When Amazon founder Jeff Bezos first set up his company in the mid-1990s, the competition to sell books online had already begun. Bezos knew that dozens of people could easily do what he had done – start an online bookstore – so he quickly realised that if he wanted to emerge victorious, he would have to keep an eagle eye on what they were doing.
The strategy soon paid off. Whereas other early forays into online retail fell flat on their face, Amazon continued to grow, quickly moving beyond the sale of books to other items like bicycles, music, bathroom products and appliances.
Having an understanding of what your competition is doing is essential for most businesses. It helps improve your strategic decision making by enabling you to respond to what’s going on in the rest of the market in real time. It also helps you to piggyback on some of the successes and innovations of others in your sector, allowing you to play “fast catch-up.” It comes as a surprise to many, but Amazon wasn’t always the market leader. It too had times when other online outlets looked as if they were going to become dominant in the space.
The good news is that you can keep tabs on your competition without having to spend a lot of money. Today, there are dozens of tools available to the average business owner, making it easy to keep track of what’s going on in the marketplace. Your job will be much more comfortable than Bezos’s job twenty years ago. You’ll be more like James Bond.
The media, websites and blogs continuously generate new content every day. So much, in fact, that manually trawling through it all is impossible, even if you paid someone full time.
The good news is that searching through Google to find mentions is now mostly irrelevant, especially for business owners wanting to stay abreast of developments in their industry. You can easily keep tabs on the competition by setting up a Google alert, a feature that sends you a notification to your email every time your chosen term gets mentioned.
For instance, suppose you’re in the fishing rod industry, and you want to keep an eye on what your competitors are doing. All you need to do is type in the fishing rod company’s name, say “Fishing Supplies,” and then wait for the automatic algorithm to alert you to relevant stories.
You can get alerts for practically anything, although to prevent yourself from being spammed, it’s probably best to stick with specific terms that apply directly to your competitors. Getting alerts for brand names is a good idea or your competitor’s slogan. You can also set up an alert for your company name or brand to keep you informed of the general sentiment surrounding your business. Often you’ll find articles, reviews and blogs that compare your product to that of your competitors, giving you valuable information on how to improve.
When Sergey Brin and Larry Page were trying to figure out how to rank search results, they realised that one of the best ways to do it was through links. The more links a page had, they reasoned, the more popular it was, and so the more likely it would be relevant to their users.
Although search algorithms evolved, their basic system still operates today. The more links that a page has, the better it will rank. One of the ways that you can improve your ranking is to use a product, like zag.ai tools, to find out which websites link to your competitors. You don’t just want links from any random site: you want high-quality links from relevant authoritative sites that Google will accept as being legitimate.
Once you know where your competitors are getting their links, you can start targeting those same websites for your own. Perhaps you could offer to write a blog post or article with a link, or contact them by email and suggest they provide a link for their users to your product because it is relevant to their audience.
Social Media Trackers
Social media is the emerging alternative internet platform to Google. It’s fast becoming “the internet” for many people because they so rarely need to venture outside of the social media environment.
For this reason, social media tracking, especially sentiment tracking, is becoming more and more critical to businesses. It’s a way not only to track buzz around their products but also to capture the public sentiment surrounding their competitors.
With social media tracking tools, you can see how effective are your competitors advertising campaigns, and you can get a sense of whether people are responding positively or negatively to what they’re doing.
Of course, for these tools to work correctly, your business needs to reach a certain critical scale; otherwise the statistical results will be dubious. If your industry engages too few people, then it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to glean anything important. But if your competitors serve thousands of customers a month, then you may get enough information to determine how you should allocate your precious marketing budget.
Track Your Competitor’s Websites
Although social media has become dominant in online marketing, individual websites still play a role. Often social media is merely the funnel that pushes people towards a site where they can place orders.
It can sometimes be a little daunting to evaluate a competitor’s website if you’re not computer-savvy, but new tools make the job easier. For instance, some services, such as Import.io, allow you to analyze a competitor’s website quickly. All of the data comprising their site is broken down into a simple table which can then be interpreted by somebody non-technical. These tools help you to find vital information, such as how much your competitors are charging for a particular product, making it easier for you to decide what your prices should be.
Unlike when Bezos was starting out, spying on your competitors is now much more straightforward. Online tools give you a quick overview of what they’re doing, allowing you to react in a smart, strategic way that boosts your growth.