Looking for a better website strategy? Spy on your competition!
By Heather Lutze
As a website owner, you wear many hats: webmaster, content writer, e-mail manager and marketing guru. Keeping up with all the demands of managing a website 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 websites are doing better, equal or worse than you. And best of all, this spying is perfectly legal!
If you’re like many website 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.
Gather Competitive 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 website. It provides a score that incorporates things like website traffic, SEO, social popularity, and other technical factors. It also provides some basic advice on how the website 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 website 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.
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 website 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 level.
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.
For many website 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 seven 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.
Alerts.Google.com — Sends you updates to any targeted keywords from Google
Alerts.Yahoo.com — Sends you updates to any targeted keywords from Yahoo
Alerts.MSN.com — Sends you 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 Search Engines.
Using these tools and tips, your website 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 mission.
EXPERTS CONSIDER THE INTERNET’S FUTURE
Is the Internet making us smarter, stupider, more dependent on it, or all of the above?
The Pew Internet & American Life Project and Elon University’s Imagining the Internet Center asked dozens of experts—such as Google research director Peter Norvig, futurist blogger Jamais Cascio, and tech watcher Esther Dyson—to consider the future of the Internet-connected world between now and 2020.
Most of the experts agreed that the Internet will make us smarter in some way by 2020.
“In the coming years we will have to continue to teach people to think critically so they can better understand the wealth of information available to them,” said Jeska Dzwigalski of Linden Lab. Janna Quitney Anderson of Elon University and Lee Rainie of Pew Internet & American Life Center put the survey together. For more info, visit: Pew Research http://tinyurl.com/y9dn8zd