Social Listening Explained, Part 3

Tools make spying more effective.

by Brad and Debra Schepp
- Aug 28, 2014

Vampires and zombies might dominate today's cultural landscape, but when we were kids it was all about spies and secret agents.

Nobody was cooler than Bond, James Bond, and every major TV network had a spy show to keep us on the edge of our seats.

We all wanted a cool briefcase just like Bond's. Ours were plastic, sure, but they were crammed with cool gadgets that let us imagine we were on the brink of disaster, but ready for anything. When times got really bad, a mere push of a button made a secret pistol pop out of the side, and we were good to go.

Technology has made 'being a spy' easier, and that can be a huge boost to you as you go about gathering insider information about competitors

Today, we don't have any of those cool toys anymore, but technology has made "being a spy" easier, and that can be a huge boost to you as you go about gathering insider information about competitors. We'll tell you about two great tools, SEMrush and OptiLocal, and how they can help you be your own "business Bond."

Their tactics can improve your business

"SEMrush is a competitive analysis tool that allows merchants to compare digital marketing strategies employed by their competitors," explains Phillip Brooks, director of Content Marketing and Blogger Outreach for SEMrush. "Specifically, they can pull data regarding keywords for which their competitor's site ranks, as well as compare the performance of competitors' pay-per-click advertising campaigns."

E-commerce merchants have been snooping on each other's keywords forever, but as Brooks explained, the comparative data available through SEMrush goes beyond keyword searching.

"Having access to this comparative data allows for the formulation of an informed digital marketing strategy," he says, and that turns snooping into actionable details. Nevyana Karakasheva of OptiLocal, agreed.

"You need a solid marketing strategy that keeps you tuned to all the changes and fluctuations of yours and your competitors' actions and projects," she tells us.

Karakasheva adds that it's pretty easy to collect this type of data for your own marketing activities, but accounting for competitors' success and efforts is more difficult. She uses SEMrush, but uses other tools for other tasks, too.

Tools help you dig deeper

Once you've learned which keywords are working for your competitors, you can slip them into your own pocket

You know who your biggest competitors are. You've known this is vital forever. But, in case you haven't gone far enough, Karakasheva explains how SEMrush can take your data gathering further. First, of course, you search your keywords and note that competitors turn up on your first page of results.

"SEMrush is the perfect tool that will show you which are the most competitive websites for a selected keyword," she says. "The tool will show you historical data with ranking fluctuations, new and lost keywords, as well as improved or declined rankings per specific phrase. You also just insert your domain and automatically get its organic competitor—easy as that."

Karakasheva also uses SEMrush to analyze competitors' rankings. Everyone wants to be at the top of the search results page, and using SEMrush's ranking analysis, she is able to draw crucial conclusions about how successful competitors are with specific keyword phrases. Once you've learned which keywords are working for your competitors, you can slip them into your own pocket and take them home.

"If you are a serious marketer, you would definitely need to know the keywords that you are to target," she explains. "When in doubt, competitors' analysis helps you get new ideas and insights."

Tracking competitors' keywords can give you insight into what additional content you might want to create to enhance your keyword search results. "SEMrush is also good at pointing out other keywords that are worthy of analyzing," she says.

She also recommends you try one of SEMrush's special reports. You can use these to see how many of your keywords are covered by your competitors, and which key phrases you might need to add to follow your competitors' success.

Borrowing a strategy and adapting it to your business model is exactly the tactic you should invest in

Get the scoop on their inbound links

Majestic SEO and Ahrefs are two other tools that Karakasheva recommends. They're excellent for identifying competitors' inbound links.

"Links are known to be the crucial element in Google's ranking algorithm," she notes. "So in order to rank high, you need to have high-quality links. What better way to decide on what inbound links would help you rank than to see what works for your leading competitors?"

You will be able to use this data as you plan your own link profile growth. MajesticSEO and Ahrefs will show you newly acquired links so you can base your planned growth on your competitors' quantified metrics.

"Thus, you could easily get a glimpse of what your competitors are currently working on," she says. "You do not wish to miss such information."

Remember to edit yourself

Karakasheva recommends looking at competitors' link profiles to see what helps them rank and which links empower them. At the same time, you'll be able to see which links are not relevant. "Be critical enough to recognize the irrelevant links and those you should simply ignore," she continues.

Anyone who has written as many millions of words as we have can tell you that the key to great writing is strong editing. In placing yourself inside the analyzed data of your competitors, you'll zero in on which of your own keywords may no longer be working as strongly for you as you may have thought.

Learning from your competitors, after all, is all about bringing that information back to your own operation and using it to your best advantage. Who knows what keywords you might decide to drop once you see what's working for those you want to best at the game.

Karakasheva had some great and encouraging advice for you as you go about this spying: "The examples above focus on benchmarking against your competitors by realizing their strengths and matching those to your website profile," she says. "Borrowing a strategy and adapting it to your business model is exactly the tactic you should invest in."

About the Author

Brad and Debra Schepp are the authors of 20 books, including eBay PowerSeller Secrets and The Official Success Guide: Insider Tips and Strategies for Sourcing Products from the World's Largest B2B Marketplace. Their most recent book, which Deb co-authored with John Lawson, Kick Ass Social Commerce for E-preneurs: It's Not About Likes—It's About Sales, was recently named the 2015 Small Business Book of the Year in the social media category.

For further information, visit Brad and Deb's website,

Opinions expressed here may not be shared by Auctiva Corp. and/or its principals.

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