Online start-up ventures and businesses have been on an upward trend ever since smartphones and smart payment gateways have become commonplace.With the click of few buttons, you can pay your bills; book movie tickets; hire online SEO consultants; order pizza; play hundreds of online games on the go; video chat with a loved one thousands of miles away–and all of these within a couple of seconds. Our generation Y is truly spoilt for choice qualitatively and quantitatively.
The flip-side of the technology boom is that there are hundreds of new competitors in the online market every week, and it’s rather tedious to keep track of who might be one-upping your business or stepping on your toes. Use a variety of tools and strategies to find your online business competitors.
Direct keyword search on various platforms
The first step is to sign out of your browsers, turn off GPS, and run an anonymous (or in cognito) search of the keywords directly related to your business. That way, Google (or any other browsers) will display results without any personalization (assuming you might have Googled like crazy before setting up your business; so any activity from your account might be greatly tailored to your particular taste). Add or change key terms and use keyword synonyms in the search to simulate a real user search.
Do not limit the search to one search engine–different search engines have different algorithms to return their search results. Instead run the search through various platforms including a variety of search engines (like Google, MSN, Ask, Bing, AOL etc.) and a bevy of social media platforms that support online businesses (Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, LinkedIn, YouTube, etc.). Make notes of your findings; bookmark the key websites/pages that keep popping up in your research.
Use business competitor research tools
Apart from Google search, Google Analytics and social media search, the following are the best tools that you can use to track down your competitors:
Enter your website or your competitor’s website. SpyFu lets you download their most profitable keywords for organic search and ads for paid search. SpyFu is the best tool for competitor analysis–there’s a dedicated section comprising of competitor websites. It also nicely integrates with Google AdWords and Analytics results for the website; so you can actually figure out the exact strategies of your competitors. Neat!
Alexa from Amazon is becoming a household name for any kind of analytics research. It is a brilliant tool for on-going or long-term competitor research goals. Pay for one of their monthly plans and get an up-to-date report of competitor keyword matrix and competitor backlink checker, along with a host of other analysis results. There’s a free trial too; where you can experience the range of their services.
This site lets you search any keyword or domain and finds out the effectiveness of social media engagement. There’s a dedicated section for content analysis – analyse your competitors’ websites based on their keywords, content and shares. You can filter by date, content type, language, country and a host of other parameters. It’s quick and easy, but it works better with keywords than domains.
Type in your website’s URL and get results for organic and paid search traffic, backlinks, location-wise keyword search and effectiveness of display advertising for your website. You’ll need to fill out a form to access the results, but it’s worth it.
Moz is the best SEO-based tool out there that can give you several key insights to improve your organic ranking. Moz toolbar plugin is a browser-friendly plugin that quickly computes the page rank and popularity of each website you visit. Their Open Site Explorer tool lets you compare the effectiveness of your competitor’s websites with your own.
Secretly engage with your competitor’s website and services
Pick up your list from steps #1 and #2 and pay a secret visit to your competitors’ sites. ‘Secret’ is the key–you want to visit them anonymously or incognito! If you’re still wondering why, consider all the tracking and competitor analysis tools out there–they’re watching you!You wouldn’t be a bad spy now, would you?
There are other ways to track down the range of services of a competitor–create a user account or post genuine queries on their website (as a real user would).Participate in their user experience and feel what it feels like to be their customer, especially if the competitor is doing better business than you. Understand their key products or services, and use this knowledge to improvise your own website and user experience.
Needless to mention, if you are caught in the act, it’s best to be cool; explain to them your genuine intentions; or even better volunteer a tour of your own website, product or services and take their advice!Never resort to cheap thrills, like posting critical remarks or false accusations on their social pages, or anything that impacts your online karma!
Local online directories, business pages and blog reviews
Local online directories and business pages are a great starting point for competitor research–you can find verified businesses, with complete address and contact details, and a detailed description of their offerings. Review websites, and personal and professional blogs are the next best sources.We aren’t providing a list here, because there are hundreds of them in each country.
Get your team to extract names from these directories, and you’ll have a list of potential competitors and their product prices on your table by noon. Get into the skin of a user; search on pertinent directories and blogs; and learn about the unique selling point (USP) of your competitors.
Befriend your suppliers or vendors
Suppliers and vendors are searching for businesses like yours, and you are searching for businesses like theirs. The fun part is that your clients are their competitors, and vice versa. Online suppliers/vendors and other freelance professionals often display a range of their work and clientele for everyone to see. Hence, you might be able to extract inside information about your competitor’s products and pricing by befriending these guys. This is a perfect example of healthy altruism in business.
How many more competitors did you find using these strategies and tools? Let us know in the comments below.