Looking for a Better
Spy on Your Competition
By Heather Lutze
As a Web site
owner, you wear many hats: webmaster, content writer, e-mail
manager, and marketing guru. Keeping up with all the demands of
managing a Web site can be daunting and keeping up with competitors
near impossible. How do you manage your time and resources as well
as keep your site equal or above your competitors?
The answer is
simple – you spy on your competition. In fact, with a little
covert intelligence gathering, you can
see what other Web sites are doing better, equal, or worse than you.
And best of all, this spying is perfectly legal!
you’re like many Web site owners, you may feel that your site is not
meeting its full potential, causing you to lose revenue as well as
repeat customers. Additionally, finding new customers may be
challenging and you feel like you are spinning your wheels without
moving forward. If any of this sounds familiar, rest assured you are
not alone…and you can do something about it.
Intelligence – “007 Style” You
can find many tools online that will enable you to assess your
site’s Findability compared with your competitors. While you won’t
find anything as exciting as a missile firing from the hood of a
brand new BMW, you will find some cool tools that are free or low
cost and that will give you an edge in marketing your site.
Following are the essentials of your Spy Tool Kit:
Tool #1 – SEOmoz.org:
This tool measures the strength of pages, blogs, and
entire domains based on factors inherent to popularity, influence,
and ranking ability. This allows you to see your impact compared
against others in your industry.
Tool #2 – Websitegrader.com: This free SEO tool measures
the marketing effectiveness of a Web site. It provides a score that
incorporates things like Web site traffic, SEO, social popularity,
and other technical factors. It also provides some basic advice on
how the Web site can be improved from a marketing perspective.
Tool #3 – SpyFu.com
SpyFu.com is a free Pay Per Click tool that gives great
intelligence on how competitive certain keywords are in Google. In
addition to giving insight on the cost per click and average number
of clicks per day, SpyFu also displays the ad text for the
competitors in this space.
After running all
three tools on your site as well as the sites of your three major
competitors, you can see how you rank in comparison and where you
need to make some changes. You may very well find that the
competition is stronger in terms of SEO, that they have a better Web
site strategy than you, and/or that they are using Pay Per Click
more effectively. But don’t give up. You can use the data you gather
to make some key strategic changes, become more competitive online,
and start to match or exceed your competitions’ high scores.
The Perfect Recipe
for Success…Shaken, Not Stirred:
Knowing the spy intelligence data is one thing; now you have
to act on it and make some positive changes to your Web strategy.
Following are some common changes many Web site owners make after
spying on their competition. As you’ll see, it’s time to take your
reconnaissance spy mission – and your web presence – to the next
Tip #1: Blog as if your company depended on it:
It’s very likely to
find that your competitors don’t have a blog, or that they’re not
blogging often enough to be beneficial. Therefore, by simply setting
up a blog and using core keywords in your blog posts, you can gain a
tremendous competitive advantage.
Tip #2: Have the best pick-up lines at the PPC cocktail party:
Web site owners who do Pay Per Click advertising, one of their
biggest frustrations is having a low conversion rate. The key to
running a successful Pay Per Click campaign is having solid ad text
(the four-line entry that will display on the results pages in the
area of the page called Sponsored Links). It is extremely
important to understand the ad text landscape when you write your
ads; otherwise, your competitors may have an identical or more
compelling offer than you.
SpyFu shows what
ads your competitors are running in PPC, as well as how competitive
a keyword is. Using this tool, you may decide to select a longer
tail keyword that has fewer competitors. For example, the term
“video surveillance” has 21 competitors, while “Video surveillance
security system” has only 7 competitors.
In addition, when
crafting ad text, look at the key ad message of your competitors. If
everyone else is advertising “low prices,” you should stand out by
making a different offer, such as “Best Quality” or “Free Shipping”
to differentiate yourself from other advertisers.
Tip #3: Select your Spy Team:
While knowing what your competition is doing right now
is great, you also need to monitor them for the long-term. But what
if you don’t have a lot of free time to constantly scan the web for
what your competitors are doing? Wouldn’t it be great to have a team
of spies crawling the Internet for you and sending you an email as
soon as your competitors post anything?
It’s time to meet
your spy team: Google, Yahoo, and MSN Alerts. Setting these alerts
can keep you abreast of anything posted under your competitor’s
names, Web site URLs, and core keywords.
updates to any targeted keywords from Google
updates to any targeted keywords from Yahoo
updates to any targeted keywords from MSN
Simply create your
account with each alert system, list the keywords you want alerts
on, and then sit back and watch the alerts as they come in. Setting
alerts can help you stay on top of your competitors without having
to spend hours searching and reading the competitive landscape in
Using these tools and tips, your Web site stands a much better
chance of beating your competitors to gain valuable new markets of
consumers. Remember, for successful Findability, you must understand
the Findability of your competitors and adjust your campaigns
accordingly. By matching and beating the Pay Per Click, Search
Engine Optimization, and Social Media offerings of your competitors,
you are setting yourself up to succeed on your Internet Marketing
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