Others watch how their competitors handle things like returns or what kind of customer service in your industry gets the best response.
2. Social Blade
To become a power player in your industry, use Social Blade to see follower counts for major accounts across multiple networks.
Social Blade has live and daily updates for follower counts and additional metrics. For instance, Gillette had a “controversy” that saw a lot of negative headlines, but its social activity, shown below on Social Blade, seemed to indicate something else.
On Gilette's Social Blade screen, you can see the changes in Gilette's follower count every day, as well as the daily averages and average over the last 30 days. Despite any recent controversy, Gilette gained over 26,000 followers in the 30-day period measured here.
Social Blade ranks the success of a company’s efforts. Use this tool to monitor your competition's presence across platforms.
Step 2: Use SEO and PPC Ads That Work
Advertising is the key to beating your competition. You spend thousands of dollars every month only to have your competitors grab targeted users with better visuals or smarter keywords.
One option is to hire an agency that specializes in SEO. If you’d rather keep operations in-house, however, here are three tools I recommend for learning about our competitors advertising success and failures:
With a tagline like “Steal Your Competitors' Traffic & Uncover Their Conversion Strategy” you’ve got to appreciate the honesty of iSpionage.
It lets you see what PPC ads your competitors are running, as well as their campaign durations and keyword bidding. You’ll also see the ads themselves and landing pages.
In this example below, you can see HubSpot's PPC ad competitors and their monthly budgets.
This is a terrific tool to see what’s performing the best and get an idea of what kind of funnel or message resonates most with your target audience.
A free signup will get you a variety of information, and the paid accounts increase that level significantly.
Wordtracker provides keyword planning support and brings in Amazon and YouTube.
If you’re consistently looking for keyword targets, you can sort and save lists, filter them, and keep tabs on what’s working for you.
With Wordtracker, you can search for keywords and see related searches, search volume, and competition.
In the example above, you can see a list of search terms related to online shopping sorted by search volume.
Wordtracker is a powerful keyword tool that automatically pulls in competitor data, making it easier for you to find your own gaps or market opportunities.
We love the simplicity of Woorank—a website review and SEO tool—even though it doesn't offer a free option.
With Woorank, you can secure a smart monthly plan that gives a roundup of details on you and your competitors, such as keywords and bounce rates, page views and sessions, and even some user details.
Woorank can also boost your social media reports and help you take a long view of your efforts.
Step 3: Invest in Content Tools
Advertising and social media posts are only part of a business’ marketing strategy. A website is every company’s main digital presence, and their website's content has to be carefully tailored to attract and convert customers.
These three tools will help you figure out what kinds of websites and web copy perform the best and will inform your content strategy.
We like Buzzsumo for its overall competitive intelligence. You can examine a competitor’s domain and identify their most successful content types. There are also filters and options to narrow your search.
Buzzsumo's "Content Analyzer" tool, shown below, allows you to search for keywords and displays the number of engagements next to every result in the dashboard.
The company’s alerts are also some of the best you’ll get from an analysis tool.
SEMrush is a treasure-trove of data on keywords and copy. We like it especially for the gap analysis and topic research tools.
The SEMrush dashboard, shown below, provides a visual display of keyword competition analysis. Graphs and charts show trends in specific keywords and their value.
SEMrush will also give you a hand with the actual writing needed to improve your website’s SEO.
If your competitor is taking action online, you can probably find them in SEMrush.
3. Website Grader
The final tool on our list is Website Grader, a free tool from HubSpot. While Google Analytics provides some insight into website performance, this website grader analyzes every aspect of your website and returns an overall grade.
Website Grader takes into account page size, loading speed, requests, compression, and redirects. When you enter a website into the tool, it will return a score like the one shown below.
Input websites that have performed on this article’s other tools and see what grade their own website receives. Then, if they do well, identify what their websites has that yours lacks. Once you’ve made changes, check your own site to make sure that everything is in working order.
Use Digital Tools to Monitor and Outperform Your Competition
As much as we may want to have the best idea, it can’t always be true. We often have to look others for inspiration, and that can even extend to our competition.
Your competition won't publish their best secrets in press releases or give them away in interviews. It’ll require some sleuthing, but the tools I mentioned above will go a long way to uncovering your competition’s best tips and tricks.
Take care, however, to adapt whatever lessons you learn to your own company. You know your business better than anyone, so use that knowledge to tailor ideas to your unique situation.