Starting an online business at this time is easier than in the past, which is great news for would-be entrepreneurs. On the downside, this also means that the competition is fiercer than ever. As a business, it is essential to find ways to gain that edge over your competitors. 

Why Spy on Your Competitors?

Spying on your competitors is more than simply keeping an eye on their digital marketing strategies, website metrics, backlinks, etc. When you invest time observing what makes your competitors tick, you can discover some crucial points you may have missed. Additionally, you may even find areas where your competition is lacking in. This is where you can sneak in and beat them at their game.

Competitive analysis is a great benchmarking opportunity and is essential when developing a marketing plan. Chances are, your competitors are also spying on you too. In short, spying on your competitors is not about stealing their secrets, instead, it’s a way to better understand their strategy and learn.

Although you may feel frustrated to learn that your competitors are better at some business activities than you are, remember that this may not be a bad thing after all. Instead, you should view this as a means to an end. Healthy competition is good if you know how to use this to learn to be better and inspire you to achieve greater things. 

Aside from this, it is also crucial to ensure that your website is in top-notch condition. It is known that when it comes to the internet, speed is everything. You need to check the server speed and make sure it really delivers, giving the user the experience they want from you. Therefore, engaging a good web host such as Exabytes is also imperative to ensure your website’s success.

What Are the Free Marketing Tools You Can Use?

To gain that competitive edge, you’d need to monitor and keep an eye on your competitors. However, you cannot possibly spend the whole day ‘stalking’ them as you have other important tasks at hand. There are many social media marketing tools available that you can explore. Additionally, there are also free marketing tools that can help you: 

1. Google Alerts

Google Alerts is one of the best tools for tracking competitor news. It is an easy-to-use tool that sends an email directly to your inbox each time there are new results online on a competitor you’ve created an alert for. Be they web pages, blog posts, newspaper articles or even just a simple link, you can stay updated when your competitor is mentioned on the web.

Being a master in searches, Google Alerts will ensure you’ll practically find every instance where your competitors are mentioned. Just configure accordingly; how often you want to get alerts and where you want to search for mentions. Once you’ve successfully created your alert, it runs automatically so, it’s a great time saver too.

Google Alerts are great for:

  • Keeping track of your competitors’ brand names
  • Obtaining information on specific products
  • Monitoring specific mentions on content, like competitors’ key content

One downside to Google Alerts is that the information isn’t particularly well organized, as it displays as one big list. Having said this, it is still simple and very effective.

2. Social Mention

Listening in on your competitors’ social media activity is crucial. You need to know what’s being said about your competitors and the people who are mentioning them. Then, you can get in, on that action.

Social Mention is great for searching multiple social media sites in real time. It offers real-time social media search across more than 100 social media platforms. It is basically a social media search engine that searches user-generated content such as blogs, images, video, comments and others for mentions of a company or keyword.

You’ll be able to track and analyze all the times that your competitor was mentioned on a social network like Facebook, Twitter and Reddit. Just input your competitor’s name, product or any keyword and you’ll obtain a snapshot of real-time data. From here, you can know the individual mentions and their sources. 

You can then target these sources to drive traffic to your website and generate quality backlinks (incoming links from other websites). You’ll also be able to find the questions people are asking about your competitor. 

One of Social Mention’s top-notch features is sentiment analysis. It shows the overall feel of something if it is positive, negative or neutral and also the number of individuals who are mentioning the brand.

However, Social Mention’s interface can look a little dated. Having said that, it provides a useful overview of how people feel about your competitors and about you.

3. BuzzSumo

Do you wish to create content that attracts engagement like your competitor does? BuzzSumo is one of the best tools available for content marketing, in fact it is really useful when it comes to analyzing your competitors’ content. All you need to do is enter the domain of your competition and see what content is performing best for them. 

You can get two major clues here; your competition’s most-talked about content on social media and a specific topic’s most engaging content shared on social media. This valuable information will help you analyze the top-performing content topics so that you can step up your game. 

BuzzSumo comes with a free and paid version. With the free version, you get to:

  • Find the best performing content on a specific domain in the past year
  • Search popular topics
  • Obtain sharing statistics for Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Reddit and more
  • Obtain data on content length, content type and more

This tool can help identify the types of content that are working for your competitors so you can publish better content to attract more and retain your audience’s attention. The free version comes with certain restrictions. Should you wish to do more, you have to create an account.

If you upgrade to their paid plan, you’ll have no limit on the number of search results returned and you’ll also get more information on the backlinks. You’ll be able to view the influencers who are sharing content and do a search over longer periods, from the last 24 hours to the past five years.

4. OpenLinkProfiler

One thing’s crucial, that is knowing who is linking to your competitors. There are lots of tools providing backlink analysis but they are more on the pricey end. OpenLinkProfiler is an excellent free option from SEO Profiler. It is considered one of the best for quick backlink analysis and it’s pretty simple to use too.

There are free and paid versions available. For the free version, you get to:

  • Track the backlinks to your competitor’s site
  • View which pages have the most unique links
  • View which industries link most often to your competitor
  • Identify the types of links 
  • View the top anchor text used by the inbound links

As always with anything free, this free version has some limitations in the number of results available and how you can view them. 

If you require more in-depth competitive research, you can choose to upgrade to a paid account. You’ll get data on around 1,500 keywords daily. You can also run more projects and get access to brand monitoring, keyword spy, domain research and others. 

5. WordStream Free Keyword Tool

If you want your business to be successful, you’ll need to know where your competitors are achieving success with keywords for pay-per-click ads and improving search engine optimization (SEO). WordStream Free Keyword Tool helps with this and is one of the best tools for SEO and Paid Search Data.

You can choose to explore using their free version. Type in what you need and you’ll get a report that has:

  • the top ten keyword suggestions, including long-tail keywords
  • Google search volume for the keywords
  • the capability to filter by industry or country

You can opt to input your email to get more information for free, including:

  • keywords competition level
  • the estimated cost-per-click
  • a complete list of tons of keywords

You can also try linking your Google Ads account to obtain more data. 

Aside from this, there are other free related tools, such as the Negative Keyword Tool and the Keyword Grouper. The former helps on finding which keywords to exclude from Google Ads campaigns, so you don’t waste money unnecessarily. The latter groups together similar keywords, making it easy for you to use them in content and search marketing.

The downside is that you don’t get recommendations to help you with social media advertising.

The paid version of WordStream is pricey, so you’ll want to think more in-depth before you proceed to invest in this. By paying, you’ll have access to data for both Google and Bing, also to information helpful for social and display ads. Accordingly, WordStream also offers a “20 minute work week” approach for working together with your ads. You also get a performance dashboard, keywords for Bing search advertising and conversion tracking.

6. Majestic

Majestic is great for analyzing the backlink profile of individual pieces of content. When you create any content, your goal is to ensure that your post outranks others similar to yours by getting more quality links to point to your content page. 

All you need to do is input the URL of the web page concerned in Majestic’s search bar. This gives a good indication of the number of backlinks that a piece of content has received. From here, you’ll know how competitive it will be to rank against. 

If you need more data, you have to opt for the paid subscription but the free option should be suffice to give you the overall overview you need.

7. BuiltWith

Many claim that your competitors get ahead because they use better tools. Although this sounds somewhat basic, it does run true. Better tools do translate to better automation and scalable, more robust systems. This brings about a leaner and more efficient business.

BuiltWith provides a free, behind-the-scenes peek at the technologies that empower any website you input into its search box. As an alternative, you can make use of WHSR Tool which provides you with a simpler version of BuiltWith. In short, both give you an overview of the technology profile of a competitor’s website.

Input the site of your choice. This will give you a high-level technological overview at how online businesses track their visitors, manage their website content and even convert qualified leads. You can speedily identify the hidden tools that your competitors are using or uncover massive blind spots for technologies you can use that they may have neglected. 

Scroll down further and you can learn more about your competitors’:

  • Hosting providers 
  • Advertising tools
  • Analytics and tracking tools
  • Content and email management systems
  • Payment processors
  • Widget and plugins etc

8. SimilarWeb

Traffic analysis is crucial for getting a solid gauge on a competitor’s overall web performance. You’ll need to analyze their monthly traffic, which channels bring in the most visitors and specifically where these visitors come from. SimilarWeb is great for this. 

Input the website of your choice. You’ll get an overview of their traffic. Scroll down and you’ll get more information. Do check out the traffic sources. You’ll be able to figure out which channel is the most impactful. It’s a very organic search. Imagine obtaining all this information with no charges at all. 

There’s a paid option though but since the free version gives you all this information, you may not need to put out a single cent at the end of the day.

Conclusion

It is essential to know what your competitors are doing to market their businesses so that you can do better by improving your own digital marketing strategy. It’s not so much about copying your competitors, it’s more of learning what works and what doesn’t. Then, you need to find ways to improve your strategy with data-backed tactics and maximize the potential of your business

There are many free marketing tools that can assist you to gain that needed competitive advantage that every business wants with some of them, as listed above. As to which tool works best for you, would highly depend on which type of competitive data is good for your business now. Take heart because no matter which tool you choose, you’ll get valuable information to help you beat the competition online.

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Jason is a technology enthusiast, who has been fascinated about the latest technology especially those related to website building. Besides, he is currently associated with BuildThis.io as the site manager. He is also a fan of SEO and Social Media Marketing. You can connect with him via Twitter.
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