Last week, I had the pleasure to present a webinar sponsored by Compete titled “How to Legally Spy on Your Competition.” Many people on that webinar requested a list of the tools that I mentioned on the call. I thought I’d share them here as well. For specific examples on how to use each of these tools, please check out the recording of the webinar.

1. How are your competitors doing now?

One of the most common questions heard across boardrooms, this question is much easier to answer today than ever before. This is a list of tools to provide you with an overall benchmark to do market research and provide validation of your marketing efforts:

Google Trends: With Google Trends, you can compare the world’s or segment of the world’s interest in your favorite topics. Enter up to five topics and see how often they’ve been searched on Google over time. Google Trends also shows how frequently your topics have appeared in Google News stories, and in which geographic regions people have searched for them most. This is a great way to compare your website, category, brand, or product lines and your competitors’.

ComScore: ComScore provides syndicated and custom solutions in online audience measurement, e-commerce, advertising, search, video, and mobile and offers dedicated analysts with digital marketing and vertical-specific industry expertise. This is great when you want a custom report benchmarking your transaction rates last quarter to several of your competitors’ and want to understand what factors influenced them.

Compete: Compete has a diverse sample of 2,000,000-plus U.S. Internet users that have opted in to have their online click stream behavior monitored. Compete normalizes this click stream data and is then able to determine the behavior of all U.S. Internet users. is the only online competitive intelligence service that combines site and search analytics in one site. Compete will allow you to benchmark your site to your competitors’ by a number of standard metrics such as: unique visitors, visits, page views, Compete rank, average stay, visits/person, pages/visit, attention, daily reach, and daily attention. It offers a free trial and customized reports as well.

UserTesting: Sometimes you see the quantitative numbers in these other reports but you can’t understand whyyour competitors are getting the results they are. This is where I find very helpful. UserTesting lets you “look over the shoulder” of people in your target audience while they use your website. You get a video of their session on a website as they talk out loud about their experience as they try to accomplish the task you set out for them. I often use this for PPC (define) campaigns. I’ll specify a term and have three users look at several ads (including my clients) and the landing page and ask them to evaluate the experience on each.

If you’re interested in running user tests for yourself and your competitors just send me a note and I’ll send you the task sheet I use for these tests.

2. Find out what is on your competitor’s roadmap.

Would it help to know what your competitors are planning so you can maneuver appropriately? These tools can give you some good indications.

Google search and News Timeline: There are several searches you can do to see if any of your competitors’ future plans have leaked online. They include searching for :

  • “roadmap” or “plans”
  • Plan filetype:pdf (there are many file types you can search for)
  • Key employees
  • Product lines and rumor

I also like looking at my competitors’ press releases for a year or two years at a time to see if I can spot trends in what and when they make certain releases.

LinkedIn: It has recently added a feature that allows you to follow companies, but you should be following key employees (especially HR) and spend time monitoring the groups they are in for clues to what they may be looking for in talent (just like when Apple was recently looking for several antenna engineers). You should also be looking for any job postings there and on other job boards.

SlideShare: This is another great place to find competitor roadmaps and plans.

Twitter Search: It doesn’t matter if you search from the website or have custom searches set up in tools such as TweetDeck, Twitter provides some incredible competitive intelligence opportunities. Search for tweets such as:

  • hashtags of products, category, competitors, etc.
  • Key influencers
  • Competitors’ employees
  • Conferences
  • Industry associations

Facebook: Follow fan pages for interesting discussions with your competitors’ key advocates and early-to-market announcements.

Next time we will look at how to identify who your competitors are and your brand influencers. We’ll also explore how to find top media contacts and how to find out what untapped search marketing opportunities exist.

Please share if you think others would benefit.