Marketing guidebook: Using the internet to follow your competitors

Monitoring Competitors Online

If you’re starting a business and aren’t sure whether or not to venture into digital marketing, the first question you might want to ask your marketing consultancy firm is: ‘what are my competitors up to?’

The internet is a great tool for reaching out to potential customers or clients, but it’s also important to take advantage of the myriad other opportunities it offers your business. It’s not just about marketing, but also about gaining information – whether on your competitors and their services or on your target audience instead. With one quick Google search, you can access practically any information you would ever need. Here’s how to use the internet to keep track on your industry and where its headed – for the benefit of your marketing strategy.

The basics

If you’re starting from scratch when it comers to using the internet to follow your competitors, or just want some guidance on how to do it more efficiently, it’s best to start with a few basic measures:

  • Follow your competitors on Twitter – If any of the leading names in your sector have Twitter accounts, follow them to track what content they’re posting. As you follow more of your competitors, Twitter will start to suggest other similar users for you to follow. This will help to raise awareness of some of your newer competitors who may be trying to establish a strong online presence.
  • Set up Google alerts – Create Google alerts based on your industry. For example, if you work in construction, create an alert based on the keywords ‘construction industry’ or ‘construction.’ Google alerts will find news based on these keywords and deliver it to your inbox on a regular basis.
  • Tracking news – If you don’t want to fill up your inbox with the results of Google alerts, or just want to find out more about a news story that might be relevant to your company, use Google News. Search for keywords relating to a topic or a recent news story, and the results will show you related articles from multiple sources. These can be filtered based on publication date and country of publication by using the ‘Search tools’ option in the toolbar underneath the search box.

Market research

Another sneaky way of finding out what your competitors are up to and what your potential customer base may want is to take a look at your competitors’ Facebook pages. Find out which posts or photos are the most popular, or if there’s any negative feedback around particular incidents or changes. Think about how you could use this knowledge to your advantage – start a marketing campaign based around the fact that you still offer something that your rivals have withdrawn.

Alexa is a website that allows you to find out a variety of statistics for many of the world’s websites. Use this tool to work out the demographics and search traffic of your website or your competitors’ sites, while also identifying the browsing habits of your users. Importantly, Alexa also provides a list of the most popular search terms that users access your website through. You can use this information to work out where you want to focus your content marketing and other digital marketing strategies.

This is just a brief overview of how you can use the internet to obtain information about your industry. There really are innumerable ways to glean data on your competitors, your customers and successful marketing activities across your industry, but it’s what you do with this information that forms your marketing strategy.

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Ian is the founder of Opportunity Marketing marketing, with over 18 years of experience in successfully setting up marketing departments, creating marketing strategies and implementing these strategies across a wide number of SME companies in both the B2B and B2C sectors through a variety of channels.