I hope each of you has had a wonderful holiday season and are ready to rip into 2014 with vigor and enthusiasm. I know we are!
So today, I wanted to talk a little about “spying.” The word itself has negative connotations but really it’s a tool every business should be using to further improve all of our understanding, our ventures and our bottom line.
OK, so the first question is: “Why would I want to spy on a competitor’s web site, anyway?” Glad you asked.
To put it simply, to improve your market share. Your competition most likely won’t tell you how they are pulling in customers using well-conceived and well measured internet marketing, email marketing, and conventional marketing strategies.
There are dozens of reasons and rewards for effective, intelligent market research. You could spend lots of money, and lots of time trying to gather relevant information about the websites your competitors are using to generate their revenue, but luckily there are a few free or low-cost options online for helping you sort through their methods.
First you’ll want to identify truly successful competitors. You’ll want to scout out businesses similar to yours that appear to be successful, then determine whether they really are. Look on Reference USA or Manta.com to find out how many employees and how much gross revenue is coming in. Business consultants will tell you that a healthy ‘yardstick’ ratio is roughly $100,000 gross revenue per employee. Much more revenue per employee is much better.
How to Learn From the Web Sites of Your Competitors
When you have clarified what you want, and identified successful competitors doing something at least sort of like what you want to do, it’s time to do research on (spy on) what is working for them.
How do you know what other web sites are doing to reach qualified prospects?
Here are some helpful sites, and a short description of some of the things you can learn from them about the web sites against which you are competing for the attention of your prospects:
- Alexa.com: Ranks traffic as compared to other sites, source of traffic, and why they visited the web site. Free introductory membership, then cost of $9.99 to $149.99 per month.
Owned by Amazon.com Alexa started in 1996 and tracks over 30 million web sites.
- Quantcast.com: Launched in 2006 and based in San Francisco, Quantcast is an advertising company that claims to offer the most in depth measure of demographic, lifestyle, and geographic information to Internet audiences in the world, tracking over 100 million sites. Real-time advertising campaigns are supplied to a variety of clients, publishers, and advertising agencies.
- Opensiteexplorer.com: Started in Seattle by a mother and son team in 2004, this site tracks SEO strategies and the effectiveness of the efforts to deliver excellent ‘domain authority’ results, meaning the entire site, and not just the main page gets good search results. This is extremely important for good ‘organic’ site rankings. The first 30 days are available as a free trial; then monthly membership costs range from $99 to $599.
- Google Alerts: You can track any website, article, blog, video and more with this free service, and may view search results as you type them into the site, and can also determine how often Google Alerts will report to your Email account when new information related to your query appears. You can even set up alerts to be notified when someone is talking about you online. Get notifications of coupon codes, job postings, current events, and more. Cost: free
- SocialMention.com: Monitors over 80 social media sites, and provides such insights as:
- strength: the likelihood that the brand or person etc. is being discussed online
- sentiment: the percentage of social media ‘mentions’ that are positive vs. negative or neutral
- passion: measure of how likely people who ‘mention’ your brand, person etc. will do so multiple times or make repeated mention
- reach: measures the number of different and distinct people mentioning your brand, etc. as a percentage of total mentions
- TweetReach.com: Seven monthly plans range from free to $2,500. This tool can track the entire ‘Twitterverse’ to reveal how far tweets may reach, how many of your clients or brands are active, and what is being said.
By now, you know that the amount of information available to help shape your business marketing strategies is significant. There is much, much more. You are encouraged to consider your goals first, and then choose the information resources that are likely to be most relevant to reaching and surpassing the business objectives that will meet and exceed your business – and life goals.
Feel free to share some of your methods below.
Thanks all and here’s to a peaceful and prosperous 2014!
April and the PA Team