According to the ancient Chinese strategist Sun Tzu, if you know your enemy and know yourself, you’ll always be victorious. If that’s true in the military world then it is applicable in the business world. If you’ve always been the competitive type—whether it was with your siblings, with your classmates or just with that random guy that cut you off on the road one day. The best way to compete against any opponent is to know what they are doing and how often they are doing it. So how do you get to know your competition?
The best way to compete against any opponent is to know what they’re doing and how often they’re doing it. So how do you get to know your competition? Well, there is good news and even better news. The good news is that thanks to the internet you do not have to attempt Watergate levels of subterfuge and surveillance. The better news is that you are already reading an article offering tips on how best to research your competition.
Well, there’s good news and even better news. The good news is that thanks to the internet you don’t have to attempt Watergate levels of spying and surveillance. The better news is that you’re already reading an article offering tips on how best to research your competition. Here’s how!
Check out their Social Media Profiles
This is the easiest method of finding something out about your competition. It’s the kind of information that’s freely available and doesn’t require a high level of IT competency in order to carry out. Most companies will at the very least have a Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn account and perhaps an Instagram and Snapchat account as well depending on what kind of field they’re in or the audience they’re catering to.
The quickest way to see what they are advertising and how many people are getting their message is to check out these social media accounts. This is a good way to check on your competition if cost is an issue as it’s free to check all of these accounts.
By checking your competition’s social media accounts, you can see what kind of information and promotions they’re sharing with their customers. You’ll also be able to see customer feedback in the form of comments or reviews on their page.
Although, not always, the number of followers a page or account has will also give you a rough idea of the size of their customer base. The company newsletters, blogs or their LinkedIn company page are also worth checking out since they can also highlight helpful information, like staff size and output. It’s also possible to place all the social media output of a rival in just one place using tools like Hootsuite. These will show all posts and hashtags associated with a specific web page on just one tab. This is of course easier and clearer than investigating each of their social media accounts individually.
You can also use things like an Instagram marketing service to grow your own following to increase visibility.
Get Specific Social Media Statistics
For those who are a little more tech savvy or for those who want more definitive numbers on a competitor’s social media traffic, there are ways of getting that kind of information. You can get stats about page traffic, likes, and shares from a competitor’s Facebook page by using the test console and Graph API provided by Facebook. By entering the URL of your competition’s Facebook page you root data for likes, views,
By entering the URL of your competition’s Facebook page, you get their root data for likes, views, clicks, and comments. This cuts down on the need to assess every post made on the page individually and shows all the information shared on a clear graph.
Use Google Alerts
Google Alerts is free to use and will send you a notification every time a particular phrase or link is used online. Simply set the phrase or link as your competitor’s name or website and every time someone mentions them online, you will receive a notification about it.
This is a simple way to see what kind of conversations are currently being said about your competition. This provides an honest insight into what people think about them rather than based on something that’s heavily curated such as a social media page. It can allow you to see any negatives about them such as complaints which you can then seek to exploit. It can also be used to check how often keywords associated with your business is used and if any of these may include backlinks to your competitor.
Make Use of all Mention Trackers
Google Alerts is not the only tool for checking mentions. For a more focused search, you can use Topsy, which tracks mentions on Twitter. Topsy can get you any tweets written by or about your competitor since 2006. It will also show the trends of tweets about a particular user and their own ones as well. highlighting the peaks and troughs in interest in their tweets and work. Topsy does have a free version and for a small
It also highlights the peaks and the lows in interest in their tweets. Topsy has a free version and for a small company, the PRO version can be a bit probably pricey at $12,000 a year. SocialMention tracks social mentions of your competition across blogs and video clips to give you a breakdown of interest in posts across different time frames and feedback. It’s free to use so it’s a very useful tool for a small start-up company looking to investigate their competition on a strict budget.
Call and Ask
This may sound like cheating, but you can find out an awful lot about a company by dealing with them directly. If you call customer support or inquire about being a potential customer, you may find your competition is quite willing to share information about themselves.
As long as you phrase your questions from the perspective of a concerned potential customer, you may be surprised by how much information you can gain by simply asking over the phone. Since the goal of customer service is to satisfy customers, they often answer customer questions to the best of their abilities. Similarly, you can also contact suppliers and see what information they’re willing to share about your competition. This can be particularly easy if you share a supplier.
The best way to garner interest for your product is to know what keywords customers are searching for. The best way to gain an advantage over your competition is to find out what keywords they’re using to advertise. You can use SpyFu to check what keywords your competitors are using.
SpyFu will show both paid for and organic keyword use. SpyFu is not free and the price can get very high depending on what plan you’ll be opting so it may not suit every business out there. However, if you know what organic keywords and what paid Adwords keywords your competition is using, you can much easily exploit gaps in their marketing.
By comparing the keywords they use with the ones you searched for, you can find areas they have missed and target less competitive ones for best results. Also, once you have the keywords you can use a search engine optimisation tool to rank their efforts and gauge how your company is doing against them.
Another web app named AccuRanker will show how your pages rank against a competitor’s in terms of visitors and revenue. A key part of their results is their breakdown of organic versus targeted traffic. You can then use this information to see what aspects of business you’re lagging behind your competition.
Alexa is a service that ranks and assesses web traffic. It has existed since 1996 and is Mozilla’s preferred method of page ranking. You can type in any URL and Alexa will give you that web page’s global ranking. It has both free and basic plans which are very affordable even for personal use.
However, Alexa’s scope is limited to web searches that use their plugin so people searching Google without the Alexa app active will not be measured.
Ahrefs is another tool that shows you the top pages for a particular search word and can then show you links associated with a web page. The free version limits you to simply checking on three competitors, but for most start-up companies, it’s often more than enough. If you wish to get information for more companies, you can go for their paid option for around $80 a month.
These are just a few tips and examples of a small selection of tools available to scout out your competition. As they say, knowledge is power and gaining an insight into what your competition is doing can be the difference between failure and success.
Even companies with a restricted budget and limited IT knowledge can make use of simple techniques to gather information on the market practices of their competitors. Access to their social media accounts, newsletters, and blogs are generally free and unrestricted so it won’t really require more than a basic web search to find.
An inquiry to suppliers or the competitor themselves can also yield helpful information. For those with a bit of money to spend and with a knowledge of search engine optimization, there are tools available to find specific details about your competition. Site traffic and keyword usage are very important details and there are a number of user-friendly tools that can get you this information.
No matter your company’s size and budget, there are various ways and means to do competitor research!