Checking up on your competition is a lot like spying, but it's not as sinister as it may sound. In fact, there are many tools out there to help you do it.
Knowing what your competition is and is not doing can prove to be a gold mine when it comes to crafting your online marketing approach.
By monitoring competitors regularly, you can learn their behavior and then start to anticipate what they will be likely to do next, says Inc.
Then, it's easier to plan your own strategies so that you keep your existing customers and win more customers away from competitors.
From researching competitors links to monitoring online directories, be proactive in your research to glean the most important information that you can use to come out ahead. Here are four ways to stay on top of other businesses that compete with you directly:
1. Clue Into the Social Networks
Social media is a treasure trove of information if you take the time to do it. Other companies are increasing their use of sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter as marketing outlets, just like you are. Browse their status updates, search the Twitter API, and monitor their blogs to learn some interesting tidbits about your competition. Not only is this easy, it's also cost-effective when it comes to tuning into what your competitors are doing, what their customers may complain about, and how the public perceives them.
Another way to keep track of their movement is on review sites like Yelp and Citysearch. For example, you can look through Groupon customer reviews, then hone in on that user's other favorite businesses to stay ahead of the game. For competitors that aren't in on the social media circus, there are always other ways to dig for information. Sign up for their e-newsletters or print newsletters to get updates.
2. Research Link Profile Mirroring
Knowing how your competitors are building their inbound links is critical. However, it's trickier than ever to do so because of Google's ever-changing, omnipresent search algorithms. These ranking systems are always busy trying to pinpoint businesses trying to use deceptive or unnatural links to manipulate their rankings, says Search Engine Watch.
If you have a particular competitor that is consistently scoring high rankings, find out why. You can achieve this with free tools that help you research the link profile of your competitors so you are better able to see not only where they are building links but also what type of links they’re building. Do not be a copy cat with their link-building strategies, use this as inspiration.
Check out tools like Majesty's link index database to do some of your own research, which will allow you to view a competitor's link profile and compare it to yours. You can also use a search engine to check out your competitors, their prices, and their offerings. A simple search will show you how many other sites link to your competitor's website, enlightening you as to their link development and public relations campaigns.
3. Study Online Directories
Online directories are a big component of your local SEO approach. Being on a directory means your potential customers can search for and find you. There are hundreds of directory sites out there, with some of the most popular being Google Places, Facebook, LinkedIn, Yellowpages.com, Moz Local and Yelp.
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Browse online directories for mentions of your competitors. Where are they listed? Where are they not? You can capture this opportunity to get a leg up on the competition by filling in the gaps. In addition to that, it's important to keep your business name and information consistent across all platforms.
Google tends to get confused and may think the different versions are actually different businesses. Listings that are clear and concise, containing your full business name, address, phone number and website, are best. In addition to checking your business citations and information often, do the same for the competition.
4. Have a Strategy
Be sure to keep your business strategy up to date and regularly refresh your online profiles at least once a year. There's nothing worse than a stale online presence with outdated hours, an old website or blurry picture to go with it. How professional and accurate the listing is will depend on whether it's a third-party automated site or a human-entry site.
If available, ask for a trial of your competitor's service or product. Find out if they are getting more publicity than your business. Maybe they regularly take part in networking or sponsoring events. Maybe your competitors are very active on social media and have links to all their accounts highly visible.
Ultimately, there are dozens of more things you could potential monitor about your competitors. Some of those include:
- Their products or services
- How they market those products and services
- Price points
- Methods of distribution and delivery
- Brand and design values
- How many employees they have
- Annual reports
But no matter what you choose to monitor about your peers, the important fact is that you are focused on what is going on outside of your own company. This will keep you informed on changes in marketing tactics and allow you to make the first move.
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In closing, I will leave you with a simple business question. Do your competitors know more about you than you do about them? If the answer is no, you already have an advantage. Keep these four marketing tips in mind. They will serve you well as your company grows.