“Know your enemy and know yourself and you will always be victorious.” – Sun-tzu, Chinese general and military strategist.
Back when I played sports (I was a lot younger and in much better shape) the coach would make us watch “game film” on the competition. We would gather in a smelly locker room and be forced to sit through 60 minutes of videotape from another team that was – frankly – usually better than us. Sometimes these sessions were painful, especially when watching the competition beat us in a previous game. However, these meetings turned out to be invaluable as we were able to learn how our competitors played the game. We would learn their weak spots so we would know where to run and how to throw the ball against them. But more importantly, we also learned what they were doing right. We would take that knowledge and – not only apply it against them – but against other teams that we would play in the future.
In today’s business world, it is important to know what your competition is doing. What are they doing right? What can you learn from them about marketing? What can they teach you about your industry? And how can you use the internet to get this intelligence?
First, do the basics. There are easy, free, and legal ways to stay abreast of what your competitors are doing:
Do you want to see what meta tags, keywords, titles, and descriptions they use on their web pages? All you need to do is view the source for any of their web pages the next time you visit their web site. It’s all right there in easy to read HTML code!
There are also some very helpful resources online that will help you spy on the competition. Let’s explore some of my favorite.
1. Google Alerts
Receive notification via email on the latest relevant Google search results (web, news, etc.). Define the Google Alerts using a competitors company name or product name. It tracks the entire web for your personalized topics and sends you new results by daily email. Google Alerts.
Alexa.com provides information on a website’s ranking, the top search queries, related links, bounce rate, and even the average number of pages viewed. This is like having access to your competitor’s Google Analytics data.
Compete.com provides a lot of similar information on a website’s ranking, except it allows you to enter multiple competitor sites to see a graphical breakdown of the traffic trends, top search terms, and the sites sending traffic their way.
4. Social Media Monitor
Want to see how you stack up against the other guy’s Facebook or Twitter? This is a great tool that will tell you who’s winning in social. WildFire Social Media Monitor.
5. Twitter Search
If they have a presence on Twitter and you don’t want to tip them off by following then, you can always do a simple search for their name or product. This should help you find out if they are working on any big releases or chatter between employees might even give some secrets away. Twitter Search
6. AdWords and Keywords
Find out what words your competition is using in their Google ads. Is the competition using words that you should be using? This will really help you solidify your own SEM optimization. SpyFu.com.
Yes, even you can be a high-tech spy. Schedule time at least once a week to watch the “game film.” How do you stack up against the competition? How well do you “know your enemy?”