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Spying on the competition is so expected there is a range of competitor analysis tools for brands to use. Which tool is best for you? Take a look at our list below to find one that suits your goals and budget.

Start with a plan

First let’s look back at the basics of social media competitive analysis from part 4 of our Social Media Analytics Guide. Like all brand endeavors, you need defined goals and a plan before you spring into action.  Here’s a reminder of what matters as you assess competitors on social:

Deeper metrics – Though comparing likes, mentions and retweets might make you think you’re winning (or losing), you really don’t have all the facts if you stop at superficial metrics. Demographics are your framework, psychographics tell you what consumers are interested in, and sentiment provides context so you know where to focus your energy.

Surprising challengersYou’ll be in trouble quickly if you assume your only – or biggest – competition looks exactly like you. Brands like Stance, Edible Arrangements, and Etsy have given the likes of Nike, FTD, and many major retailers a run for their money. Even if you’re at the top of your category, brands with a better grasp of your audience can bump you out of the limelight.

Sentiment highs and lows – To make the most of competitive data, apply sentiment analysis to identify the strongest reactions. These extremes point to the best opportunities to borrow great ideas or solve consumer problems in a way competitors aren’t. You need tools that understand sarcasm, netspeak, slang, and emojis so your insights aren’t skewed with false positives or negatives.

Content and channels – Where are your competitors? Look beyond the channels your brand is on and see if you should be active elsewhere as well. Be sure to look at the content competitors share – and consumer response. Maybe you’re not sharing enough videos. Or maybe you need a different approach to the ones you do share. Pay attention to any trends emerging or being leveraged successfully.

With competitive data in hand you can move your brand forward on a number of fronts: marketing, engagement, customer service, product development, the customer experience, and more. So obviously you want your data to be as comprehensive as possible. Here are some tools to consider for your spying efforts:

1. Alexa

Screencap from the Alexa website

Track and compare site performance, analyze similar sites by keyword, or find crossover audiences with Alexa. See the monthly traffic for many sites across six countries, as well as the top keywords sending traffic to a site over the past six months.

Ideal for: Comparing website stats

Price: Starts at $99/month after a 7-day trial

2. Competeshark

Screencap from the Competeshark website

Look back at competitor campaigns, or view metrics in real-time to uncover strategies worth replicating. See the trends your rivals are focused on, as well as optimization info like SEO, headers, links, A/B test activity, and more. Get daily email alerts and easily share insights across your team.

Ideal for: Revealing competitor SEO strategies

Price: Starts at $89/month

3. Datanyze

Screencap from Datanyze website

If crystal balls were real, you’d want one that told you when a prospect stops using a competitor’s solution – so you could swoop in and offer the perfect replacement in your brand. Datanyze alerts you to just such events, in addition to providing a “technographic profile” that tells you if your targets use competitive or complementary tools.

Ideal for: Scoping out tech clients at the perfect moment

Price: Starts at $300/month, billed annually

4. Google Alerts

Pick a competitor – or several – to be notified any time they do something newsworthy. Results come via email and keep you in the know about brand mentions in articles and blog posts online. You can also monitor keywords to gain perspective within your category. It’s not sophisticated, but it’s a great no-frills option for brands without the financial means to do more.

Ideal for: Timely alerts of competitor mentions and links.

Price: Free

5. Import.io

Import.io takes a different approach to many competitive analysis tools, extracting data directly from the website you enter, revealing price and inventory info, MAP compliance, and more. It’s as sneaky as it gets, though it’s missing the consumer side of the equation.

Ideal for: Staying competitive with pricing and product offerings

Price: Starts at $299/month

6. Keyhole

Keyhole’s easy-to-use search engine shows you a number of metrics for any brand, hashtag, or keyword – from top posts, hashtags, and keywords to top channels, sentiment, demographics, and more. Track multiple keywords, hashtags, and influencers depending on your level of service.

Ideal for: Tracking top hashtags and keywords over time

Pricing: Starts at $149/month, billed annually

7. Monitor Backlinks

Want to know how you’re doing with backlinks – and better yet, how competitors are doing? Monitor Backlinks tells you, while also informing on the SEO front. See which keywords are ranking in Google, which links are valuable, and which ones can hurt your brand.

Ideal for: Understanding where competitors fit in the Google landscape

Price: Starts at $47.41/month

8. NetBase

What NetBase does exceedingly well is analyze consumer sentiment across whatever brand or topic you’re investigating. When it comes to competitors, you’ll know exactly what they love, what they hate, and how you can intervene to sway that affection to your brand’s side. You’ll also know where you stand in relation to others in your category – and most importantly, why.

Ideal for: Understanding consumer attitudes about competitors

Price: Contact for quote

9. Quantcast

Screencap from Quantcast website

Spotting consumer patterns in your category – and beyond – opens up your brand to a new world of prospects. That’s how Quantcast works – by giving you access to the audiences of other brands and showing you how they might also be yours.

Ideal for: Finding new customers through other brand activity

Price: Contact for quote

11. Rival IQ

Rival IQ lets you compare your brand to the competition by social channels, audience growth and activity, rankings across social channels – and that’s just for starters. Create customized dashboards and alerts, and see top keywords by company, Twitter mentions, and Twitter sentiment as well.

Ideal for: Knowing where you rank in the social landscape

Price: Starts at $299/month

12. SEMRush

It doesn’t get much easier than entering keywords – like a competing brand’s name – and seeing a list of related keywords by volume, average cost per click, competitive density, trend data, and a snapshot of the search engine results page (SERP) for each keyword. It’s search engine easy, and free – though you can upgrade if you need to track more keywords/campaigns.

Ideal for: Discovering keyword rank of competitors

Price: Free; upgrades start at $99.95/month

13. Serpstat

 

Enter any domain or keyword into Serpstat’s free tool and view a list of competitors, keywords, top pages, ad examples, and infographics for starters. Website and domain analysis are also on offer, including SEO and PPC research. Plan upgrades get you more queries and results, access to the Serpstat API, Google.KZ, and keyword tracking.

Ideal for: Seeing competitor visibility on the web

Price: Starts at $19/month

14. SimilarWeb

Compare two competing brands for free and view global, country and category rank, as well as traffic, and engagement. Analyze and compare websites, industry leaders, app rankings, and more with the pro version.

Ideal for: Measuring app and web engagement across your category

Price: Contact for quote

15. Simply Measured

Screencap from Simply Measured website

The importance of understanding the impact of competitors’ social footprints compared to your own can’t be overstated. Simply Measured lets you unlock competitive insights with customer profile groupings across channels so you can customize your strategy smartly.

Ideal for: Comparing engagement and content across social channels

Price: Contact for quote

16. SpyFu

SpyFu offers a lot with regard to what the competition has been up to: keyword overview, ranking history, backlinks, SERP analysis and AdWords recommendations. The Ad History tab shows a list of most successful advertisers and their best ads relative to the brand you search. It’s interesting, but budget isn’t necessarily an indicator of success – just ask any challenger brand that’s broken through by using social influencers. Still, there are some useful features – like weekly SEO and PPC tracking.

Ideal for: Comparing ad spend to competitors

Price: Free (limited); starts at $33/month billed annually

17. The Search Monitor

Screencap from The Search Monitor website

The Search Monitor calculates your biggest threats by market share, but also reveals newest threats – something you want to be aware of as early as possible. Keyword ranking, and analysis of special offers in ads, round out the insights on offer. Monitoring of ad and affiliate compliance is also a plus.

Ideal for: Monitoring compliance of trademarks, affiliates and more

Price: Contact for quote

18. Wappalyzer

Competitor analysis should cover as much ground as possible – so tools that go outside the realm of social insights are also useful. Wappalyzer is one that ferrets out “1074 different web technologies.” This includes software like content management systems, ecommerce platforms, web frameworks, server software, analytics tools, etc. Want to know how other brands are managing their data streams? This is a tool that will tell you.

Ideal for: Identifying tools and technology used by competing brands

Price: Free (open source)

19. Website Grader (by HubSpot)

HubSpot’s Website Grader is a great option for spotting strengths and weaknesses in competitors’ websites – and comparing them to your own. The free tool breaks down the categories of Performance, Mobile, SEO, and Security into smaller chunks, with a summary of actions to take to improve any problem areas. If you want more, upgrade to HubSpot’s Growth Stack.

Ideal for: Sleuthing out competitor website advantages/disadvantages

Price: Free to $400/month

20. What Runs Where

Make better campaign decisions by learning what other brands have done with desktop, mobile, and native ads. See which campaigns have been successful and why with access to five years of historical data as well as real-time insights. It’s a great tool for finding new traffic sources and inspiring new creativity.

Ideal for: Mobile and native ad insights

Price: Starts at $299/month after a 3-day trial for $1

21. WooRank

A number of optimization metrics are available for review using WooRank. Look at factors like SEO, mobile, usability, crawl errors, backlinks, visitors, keywords, etc. Beat your competitors by tightening up anywhere they’ve let slip.

Ideal for: Competitive website optimization

Price: Starts at $49.99/month

Whatever your budget, keep an eye on the competition

The tools above are not all comprehensive, but those that aren’t offer a starting point for smaller brands, while more complete solutions may appeal to brands with loftier goals and budgets.

Whichever you choose, be sure you’re doing something to stay on top of who the competition is, what they’re doing, and how consumers relate to them. If you don’t, you won’t be competition for anybody else for very long.

Want to become an expert at applying NetBase for competitor analysis? Join us at NetBase LIVE this month!

Image from SteveP2008

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