In this post, we share actionable tips to take advantage of your competitor’s digital marketing efforts. We will share some practical tips such as how to find and get information from competitor’s ex-employees, how to use their website data to understand your competitor’s best selling products or services and share some tips on how to completely reverse engineer your competitor’s search engine marketing strategy.
1. Discover keywords your competition is bidding on
Imagine being able to take a look at your competitor’s Google Ads account. It would give you a wealth of information as you will be able to see exactly what your competitors are bidding on.
You could then use this data to inform your SEO or paid search strategy.
SEMrush does exactly that as it gives you the ability to produce a report that shows what your competitors are bidding on.
This can give an excellent insight into which areas are likely to be profitable for them which you can use to your advantage to help inform your own paid search or SEO campaigns.
Simply drop the competitor’s URL into the ‘Advertising Research’ section of SEMrush to find their paid search position.
The below image shows you how this report looks.
Notice how you can get information relating to the search terms your competitor is showing for, the average position, traffic data and cost estimates.
If you want to test this report yourself simply click here to sign up for a free trial or enter a URL in the box below to test.
2. Use SEMrush to compare your rankings against a competitors
The keyword gap analysis tool within SEMrush allows you to compare your rankings side by side with a competitor, or multiple competitors to help find gaps in your own strategy.
Simply navigate to the Gap Analysis section of SEMrush, put in your competitor(s) website address and your own website address and hit go.
It goes without saying that the above report can quickly help you discover gaps in your competitor’s organic and paid search strategy.
As well as being able to carry out a gap analysis, you can also quickly view organic rankings for any website by entering a URL below.
3. Use the FREE scraper for Google Chrome to find product/brand opportunities
There’s a handy little scraper extension for Google Chrome that allows you to scrape all kinds of information from a website quickly and easily. I have used this in the past to help e-commerce businesses to find new brands/products to sell on their website. Here’s how it’s done….
Simply navigate to a competitor’s website and locate where a list of the brands they sell are listed. In this case, I tried it out on the Halfords exercise bike page.
Right-click information that is similar to what you want to scrape and then click ‘scrape similar’.
The information is then displayed within the Scraper interface and can be either copied to your clipboard or you can export it to Google docs as can be seen below
What I like to do at this point is to modify the keywords by appending additional information to them. In this example, I will add the word ‘bikes’ to make the data more specific. This can be done easily by dropping the information into Excel or Google Docs and using a simple formula such as =A1&” bikes” (assuming the first bike brand is in cell A1).
From there simply drop the information into the SEMrush keyword difficulty tool and from there you’ll be able to get search volume data for each brand as you will see below. I have highlighted average monthly search volume information using a red box.
I have used this information over the years to help businesses make product buying decisions and I’ve also used similar methods to help inform where brick & mortar businesses should open new stores.
SEMrush makes it incredibly easy to help you determine which keywords a competitor is ranking for on Google’s organic results.
It gives you information on competitor’s organic rankings, search volume and even estimated competitor traffic volume. You can even do a gap analysis to determine where you rank vs your competitors which can be a great way to inform your keyword strategy. This is a ridiculously easy tactic but the insights you can glean is incredibly powerful.
Simply drop your competitor’s URL into the organic research report within SEMrush, hit search and SEMrush does all the hard work and presents you with the data. In the example below I have used the Halfords website.
This information can be used to help you understand the competitive landscape and inform your SEO campaigns.
5. Bid on competitor’s name via Google Ads
This technique is as old as the hills but it works incredibly well, especially if you’re better than your competitors.
Simply create a campaign within Google Ads that target competitor search terms. The technique that works the best is serving users with a discount code within the ad and/or after they visit your site.
If, like some businesses, you are reluctant to do this because you don’t want to get into a price war then what you should do is communicate the key selling points that help you stand out from your competitors. Can you offer a faster delivery service? Whatever the edge you have over your competitors, make sure you communicate it in your ad copy.
6. Build links to your pages that have positive reviews
Do you have positive reviews online that you would like to feature more prominently on the organic results? Consider a link acquisition campaign that involves increasing the volume of links to these pages.
As a potential quick win, include a link from your own website to positive reviews online but to get real results speak to your SEO team/agency about building links to these pages.
Also, I don’t endorse the following tactic, and wouldn’t use it myself, but some businesses will build backlinks to negative reviews that competitors have received which means negative information relating to your competitors will feature more prominently on Google.
7. Monitor their website changes using Visual Ping
Visual Ping is a tool that allows you to monitor competitor web pages, or sections of web pages, for free.
Simply enter the page that you wish to monitor, select the section you’d like it to cover and then enter your email address.
Visual Ping will then send you an email every time the website is updated. I normally use this to monitor a competitor’s homepage or key category pages.
You can also monitor a page to find out when specific keywords appear. For example, you may want to monitor a page for the word ‘sold out’ to find out when a competitor’s product goes out of stock.
8. Use Lookalike Audiences on Facebook
Ever been looking for a particular product or service and then you start seeing ads for that product or service on Facebook from businesses that you didn’t even visit?
That’s probably because they are utilising Lookalike Audiences on Facebook. Start building up an audience list of past converters on your website and then create a Lookalike Audience using that data.
This will allow you to target people that are potentially in-market even if they haven’t visited your website but may have recently visited a competitor’s website.
9. Get competitor order volumes
Ever wondered how to find out how many orders a competitor gets through their website on a daily, weekly or monthly basis? Surely there’s no legal way to get that information? Wrong, here’s how to do it.
Simply order a low-cost product from a competitor, then quickly after, order another to check if they use incremental order ids.
For example, if your first order id is 1113 and your next order id is 1114, you know that there is a good chance that they use incremental order ideas.
If you make a weekly order from a competitor and you find that each week order ids increase by 200, you can be fairly certain that they are getting that volume of orders each week.
If for example you see a spike, and one week they get 1000 orders, you can then start digging to determine why that is the case. Perhaps they launched a TV or radio campaign, perhaps they invested more on paid search.
10. Find ex-employees on LinkedIn (with this simple trick) & give them a freelance gig
Imagine being able to get inside information from competitors by speaking directly to key members of staff, this might be slightly unethical but former employees are a great way to glean useful information and it’s never been easier to find them than it is now.
Here’s a trick that you can use to easily find the right ex-employee on Linkedin.
Simply type site:linkedin.com/in “competitor name” “job role” into Google and this will bring up a list of employees/ex-employees of that company. What this command does is tell Google to only search within the linkedin.com/in folder and return results relevant to the keywords within inverted commas.
For example, try it with site:linkedin.com/in “Sport-Tiedje” “digital marketing manager” and you should find me! This is a fantastic shortcut and it gets around many the limitations imposed on you if you have a free LinkedIn account.
The value of paying for a couple of days consultancy from a competitor’s ex-employee can be absolutely huge, especially if they have a detailed insight into the competitor’s digital strategy.
11. Use bundled products to reduce discounting and protect margin
It’s never been easier to compare on price, and as the lowest price business often wins the sale, it can become addictive to simply lower the price of your product if a competitor is selling it cheaper online.
However, a tactic that can work better than reducing the price of a product is to offer something for free rather than reducing the price.
For example, if you are selling bikes online and a competitor has the exact same product for £10 less, it may be better to include a free bike pump with an RRP of £20 rather than simply dropping the price especially if the bike pump costs you less than £10 to buy and ship.
Price-monitoring software will help you stay on top of competitor offers.
12. Sign up to their email newsletters and take quick action to match deals
This one couldn’t be any easier and just about everyone is likely to already do this. Simply sign up to a competitor’s newsletter and see which offers they’re promoting.
Here’s a tip to prevent others from matching your deals.
If you have some especially good offers, make sure you send them last thing on a Friday night as the competition will have less time to react.
Here’s a better idea, send your own offers out on a Sunday morning then again on a Sunday evening as normally conversion rates increase at those times.
13. Use Google PageSpeed Insights to benchmark competition
We know that page is a ranking factor when it comes to SEO, but we also know that the slower the site, the less likely a visitor will be to convert. Google also introduced mobile site speed as a measurable metric within Google Ads so it is crystal clear that site speed is hugely important.
Use the Google PageSpeed Insights tool to benchmark your website against your competitors. If they get a better result, there is a chance that your competitors have a slight edge in relation to this area when it comes to SEO and conversion rate.
14. Get their office IP address to stop them snooping
Struggling with competitors snooping through your site and nicking ideas left and right? There’s a way to stop them in their tracks. First, get their office IP address. There are a few ways to do it ranging from “they literally mailed it to you” to something more black hat.
Did you ever get any emails from them? Check the email headers. Where it depends is based on your mail client, but in most cases, it’s located wherever the View Source button is. Click on that and their IP address will be right after their mail server address (Received: from xxxxx.xxxxmail.co.uk ([xx.xx.x.xx]:xxxxx).
But what if your competitor does not host their mail server in-house?
Here’s where we turn into a spy. Set up a landing page, you can make it look like your newsletter or something equally innocent. Make absolutely sure that nobody can accidentally stumble upon it. Now email the link to your competitor with some text that will encourage clicking (Under no circumstance I condone you pretending it was meant to be confidential). Keep an eye on the server logs for that page, and soon enough the IP address of your competitor’s office will appear.
Lastly, if everything fails, why not visit their offices for a wee chat? You can use that opportunity to get on their wifi and go to whatsmyip.com.
Once you have their IP address your web team or agency can set things up so that your competitor’s see a different version of your website. You can then use this to stop them from seeing pricing and promotion information and even throw in a few red herrings from time to time.
Also, make sure you add their IP to your Google Ads IP exclusion list, this will stop your competitors from seeing and clicking your ads.
15. Use Uptime Robot to find out when their site is down and capitalise on it
Uptime Robot is a free tool that allows you to monitor when your website goes down. This in itself is a fantastic feature but you can also use it to keep your eye on competitor websites.
When you receive the alert informing you that the competitor’s website is down, it’s battle stations at the ready, time to attack!
Speak your PPC agency and let them know it’s time to increase remarketing activity and paid search presence to take full advantage of your competitor’s website going down.
16. Check to see how people are searching on competitor sites
If a website’s SEO isn’t up to scratch it can often cause an issue known as Spider Traps. A spider trap basically allows Google to crawl and/or index pages which can cause a number of issues for a website.
We can use this to our advantage to spy on our competitors, as sometimes when a visitor searches on a website, it will generate a unique page that will then be crawled and indexed by Google.
This means that if you are able to display a list of these pages, you will gain insight into how people are searching on competitor’s websites. Here’s an example.
Notice when you search using the keywords ‘test’ on Argos.co.uk it generates a URL that looks like this argos.co.uk/search/test/?clickOrigin=searchbar:home:term:test.
To see if this results in a spider trap, one that will give us information on how people are searching on a particular website, we simply grab the first part of the URL and enter it into Google like so – site:argos.co.uk/search.
What this does is show every indexed page in the /search directory. In the below screenshot I’ve highlighted the keywords that were entered to generate these pages.
We know that the quantity and quality of backlinks pointing to your website is an important ranking factor. If you have a competitor that is featuring well on the SERPs for competitive keywords then having a peek at their backlink profile could present you with a few opportunities.
A tool such as Ahrefs will allow you to look at where your competitors are getting links from. You can then use the information to help inform your outreach campaign. For example, if you are in the beauty industry and you find that a prominent beauty blogger has linked to your competitor off the back of a product review, you could then offer them some free product in the hope that they link back to your site.
SEMrush also has a tool that also allows you to analyse your competitor’s backlink profile.
Enter a URL below & click analyse to get backlink information on any website.
18. Spy on a competitor’s development site
Businesses will also have a development website that they forget to hide from Google. This can be a great way to find out what functionality a competitor is planning on launching in the near future. Sometimes they even test promos on these sites before pushing them live.
To find these sites simply go to Google and type site:ClientsDomaindName.com -site:www.ClientsDomaindName.com. What this does is show you all the indexed website addresses that do not contain www.
Often you’ll find that a client may have a development site sitting on a url such as staging.ClientsDomaindName.com which should flag up using the aforementioned search query.
19. Use SEMrush to find display ads and the website’s your competitors are showing on
Display remarketing is one of the best forms of display advertising as it allows you to show ads to people that have shown an interest in your product or service. Often businesses will incentivise previous visitors with special offers and discount codes if they feel a previous visitor has a high propensity to convert.
Using SEMrush you can have a look at the display campaigns being run by your competitors to find out how they are incentivising people to visit/revisit their website on the display network.
This information can be extremely useful as you can use it to make sure you have far better display ads and competitive offers.
20. Steal content ideas for backlinks, likes & shares
This is another ridiculously simple tip but it can be a great way to get content ideas for your website.
Simply drop a competitor’s URL into Buzzsumo and you will be presented with a sortable list of content from your competitor’s website that produced lots of Facebook engagements, Twitter Shares and volume of backlinks.
When you find a piece of content that performed well, you can then use the Skyscraper technique to produce your own, better version of the content. The Skyscraper technique is one of the best link acquisition methods that I’ve used and it can really help transform your content marketing efforts, and in turn, your search presence.
Brian Dean from Backlinko explains this perfectly in the video below, make sure you check it out.
21. Use Ghostery to see what tracking/technology your competitor’s
Ghostery is a nifty tool created to block trackers from snooping on your web activity. What it also does is display a list of said trackers. This precious data can give you information about which advertising platforms your competitors use.
With this knowledge, you can stay ahead of them by not missing out on any potential ad avenues.
22. Find their most popular products
How cool would it be to get access to a competitor’s Google Analytics account to understand which products are selling well online? Unfortunately, most people will not have that luxury but this strategy may just be the next best thing.
We can use Screaming Frog, a product that every digital marketer should have in their arsenal, to crawl a competitors website & find products with the highest volume of reviews. This information alone will give you a good insight into relative sales volume for any given product on their website.
If you take the review information and combine it with search volume data in a similar way as can be seen in tactic #3, it will allow you to understand which products have a high demand as a large volume of reviews combined with a high number of searches indicate that people are probably buying that product. This is a fantastic tactic for any affiliate marketer, business owner, or product buyer as it allows them to gauge the popularity of a product before they list it on their website.
Simply head over to a competitor website and find where their reviews are located and right click the element that shows the volume of reviews and click inspect. This will open the inspect element section of Google Chrome. After that simply find the review text within the code, right click it, select copy and then click copy selector. I have used Amazon below as an example.
Once you have copied the selector, simply open Screaming Frog and navigate to configuration > custom > extraction and paste the selector that you have copied. Following that, you simply have to run a crawl of the competitor’s site and the review volume will be extracted from the page.
23. Offer a much better customer experience, get better reviews and be awesome
I know this last point will seem a bit wishy-washy to some, but offering a better customer experience and getting better reviews will normally increase the chances that you will do better than your competitors.
Analyse what they’re doing better than you. Do they offer faster delivery? Do they have better customer service? Are they getting more positive reviews? Once you find all this out you need to simply do it better.
I’ve worked on projects in the past that showed a strong correlation between the volume of top 10 negative reviews on TrustPilot and a website’s conversion rate.
Sure there are tricks to game online reviews such as making sure you only send review requests to customers that received a great service from you, but every business that I have worked with that genuinely focuses on offering a great customer experience are the ones that do well in the long term.
Links To Tools Mentioned In This Blog Post: