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Your rankings don't just depend on how good your site is. They depend on the quality of your competitors' sites as well. Keeping an eye on your competition should be a regular part of every webmaster's tactical plan.
Use these 25 tools to get the lowdown on their sites.
Domain Name and Ownership Intel
First things first; you want to find out who your competition is, don't you? Use these tools to get information on ownership, sales, and contact information.
- Whois: Check out the Whois on your competitors to find how who owns the site and where they operate. You can also gather contact information through this tool.
- Mark Protect: Mark Protect lets you know if a domain name is registered with a term or phrase that may violate your trademark. This can help you defend your trademark and make sure that competitors don't get too close.
- Whois History: Whois History allows you to see the historic ownership of any site. In the case of private registrations, you can view contact information for the site before it was privatized.
- Better Business Bureau: Find out whether your competitors have particular weaknesses, and how they perform in their customers' eyes.
Is your competitor getting better traffic than you are? Check out these tools to see how you stack up.
- Compete: Compete offers SnapShots of any site. They provide visitor information, growth and traffic counts, If you register, you can compare up to 5 sites at once, save them to a portfolio, and vote to rank sites.
- Alexa: Alexa's Traffic Rankings offer stats on the percentage of internet users who visit a site, its traffic rank and page views. You can compare up to 5 sites at a time on Alexa's Traffic Graph, too.
- Search Engine Optimization Analysis Tool: Use the SEO Analysis tool to see how a search engine spider sees any website. This is a great way to discover your competitor's SEO weaknesses and consider how you can improve on your own.
- TrafficEstimate: TrafficEstimate website statistics offer information on competitors' traffic, rank and keywords. You can bookmark to any site's stats for quick reference at a later date.
Find out what kind of host your competitor is working on by checking out these hosting intelligence tools.
- Who is Hosting This?: Who is Hosting This? offers a way for you to find out who is hosting any domain name. Whether they're just using Blogger, a traditional host, or running their own server, you'll be able to find out.
- WebSitePulse: WebSitePulse monitors how fast a website's host is. Find out response time, size and more.
Marketing Intel and Backlinks
Gathering marketing intel can tell you how much your competitors are spending on advertising and where they're doing it.
Similarly, who's linking to your competition and how often is a central factor in the success of that site in search engines.
By getting a clear picture of the overall and internal links going in and out of your competition's site you can identify your site's weaknesses and their strengths.
Make sure you're keeping up with both by using these tools.
- SpyFu: SpyFu's web scraping tools let you know how much your competitors are spending on pay per click ads so that you have a reference point to work from. You can also find out how many clicks per day they get and which keywords they are advertising for.
- URLtrends: URLtrends provides SEO data like Page Rank, incoming links, ranking trends and more.
- Backlink Checker: Find out who your competitors are sharing links with and use this information to set up link trades of your own.
- Ahrefs: Compile a report on your competitor's link profile. The basic report is free, and you can pay for a more detailed analysis.
Trademarks and Filings Intel
Trademarks and patent filings offer a wealth of information on what your competitors are up to.
Find out about new technologies, upcoming developments and more using the US government's tools.
Not only is this important competitive information, but it will also help you to navigate around any legal pitfalls in your competition with them.
- Trademark Electronic Search System: Use the Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS) to perform basic, boolean and advanced searches for trademarks.
- SEC Filings and Forms: Check out the Securities and Exchange Commission's database for company filings.
- Patent Electronic Business Center: Search the patent office's records for full-text and full-page image returns on your competitors' issued and published patent applications.
If your competition is loved by their customers, its important to find out why and to try to emulate the positives.
If, on the other hand, they're dissed by their clients, this offer clues on how to differentiate your own site from theirs.
- Better Business Bureau: Search the Better Business Bureau's database for reliability reports on your competitors. You can search by name, address, and phone. You can even check out businesses of a specified type within a certain mile radius.
- Pacer: Use Pacer to search records from different US courts.
Knowing whether your competition is financially strong or weak can be invaluable information in a head to head competition.
If you know they're on their last rope, for example, you might decide to cut prices and wait them out, whereas such a move would be foolish against a well funded competitor.
The following tools will help you find out how financially strong the competition is.
- Business Credit Report: This report gives information on creditworthiness and payment history. Using this tool, you'll be able to find out if your competitor is struggling or flourishing. Requires payment.
- Business Information Report: The Business Information Report provides data on a company's history, background, operation and data on senior management.
- Yahoo! Finance: If your competitor is a publicly traded company, you can check out stock quotes and analysis on them using Yahoo! Finance.
- BusinesScope: Use BusinesScope to directly compare your financials and credit with your competitors. This report is good for a year and updated quarterly.
Browser Compatibility and Accessibility
Your competitors may not be catering to every possible customer. If they're neglecting to optimize their site for all browsers and disabilities, you may be able to snap up those who aren't able to use it.
- Watchfire WebXACT: WebXACT tests the quality, accessibility and privacy of single webpages.
- WAVE: WAVE tests website compatibility with WCAG 1.0 and Section 508.
- Browsershots: Use Browswershots to see how any website looks in various browsers like Firefox, Safari and Iceweasal.
- Mobile Friendly Test Tool: Google's tool lets you test any web page to see how it will look on mobile phone browsers.
Keeping an eye on the competition should be a central component of any webmaster's growth strategy. In addition to helping you identify weaknesses in your competition, compiling an in-depth dossier will also help you to identify and remedy weaknesses in your own sites.