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Monitoring and measuring competitors’ online activities w/ these Tools. AKA, "Put on Ears."

May 3, 2016.Finn.0 Likes.0 Comments
Home/Blog/Digital Marketing/Monitoring and measuring competitors’ online activities w/ these Tools. AKA, "Put on Ears."

Task List for this step

The next step to building a digital marketing web presence is to track your competitors’ online activity. This way you can see what they’re targeting and from it, getting a better idea what keywords and phrases the market uses to look for your products and services. By the way, this is also how they’re probably tracking you.

Don’t get overwhelmed. Get ready to feel empowered

Each of these tools have a relatively short learning curve to get acquainted with them and not much longer to get good at them. They all have online manuals and great step-by-step instructional videos to help get you acclimated. Don’t worry, we typically don’t throw you in the deep end without at least some water wings.

Set up a New Google Account

Yes. Another one. For privacy’s sake.

“But, wait? Does it break their terms of service.”

If you’re afraid you’re breaking their terms of service, make them into a pseudonym or a pen name. Then, just don’t spam the Hell out of folks, use the Google Voice number to be spam-calling whores, and parade around on Google Plus as a jackass. At that point, so long as you keep it professional and sincere, you’ll end up being okay.

Note: you can forward the new Google Account’s email to your current email, but make sure you set it so you leave a copy of the email in the new account.

This way, when you get email confirmations sent to you to confirm that you really want to receive their emails, you won’t be replying from your primary inbox. Instead you’ll be replying from email you set up for this.

Email Alerts, RSS Feeds, and Google Alerts

The best way I’ve found to track competitors’ online activities is to measure and track the most popular online activity with which people engage. Depending on whom you listen to, that’s still email. Social Media is a close second. Email is also more cost effective to track because you can use free tools to do it.

Let’s begin by tracking the emails and blog(s).

Start by Subscribing to their Email Alerts and RSS Feeds

Many, many companies are quite active in emails. Using that brand spanking new Gmail Account for this activity, subscribe to your competitors’ emails. Once their flood of shit starts filling your Google Account’s email inbox, you’ll be able to thank me.

You can typically find where to subscribe either on their home page, blog, or press page. In some cases, they’re all different, focusing on different topics. They can also have different ones for product companies and brands, so go to those website sections as well.

the-coveted-rss-symbolWhile you’re subscribing to their newsletters and updates, subscribe to the Blog RSS feeds. RSS feeds wane and waxes in popularity, and while most of us hope that Google brings back Reader, for now you’ll have to use an alternative. I use Feedly RSS Feeder. It’s got a freemium model I use with about a small $5-per-month charge – if you choose to use buy it – to archive stuff you save. To skip that, I just usually share the ones l Iike on social media and Save the ones I like in Google Bookmarks. Even on mobile devices there’s usually features to let me save or share it so that $5-per-month seems pointless.

Now, for the fun: you can track what folks publish online about your competitors by using Google Alerts.



They track keywords and phrases that get indexed. Those keywords work the same as they do when it comes to search.

  • Broad Match & Broad Match Modified
  • Phrase Match
  • Exact Match

This means you’ll be allowed to really narrow down what you want to get reports on, especially if your competitor has a “Smith & Jones” type common name. Then, you can make it “Smith {COMPANY_SERVICES}” and filter out a lot of noise.

Social Media Tracking and Measurement with Hootsuite

In my no-dog-in-the-fight opinion at the time of this writing, if Twitter ever made a real mistake in their Customer Experience, it was that they didn’t make TweetDeck their default view. But if they really wanted to do it right, they would have tried to purchase HootSuite years ago.

What is HootSuite?

HootSuite is by far my favorite social media monitoring and engagement tool. If you’re familiar with TweetDeck and its ability to have multi-column, multi-user feeds, then you’ll be familiar with HootSuite’s base operating style. The difference – and why I pay for it – is with HootSuite you can take one message in Hootsuite and syndicate it through all your Facebook Accounts and Pages, LinkedIn profiles, groups, and companies, and Google Plus pages in addition to Twitter. This includes Twitter Lists, which are thematic gold.

This content includes syndicating video. Because Life is good.

Yes. There are tutorials for Hootsuite. It doesn’t take long to learn. I promise.

The only thing I don’t like about their YouTube video playlists is that they sometimes publish the latest videos in LIFO (last in, first out) order, but otherwise they do a great job. You can go directly to their YouTube channel to find the playlists and videos that explain their features.



Now, wait a minute: can’t we just like their social media profiles

Sure. And in many markets it’s usually not an issue. But if they know who you are, they’re likely to restrict what you get to see from them.

Now, not that I’m saying it, but look at that shiny new Google Account you got and I’ll remind you of the previous step. The combination should give you some ideas how to track those accounts.

SEM Tracking with SEMRush.com

At this point, the tools get a little pricier. Remember, they really are investments, not tools. They’ll give you insight into what the competition thinks the market is looking for – both in product features as well as the keywords and terms the customers use online to find the products and services in your market.


old-man-boy-gimmie-money-pixabay


SEMRush.com is primarily known for “<a href=”https://www.semrush.com/kb/faq/#ka3D0000000PFXWIA4″ title=”snapshot city” target=”_blank”collecting” data from Google and Bing (Bing – if you’re searching for US data), and from there, calculating trend estimates for SEM data. It will especially help when beginning PPC data. There is a 7-day trial you can use to see if your competitors are even in the space. If not, then check for your market. If your market is too niched, which happens on a rare occasion, then there’s no sense to have this tool. No reason to track SEM if there’s nothing to track.

SEO Tracking and Ranking Measurement with Moz

Moz does a great job of tracking keywords and rankings for yourself and your competitors. Not that I emphasize rankings per-say (debate for another day), but at this point, you’ll want to pay attention to how you’re doing. It will also help you realize whether or not your website is having issues in Google. If you start to see dips in your rankings, you might have an overall issue to check into.

It is also a great way of seeing which content the communities react to.

Once you start to collect data, you’ll start to see that the tools actually work together

Each tool separate paints a niche-related picture of the online market in their space. It’s a great thing it’s what it’s supposed to do. Don’t expect one tool to get all the data. And don’t try to make each tool work on its own.

Each of these tools will start to pick up different keywords and phrases. When they do, don’t be afraid to track them in each other’s tools. It’s a great practice. If you start to see a hashtag being used by the market, you can start tracking it SEMRush and Moz, et cetera.

From there, you’ll start to get a complete picture of how your markets react in the digital spaces.

What’s next? Now that you’re getting some data, it’s time to do something with it.

It’s time for some keyword research.

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