competitive intelligence for business

Competitive Intelligence for Business

Competitive intelligence (CI) is a term you may have come across before. Like many industry buzzwords, it isn’t immediately apparent what CI is and how it can be useful to your business. But don’t worry, because we’re going to explain the ins, outs, pros, and cons of CI.

What is competitive intelligence?

Competitive intelligence is a way of collecting actionable information on your business’ competitive environment. In other words, it’s all of the market research and competitor research that you do to determine how lucrative a particular market is, your sales and marketing strategy, and what other businesses you are competing against. It’s a way for you to predict and prepare for particular business challenges and for you to understand what’s happening in your industry.

How is competitive intelligence useful?

Doing a bit of CI is helpful for your business in a great many ways. Your business does not exist in a bubble. There are a whole host of external factors that can affect your business on a daily basis. Competitive intelligence is one way to anticipate those factors. Of course, once you know about something that could impact your business, you can monitor it and develop plans to alleviate its effects if needed.

Competitive Intelligence Software

The ways in which you go about doing CI can vary depending on your resources and business size. Some companies can dedicate an entire team to undertaking CI whilst some smaller businesses and start-ups might just have one person or even the founder going it alone. In any case, there are a whole host of competitive intelligence software now available which can help speed up the process.

Competitive intelligence works by gathering publicly available information on other companies in the industry. That means you won’t need to go rifling through a competitor’s filing cabinet in the dead of night. Everything you need for your CI is out there, in the world, waiting for you to find it. It can include legal information, marketing materials, and company documentation.

Finding it can be the hard part. Of course, you can have a quick Google as a start to your CI activity. However, if you wish to delve deeper then you’re going to have to use some other technology to help you out.

Firstly, you’ll need to identify your competitors. We’ve compiled a handy guide (How to identify who your competitors are) to help you with this. Once you know your competition, then you can begin researching their operations, sales, and marketing.

Depending on how many resources you can dedicate to your CI, you might wish to rank your competitors so you can dedicate your time to finding out the most about the companies which pose the greatest threat. How you do this is largely up to you and your business objectives. However, one way in which you can do it is by looking at their search engine rankings and SEO. This is especially important if you’re a largely online company. Moz offers a free 30-day trial that offers you information on the search metrics of any company that you visit via the MozBar Chrome plugin.

Apart from determining search rankings and SEO, competitive intelligence can also involve you looking at a competitor’s stock marketing performance, marketing materials, patent requests and research papers. What you look at and prioritize again depends on your own business’ needs and objectives.

How to use CI for your business?

All the information you gather shouldn’t then be left to gather dust on an office bookshelf somewhere. It should be reviewed and used often in your own strategic planning. Looking at how your competitors do stuff can be great inspiration for your own efforts – or at least a starting point. Researching a competitor’s keywords, for example, can help you compile a diverse and effective keyword strategy.

CI is a powerful tool when used correctly. It doesn’t take much time to undertake, but by knowing the competitive environment around you, you can better prepare for the future. Even if you just do a little bit of CI, the understanding you’ll obtain from it will serve you for many years to come.G

How to find your competitors SEO keywords

Keywords, they’re the crux of any good search marketing campaign. There is almost an art and a science to picking the right keywords.

Google keywords research

The most basic keyword research starts with Google homepage, where you enter the keywords that you focus on (or sometimes start with just one word). You will get suggested keywords at the bottom of Google Search Results page.

google suggested keyword crm

Sometimes, you will also get a box with most common questions asked on Google related to your keyword:

google people also ask

You can also get Google prediction in the search box:

google prediction keyword crm software

One way to really supercharge your keyword strategy, apart from scrolling through recommendations via Google’s Keyword Planner, is to check out your competition. Using your competitors’ keywords for some, ahem, inspiration, is a great way to discover ones that you’ve never used or been recommended before.

Google Keyword Planner

But where do you start?

If you’re a time-poor marketer or business leader, you might not want to spend hours trawling the Internet for good keywords. But don’t panic, as we’ve come up with a list of some handy tools you can use to discover your competitors’ keywords.

Rank your competitors

First things first, if you’re going to be researching your competitors’ keywords you’re going to have to find yourself some competitors! Check out our handy blog here, on how to identify your competition.

After you know who they are, you’re going to have to find the highest ranking competitors who are worth researching.

Similarweb is a great tool to determine how much traffic your competitor’s website receives. Likewise, if you have MozBar installed in your Chrome browser you can do this kind of research as your scroll through the Internet.

Once you have a list of competitors you’d like to research, take a look at SEMRush. This tool allows you to identify competitors’ keywords efficiently and you can also search by a specific keyword. If you’ve got your competitor’s URL, you can also just enter this into SEMRush to get a handy list of keyword suggestions. This can also be filtered down by countries if you’d like to get super specific.

SpyFu is another popular tool for finding competitors’ keywords. It’s solely dedicated to competitive intelligence research, unlike some of the other tools. When you enter a competitor’s URL you’ll get a list of their organic and paid-for keywords (if relevant). Handily, SpyFu offers a free version of its service, so if you’re just dipping your toes in the water of competitive research, the free version should suffice for you.

We couldn’t talk about keywords without AdWords cropping up somewhere. You might be used to using AdWords Auction Insights for planning a Google ad campaign. However, it has an often overlooked function that can tell you who the top-performing companies in your industry are, and what they are ranking for.

To do this, simply navigate to any active AdWords campaign and select ‘All’ under the ‘Auction Insights’ tab. Hey, presto! A whole bunch of keywords and competitors should pop up!

Keyword in the (HTML) source

Here’s a freebie for you. If you go to your competitor’s website and click on View – Page Source (or Show Page Source in some browsers), or right-click and select Page Source, you’ll see the HTML source code of the website.

Some (or all of it) might look like jibberish to you, but that’s okay. All you need to look for is any words listed after the title tag, meta description tag and (if applicable) the keywords tag. These are the keywords your competitor is using on their website.

Usually, the description tag is the richest source of keywords, but you should also pay particular attention to the title tag as Google gives this priority.

As you can see, there are many free and efficient ways to discover your competitors’ keywords. They say that imitation is the greatest form of flattery, and when it comes to your keyword strategy you should definitely follow the leading websites in your field. Do your keyword research right and it’ll open the door to a whole bunch of new business.

Man looking at an analytics board

How to identify who your competitors are

Competitors, you know they’re out there, but all too often, you don’t really know who they are or what they’re doing. Does this sound familiar? Perhaps you don’t have the time to carry out formal competitor research, or maybe you don’t know where to begin. However, with a few tricks and useful bits of technology, researching your competitors doesn’t have to be a difficult task.

Google your competitors

There are many ways to identify your competitors. However, one of the quickest and easiest ways to discover who is out there is to Google them. There are several ways to do this effectively. Firstly, find out what keywords match your business. If for example, you’re an online florist, your keywords might be “online florist” or “flowers for delivery”. Simply typing these into Google will show a list of related businesses. Alternatively, you can Google your own business and then look at the “People also search for” function that appears on the right-hand side of the Google search results. If you wanted to get super in-depth, you can also Google whatever competitors you find and then use the “People also search for” function to find businesses related to them.
Find more keywords

To uncover even more competitors, once you’ve identified one or two related businesses, you can use sites like SEMRush and SpyFu to find out more keywords. You can then use those keywords to search for more businesses.

There’s also the more traditional route of simply asking colleagues, suppliers, partner organizations and clients about potential competitors. If you have a particularly good relationship with a client, asking them about other companies that they considered or approached before using your business can be a good way to find out about serious competitors. Otherwise, some colleagues may have joined your business with a competitor company. They can also be a great source of information about your competitor’s inner workings and potential pitfalls.

Find similar websites

SimilarWeb is a fantastic free tool that you can use to find websites that are similar to yours (hence the name!). Simply enter your website’s URL and it will display up to ten similar websites. You can then use these websites to find other related websites and so on until you’ve built up a solid list of potential competitors.

Look up review sites

If relevant for your industry, take a look at review websites like Yelp which can help you discover new competitors. Likewise, reading through your competitor’s reviews will help you work out how well they are performing and how satisfied their customers are.

Keep your research going to find more competitors

Competitor research isn’t something that you simply do once and then never bother to undertake again. Competitors pop up all the time, especially if you operate in a fast-growing industry. You should always monitor new arrivals into your industry.
It is also important that you don’t just do your competitor research and then leave it in a folder to gather dust. You need to use the information that you have uncovered. Constantly monitor the companies that you have identified. Setting up a Google Alert can be a quick and efficient way to keep up-to-date with your competitors. Likewise, regularly visit their websites and social media sites to discover their latest marketing efforts. There may be a blog post, keyword or social media campaign that you can repurpose for your own uses!
Knowing who your competitors are is simply good business. By identifying competitors, you can supercharge your marketing efforts, discover new strategies to use and monitor what they are doing. Competitor research isn’t time-consuming when using the right tools, and it certainly pays dividends in the long term. So, begin researching your competitors today. You may find it gives you the edge you need to become a leader in your industry.