Competitive Intelligence: Know Thy Competitor Well

November 12, 2009
By Lisa Barone in Internet Marketing Conferences

pubconHEY!  Sorry. Just making sure you’re still paying attention.

We’re gearing up to hear some sketchy folks talk about being sketchy and tracking other sketchy people on the Internet.  Leading the crazy are Michael Gray, Michael Streko, Matt Siltala, and Andy Beal.  Michael Gray and Michael Streko on the same panel.  [nervous chuckle] Let’s, um, see how this goes, eh?

Up first is Matt Siltala.

I am brand new to all of this – where do I start?

  • Hubs: Find and Identify the “easy ones”. Places to find content ideas, links, sites that will help with KW research and sites linking to more than one competitor
  • Anchor Text: Find and identify everything there is to know about how the competition ranks for the words they do.
  • Unique domains linking in:  find and identify to get a better idea of the work that is ahead of you to get equivalent rankings.
  • Strong Content: Find and identify the strongest pages of competitors.

Hubs: The easy ones to snoop on

  • press: how is the competition using press? this can help generate ideas by keeping up with trending opportunities, linking opportunities, as well as seeing how the competition is using press for SEO, social marketing, etc.
  • review sites: Where are your competitors getting talked about? Who is writing about them? How are these reviews getting done? Blog posts? Videos? Images? The way you search does make a difference.  [The search he uses in his screen shot is for [picnic baskets]. I have now nicknamed him Yogi Bear.]
  • forums: Find out what people are discussing in your industry. Although there are many forums out there that nofollow, there are plenty out there that do and that could be a great source for link building, discussion ideas and topics.
  • local: What, if anything, are your competitors doing LOCAL wise? Do some research and learn how to gain valuable citations that will help you dominate search.
  • directories: (I know, I know) but its very important to find the sites that are linking to more than one competitor.  It’s also a great tool for keyword research and finding “niche” places to gain links from.
  • article sites: Another great way to do keyword research, generate content ideas and see how they are using these sites for link building.

Anchor Text and the Allinanchor: Search Operator

This search operator is still important for researching the competition because it shows the sites that have high number of inbound links with specific keywords. This helps you keep a better eye on your progress as well as snooping on how the competition is doing.

He does a search for [allinanchor: picnic baskets].  Now that you know the sites that are on top for using “allinanchor”, you can do a search with those sites and the keywords that you are targeting.

Site Comparison Tools

Strong Content

One way to use SEO for Firefox is to use it to check out your competitors’ strongest pages. He loves it for that.  You can go in and evaluate every single page.  You can see what’s ranking well, what’s working…and do it better. He also likes using Google search operators.

Next up is Michael Gray.

How to Crawl Up Your Competition’s Butt

  • Quarkbase: Once you put your URL in it will tell you the most recent and the most popular pages from a certain site that have been submitted. From that point, put your competitor’s domain in. Search by “submitted on” or “submitted by” to see where they’re submitting their content and who’s doing the submitting.
  • Twitter: See who’s talking about the particular domain. Put the domain name in, the user name, any keywords or brand names they use.
  • Topsy: Another Twitter search engine. Lets you know who else is talking about their content or submitted it. You want to look for patterns
  • It not only gives you the ability how many people clicked on your click, but how many people clicked in all. You can delve a little deeper to see what times of the day it was the most popular and who retweeted it.
  • TweetMeme: Count of most popular things that are going on. It will give you the most popular URLs.
  • SocialMention: Aggregation service. Looks for what people are doing across different blogs. Gives you how many times they were talked about, the time frame, sentiment analysis, etc.
  • StumbleUpon: See if there’s a network of people looking at your stuff. See who’s interested in your stuff. Look for patterns. Who are starting things off and who’s doing the retweeting. You have to do a bit of social engineering. Look for the weak spot in.
  • Klout: Shows you who they’re listening to and who’s listening to them.

Automate Notifications and Research

Take all your RSS and add them to an iGoogle dashboard to create your own reputation monitoring dashboard.  Marty Weintraub wrote a great post on exactly how to build that over at Aimclear.

Plan of Action

  • Research how, where and when your competition is engaging in social media.
  • Look for points with high levels of engagement or other success metrics.
  • Dissect their network, looking for their inner circle.
  • Join their network or build your own.
  • Automate it where you can.

Next up is Michael Streko.

Use Incompetence to your Advantage

  • Misspellings & Outdated information: Look for instances where potential linkers are displaying content that either has misspellings, is inaccurate or just out of date. Update the content on your site and then steal links by asking people to link to your version instead since it’s more authoritative.
  • Subscribe to their RSS feed

If it’s on the Web, it’s fair game.  If you don’t know how to block someone from coming into one of your test areas, it’s inbound for your competition to come scope out what you’re doing. What they hide from the engines is your advantage.

Know Their Presence

  • Monitor their social activity.
  • Use alerts to your advantage
  • Organic and paid keyword tracking
  • Use SEM Rush

Use Tools To Compete: Watch Alexa ranking. Know their Comcast Score. Use QuantCase, if available – not everyone’s on it, but if they are, take it.

Setup Similar Sites: Open communication as a sock puppet site.   Request link exchanges. It will give you open communication with them.  Know your competitor, don’t be a dick to them. Be a little dick, not a big dick.

Become an Affiliate: Know how much they’re are willing to pay. Figure out their mark up.

Advertise on their site: AdWords will give you a semi accurate reading of their traffic.

Next up is Andy Beal.

He says if you like what you hear, tweet about it. His name is @andybeal. If you don’t like it, he says his name is @lisabarone. Harsh, Andy. Harsh.

What: Track competitors news – their company name, the CEO, product names, locations, mentions of new features, etc. Why? You’re looking for new products, new features, media placement, and sympathetic bloggers.

Rants: Tracking their company name + sucks, defectives, crap, poor, dirty expensive. There’s an opportunity there for you to poach their clients, to promote yours as an alternative or even to improve your own product.

Employees: Track their blogs, social profiles, photos, videos, Flickr accounts, Facebook pages, etc.  Why? Loose lips sink brands. Egos ego bragging. There may be damaging evidence. Look for potential hires.

Jobs: look at their job listings.  It will give you information about products they have in development, new locations, lost employees, etc.

Google: Google Alerts give you email or RSS. Do it as it happens, not once a week.  Google Sidewiki. Local listings.

Tweets: Follow their employees, follow the company profile. Set up alerts. Create private Twitter lists. He has private Twitter lists that he uses to spy on people. You don’t want to be on those lists.

Facebook: Look at the fan page. what kind of content are they putting out? Maybe you can get some ideas.  Who are their fans? Search Posts by Everyone.

URLs: offers Registration Alerts that will inform you any time your competition creates a new domain name.  With Mark Alerts, it will tell you whenever a domain name uses a particular keyword.

Oodle: Andy’s favorite meta search for job listings. Type in company name, filter it down by location or skillset. They have RSS alert so you don’t even have to worry about it.

Advanced Tools

  • Social Mention
  • Trackur
  • Radian6
  • VisibleTechnologies
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