Even before you opened your business, you had one eye on your own plans and another beady eye on your competition. It has stayed the same way ever since.
Take your eye off the prize (or, in this case, your competitors), and you could be losing out on sales to a similar company that has done something bigger and better than you. Not only do you need to keep up with these organizations, however; you need to outsmart them, too. That’s why spying on your competitors isn’t creepy—it’s necessary.
But how do you do this effectively so that you’re always at the top of your game?
Below, we’ll explore some easy-to-follow tips that’ll help you spy on your competitors, and we’ll dish out some handy tools that’ll help you make light work of these Sherlock Holmes-inspired activities.
1. Competitor SEO Strategy: What Keywords Are They Using?
Keywords are the foundation of any website, and a primary insight into your competitors’ strategy. It’s important to snoop out what keywords your competitors have chosen to focus on, because understanding this will allow you to spy on competitors by seeing where their traffic is coming from and what’s driving their sales.
Where do you find these keywords?
Well, a lot of companies will include their targeted keywords within the metadata of their site, which isn’t private. Therefore, you can instantly access these by looking at the source code of their website. On your browser, click View, Developer, and View Source. Then do a search (CTRL + F) for keywords. This should bring up any meta keywords they’ve included in their source code.
How to check website traffic, and the keywords driving that traffic:
- SEMRush – This is one of the best keyword research tools you can use to get a complete competitor analysis that includes information on organic keywords. It also allows you to see competitor website traffic, and how your competitors rank for organic keywords, as well as what keywords they may be using for their search ads to appear on Google and Bing. Although the free version offers some basic insights, upgrading to higher account levels will give you access to tools that let you compare competitor website traffic with your own site, as well as access to more advanced tool functions. Note: when you use tools like this to check competitor website traffic, it is only providing an estimate of traffic, so it’s best to check several sources to validate the findings.
- SpyFu – Find out what keywords your competitors are targeting with their organic searches and ads.
- TheSearchMonitor – Monitor results from Yahoo, Bing, Google, Baidu, and YouTube, along with websites, blogs, mobile, news, shopping, and forums.
- Hypeauditor – Influencers are becoming a bigger part of marketing strategy so it pays to identify and track which influencers the competition is using in a competitive analysis across influencer platforms such as Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube.
- iSpionage – this is another keyword monitoring tool that will help build out a competitor analysis and provide you with instant access to competitor keywords, while also showing you their most effective advert copy, too.
*When it comes to how to check website traffic, in terms of sheer volume, use the Similar Web tool, with the caveat that unless the website is large enough, there might not be enough detectable traffic to generate a report.
2. What’s Their Evergreen Content?
Any content marketer will tell you that evergreen content is the golden ticket to digital marketing success. That’s why you’ll want to find out what content strategy is working well in your industry, because this will give you shareability, which is a huge boost for ongoing traffic.
What makes your competitors’ content outstanding, and why are their customers sharing it?
Understanding this will allow you to spy on competitors to create similar content, perhaps going one step further so that your content is even more successful.
A great tool for finding out which of your competitors’ web pages are most successful is ahrefs.com. Simply search for the website you’re looking at before selecting the “top pages” in the report that it generates. These will be listed according to how significant they are, allowing you to look at why these pages rank higher than others. For example, is it because it’s an article that’s frequently searched for by customers, or is it because it’s a popular product that’s been advertised well?
Other tools to use:
- Feedly – This allows you to see what content is trending, and you can segment it based on your competitors, clients, and general industry trends.
- BuzzSumo – Use this to analyze what content is performing well for your competitors, or within a particular trend.
3. How Mobile-Friendly is Their Website?
By 2021, it is anticipated that mobile data will grow to a whopping 700%, and 20% of all internet traffic will come from mobile devices, which emphasizes the sheer importance of having a mobile-friendly website.
Are your competitors on the ball with this dramatic growth? Do their websites load faster or slower than yours?
Google PageSpeed Insights offers you the perfect insight into how fast (or slow) your competitors’ websites are, as well as their mobile presence. This is particularly valuable if your competitor is gaining ground on mobile. It will also demonstrate how well their site will perform in search engine results page (SERPs) rankings, which can be affected by time issues.
4. How Many Indexed Pages Do They Have?
Indexed pages also play a huge role in how well a website performs in SERPs. Essentially, the more indexed pages you have, the better your site will do. Therefore, if you can find out how many of these golden pages your competitors have, it’ll allow you to establish a benchmark for how many you should be trying to achieve.
And the best way to get indexed pages? To create high-quality, consistent content.
A great way to find this out is to perform a quick Google search on the competitor websites you’re looking at. Simply type “site:insertcompetitorswebsitedomainhere.com” and hit “go.”
How many search results are there? This figure is the number of indexed pages they have, which provides you with another important piece of data about your competitors.
To accurately determine how many indexed pages your site has, you can use more in-depth analytics tools, like Google Webmaster Tools.
Chances are, you’ve already searched for your competitors on various social media sites before following them under a pseudonym, which is great, but are you monitoring all their mentions, updates, and conversations with customers?
It’s important to find out what they’re doing, what they’re updating their customers with, and what type of users are interacting with them. Then, make sure you’re doing everything they’re doing and more.
SocialMention is perfect for tracking all of these mentions in real time. Keep an eye on particular keywords, or your competitors themselves.
Other tools to use:
- Hootsuite – Track social media analytics across more than 35 different networks, keeping track of your competitors, as well as hashtags and keywords.
- Fanpage Karma – This is perfect for finding out how well your competitors’ social pages are performing, including at what times they’re posting their content.
6. Where Are Competitors Advertising?
To boost traffic to their website, your competitors may be using a variety of advertising methods, which you may want to use too. But what’s working for them?
You may have noticed them popping up on various websites, but a great way to spy on competitors and see exactly how they’re advertising their products/services is to use Moat.com. Just type in the company you want to search for, and watch as their ad presence comes through. Granted, some of this data is old, but it should give you an idea as to what their different ads look like and what they’re promoting.
SEMrush.com is another great tool for finding out what’s driving traffic to your competitors’ sites—and not just advertisements. This will show you whether they’re using paid ads, keywords, organic search, etc. to get the traffic that they do. If they are paying a lot for advertisements, chances are they’re working, because they’re not going to invest in these if they’re only generating a small amount of revenue from them.
Other tools to use:
- What Runs Where – Running over more than 40 different networks worldwide, this tool will show you when your competitors are launching a new ad or publishing fresh content.
- iSpionage – In addition to keywords, this tool also identifies who your PPC competitors are, what their monthly budget is, and what their Google ads (Adwords) strategy is. It also provides you with seven years’ worth of SEO and PPC keyword data.
- Google Keyword Planner – you can use this free tool to analyze a competitor’s website to determine which keywords they may be using to advertise on Google with, and how much spend competitors’ SEM marketing campaigns may include.
7. What Services Are They Using?
Ever wondered how your competitors do some of the things that they do?
Well, wonder no more as—you’ve guessed it—there’s a tool for figuring this out too! Builtwith.com gives you instant access to a whole host of information about what your competitor uses to create their website, from the widgets they’re using to what affiliates they’re working with. Cool, huh?
8. What Changes Have They Made to Their Website?
If your competitors are making important updates to their website to boost their sales, how do you know what they’re doing in order to achieve this?
It’s simple: the Wayback Machine. This nifty (and free) service allows you to see all the changes the website’s gone through, including an image of what the site looked like on a specific date (as long as the machine has indexed the site on this particular day). This is a great tool for getting an idea of how your competitors have progressed over the years and what changes, if any, they’re making at present to try to get ahead of the game.
As an online marketer, you may, quite rightly, feel as though backlinks are like gold dust. Gone are the days of link farming, where you could purchase hundreds of these with one click, and here are the days where you have to spend hours upon hours link building, and creating real relationships with the media, bloggers, or website administrators to try to get links back to your site.
So what links have your competitors managed to get, and, perhaps more importantly, what anchor text is being used?
Moz’s Open Site Explorer is a really useful tool for identifying your competitor’s backlinks. It’ll also give you an indication of your competitors’ domain and page authority, and you can compare link data.
Other tools to use:
- Google Alerts – Set up alerts so you know when a new backlink has been added to your competitors’ websites.
- Monitor Backlinks – This won’t just let you see what good links your competitors have, but will also tell you what “bad” links you need to get rid of on your own site.
- Ahrefs – You can also use this tool to discover what external links your competitors have.
- Majestic SEO – Use this to download a link profile for each of your competitors, gaining instant access to thousands of helpful links.
- Ontolo – Not only is this a great backlinks tool, but it also points you in the right direction with your content marketing, including where you should be promoting your content.
10. What Are They Blogging About?
Because content drives a lot of organic traffic to a website, many companies will turn to their blogs to create great pieces of content. You’ve already found out what the highest-ranking content is (their evergreen content), but what other topics are they getting lots of attention for?
Establish what’s trending in your industry and how competitors are using this to their advantage before finding a unique way you can start exploring these niches, too.
A great way to find out what topics your competitors are trending for is to set up Google Alerts. It’s incredibly easy to use and will send up-to-date reports directly to your inbox so your finger is constantly on your competitor’s pulse.
Want to receive notifications each and every time your competitor receives an online mention (as a mention or link)? Google Alerts allows you to get this. Not only is this perfect for finding out what content is working for them, but it also allows you to monitor their backlinks (see the previous point) and various keywords.
Other helpful tools are the ones we mentioned in section 2, particularly if you’re looking for some new ideas.
LinkedIn is one of the world’s largest repositories of data about companies, their employees, and thus one of the best free tools with which to conduct a competitor analysis, and spy on your competition. From LinkedIn, you can learn how many employees your competitor has, and even what kinds of teams they have built. For example, if you are thinking about boosting your content marketing, take a look on LinkedIn to see the team your competitor has assembled. You may notice they hired a content manager, along with several writers, and an SEO. This type of sleuthing can give you a good idea how to create the types of teams you need to beat the competition at the big game of business. In addition, you may see insights into how to grow your company. For example, tracking competitors on LinkedIn may tell you how fast they grew the company, in terms of personnel, and even what sorts of new roles they needed to hire along the way.
12. How Are They Pricing Their Products?
Finally, one huge advantage you can have over your competitors is your pricing. Knowing when they’ve started a promotion, cut their prices, or started running a special offer is essential when you’re trying to keep your prices as competitive as possible. Changing your prices accordingly could be the difference between getting a sale or not.
Prisync is a fantastic piece of software that automatically tracks your competitors for you and updates the pricing information you have four times a day. This makes it much easier to stay on top of your pricing, not only by making sure yours is cheaper than everyone else’s but by ensuring that you’re not losing out on any of your profit margins by being too cheap!
Other tools to use:
- Price2Spy – Perform price comparisons, set up price change alerts, and conduct price analytics.
- Competitor Monitor – Keep track of prices, promotions, products, and perceptions.
Additional General Tools
To get a good overview of your competitors’ websites, from their SEO to their performance, try these tools:
- Website Grader – Just put your competitor’s web URL into the tool and see how it scores in a variety of areas, including SEO, performance, and security.
- Kompyte – This compares a whole host of information, including keywords, visitor behavior, referrals, rankings, and social metrics.
- SimilarWeb – Provides you with insight into keywords, search traffic, referrals, social media, website traffic, and so on.
- SimplyMeasured – From social media to traffic and conversions, this is another tool that tells you everything you need to know about your competitors.
As you can see, it’s not hard to gather plenty of information about your competitors, and the more of this data you can find, the better. This information will allow you to make all of the right changes in your business by focusing on what’s working and getting rid of what’s not. It will also make sure you’re always one step ahead of your competitors, because, guess what? You can bet your bottom dollar they’re spying on you, too!