Competitive intelligence is about reconnaissance, research, testing, and implementation. The goal is to acquire information that leads to making better business decisions-at the expense of your competition. Mining data from public sources is legal industrial espionage and is an absolute SEO essential.
Use harvested data to learn who the real competition is, discover your site’s strengths and weaknesses, gain a bigger picture of your business’s landscape, confirm (or not) your unique value proposition, help determine success factors in your market, and identify opportunities.
This session, Competitive Research for Travel Marketers, was moderated by Christine Churchill, President, Key Relevance (also a speaker). The speakers were Shane Ettestad, Vice President, TravelCLICK, Inc. and Richard Zwicky, CEO, Enquisite.
For hard core SEOs this information is both basic and essential. That said, the main takeaway to bring from this conference is that the basics totally matter, especially in marketing to the long tail. Many of the tools are free and each speaker shared their favorites.
First measure an online competitor’s site history. Look for strategic clues about their relationships and marketing activities including organic and social media strategies. Find out who is ranking for your keyword terms and marketing with PPC. A classic SEO approach is to examine attributes like HTML title tags and H tags.
“It’s pardonable to be defeated, but never to be surprised” (Frederick the Great)
“If you only look at your own analytics, it’s likely that your outlook is myopic.”
Competitive Intelligence Tools
Use Whois tools for insightful background information like site ownership, creation date and expiration date. Christine’s favorite is DomainTools. Keep in mind that more and more owners are opting for anonymous registrations. For looking at a site’s content-history she recommends Archive.org, which is a digital library of the Internet. This tool records websites over time through the Wayback machine. RankAlert, SphyFu are also tools recommended by Richard Zwicky.
Analyze the Links
Analyze inbound links by looking for quantity, quality, and clues about inter-corporate relationships. It’s common to discover potential linking partners from such research. Ask “what are the sources of the links and how is the anchor text used” as signals regarding to a competitor’s SEO goals.
How Does the Competition Rank?
Web Position Gold, Advanced Web Ranking, SEODigger, and other ranking tools are still on some of panelists’ radar and are being used, even in light of personalized search, to show keywords your competitor is ranking on. Christine reminds us to log out of Google and Yahoo for running organic prominence reports.
Compete, Hitwise, comScore, Hitwise, and Alexa, and the Trellian competitive intelligence tool provide information on top referrers, subdomains, rankings, search terms, PPC terms, and PPC bids. The costs range from free to very pricy. Competitive research numbers are not always accurate so use caution in using the data for major business decisions. Look to multiple sources and seek missed opportunities. Show the keywords your competitors are buying in PPC KeywordSpy, KeyCompete, AdGooRoo,and GoogSpy.
Reputation and News Tools
Use Google Alerts, Google News, Yahoo News, forum boards and online discussion groups to gain insight as to chatter about your site. Monitor blogs, podcasts, and videos with Technorati, IceRocket, Podscope, and YouTube. Don’t forget the better Business Bureau, Dun and Bradstreet, and Epinions.
The technological side of optimization includes the basics including search engine “friendly URLS, crawlable site structure, and optimized content. [Author’s note: not many folks believe that pretty-links matter for ranking.] Of course monitor conversion at the keyword level with modern analytics, both online and off.
Competitive intelligence is about reconnaissance, research, testing, and implementation. Cover the bases by executing on the basics for long term success. The fundamentals totally matter, especially in marketing to the long tail.