Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery. More importantly, companies can only remain competitive if they stay abreast of what the competition is doing. A successful marketing campaign needs to track the activities and online marketing efforts of other websites in the same industry to maintain awareness of the competition and stay at least one step ahead of it.
Free resources can tell you how websites with similar audiences function and give you a competitive advantage. You can use these tools to find out how much traffic they get, how their audience breaks down demographically, what other websites they have, what their most important keywords are and who is linking back to their website.
Use websites that report on webpages to determine what the competition is doing that you could be doing. Then focus your SEO and SEM strategies and find new or expanded audiences.
Use Quantcast (https://www.quantcast.com) to learn about your competitor’s audience. You can find out who these people are, where they live, what kind of lifestyle they have and what their hot buttons are. This site helps you to determine untapped resources and methods of reaching them.
Work with SpyFu (https://www.spyfu.com) to download a competitor’s keywords and determine the most profitable ones. You can learn why they rank highly, what markets they are reaching and how you can be competitive in those markets. By comparing their keywords to yours, try to determine your unique to aim for a wider audience.
Use Backlink Watch (http://www.backlinkwatch.com) to determine who is connecting to your competition. Backlinks enhance a website’s visibility in the search results. See whether competitors are purchasing backlinks and whether they participate in forums or online directories. What helps them could help you.
Another tool, Open Site Explorer (https://moz.com/researchtools/ose/), can help you to find the onsite and back-link profiles of your competitors to see how well a site ranks and how strong its backlink profile is. If you see that several authority sites that have existed for almost 20 years are competing for the same keywords as you, you might not want to try to compete with them for specific search terms. Find the page authority of your competitors by inputting one to four domains. OSE will provide a variety of metrics.
Use Site Comparison (www.seomastering.com/site-comparison.php) to obtain and display many types of information and statistics, assembling and aggregating data to help small businesses to understand their overall SEO score, compare two different web pages to determine which one is outperforming the other and see which one is more highly optimized.
Keyword Spy (www.keywordspy.com) automates the process of keyword research. Just query a keyword or phrase and click on the button labeled “keywords.” You can refine searches and understand which domains and businesses will be your competitors.
If you use Microsoft Excel as your main spreadsheet application, work with the add-on called SEOTools (www.seotoolsforexcel.com/) to help you plan your online marketing strategy. Besides keyword planning and analysis tools, SEOTools also has reconnaissance tools to scope out the competition.
Bonus tool: WooRank (www.woorank.com) is a great tool to run an SEO audit of your own website. Note though, you can run a free audit once per week.
Each of these tools is free for the taking. Stay ahead of the competition by using them.