Most People Would Call it Spying!
With the hundreds of resources available online and with the transparency of company information, it is a simple process to find out what your competitors are doing online and how they going about doing it.
You would be crazy not to take advantage of these resources; you will get some of the best and most useful information this way. You can be sure your competitors are using the same means to find out about what’s happening with your company and what you are doing.
By regularly checking their websites using easy free tools, you can find out how many backlinks your competitor has and where they come from, the age of their website, what kind of promotions they are running, what questions they are asking on opt-in email forms – all useful stuff. If they have a blog, have a look at how many participants they have, whether it is active, or pretty much DOA. You can check this by looking at post dates. If their blog is not active, you might want to ramp up your own blogging and garner more participation. Log on under a different persona and watch what people are saying. If participants know you are the blog owner, their comments are more likely to be guarded.
How will this Information Impact my Business?
Knowledge is king in the internet world, and online nearly everything can be done for nothing, or very little. If your competitor is announcing a launch of some kind, see if you can beat his launch with one of your own, offering the same product but sooner.
Below are a number of methods you can use to watch your competition.
Use Social Media
It’s as simple as “friending” your competitors on Facebook and booking-marking (known also as social bookmarking) their Tweets. Keep an eye on YouTube, you might get some very useful information there too. If you know the names of some of the top executives try and find them, watching employees too can be helpful, they are less likely to be guarded with their comments and you might find out something interesting that’s happening with the company that way. If people are getting laid off left and right and are complaining, that will let you know that your competitor is not doing so well. If a product is not up to par, this is probably the place you will hear about it. Forewarned is forearmed. You can investigate before you get complaints. If they are talking about a product that you don’t carry, and they are obviously having success with it, you could perhaps carry that product too, and undercut their price. People are very fickle these days, especially where prices are concerned.
Services such as Tweetymail and Tweetdeck can monitor any or all of these resources for you. Monitter can generate a search simply by using keywords. All you have to do then is register and subscribe to their RSS feeds that will give you useful information.
Monitor Content of Websites and Updates
Keep an eye on how often your competitors update their websites. Use LinkedIn to find out if they are looking for staff and in which executive positions, and watch their company press releases. Google Alerts will tell you immediately when your competitor updates his website and that may save you hours going through a website with hundreds of pages.
Google Reader can handle all of the RSS feeds and deliver them to you in one place, and this service can also tell you when your competitors update their sites, whether they have an RSS feed or not. Keep a constant watch on your competitor’s press releases, promotions, and blogs, on a regular basis. If you organize this well, it will become passive and won’t take up too much of your time.
Keep Track of Key Indicators
You can keep an eye on your competitors’ web traffic stats, and backlinks by using Alexa’s free toolbar. You can see how their site ranks globally, and in the US and also how many backlinks they have and from whom. It will also give you demographics. “This site is visited by women who are college educated and in the 30-35 years old range, with no children”. That kind of information is invaluable for creating your own highly targeted campaign.
All this used to be called industrial espionage, but now it’s all perfectly acceptable.
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