When it comes to marketing, we all like to keep a close eye on what our competitors are doing. Competitive intelligence essentially means understanding what’s happening in the world outside your business so you can be as competitive as possible.
Here are ten of my favorite tools for sizing up the online competition. All of these are either free of charge or have a free trial that you can take advantage of:
1) Ispionage – This is hands-down my favorite tool for gathering competitive intelligence. You can use it to view a nearly endless range of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Pay Per Click Advertising (PPC) data, including your competitor’s monthly ad budget, SEO keywords, PPC keywords, cached ad copy, affiliate data, top competitors and social media mentions. All reports can be exported as a text file or Excel spreadsheet. Memberships start at USD 53 per month, but they also offer your first 5 reports free of charge, without the need to create an account.
2) Screaming Frog – The Screaming Frog SEO Spider is a small desktop program you can install on your PC, Mac or Linux machine which spiders websites from an SEO perspective. It fetches key onsite elements for SEO, presents them in tabs by type and allows you to filter for common SEO issues, or slice and dice the data how you see fit by exporting into Excel. It allows you to quickly analyse, audit and review a competitor’s site and is particulary good for analysing medium to large sites where manually checking every page would be extremely labour intensive. The tool is free to download and run, although if the site you are spidering has over 500 pages, you’ll need to upgrade to a licensed version for GBP 99 per year.
3) Raven Tools – The Research Central component of Raven Tools incorporates data from major online marketing authorities, including Majestic SEO, Moz and Google. You can compare SEO quality, backlink and analytics data for up to five websites from a single view in Research Central. In Raven’s Site Performance and Competitor Manager Reports, you can get a better grip on competitor performance, with side-by-side comparisons of your site and your top competitors. Whether you’re researching competitor’s websites or keywords for SEO, social media engagement, PPC or content marketing performance, Raven provides a plethora of data to analyze. They offer a 30 day free trial, for up to 2 users and 2 domains.
4) Domain Tools – Discover everything about a domain name, IP address or nameserver, including Whois data, who used to own it, how many times it has changed hands, what it’s being used for and what other DNS resources it is connected to, with this Internet-based service. Monthly membership starts at USD 49.95. The site offers a 7 day, fully operational free trial, but does require a credit card to confirm the free account.
5) URL Profiler – This one is desktop software which pulls in marketing research and domain data from various 3rd party sources. With tools for measuring detailed link metrics, SEO performance, analytics, PageRank, social engagement and content quality, URL Profiler is useful for web site audits and competitor site analysis. Available for Windows and Mac only, the software starts at GBP 99 per year and has a fully functioning 30 day free trial.
6) Open Site Explorer – Open Site Explorer is a backlink research tool on steroids, allowing you to download a detailed link profile for any web site. Using a custom-built link anchor index created by the clever team at Moz.com, you can use Open Site Explorer to research both your and competitors link profiles to help with intelligent and targeted link building. Open Site Explorer is free to use and you can compare up to 5 domains at once.
7) SEMRush – is a competitive research tool covering both paid and organic search results, adding data like keyword value and keyword volume to ranking data. The team at SEMRush collect massive amounts of SERP data for more than 100 million keywords and 70 million domains, including: AdWords ad copies and positions, organic positions for domains and landing URLs, search volumes, CPC, competition and number of results. In addition to tracking Google’s global search results, they also track Bing and a range of geographic-specific Google result sets. Pricing starts at USD 69.95 per month, but if you don’t mind entering your billing details, there is a 14 day free trial http://seobook.com/sem-rush-trial, courtesy of SEO Book.
8) Compete – Compete PRO is a Competitive Intelligence tool that helps you to monitor your online competition, benchmark your performance against your industry, and discover new business opportunities. It uses industry-wide competitive analysis to reveal keywords that are sending the most traffic to your competitors. Rather than scraping search results to track rankings like many similar tools, CompetePRO looks at US clickstream data from ISPs, a panel of users & those that have their toolbar installed. A Compete PRO free trial Includes unlimited access to all features available for the paid plan you selected for a period of 24 hours, but does require you to enter your billing details.
9) Keyword Spy – is pitched as a competitive keyword discovery tool, but it is much more than that. You can use it to find out how much your competitors are spending on AdWords and discover which combinations of keywords and advertising copy are working for them. It includes ad copy and affiliate intelligence data and covers US, UK, Australia and Canada. Pricing starts at USD 89.95 per month, but Keyword Spy also offers what they call a “lifetime free trial account”.
10) Mention – is a new approach to media and social monitoring for brands and competitors. You can use it to monitor millions of sources in 42 languages, including anything published on social networks, news sites, forums, blogs and web pages. Generate reports in PDF, XLS, CSV or TSV formats and export data to compare your site with your competitors. You can also access your reports from either PC, Mac or hand-held devices. Mention provides a 14 day free trial as well as a free Basic monthly plan for a single user.
In the Internet age, it’s easier than ever before to keep tabs on your competition. Now that you have these 10 tools to help you, there are no more excuses!