It happens to all of us. No matter how well your marketing is going, there’s always that one competitor who seems to be doing better. What’s his secret? What’s he doing that I’m not? Well wonder no longer, because we’re going to share our top three favorite competitive intelligence apps.
If that term seems unfamiliar, competitive intelligence is just a fancy word for spying. There are a ton of tools out there crawling the web and collecting data on what they find. Whether they’re looking at search engine rankings, what kinds of ads are running, websites that are linking to a particular site, these tools collect information and report what they find so that you can get an idea of what virtually any company is doing with their marketing.
So now that you know what competitive intelligence is, here are our favorite tools:
Competitive Intelligence tool #1: SEM Rush
Despite the name, SEM Rush provides a lot of insights that are useful for more than just SEM. Simply type in the domain name of any website and they’ll show you things like their traffic levels, their top paid keywords, top organic keywords, potential competitors and a whole lot more.
Use this tool to find out where your competition is getting their traffic. Simply type in their web address and the report will give you an idea of what kind of keywords their site is getting traffic from, and what keywords they’re bidding on if they’re doing SEM. Don’t get too caught up on the numbers, as these are estimates, but use what you find as inspiration for your own website optimization and SEM campaigns. Even if you’re not running a SEM campaign, use the tool to find keywords to target for your blog posts.
There is a paid version that allows for deeper reporting and monthly tracking, but most users can get a lot of miles out of the free version.
Competitive Intelligence tool #2: Majestic SEO
This site is a little more technical, so don’t feel bad if it’s a little overwhelming at first. Majestic SEO is all about tracking which sites are linking to which. Type any site into the search bar and you’ll get a ton of information about the number and quality of links to that site.
Use this tool to find out who is linking to your competition. Type in their web address and you’ll be given a report showing the number of total links as well as the number of websites sending those links. Compare the number of sites (called “referring domains”) on your site and your competition’s. Do they have more? If so, click on the “Ref Domains” tab in the report to see what sites are linking to them. This is a great way to find new, potential link partners for your own site.
There are paid versions available, but the the free version is more than enough for most people. You’ll need to log in to view the referring domains report, but registration is free.
Competitive Intelligence tool #3: Follow
Follow is a free plugin for your web browser that lets you see a ton of different information on your competitors in one place with a single click. You can even add your competition’s website to a hotlist that will notify you if something changes in their marketing. Instantly, you’ll know when they’re trying something new. This is my new favorite competitive intelligence tool.
Use this tool as a way to get a snapshot of what your competitors are doing online, and be notified when something changes. Did your competitor just start advertising with Google AdWords? Maybe you should start a campaign too. Follow will let you know what your competitors’ ads say and what keywords they’re bidding on.
At the moment, Follow is completely free. It’s very likely that premium features will be released in the future, but this free version is already very powerful and extremely convenient.
Competitive intelligence used to be the realm of big business, but tools like the three listed above are bringing corporate quality information to the small business owner. It’s important to be aware of what your competitors are doing with their marketing, and these tools should give you everything you need to know what they’re doing online.
Looking for other marketing tools you can use to promote your business without spending a dime? Check our list of 45 Free Marketing Tools to Promote Your Business to help you research, create, and publish your next marketing piece.
Have your own favorite competitive intelligence tool? We’d love to hear about them in the comments below.
Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net