Gathering information about your competitor is also called “Competitive Intelligence” It might sound like a covert spy operation and that is because IT IS!
Welcome to the online world of virtual information gathering and how you too can be a top contender.
How to Spy on Your Competitor
Starting with your competitors website you can do what is called ‘reverse engineering’ to learn what their strategies are, budgets, and other important things.
How does this work?
First you need to be able to collect the data available on your competitors. One thing you can do is go to Google, type in a search term, and take note:
– What businesses come up on top organically?
– Which businesses are paying to be there?
– Where are you?
1. Repeat this in Yahoo, Bing, DuckDuckGo, and other smaller search engines.
2. Document the results for several related keyword queries.
Now you will know who’s dominating in most of the search terms, either organically or paid.
How to Compete with the Big Players
Some of your big competitors may have deep pockets to spend on advertising but that doesn’t mean they are smart marketers. The ‘lowest bidder’ mentality with large corporations gives you a great marketing advantage. Have ever noticed how some big brands have really bad advertising? It could be they went with the advertising agency with the lowest bid – and (no surprise) they got what they paid for.
You as a small local business owner can be smart about your marketing. Pay no mind to the big kids. Let them do their high priced ‘branding’ while you do some very targeted and smart marketing.
Smart Marketing for Small Business
Gather together your list of keywords from the first discovery phase. You can do much research for keywords by just using free Google research tools. There is paid software that can give deeper insight to your competitors but you don’t need it to get started.
Using these tools, select a list of 25 or 30 targeted keywords for your business. You also want to make sure that they have a fair amount of traffic. Then search using your browser in the “incognito” mode. For every hour or so for the next few weeks, type in each of these keywords into the search engine and take note of the results. Also make sure you are keeping track of day and time.
You will be able to see who is coming up on the first page and when they are spending most of their advertising budget. It is a good idea to record this information for at least the first three pages.
Give Your Competition a Run for their Money
The reason you do this so frequently and for a few weeks is it gives you the bigger picture. It gives you an idea of who has a small budget, who has their ads timed, and who only pays for weekends etc. You will find that someone who is advertising like crazy will stop after only a few days because they maxed out their spending. Paying attention will let you know if they came back. If not then you can assume their advertising didn’t work. Don’t copy anything that isn’t working.
A company may only advertise during certain hours because:
1. They are only open to receive phone calls at those times.
2. There is a short term promotion on
3. These times have proven to give the best ROI
Next check where these ads are sending people to.
– Are they selling something?
– Does the landing page compliment the ad with accuracy?
– Would their ad be of any value to your marketplace?
For example; let’s say you have a Grounds Maintenance company. You want to know the search terms used by people looking for your type of business. You do a keyword test in Google’s keyword tool “hire someone to mow my lawn”.
The keyword tool then shows you that a common search term is “lawn care company”
Now, type that into Google search and BOOM! Up comes a bunch of Local Business Listings as well as advertisers at the top and bottom. The top and bottom few with the word “Ad” in front are paid listings. The listings with the map are “Local Businesses” usually with a business page. You need to have your local businesses listed. If you haven’t claimed your listing yet – today would be the day to do that. The few results in the middle are organic listings.
By doing your research you might find that some of these folks aren’t even in your area. Some who don’t service your area are paying to be there and wasting their money. Other listings like Home Depot may show up as well. They are not direct competition with you since you cater to people wanting lawn maintenance and not a DIY solution.
Click through all the listings to inspect your competitors landing pages. You want to make sure your landing pages are better and more useful.
Then gather more information by repeating this exercise with other search engines.
Interpreting Competitor Research Information
Assemble all this search and keyword information you have gathered to put together the big picture of all the relevant keywords.
Using this information you can start your paid campaigns with the new collection of keywords that will have a better probability of being successful.
Raising your visibility and ranking to come up top in the organic searches requires onsite SEO. There are other things that need to be evaluated. This includes finding out the age of your competitors sites, their own on-page optimization strategies, social and bookmarking activities, as well as sources of backlinks and other SEO campaign resources.
Investigating your competitors will give you a fairly accurate read and estimate on how long it will take you to dominate your competitor. Each specific market will need to use specific formulaic strategies.