I Spy: 6 Free Ways to Monitor Your Competitors

It’s always a good idea to keep an eye on your competitors. Staying on top of their promotions, campaigns and social media activity can help you and your sales team stay ahead of the pack. Yes, you can sign up for all sorts of monitoring software programs and services, but there’s a lot you can do on your own without spending a dime. And you might even end up with better information.

Here are six free tools and tactics you can use to stay on top of your competitor’s online efforts.

  • Google Alerts: This feature is one of the simplest and most effective ways to make sure you’re in tune with competitors’ press releases, product announcements and news coverage. Go deep by setting up alerts for more than just their brand name — include names of key execs and products as well.
  • AdWords Auction Insights: If you’re running Google AdWords, then the Auction Insights report will show you which domains are bidding on the same auctions you are. The report can help you identify areas in which you’re excelling, as well as those you might have overlooked or can improve upon. You’ll find it in the drop-down menu for “details” near the statistics table.
  • Follow your competitors online: It sounds like a no-brainer, and it should be. Take any and every opportunity to get updates from your competitors. Follow them on all their social media channels, sign up for their newsletters and email lists. It’s common for businesses to comb their lists occasionally to prevent this type of monitoring, so use a personal Gmail account or another email provider to ensure you won’t get removed.
  • Right-click: A right click on your mouse will allow you to peek beneath the covers of your competitor’s website via its source code. One of the many options you’ll see when you right click on a web page is “View Page Source,” which contains the code for that page. You’ll be able to see the page titles, descriptions and keywords your competitors are using.
  • SpyFu: SpyFu is a terrific (and free) tool that delivers some useful, actionable insights. You’ll be able to see a competitor’s estimated monthly AdWords budget, inbound versus paid traffic, a list of their most valuable keywords, and more. Bookmark this one.
  • SEMrushMuch like SpyFu, SEMrush offers up a handy dashboard with info on your competitor’s backlinks, landing pages, display advertising, and branded versus nonbranded traffic. Another one to bookmark.

One thing to keep in mind: Just because your competitor is running a particular promotion or using certain keywords doesn’t mean it’s a good idea or that it’s paying off for them. An identical campaign could prove costly. Instead, ask yourself if there are lessons you can take away from your competitor and identify the segments that pertain to your company and your brand. Then, incorporate that insight into your existing and upcoming campaigns and promotions.