August 18, 2017

11 Competitive Intelligence Tools for SMBs


intelligence toolsIt’s not stalking. It’s research. It’s you doing research on your competitors to help you stay up-to-date on what they’re doing so you know which direction you should go. It’s not stalking and everyone’s doing it.

Here’s a list of 11 tools that can help you track your competitors movements on the Web and give you actionable information that you can use. It doesn’t make you a bad person. It makes you a savvy site owner.  We’ll start off gentle.

Google Alerts

Google Alerts are great little inventions because they allow you track virtually anything and have it delivered either to your email or RSS. What kinds of stuff should you be tracking? The name of our competitor’s company, their employee names, their CEO, product names, locations, mentions of new features, etc. What kinds of media are you looking for? Their blogs, social profiles, photos, videos, Flickr accounts, Facebook pages, etc. Why? The more you know, the better off you are to make smart decisions.

Twitter

Follow your competitors on Twitter. Follow their employees. Follow the people that engage most often with your competitors. Follow the people your competitors are following. Use Private Twitter Lists to do it all discretely. Private Lists are a goldmine for stalking. I mean, researching.

Twitter Search

Create RSS feeds or Save Twitter Searches to track important keywords, competitors’ Twitter user names, and product names (yours and theirs).  You can also use the Advanced Geo search to key in a certain radius from your competitor’s storefront.

Bit.ly

If you’re using Twitter, you’re probably already familiar with bit.ly. It’s one of the many URL shortening services out there. What’s different about bit.ly is that it gives you really great link stat information. It will tell you how many people clicked on your link, how many times it was retweeted, how many people clicked on the retweeted link, what times of day people retweeted it, who was doing the actual retweeting, etc. It’s a really great way to find and identify your network online so you can leverage them in the future.

Yahoo Site Explorer

Knowing that links are an essential part of getting your site to rank, Yahoo Site Explorer can show you WHO is linking to your competitors, as well as who’s linking to you. Where are competitors getting their links from? How can you get links from similar sources? What holes do they have in their link profile that you can capitalize on? This tool will tell you.

SEO for Firefox

This is great FF plugin offered by SEOBook’s Aaron Wall that gives site owners a robust look at whatever site they’re looking at. It tells you a site’s PageRank, age, number of links at a certain domain/page, how its done in social media, how many people are subscribed to its blog, if it’s listed in DMOZ or the Yahoo Directory, etc. Because it offers such great information about links, many people like to use it evaluate competitor’s content pieces.

Quarkbase

Once you put your URL in it will tell you the most recent and the most popular pages from a certain site that have been submitted. You can see where they’ve been submitted, how many votes they received, how many subscribers they have, etc. You can also search by “submitted on” or “submitted by” to see where your competitors are having their content submitted and who’s doing the submitting.

SocialMention

This is a pretty neat tool. Enter in a search term (competitor’s name, product name, keyword, etc) and SocialMention will track down what people are saying about that term across different blogs and social outlets. It will even attempt to track sentiment analysis to tell you if the mentions are positive, negative or neutral (this can get a bit wonky). It will tell you how many times a keyword was talked about, the time frame, and let you subscribe to an RSS feed for that term or export the information as a CSV. It’s one of my personal favorite tools to play with.

Compete

Compete will give you a complete profile of any site on the Web. You give them the domain and give you an approximation of their unique visitors and the keywords that are bringing people to their site. You can also compare several different sites up against each other. There’s a paid option which will give you even more analytical type information, as well.

copernic.com

Copernic offers a great tracker tool that will look for new content on your competitors’ Web pages and then email you a highlighted version so you know what they changed. If they put up a page about a new product they’ll soon be carrying, you’ll know. If they start altering text to rank for different keywords, you’ll know. If they update their employee page to create new positions, you’ll know. It’s a $49.95 investment but, I think it’s worth it.

Domaintools.com

DomainTools will collect a bunch of information about a Web site and report back. You can find out if your competitors are listed in the Yahoo directory, get registration details, what other sites are on the same IP (may be sites that company also owns), etc. You can also set up Registration Alerts to inform you each time your competitor creates a new domain name or a Mark Alert to tell you if they’ve used a particular keyword.

There you have it. A list of some of my favorite spy tools. You still trust me, right?

36 Comments ▼
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Lisa Barone


Lisa Barone Lisa Barone is Vice President of Strategy at Overit, an Albany Web design and development firm where she serves on the senior staff overseeing the company’s marketing consulting, social media, and content divisions.

36 Reactions

  1. Nice list, the only one I don’t agree with is Compete. Compete as a competitive intelligence tool is really only valuable for very large advertisers.

    From the large sites I have analytics access to it is not accurate at all. According to Avinash Kaushik those tools are valuable for sites with 1mm+ visits a month – not many SMBs fit into that category.

  2. You could easily make a longer list since there are so many tools out there, but for most SMBs the real question is how to find the time to use these tools. Many of them are time-savers in general, but what would be your recommended process if you only had 15 minutes/day to spend on this?

  3. Very useful tools. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Good point Robert. I do feel it’s important to keep up on what your competitors are doing, but how many of us small business owners have time to actually do it? My solution – delegation. I have found that I can have my virtual assistant do tasks, such as this, for me while I continue to work on growing my business. Per hour it cost me less to pay my assistant than for me to do it myself when my time can be spent more productively.

  5. Martin Lindeskog

    Lisa: I still trust your expertise! 😉 Thanks for the list. I have to explore several of these new tools. I recognized some of them and I have used e.g. Google Alert, Twitter search, bit.ly and domain tools. Here in Sweden you could find a couple of business intelligence tools like Agent25 and Aitellu. If you want to neat blog tool, check out Twingly.

  6. Joel Libava

    Lisa,

    Thank you.

    Thank you!

    Great list-great reminder to keep your eyes wide open.

    The Franchise King
    Joel Libava

  7. Sorry for the self-promotion, but readying this I couldn’t resist…

    Robert’s point is key – efficiency, given limited time.
    That’s why we built SalesView – which brings together alerts, twitter, compete.com, 20,000 news source, Reuters, S&P, Jigsaw, Netprospex… all in one place, and integrated into your CRM of choice.
    And most importantly the technology tracks your competitors, prospects, customers for you, analyzing and notifying you of compelling information.
    Free and premium versions, individual & team.

  8. Great list! We are lucky that in today’s market there are such great marketing tools for free at our disposal!

  9. Great list! I didn’t know some of these existed. It will be interesting to see how bit.ly can track my shortened URLs. Thanks for the post.

  10. The Google alerts are really great for keeping up with things going on in any industry. It can get really time consuming hunting around for information and setting up alerts really cuts down on time.

  11. You can also add samepoint.com to this list. It lets you monitor social media sites and Q&A sites like Yahoo answers, askville etc. for your brand keywords or other keywords of interest.

  12. great intelligence tools for smb

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  15. Great list! We are lucky that in today’s market there are such great marketing tools for free at our disposal!The Google alerts are really great for keeping up with things going on in any industry. It can get really time consuming hunting around for information and setting up alerts really cuts down on time.

  16. Competitive intelligence isn’t always a great investment for small businesses. If your competitors are other small businesses, there typically isn’t much information available about them. They also don’t necessarily have the ability to influence your business much since they’re also small. Doing research on customers, prospects, and market trends may be a better use of your time. So is working on your product or service offering.

    Having said that, I’ve been working on a business research tool called Brekiri. The beta version is available at dev.brekiri.com, and you can use it to research companies and industries. It combines company data, financial filings from the SEC, and web search. Give it a try!

  17. Great list and as Adam above stated that these tools are more for bigger organisations with 1m+ of budget on Search likewise mentioned in Avinash’s competitive intelligence article on his blog.

    In my opinion competitive intelligence is only good of your organisation is not exactly very small and have $100+ a month of a budget to be spent on it.

    One fairly popular tool in UK is adthena that I and a few of my fellow colleagues have been using, indeed is very accurate particularly after its calibration with adwords. I think tools like this are a goldmine for agencies specially for a new pitch and initial client prep.

    thanks,

  18. 2 more tools which I use:

    1, CompeteMonkey – e-mail notification when your competitors start using a new service like Olark, ClickTale, etc.
    http://www.competemonkey.com

    2, Twilert – like Google Alerts for Twitter
    http://www.twilert.com

  19. Good list, but have you tried InsideIndustry by Hoosh Technology? It’s a good tool to keep track of competitors’ search marketing strategy and compare your website to the competition. You just type in a domain name and it shows you how this domain is ranking in Google based on the most searched keywords in each industry. You can also see which websites invest the most in paid, and which ones get a lot of visibility from organic search (images, text, videos, etc.) There is a free version of the tool called InsideIndustry Free4Ever.

  20. There is NO software that can substitute humans unless you want to use the same tools that everybody else is using. Human is the future of CI whether it is for small businesses or big guys.

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