Spy on CompetitionWhen you're in business, there's no better thing to urge you on like a competitor's success.  Losing a big contract or opportunity to an industry neighbor is fuel enough to get most business owners moving.  Wouldn't it be nice if, say, every time your competitor put up something new on their website, that you knew about it right away?

The great thing about the Internet is that everything (well, almost everything) is public.  Once you publish something online, it's out there for your customers, vendors and competitors to consume - like it or not.

But most of your competitors aren't going to visit your website on a regular basis to see what you're up to.  And let's face it - you're not about to do that either.  What you need are a few automated shortcuts that can help alert you when there's activity so you can be less of a reactive company.  And that's what I intend on showing you today - ways that you can spy on your competitors.

Google Alerts

By now most business owners that receive some sort of online newsletter or read Internet marketing-related blogs have heard about Google Alerts.  This is, in my opinion, one of Google's best tools, and one of their most under-utilized tools for marketing purposes.

The Google Alert system simply takes phrases that you input, and every time that phrase shows up on the Internet, a custom email is sent to you with a link to the new web page.  And much like Google's search capabilities, you can add delimiters and other special characters to your alerts to really hone in on specific queries and phrases.

For purposes of this example, we'll be a dentist in Saint Louis, Missouri.  Our competition is, well, other dentists. So here are some likely queries that I'd like to target:

  • dentist st. louis
  • st louis dentist -medicare
  • saint louis dentist -medicare
  • st louis dental
  • saint louis dental
  • "dental hygeine" st louis
  • "tooth decay" st louis
  • braces st louis
  • braces saint louis
  • "braces st louis"
  • "braces saint louis"

There are a few things to think about when putting your list together.  First, start with your keyword research list.  Your keyword research list is all the words that you think potential customers may type in to find your business, and it's very likely that a competitor would have a similar list if they also did keyword research.  So watching new pages that they create around these phrases can help you improve your own pages as well.

On top of these phrases, I'd also like to target a few individual dentists who I happen to know are either actively marketing online or appear to be considering online alternatives as part of their future marketing strategy.  Maybe you've heard that a competitor is in the building stages of a new website - this is a great way to keep an eye on them.  In your Google Alerts profile, simply put their domain name:

  • site:domain.com
Now, every time there is a change to your competitor's website, no matter what the change, the Google Alert system will tell you about it.  If you start to see a lot of changes being done, you can assume they are taking steps to get better rankings, and are worth watching more carefully.

SEM Rush

spyI'm a big fan of this website.  SEMRush lets you put in particular keywords and see what sort of online competition there is, and it also lets you filter results by domain name.
Putting in your domain name yields some valuable information - such as who (they think) your online competitors are.  If you see a list of your competitors, then you're on the right track.  If you see a list of various unrelated websites, then you know your SEO efforts are not working well.
Putting in a competitors website tields some even better information, such as what keywords they are bidding on in PPC (if any), what keywords they are currently ranking for, and what sort of traffic their website is getting on a monthly basis.  How do you stack up?
There is a ton on information available at SEM Rush, and the basic service is free - even better!

Get An Outside Opinion

What better way to spy on a competitor than to see just what their customer base thinks as they trudge through a purchase or blog?  We use UserTesting.com quite often to test our own sites, as well as competitors that we think are doing a pretty good job with their Internet marketing.
Did a competitor recently launch a new portion of their website, perhaps a blog or new product section?  Why not have anonymous users give you feedback from their perspective about the website's layout, functionality and overall look & feel?  Then take that information and make your website even better.

Dominate Your Industry

Don't just use these tools to spy and see what your competitors are up to - use them to get ahead of your competitors!  These three tools will give you a huge advantage and will show you just what your adversarys are up to - and will give you the knowledge and ability to get ahead of them in the SERPS!