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Knowing Your Competition Inside and Out

With the continuous stream of startups popping up in every industry, it is important to keep tabs on what rivals are doing. Here are a few ways to keep track of your competitors online.
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It’s an online jungle out there and for you and your company it’s about the survival of the fittest.

The key to securing your survival lies in studying your competition, their reputation, patterns, routine and overall work ethic. If you understand their strengths and weaknesses you will be able to adjust your own game plan.

Here are a few useful tips for tracking your competition online:

Identify your competition Back in the day business owners were just competing with local companies or products, but now the entire world is your competitive oyster. Search on Google and media lists to find the leading companies within your industry. Study those at the top, in the middle and the bottom to draw relevant conclusions and see where you fit in.

Related: Why Hating the Competition Will Get You Nowhere

Keep your enemies close. As the saying goes, “Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer.” One way to track your competition is by following them on various social-media platforms like Twitter and Facebook.  Use social media metrics such as Simply Measured, which allows you to track engaged users that aren’t followers yet, monitor your competition’s following, and use Klout to put your influence in context and allow you to track general audience engagement.

Another option is to subscribe to their newsletters, blogs or RSS feeds to keep track of their every move.

Read the reviews and news. Add a few industry specific blogs to your morning reading or RSS feed. Keep yourself educated and up to date with what’s happening in your business sector. Have a look at what business analysts are saying about your field or even particular companies. This way you will understand what is newsworthy and just how far ahead your competition is.

Also customer reviews will give you an in-depth look at what the public is thinking.  Don’t take all these comments and reviews to heart, though. Some companies might even pay for positive reviews or eliminate any bad publicity. If you do, however, see a trend within the negative comments this might give you a glimpse into their struggles and weaknesses. Use an online tool such as  SocialMention  to get a clear indication of the conversation and engagement happening with a particular brand by reviewing their comments on images, posts and updates.

Use hashtag searches. When it comes to the online sphere it’s all about knowing what the latest conversation is about. Companies that are serious about their online presence will mostly likely have hashtag statements accompanying their tweets, statuses or Google+ updates. See what your competition is talking about by searching the hashtag terms relevant to that company.

Related: Why The Competition Isn't Your Business Enemy

Analyze their website. If your competition has a website of with a page rank of five or higher they are probably doing something right. A website’s Page Rank rating refers to the value Google’s algorithm sees in your website and content. Dissect their website and blog to understand what sets them apart. Take a look at the call to action buttons, where are they placed? What type of content are they sharing and how is this relevant to your industry? What does the web design look like and why is it user-friendly?

This might show you that it’s time to update your general branding or start a blog that helps you share your expertise.  If you want to check any website or blogs’ Page Rank do so by downloading the Chrome extension,  PageRank Status  – this will show you the PR of every site that you visit.

That said, Google’s algorithm is changing so quickly that these page ranks are not the full story. So take the findings with a grain of salt.

Ask the audience. This might sound rather counter-productive to discuss your competition with your followers, but they might just give you the revelatory insight that you need. If you have a few loyal clients or customers ask them if they would be open to a discussion. Inquire why they prefer your brand and why they think others choose your competitor instead.

Your following will be able to share a different perspective and insight that might give you that added edge when it comes to staying at the top.

Related: 37 Marketing Tools to Spy on Your Competitors