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Is It A Good Idea To Spy On Other Stores' Websites?

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If you oversee your furniture store's website,  , you wear many hats: webmaster, content writer, e-mail manager, and marketing guru. Keeping up with all the demands of managing a Web site can be daunting and keeping up with competitors near impossible. How do you manage your time and resources as well as keep your site equal or above your competitors?

The answer is simple – you spy on your competition. In fact, with a little covert intelligence gathering, you can see what other Web sites are doing better, equal, or worse than you. And best of all, this spying is perfectly legal!

If you’re like many furniture retailers, you may feel that your site is not meeting its full potential, causing you to lose revenue as well as repeat customers. Additionally, finding new customers may be challenging and you feel like you are spinning your wheels without moving forward. If any of this sounds familiar, rest assured you are not alone…and you can do something about it. 

Gather Competitive Intelligence – “007 Style”

You can find many tools online that will enable you to assess your site’s Findability compared with your competitors. While you won’t find anything as exciting as a missile firing from the hood of a brand new BMW, you will find some cool tools that are free or low cost and that will give you an edge in marketing your site. Following are the essentials of your Spy Tool Kit: 

  • Tool #1 – SEOmoz.org

This tool measures the strength of pages, blogs, and entire domains based on factors inherent to popularity, influence, and ranking ability. This allows you to see your impact compared against others in your industry.

  • Tool #2 – Websitegrader.com

This free SEO tool measures the marketing effectiveness of a Web site. It provides a score that incorporates things like Web site traffic, SEO, social popularity, and other technical factors. It also provides some basic advice on how the Web site can be improved from a marketing perspective. 

  • Tool #3 – SpyFu.com

SpyFu.com is a free Pay Per Click tool that gives great intelligence on how competitive certain keywords are in Google. In addition to giving insight on the cost per click and average number of clicks per day, SpyFu also displays the ad text for the competitors in this space.  

After running all three tools on your site as well as the sites of your three major competitors, you can see how you rank in comparison and where you need to make some changes. You may very well find that the competition is stronger in terms of SEO, that they have a better Web site strategy than you, and/or that they are using Pay Per Click more effectively. But don’t give up. You can use the data you gather to make some key strategic changes, become more competitive online, and start to match or exceed your competitions’ high scores.  

The Perfect Recipe for Success…Shaken, Not Stirred

Knowing the spy intelligence data is one thing; now you have to act on it and make some positive changes to your Web strategy. Following are some common changes many Web site owners make after spying on their competition. As you’ll see, it’s time to take your reconnaissance spy mission – and your web presence – to the next level.  

Tip #1: Blog as if your company depended on it.

It’s very likely to find that your competitors don’t have a blog, or that they’re not blogging often enough to be beneficial. Therefore, by simply setting up a blog and using core keywords in your blog posts, you can gain a tremendous competitive advantage. 

Tip #2: Have the best pick-up lines at the PPC cocktail party.

For many Web site owners who do Pay Per Click advertising, one of their biggest frustrations is having a low conversion rate. The key to running a successful Pay Per Click campaign is having solid ad text (the four-line entry that will display on the results pages in the area of the page called Sponsored Links). It is extremely important to understand the ad text landscape when you write your ads; otherwise, your competitors may have an identical or more compelling offer than you.

SpyFu shows what ads your competitors are running in PPC, as well as how competitive a keyword is. Using this tool, you may decide to select a longer tail keyword that has fewer competitors. For example, the term “video surveillance” has 21 competitors, while “Video surveillance security system” has only 7 competitors.

In addition, when crafting ad text, look at the key ad message of your competitors. If everyone else is advertising “low prices,” you should stand out by making a different offer, such as “Best Quality” or “Free Shipping” to differentiate yourself from other advertisers.  

Tip #3: Select your Spy Team. 

While knowing what your competition is doing right now is great, you also need to monitor them for the long-term. But what if you don’t have a lot of free time to constantly scan the web for what your competitors are doing? Wouldn’t it be great to have a team of spies crawling the Internet for you and sending you an email as soon as your competitors post anything?

It’s time to meet your spy team: Google, Yahoo, and MSN Alerts. Setting these alerts can keep you abreast of anything posted under your competitor’s names, Web site URLs, and core keywords.  

Simply create your account with each alert system, list the keywords you want alerts on, and then sit back and watch the alerts as they come in. Setting alerts can help you stay on top of your competitors without having to spend hours searching and reading the competitive landscape in Search Engines.  

Mission Complete

Using these tools and tips, your Web site stands a much better chance of beating your competitors to gain valuable new markets of consumers. Remember, for successful Findability, you must understand the Findability of your competitors and adjust your campaigns accordingly. By matching and beating the Pay Per Click, Search Engine Optimization, and Social Media offerings of your competitors, you are setting yourself up to succeed on your Internet Marketing mission. 

About the Author: Heather Lutze has spent the last 10 years as CEO of The Findability Group, formerly Lutze Consulting, – a Search Engine Marketing firm that works with companies to attain maximum Internet exposure. A nationally recognized speaker, she is the author of, "The FindAbility Formula: The Easy, Non-Technical Approach To Search Engine Marketing" (Wiley and Sons).  Heather is a lead speaker for Pay Per Click Summit, and previously spent two years speaking for Yahoo! Search Marketing. For more information, visit www.FindabilityGroup.com. 

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