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5 Free Marketing Tools You Should Be Using to Spy on Your Competition
August 22, 2017 •Mojo Media Labs
Do you ever get the sneaking suspicion your marketing is under surveillance? You’re absolutely right.
As you read these words, your competitors can leverage a massive assortment of tools to outpace your website’s growth, copy your best ideas, and steal your audience’s attention out from under your nose.
One question remains: Will you take action to develop more helpful, intelligent, and clever marketing to reach your customers better than the other guys? Become a world-class marketing sleuth by using these 5 tools to understand what makes your competitors successful. Then, deploy new insights in your own marketing to catapult yourself ahead of the pack.
(Just click on any heading to explore each tool for yourself. Good luck!)
Everyone wants to outperform the businesses that compete for your customers’ attention, loyalty, and profits. But, how will you pull ahead if you don’t even understand what other companies in your industry are doing well? BuiltWith provides a free, behind-the-scenes peek at the technologies that power any website you type into its search box.
A quick search provides a high-level overview at how other online businesses track website visitors, manage their website content, and convert qualified leads. As a result, you can speedily identify hidden tools that your competitors have been using to close deals — or uncover massive blind spots for technologies you can use that they’ve neglected.
I use their Google Chrome extension daily and I’m constantly spotting new marketing trends across different industries. I’ll usually pick up a few tools I hadn’t considered using too.
Undeniably, mastering your website’s organic search rankings on Google can make or break your site’s traffic. Don’t you wish you could see exactly what Google sees in your competitors that it doesn’t see on your site? Actually, you can.
SEMrush provides a powerful tool to understand which links are helping your competitors rank highly in Google and other search engines.
For free, their domain overview tool provides a helpful bird’s eye view of their organic search rankings. You’ll be able to quickly spot trends in backlinks and search keywords by digging further into the trial reports. Again, these cost you nothing.
Grab these insights on competitors and plug them into additional tools like and suddenly you have a rough content plan for blogs that compete for the same topic.
Want to really get fancy?
The paid version can help you identify which backlinks and keywords your competitors are using to grow their traffic. You can even pull a list of the top keywords that work well to grow your competitors' traffic and implement it in your own content plan. It would be nice to know that your next six months of blog content could go to edging out your competitor from the spot above you on the first page of Google, right? To take these fresh keyword insights a step further, you should use Brian Dean’s to create a new piece of content that goes 10x more in-depth than their best-performing piece.
That’s how he got results like this impressive surge in backlinks. Bravo, sir.
(This means you can build on ideas that are already working for your competitors and leapfrog their efforts… if you’re willing to put in the work.)
Creating social media posts for your business can feel scattershot — or even pointless at times. “How can I go toe-to-toe with X Competitor when they have more resources/team members/experience than me?” It’s simple: You’ll copy their #1 performing post format and test it on your own page.
But, how? Facebook actually includes an easy-to-use setting inside Facebook Insights called “Pages to Watch” that enables you to see the posts from your competitors that are attracting the most likes, shares, and engagement that week.
This means you can freely harvest the feedback from post types, tone, imagery, and other trends to reverse-engineer what made each of your competitor’s Facebook posts a winner. Get it? Your social media competition can actually do some of your research in real-time for you (if you’re smart enough to look regularly.)
Once you’ve identified a strong-performing post type or format, lay out a practical plan to test a similar type of post on your own Facebook page. Of course, you should never copy a post’s text and image verbatim — but you can draw heavy inspiration from the heavy hitters and each post your own original spin.
4. Fire Up to Punch-Up Your On-Page SEO
Header tags? Meta descriptions? Page load times? Optimizing your website to rank higher on Google can feel like a confusing chore that you never win. Even worse, what if your competitor has checked all the right boxes in Google’s eyes and has eclipsed your site’s standing? It would be a wise use of your time to perform a quick check. Fortunately, several free SEO analysis tools can provide a sharp look your own website and compare its standing against your top competitors.
One of my favorite places to start is with Neil Patel’s SEO analysis tool.
It’s a snap to use and can provide a benchmark to see how your site's on-page SEO stacks up against local and national industry leaders.
The no-cost report will also identify major red flags with page load time, header tags, and other criteria that Google judges harshly.
This tool won’t provide a 360-degree view of the many in-depth factors that a comprehensive SEO audit requires, but it’s a low-hanging fruit that anyone can explore in seconds.
Want to see your competitor's most talked about piece of content? Buzzsumo makes it ridiculously simple to see the most shared blog posts, infographics, or videos your competition has published.
The site’s free tool can provide two major clues to inform your content strategy:
- Your competition’s most-talked about content on social media.
- A specific topic’s most engaging content shared on social media.
You may be wondering how you can put these two types of intelligence to work for your content. First, take note of topics and formats that appear to have performed much stronger than usual. It’s critical to develop a nose for the trends and topics that produce better than average results on social media.
Of course, Facebook and Twitter engagement isn’t a perfect measurement of a piece of content’s influence — but it’s a fairly reliable measure of audience interest. It shows the topic can evoke a pointed emotional response from readers, which may help you choose more relevant topics for your own marketing. The paid version of Buzzsumo can also allow you to reach out to the same individuals that loved your competitors' content enough to share it.
This is a huge benefit for when you decide to share your painstakingly created content with people who will care. If they’ve shared similar blogs and videos in the past, they’re more likely to do it again.
Sit back. Relax. Crack a smile. You’ve taken your first steps into piercing the mysterious fog that surrounds your competition’s website to understand what makes their marketing tick. Now, you can renew your efforts with increased focus knowing that you’ve identified major areas to outperform their traffic generation, SEO-rankings, and content creation. You’ve taken an up-close look at the best tools to spy on any website’s marketing and sales efforts.
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