One of the best sessions I attended during PubCon 2009 in Las Vegas was one about Competitive Analysis. In SEO and Internet Marketing, competitive analysis is most often used to try to discover how a more successful competitor is out ranking your business or website online.
Many times by performing comprehensive competitive analysis you will find information and be able to develop strategies to better compete and/or over take your competitors market share on the web.
First I’ll start with a list of strategies and end with a list of tools recommended by some of the top Internet Strategists.
1.) Read your competitors press releases. What are they talking about and what words are they using? Sometimes a competitor may be increasing the popularity of a keyword just by talking about it. If you can figure that out early you can also focus on that keyword.
2.) Look for reviews online about the competitor and/or their products by Googling “rate company name” or “review company name” (or product name).
3.) Find and read forums in the competitor’s niche.
4.) Use the “allinanchor” operator in the search engines to see who is ranking for the keywords you want. Here is an example of a Google search: allinanchor:competitive analysis
5.) Identify strong content on the competitor’s site by using the seobook.com Firefox extension
and the site operator in Google like this: “site:sitecompanyname.com” (without the quotes) The extension shows you valuable information about the competitors content.
6.) If your competitor has a strong presence on bookmarking and voting sites like stumbleupon.com and de.licio.us take note of who submitted the content or bookmarked it and then query the sites (or Google) using “submitted by” or “discovered by” and look for trends. If the same person is regularly submitting their content they might be willing to do the same for you.
7.) Use Twitter for research. Most companies and/or their employees are tweeting and talking about something and most companies that are not are working on a strategy to start.
8.) Most tools listed below will offer an RSS feed of the data you seek. Use an iGoogle page to aggregate it for each client you are monitoring. Just add an RSS gadget of your choice.
9.) The next 3 (9,10,11) could be considered “Black Hat” and even “Unethical” & “Deceptive” as most reputable companies won’t need to incorporate these tactics in their analysis. These were shared and worth reporting so we will let you decide if you want to use them. We are NOT recommending them.
Robots.txt files can offer some interesting insight in to what your competitors are hiding, planning or just don’t want eyes to see. With most websites you can point your browser to http://www.domain.com/robots.txt
and voila. What is listed as “disallowed” could be helpful information.
10.) This one is also a bit “black hat” and could be considered deceptive. Set up a “sock puppet” site that would not be considered a threat and make friends with your competitor (a sock puppet site is a temporary site used solely to create an online persona.)
11.) Scour the Internet for negative press and chatter about the competitor. Do searches using derogatory words in association with their company name, brand or product. If you find negative press or conversations you can build your campaign to address that specific issue(s) with customers.
12.) Look online for competitor employees. Loose lips sink brands. Follow them, watch what they say, who they talk to and why. Follow their tweets, company profiles, Social Media profiles and others.
13.) Monitor job listings. This will tell you what their turnover rate is, what level people they need and possible directions they are going. You may also be able to gleen products in development etc.
14.) SideWiki: Google’s new real time comment system can give you insight in to what your competitors are doing, how their customers feel about them, what their customers want that they may not be getting and other valuable data. If you are not familiar with SideWiki Google it.
15.) Facebook: search fan pages, and conduct research on Facebook.
Competitive Analysis Tools
- TrendWatching.com: http://trendwatching.com/
- MajesticSEO.com: http://www.majesticseo.com/
- Trackur: http://www.trackur.com/
- Compete.com: http://compete.com/
- SeoBook Firefox Extension: http://tools.seobook.com/firefox/seo-for-firefox.html
- Social Media For Firefox: http://www.97thfloor.com/social-media-for-firefox/
- Twitter.com: http://www.twitter.com
- Topsy: http://topsy.com/
- TweetMeme: http://tweetmeme.com/
- Social Mention: http://socialmention.com/
- Twitter Circles: http://twittercircles.com/
- SeoRush.com: http://www.semrush.com/
- Quantcast.com: http://www.quantcast.com/
- DomainTools.com: http://www.domaintools.com/
- Oodle.com: http://www.oodle.com/job/
- WhosTalkin.com: http://www.whostalkin.com/
- Facebook: http://www.facebook.com
Posted by Chris von Nieda, Director of Search Marketing at Vertical Measures. Twitter: @SEO4Vertical