5 Ways to Use Technology to Understand Your Competitors Better

More than 2,500 years ago, Sun Tzu taught us this:

‘If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles.’

The Art of War may be considered ancient wisdom, but it’s as relevant today as it ever was. On that note, here are five tools to incorporate into your marketing strategy for better understanding your competitors.


1. Monitoring Mentions

Sure, it feels a whole lot like eavesdropping, but there’s nothing wrong with listening in to see what your customers are saying about the competition in a public forum. In fact, it’s just good business sense. Given the variety of tools available for monitoring mentions of a particular brand or product, it’s difficult to make a case against giving it a shot.

There’s a variety of online tools that enable organisations to monitor what Internet users are saying about any brand or product, including those of your competitors. One of the easiest to configure and implement is Google Alerts, and there are many more beyond this.

Here’s how it works: Simply indicate the name, hashtag, @mention or just about any other descriptor that you want to follow, and then let the tool do its work. You’ll be notified according to your preferred channel of communication every time a mention occurs in a publically accessible forum (such as in a blog or in a public social media post).

This provides you with an excellent opportunity to see two things – what the competition is doing right, and what they’re getting wrong. In either case, you’ll receive valuable, actionable intel. It’s also worth noting that you can track mentions of your own brand and products. It never hurts to know what the public is saying about you.

2. Monitoring Backlinks

There are plenty of SEO sleuthing tools that help you see who is linking to your competitors’ websites. These will tell you which websites are linking to your competitors as well as how authoritative the sites are that are linking to them. This is helpful for a number of reasons.

In a word, monitoring links matters because links matter – especially if you’re worried about SEO (as you should be). Put this practice into effect, and you’ll quickly find out who is interested in linking to the type of content you’re creating. When you publish a new blog post or promotion that may be of interest to these third-party sites, you can approach them to let them know. They’re likely to link to you as well.

But monitoring your competitors’ links also gives you the chance to emulate or even improve upon the content that your competitors are publishing. Follow up the most authoritative links to your competitors’ content for a look at what they were linking to. Could you create content at least as good as that? Or could you improve on it? There’s no shame in studying what your competitors are doing right so that you can learn from their accomplishments and missteps.

3. Traffic Insights

It may not be as easy to come by, but insight into your competitors’ web traffic is highly useful for your marketing strategy. It can offer ideas for your own digital campaigns as well as let you know what channels you could use more effectively. It can even offer insight into which locations might be useful for attracting new visitors.

There are several tools offering this type of functionality, and results are admittedly varied. Obtain site visitation information such as time on site and bounce rate. Google Insights offers insights around generalised trends and key word groups, and there are many other tools beyond this. In any event, it never hurts to know where Internet users are focusing their attention.

4. Keyword Ranking Reports

There are plenty of keyword ranking tools that are designed to let you know how your webpages rank for particular key words. But these tools are also useful for seeing which of your competitors’ pages are ranking for specific keywords as well. Along those lines, there are a couple of ways you can put these tools to work.

For starters, you can use a keyword ranking report to see how you rank against your competitors for organic keywords. There’s nothing wrong with seeing how you shape up against the competition. When they’re ranking better, you can check their webpages for a look at why they’re doing so well. And if they aren’t faring as well as you – well, you can revel in it.

But you can also use keyword ranking reports for insight into your own efforts. A tool like this allows you to track the success of your own keyword-ranking endeavours. If you’ve been trying to target a particular keyword for a length of time, it lets you know if what you’re doing is working.

5. AdWord Analysis

At this point, we’re definitely stepping into more complex methods of tracking and analysing the competition. But there are several tools that you can use to better understand how your competitors are using AdWords.

First off, you can actually use AdWords functionality for a bit of insight. Once you’ve logged into the AdWords interface, simply click on the ‘Opportunities’ tab and then select ‘Analyse Competition’. This allows you to compare the relation between your AdWords campaign and that of other advertisers (i.e. your competitors).

If you are advertising on Google Adwords, then you can check out the Auction Insights report to compare your performance with other advertisers who are participating in the same auctions that you are. The report includes performance metrics such as impression share, average ad position, overlap rate, position above rate, top of page rate and outranking rate. Such information can help you make strategic decisions about bidding and budgeting choices by showing you where you are succeeding and where you may be missing opportunities for improved performance.

It’s important to remember that AdWords is a paid service provided by Google. AdWords thrives off of competition between clients, which is why they’re more than happy to provide you with information about who’s ranking for which keywords. Along those lines, it’s easy to get AdWords to let you know how you’re faring compared to the competition.