Competitive Research: Identify, Evaluate & Monitor Your Online Rivals

Whether your website is providing entertainment or information, selling a product or a service, you can fully expect to have competition. Who are these competitors though? And what makes their online presence so strong? More importantly, which ones are constantly raising the marketing bar?

If you’re serious about the success of your online business, you should find out as much as you can about your industry and the top business within that industry. This is called Competitive Research and is anything from examining search results for competitor’s pages and backlinks, to researching possible keywords that you’ll use in your web copy. Luckily there are many free tools and resources available that can help you collect the information you need.

Here are just a few.

Identifying the Competition

You can’t know what you’re up against until you properly identify your direct competition. Depending on your industry, this may be as easy as plugging your best search term into Google (assuming you’ve at least done some basic keyword research).

Search Engines – They not only provide valuable information about your competition, but search engines such as Google, Yahoo & Bing also help you determine who your competitors are. In many cases, your direct competitors are the sites that appear in the top 10 listing for the terms you’re aiming to rank for.

Directories – Authority directories, such as BOTW and DMOZ, can also help you identify your competitors. These directories are often human-edited and therefore careful attention is paid to which sites are chosen for inclusion. Simply locate the most suitable category for your site and then take note of the sites that are already listed there.

Get Technical – If you’re really interested in knowing precisely whom your competitor is, you can also use tools such as DNSStuff and DomainTools. For example, you might find out the actual name of your competitor by viewing the domain registrar information, which is particularly handy if you plan to contact them directly. Having their name is also useful for finding their social media or forum profiles (which can give you a clue into their marketing efforts and knowledge level).

Evaluating the Competition

After you’ve identified your competition, you’ll need to rate them according to how strong they are so you can determine the steps you’ll need to take in order to compete with them. Use some of the following tools will help give you an idea of why your rival is doing so well and what kinds of payoffs they’re reaping as a result.

Competitive Data – Have you ever wondered how much traffic a certain site was receiving? Although it’s not possible to find out exactly, you can use tools such as Alexa and Compete to find general info about traffic, such as visitor estimates, which keywords may be bringing traffic to your competitors’ site and even which other sites might be sending traffic to your competitor.

Ranking and Page Strength – How did your adversaries get such good rankings? The Firefox addon; SEOQuake, can help you answer this questions and more by showing you the age of a domain, how many links it has (from which types of sites) and even which popular directories it may be listed in. With Trifecta you can evaluate things such as an individual page or an entire domain’s strength or the reach of a brand (i.e. it’s ability to draw traffic). The only downfall of this tool is that, as a non-paying member, you can only generate 1 report per day.

Note: SEOQuake comes with a sort of a warning not to overuse it and why. Make sure to read it.

Detailed Backlink Analysis – Since backlinks are a main part of online competition, I recommend that you pay special attention to just how many backlinks your top competitors have. Conducting a detailed analysis will not only give you insight into how many links you’ll need to compete, but it also allows you to locate link opportunities for your own site. Use the Yahoo Site Explorer and the “linkdomain” command (i.e. and take note of not only the amount of their links, but also the type of sites their links are coming from. Don’t forget to use tools such as LinkVendor to check the number of social bookmarks and their backlink anchor text too.

Monitoring the Competition

Now that you know who your main competition is and you have an idea of what they’re doing right, you can do things such as monitor mentions of their brand or domain name, keep up to date on any press releases they’re doing or media attention they’re getting or even find out certain information about how much they might be spending on ads. Simply set up some Google Alerts (for their domain or brand name) and with regular use of tools such as SpyFu and WhosTalkin you’ll be able to keep up to date on practically any mentions regarding your competitor.

Although I’m definitely not suggesting that you outright stalk your competitors, I am suggesting that you identify who they are though, and strive to improve upon whatever they do, marketing wise. Doing so can give you the edge you need to compete, and maybe even beat, the competition.

Written by
Melanie Nathan
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