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If we’re to believe everything we see on TV, businesses of the past were constantly caught off guard and undercut by competitors they didn’t know existed. Luckily, today’s marketers have a wealth of social listening tools for performing competitive intelligence to avoid such situations. Here are 7 tools that get the job done well:

 1. Google Alerts

For a completely free option, Google Alerts is still a great tool for keeping an eye on competitors and figuring out how to stay ahead of them.

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Enter the name of a competitor – or a topic or keyword phrase – and be alerted via email anytime competitors/topics are mentioned online. Be first to know when there’s news of a scandal, product announcement, blog post by a fan, etc.

You’ll have to manually take note of where mentions are originating, keep track, and look for useful patterns – but the information is there and is delivered directly to you as it happens.

2. Buzzsumo

Content

Content is one key area to explore within the Buzzsumo dashboard. Something as simple as knowing what content is being shared from a competitor’s domain is eye-opening. The Most Shared option lets you see what content is coming out of competitor domains, and where that content is being shared – so you know where your audience lives. You also get a sense of which topics are getting more engagement – and which aren’t.

nike-buzzsumo

You can also search by brand name to see who else is sharing content about competitors, where it’s coming from, and how well it’s being received on the social web.

Explore most shared Trending Content as well, to know if there’s something super timely you could, or should, be talking about with your audience.

Want to go a little deeper? Find out who’s backlinking to competitor sites – since these are potential influencers for you as well.

Influencers

Speaking of influencers, use Buzzsumo’s Influencers tab to learn more about who the influencers are in your space. If you’re an athletic apparel retailer and your brand doesn’t pop up, you have the opportunity to learn from the brands that do – as well as from any brand higher up the list than yours.

You might also discover a competitor you weren’t considering – like a smaller brand, or Etsy store, etc. You also can see who is talking about your topic, and start building relationships. You can even build an audience of Twitter users who are sharing content on a competitor’s domain. Target this audience and get them to fall in love with your brand instead.

3. iSpionage

Want to know who your top pay-per-click (PPC) competitors are? iSpionage will tell you, along with how they’re using AdWords, and what their monthly budget is.  You can compare up to five competitors for free. Here’s some of what you can track:

PPC keywords by search engine (Google or Bing/Yahoo):

keywords by search engine

Cost-per-click (CPC) keywords against competitors:

keyword comparison

Track top ads against competitors including monthly traffic and average rank. Or create alerts to know when a competitor adds new PPC keywords, ad copy, or new organic keywords. You’ll also be alerted to the top performing keywords and ad copy for as long as the alert is active.

4. SimilarWeb

See how your brand ranks against others globally and locally with SimilarWeb (up to five competing brands, including yours, in demo mode).

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Traffic sources

Compare keyword competitors – both organic and paid – and adjust your tactics accordingly. The Geography tab shows you where you stand in the global market, so you can focus your efforts on the brands besting you – model your marketing efforts after theirs and examine their audiences to learn what consumers find appealing (or not).

Find out where referring traffic is originating – by category, by specific domains, or by social network – to understand what drives visitors to your site and your competitors’. You might discover a social network you’d never considered using is well worthwhile – or that one you’ve been focused on isn’t.

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Audiences

Check out Audience Interests to view Topics Distribution for competitors and compare against your own. Is there an unlikely audience you could be engaging with? This is how you find out.

Topics Distribution for McDonald's

Topics Distribution for McDonald’s

5. SEMrush

Keywords

SEMrush gives you a lot when you enter a simple domain name – like Top Organic Keywords and Main Organic Competitors. These metrics clue you in to the keywords that matter in your category, and who are the competitors of your competitors – which could offer a few surprises.

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View Backlinks, Referring Domains, Publishers mentioning the competition, and more to understand where your brand stands in comparison.

The SEO Keyword Magic tool (currently in beta) shows you the top additional keywords commonly associated with your search. Test them to see how Volume is affected, and which top sites different keywords return. This helps you determine which specific keyword phrases can help you stand out.

semrush seo

SEMrush also offers Video Advertising in beta, so you can view analytics of competitor video campaigns, to track their success and failures, and adjust your own campaigns accordingly.

video-ads

SEMrush also offers Video Advertising in beta, so you can view analytics of competitor video campaigns, to track their success and failures, and adjust your own campaigns accordingly.

6. Spyfu

For pay-per-click (PPC) to effectively increase site traffic you’ve got to have the right keywords. Spyfu shows you competitors’ organic keywords as well as the paid keywords they are using. Take what’s working and use for your own brand.

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And discover your Top Organic Competitors versus Top Paid Competitors to see where you need to up your game with both earned media and paid media.

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Competitors of MichaelKors.com

7. NetBase

What NetBase offers that the tools above don’t is the element of sentiment in competitive analysis. Knowing when your competitors are being mentioned – and where – is great, but there are so many more opportunities when sentiment is factored in.

For starters, you gain a sense of which action is needed based on whether consumers love or hate competitors’ products and messaging.

If Net Sentiment is positive, you want to look at why, and consider emulating strategies to bring that love to your own brand. If sentiment is negative, you have an amazing opportunity to be the hero to consumers dissatisfied with competitors’ offerings – whether in the realm of product, customer service, or overall mission.

When you add in the aspect of Passion Intensity – how strongly those positive/negative emotions are expressed – you can go even farther. Strongly positive sentiment indicates potential influencers – so those are the people you most want to learn from.

Strongly negative sentiment indicates a potential reputational threat. You want to know if there’s a major upset like this in your category, because you can either benefit by solving consumer issues, or be next on the hit list if your brand takes a similar approach.

NetBase offers a well-rounded approach to social media listening and competitive intelligence – even letting you monitoring brand logos.

Don’t discount consumers

Competitive intelligence also helps you predict consumer trends – something Credit Suisse uses when advising their investment clients.

For Credit Suisse, it’s crucial to know if a brand is gaining steam – or losing favor – with consumers, so they can make reliable recommendations on stock purchases. They use NetBase to monitor consumer conversations on social to stay apprised of changes in sentiment and trends. This allows them to predict stock changes six months in advance, keeping their clients informed and happy.

Understanding keywords and PPC is useful, but a fully dimensional picture of brand health should include consumer data – and sentiment – as well.

The tools above each offer something to brands in need of a competitive edge – it all comes down to your specific needs and budget.

If you’re ready to have it all, let us know!

E-Book: 4 Steps to Building a Successful Social Analytics Program

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