20 Tools for doing online marketing reconnaissance

searching_for_the_right_house_anim_500_wht_9944I’m a firm believer that you can either work hard or work smart.  One place where this becomes extremely important is when it comes to online marketing.  With online marketing you can spend a lot of time and money performing trial and error or you can look at what your competitors are doing, assume they’ve put in the effort to test via trial and error and then test based off of that out.  Yes, it’s a bit of a Guerrilla marketing tactic but it generally works (of course maybe they have a huge budget and are more interested in branding than actual ROI so tread with caution).

I have a number of tools I use from time to time to perform online marketing research, competitor recon, overall tracking and information gathering and so I’m sharing.

Researching your Competitor’s Online Marketing

You won’t likely learn everything a competitor is doing but here’s a few tools and techniques that will give you some insight.

  • WhatRunsWhere.com – I use whatrunswhere.com to see the banner ads and text ads of my competitors, where they run these ads and which ads are performing the best.
  • SpyFu.com – SpyFu used to only show you details about your competitors google ads but has expanded over the years to provide a swiss army knife of SEO tools.  My favorite tool here is still the ability to dig into keywords and ads that your competitor runs.
  • Marketing Grader – This free tool provides you a grade on how well the site is doing with their online marketing from SEO to Blog to Social Media. I’m a huge fan of the hubspot tools and this is just one that I really enjoy.  You can really see what they’re doing well and not so well and where the opportunities to out perform them may be. 

Get a grasp of their traffic, site demographics, etc.

  • Compete.com – Will still allow you to see traffic for your competitors with their free service, the paid service offers a lot more details but comes at a hefty tag. Still recommended though.  Google Trends for Websites used to be a great one but has gone away.
  • Quantcast.com – Provides a good deal of information around the demographics of site visitors.  I also like to use Quantcast when researching sites to post advertisements or sponsorships.
  • Alexa.com – Of course, Alexa has been around forever but still provides a lot of great information. 

Now I think it’s pretty obvious you’re not really going to get to know exactly what their demographics or traffic is like but these tools will at least get you a ball park idea and probably provide you some pointers.

Who’s linking to them

Site links are still pretty important for SEO and will probably remain so, it used to be more was better but now it’s all about quality.

  • SEOMOZ.ORG – I like to use their link tracking service. You can see what sites link to your competitors and which are most powerful.
  • MajesticSEO.com – Great tool for seeing what sites link to your competitor, what links they’re adding, losing, etc. Really pretty powerful stuff for link building in my opinion.
  • SEMrush.com – If you had to pick just one tool for competitor research, this is probably the tool I’d start with. It’ll give you an idea of their keywords, links, traffic, etc.

What sites they run / own

Now many companies run multiple websites and often spin up sites that are their own competitors. We see it a lot especially with competing hosting providers so here’s a couple tools to help you search that out.

  • spyonweb.com – Punch in a domain name, IP address, stats code, etc and you’ll instantly get a list of sites that this website also operates.  What I love about this is you can put in their google analytics code and it will tell you all the sites tied to their google analytics account!  Can you say BUSTED!
  • whorush.com – Another tool like spyonweb but also gives you a list of similar domains as well.

Let’s learn about their website, hosting, history, etc.

From time to time you want to learn a little more about a website such as what software they built it with, where they’re hosting it, what other sites host with it, etc.  Here’s a few tools for that.

  • The Way Back Machine – It’s always good to get a feel what kind of website revisions they’ve made over the years and this is a great tool for that.
  • Builtwith.com – What technologies their site is built on top of.
  • Whoishostingthis.com – Beware of the affiliate banners but provides a lot of good info about the site.
  • Reverse IP Checker – What other sites reside on that same IP address.
  • Just-ping.com – find out how responsive their website is from around the world (also a great tool if you think your website might be down for your customers but is coming up for you)

Let’s track them moving forward

Another thing that’s pretty important to me is keeping tabs on my competitors, as well as my own site.  I use a couple tools to track my own site’s ranking, keywords, etc and these same tools can be used to track your competitors as well. Here’s a couple I like.

  • seomoz.org – I’ve been a subscriber of their service for years and love the competitive research you can do around linking domains, etc.
  • spyfu.org – already mentioned this one but it’s great for tracking as well.
  • raventools – I was going to recommend raventools and still will because I think they provide a nice suite of tools but they recently did away (due to pressure from Google) with their keyword rank tracking service.  Authoritylabs.com seems to offer a pretty nice alternative as well as spyfu and swissmademarketing.com but I’m not sure who I’ll opt for since I’m just starting to test the alternatives now so for the time being I’ll leave raventools.

What am I missing?

That’s nearly 20 tools that I use on a fairly regular basis to check out a competitor, do a little online marketing research or use for my own tracking needs.  There’s several other tools out there I’m sure and I’m probably missing a couple I use as well but I’d love to hear what you use. 

What tools do you find useful when doing online marketing recon? If you find this post useful please leave a comment and share a tool or two as a way of saying thank you.

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