Understanding thy competition is a golden rule in any kind of business, ranging from online marketing to politics to running the local mom & pop corner grocery store.
Joanna Lord has put together a pretty good wrap up of competitive intel tracking and signals over at SEOmoz this morning : Competitive Intelligence: Purpose & Process, with an emphasis on the evolution and growth of a brand or business. In the current economic rebound and online marketing landscape where new outlets like Facebook (let’s face it, Facebook is the Internet for A LOT of normal Americans), Foursquare and Twitter along with new emerging social and search oriented trends and disciplines such as guest blogging, blogger outreach and integrated PR strategies, brand evolution in competitive intel is a fluid and dynamic field.
As marketers, the idea of pausing is equated with losing momentum which scares the hell out of us all. This industry moves too quickly, and pausing to reflect on where your brand is compared to your competitors seems like time poorly spent.
Lord builds upon this with an emphasis on tracking such momentum and trending, with Product Growth & Benchmarking
This is perhaps the most time consuming element to competitive intelligence when it is done well. There needs to be someone in charge of competitive intelligence maintenance. This person should subscribe to your competitor’s blog so you are hearing about product launches as they happen, and all company announcements in real time. You can also gain a lot of insight from reading the comments to those posts.
In addition to this you should set up Google Alerts for your competitor’s brand plus the words “launches” and “announces.” We all know that Google Alerts are limited and somewhat unreliable, but you should have a daily digest set to notify you of any big moves your competitor’s are making. You never know which could be a real momentum changer.
I work with a lot of brands that are either established in their vertical, or that I have assisted to establish and quite frankly, while I always have one eye on what’s ahead and am consistently On To the Next One, its always smart business to keep one eye on the rear view mirror, to see who’s gaining ground on you, what they are doing, and how you can pull the rug from underneath them or crush them.
I suggest giving the SEOmoz post a good read, and also, would like to reprint some competitive intelligence tactics that I previously put together here on Search Engine Journal that will also be helpful.
Understanding what your competitors are doing online is a must and absolute priority when launching a new website that is entering a competitive space and also when established websites want to keep an eye on their competition. By knowing what your rivals are doing in their SEO and social media space, not only will you have a better knowledge of their online marketing strategy, but you can also emulate what is working for them, and generate internal ideas to stay proactive.