By Julie Bombacino
Unlike neighboring gas stations or the two local grocery stores, knowing just who your competition is online isn’t as easy as looking out the window. So before you assume you know who your competitors are, go to Google and type in your main keyword/phrases. Who’s paying to be there? Who’s got the top natural search listings? Like it or not, these are your competitors. Take note.
Once you know who you’re competing against, start with Alexa to get basic information on their Web site traffic compared to your traffic. Alexa compiles this data from the usage of their toolbar, on a rolling three-month basis. Alexa data should only be used for guiding decisions, not making them. There are a number of naysayers online to how accurate (or not) the data really is, so be careful and don’t bet the farm on that data alone.
Ah, Google. So many tools, so little time. Go to Google and type in link:www.yoururl.com to see how many Web sites are linking to your site. Now do the same for your competitions URL. Find anything interesting? If you don’t like how you stack up, might be time to create a linking strategy for your company. (Remember, inbound links impact your natural search engine rankings.)
Next, head on over to blogsearch.google.com to see how many blogs are talking about you and your competition. If you’re really interested, you can even read what they’re saying. This is by no means a scientific number of how well a business is or isn’t doing, but it should give you a feel for what people are saying (blogging) about you / your competition. While you’re there, set up an email alert for your company.
Now that you know who your competitors are and have an estimate of their traffic, the grunt work begins. To truly gain a competitive edge, you have to see what they have on their sites. So go to each one and take note of how big the site is, what they offer, how professional it is, are there things they’re doing that you should be doing? All of this is especially important if you conduct transactions online.
Instead of just keeping all this information in your head, create a spreadsheet and document it all. That way you can look back in a few months and see changes.
Julie Bombacino is a Chicago-area independent marketing consultant with over 12 years of marketing experience, specializing in online marketing. Mrs. Bombacino is a graduate of The Ohio State University and earned an MBA in marketing at DePaul University. She can be reached at email@example.com.