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How to Monitor – and Capitalize on – Your Competitors

Published: November 30, 2016

Author: Max Logan

Regardless of whether you are a professional sports team, a politician running for office, or just a business professional, everyone wants to know what their competitors are doing. It is a huge part in what drives your strategy and how you invest your resources – especially if it’s real-time information that allows you to make informed decisions as quickly as possible.
By leveraging the following monitoring options, you can both stay informed about your competitors and take advantage of opportunities that will help you meet your goals.

SEM Auction Insights

Auction Insights reports in AdWords/Bing allow you to look at selected campaigns/ad groups/keywords to see what competitors are showing, the % of auctions they are showing on, and how high they are appearing on the page. This is not limited to your brand terms; you can see auction data on non-brand terms and even the competitors’ own brand terms. In addition to the standard impression share and avg. position metrics, you can check how frequently your competitors showed above you and how often they were at top of the page.
google auction insights
We have found it helpful to track auction insights data on a weekly basis along with avg. CPCs. This makes it easy to determine if certain competitors are staying in the auction and where their impression share is trending, and how that may be affecting your CPCs/impression share. We blocked out the specific domain names in this sample report, but you will have specific domain info for the competitors appearing in the auction so you can determine whether you want to take next steps in targeting them.

Google Alerts

Google Alerts will send you daily emails with articles anytime you competitor is mentioned. These can be particularly helpful whenever your competitor has a new product/location or PR mention, allowing you to determine whether there are any steps you want to take based on that information. If the brand name is a general term that may appear frequently in unrelated articles, it can be helpful to include an additional modifier term that helps narrow down the focus to their or your business. It’s worth noting that Google Alerts does not have to be limited to just competitors; you can keep update on your organization’s appearances or on a specific product/service across the web as well.
When a competitor launched a new product, we closely monitored their Google Alerts and found they were having some issues with the shipping dates. We used placement targeting and overlapping contextual competitor targeting to get banner ads next to that negative messaging. These Display efforts ended up being one of the client’s biggest sale drivers and were credited with a significant number of assisted sales during that period.

SEMrush and SpyFu

If you are looking specifically for estimates on competitor traffic and keyword priorities, consider using tools like SEMrush and SpyFu. Both offer organic and paid keyword tracking with data on different time ranges and the ability to adjust various metrics. SpyFu offers more information without needing to upgrade your account, but typically SEMRush is more reliable for keyword research and trending data. One thing to also consider is these tools are typically more helpful when looking at more established sites, as newly launched competitors will not have much historical data to analyze.
For a competitor that started popping up more frequently, we used these sites to get a rough idea on how much they were spending in paid search and on the paid/organic search keywords for which they were showing most frequently. That allowed us to get a rough idea that the competitor wasn’t investing a significant amount, and that with a fairly limited budget we could be very aggressive on their terms. These search efforts became some of top sale drivers (and assisting-sale drivers), and over time the competitor stopped bidding on our terms as well.

3Q Strategy Team Competitive Assessment

3q assessment
If you need a full analysis on the competitive landscape in your industry, the 3Q Strategy team offers a robust report for our clients. The aspects they dive into include:

  • Overall company info including company size, market share, and where they focus their efforts
  • The set of motivations and decision criteria that motivate a customer’s purchase in the industry
  • Media focus of each competitors, including channel-specific allocation and the messaging/landing page being leveraged
  • Both positive and negative customer feedback, determining unique themes
  • Landing page and on-site user experiences, including device specific insights

Based on this information, the 3Q strategy team then provides a roadmap on the next steps to leverage this competitive information to capitalize on the biggest opportunities.
There are great free (and for-pay) tools out there to monitor your competitors; the trick is making a habit of it and making sure your reactions to competitor intel are strategic and stand up to tests. If you have any other favorite tools, drop a comment!

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