3 Tools to Unlock Competitor Insights and Work Smarter

Business.com / Starting a Business / Last Modified: February 22, 2017

We have uncovered three tools and strategies that you can use to take a lead against your competitors. Get ready to work smarter.

My favorite adage is, "Work smarter, not harder."

In the world of blogging and search engine optimization, working smarter can be the difference between success and failure.

Peel back the curtain and look behind the scenes at how your competition is performing.

Use the following tools to understand their strengths/weaknesses, and identify new opportunities for your content.

Related Article:Search In the New Year: Understand the Scope of Search Engine Optimization in 2016

BuzzSumo Tells You What’s Trending in Real-Time

Buzzsumo trending topic results - screenshot

The number one thing I love about BuzzSumo is the ability to see what’s trending across the Internet. This is followed closely by the fact that you can take it for a test-drive risk-free for 14 days. While the service isn’t free, you don’t need a credit card to try it out for a couple weeks.

Many wannabe SEO analysts start looking at competing sites, which is a solid first step in effective research. But, just looking at the competition will leave you with a limited view of the broader landscape. After all, you’re limited by your imagination. With BuzzSumo, simply clicking on “Trending Now” opens up a tab full of the web’s hottest topics and the articles that are gaining the most traction.

This page can be filtered by general topics that are more relevant to your industry. You can even type in a topic or brand to further focus the results. If you want to take a break from scouring results, you can simply setup and alert and wait for an email when something related to your favorite topic or term is mentioned.

You’ll also be able to analyze your own content to see how it’s performing in the wild; backlinks, shares and how content is performing during a set period of time are all quickly accessible.

I’ve been using it personally for a few months, after hearing about it from a fellow writer, and I definitely feel the analysis this tool provides give me a ton of context for what I’m creating and sharing on a daily basis.

Related Article:What Google Wants: Why You Have to Track Search Engine Optimization KPIs

SEMRush Provides Insight Into How Paid Search Is Impacting a Site

Semrush search results - screenshot

Understanding the value of paid search traffic is an important factor in deciding how much of a budget needs to be set aside for generating site traffic. If your competition is barely investing in paid search, then you might be able to quickly outmaneuver them by driving traffic to your site with ads that appear above their organic content on Google, Bing and Yahoo.

This can be an incredible strong strategy, considering that PPC ads outperform organic results by 2:1 in some studies; especially in regards to keywords with strong commercial value (i.e. E-commerce related keywords and phrases).

The best part about SEMRush is that you can access information on both your site and the competition without running headfirst into a paywall. To test this out, I decided to research CNN.com.

I have to admit I was stunned to find their paid search traffic was so low, but then I considered the millions they’re spending on a team of reporters and web designers that work around the clock to create the most compelling viral content on the web. If you’re publishing hundreds of articles a day, then chances are a large number of them will go viral on their own; why pay for something twice?

So, if I were an upstart news agency looking to take on CNN, I’d probably go headlong into an advertising war and start paying for the PPC banners above their stories as I publish competing articles. Of course, I’d likely quickly go flat broke trying to compete against a giant like CNN. As Kevin O’Leary likes to say on NBC’s Shark Tank, “You are cockroaches in this business, a big foot will crush you if you don’t have cash. That’s a reality.”

Monitor the Buzz With Brand24

Brand24 estimated social media reach - screenshot

Whether you’re looking to see what the competition is doing, or you want to see the reach of your content, monitoring buzz is important. Identifying where your competition is getting mentioned might present an opportunity for you to move in and steal the spotlight. Or, you might discover that your brand is popular in a niche community that you weren’t even aware of.

Shai Aharony, Founder of Reboot Online, stated in a recent blog article that “figuring out the right people to contact is half the battle. Once you find the correct audience for your content then all you have to do is show them great writing/infographics and they’re likely to be interested.” You need to know where potential audiences lie for both you and the competition; otherwise, you’ll be shooting blind at an evasive target.

For example, let’s say that you run a furniture company and your strongest performing product is a wooden chair. You could find out when, where and how chairs are being discussed online using Brand24’s Mentions Dashboard.

Related Article:Stuck on Page 13? 4 Ways to Improve Your Search Engine Ranking

This tool gives you the times when people are discussing and sharing information about chairs. It also tells you where the conversations are taking place; blogs, social media, forums and more. With this information, it’s easy to focus your efforts on the corners of the internet where your product or service will be an absolute hit.

Remember, adding to an existing conversation versus trying to start a totally new conversation is far more effective and far less likely to be flagged as spam.

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