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Tools to Analyze your Competitors [The Basecamp S1 Episode 10]

No matter your industry or job function, it's important to be aware of your competition and their activities – and how you stack up. Gain insight into your peers' marketing performance using these free tools. Agency Director Anne Shenton explains how. (*This episode was filmed prior to COVID-19 and social distancing practices.)

S1E10 Spying CC

Do Investigate. Don't Copy.

While you want to know what's going on in your industry, there is a fine line between keeping tabs on your competition and taking it too far. Be aware of what others are doing, but don't become obsessed to the point where you loose your focus.

Think of this exercise as a way to learn what's going on across the competitive landscape and gain some inspiration. In the process, you can use these tools to analyze your own initiatives and marketing stack as well. Here's where to start:

Social Ads

Facebook Ads. View a business's Facebook, Instagram, and/or Messenger Ads by going to their page and clicking "See More" within the "Page Transparency" box (on the right side of the page, when on desktop.) 

LinkedIn Ads. Similarly, on LinkedIn, navigate to a Company Page, and click the "Ads" tab on the left side of the page to see ads run within the last six months.

While you won't be able to see budget or audience targeting, you can see what your competitors are focused on. Get a sense of the messaging, creative, and specific products and/or services your competitors are promoting. It might present an opportunity to differentiate your ads and stand out.

Tech Stack

Similar Tech Prospecting. This Chrome extension allows you to see the technologies another company is using on their website. From their CRM, to email marketing, to spend, you can discern how much a business is investing in technology and marketing spend, and how you compare.

Ubersuggest. This tool was developed by Neil Patel, admittedly a somewhat controversial marketing figure. Regardless, Ubersuggest lets you analyze any domain and see top performing pages, keywords, and traffic. You can also run it on your own site.

HubSpot Website Grader. This site provides an overview of a number of factors that impact website performance, from mobile-friendliness to SEO effectiveness. It leaves you with a solid sense of the areas that you need to improve, particularly when it comes to technical aspects of your site.

These tools provide a high level overview of the marketing and sales technologies your competitors are using, as well as their website performance. Overall, see how they're investing in growing their business and how your company compares.

Whether you're looking to analyze your competition, prospects, or your own digital marketing performance, use these free tools to stay in the know. Interested in taking your company's website or marketing to the next level? Get in touch.

Read the Transcript

Steven Carter: Hey guys, welcome back to yet another episode of The Basecamp with Ascend Inbound Marketing and today we have the privilege of speaking with our agency director, Miss Anne Shenton.

Anne Shenton: Hi.

Steven Carter: And we're going to be talking about some strategies and things, ways that you can maybe learn about your competition.

Anne Shenton: Spy on your competition.

Steven Carter: Yeah. That's another way to put it, right? Well, I think Anne, that there's an old Chinese proverb thing that says "Smart man learns from his own mistakes, but a wise man learns from others." And I think that plays out in business as well.

Anne Shenton: Definitely.

Steven Carter: Especially in the marketing world where you can learn from their mistakes, but also just knowing what they're doing period, is always insightful. And not necessarily to copy them, but just again, to gain insight. So let's talk about some things that we use that we're aware of and different tools and tricks and tactics to maybe jump in there and know what other people got going on.

Anne Shenton: Okay. That sounds good. So before we get too far into it, I do want to caution that with anything, when you're looking at your competition, it's a good idea to keep up with your competition, and know what they're doing, and see what you can learn, and see what inspiration you can gather from them, but you never want to become too obsessed with them. And I say that because, especially in our ecosystem, there are a lot of copycats out there. Agencies copying other agencies to see what they're doing. And I'm sure that this happens in any industry, but you just want to be careful about that so that you don't lose your own identity. That said, we're going to go into the opposite of that with this conversation. But there are, again, there's some things that you can pull from your competition to gain inspiration and learn what they're doing and that kind of thing.

And so just a few tools that we have used in house that you can use to, that anybody can use. One of them is pretty simple and easy, just using Facebook and going to a Facebook page that you follow, that maybe you have seen some of their ads and you like their ads. You want to learn more about what they're doing. If you go to that business's Facebook page, and I think you need to do this in the desktop version of Facebook, so you wouldn't be able to do it from your phone. But on the business Facebook page on the right hand side of the page, there's going to be a little box that says page transparency, and it'll have some information about the page and a link that you can click into for more information. And then once you click on that, towards the bottom of the panel that pops up, there's going to be a message that says this page is, or is not running ads.

And if it is running ads, you can go to the ad library and see every single one of the ads that that page is running. So that's just a very quick way to get some insight into what ads people are running on Facebook.

Steven Carter: Who they're marketing to, who they're targeting specifically based on their language and stuff?

Anne Shenton: Right, yeah. Now you're only going to see the ad, so of course, you're not going to see which audiences they're targeting and stuff like that.

Steven Carter: Sure.

Anne Shenton: But yeah, you can get a feel for the language and the creative in there and learn what they're doing in that way. Another, sort of shifting gears, another tool that you can use to analyze a person's, or a business's, website, actually you told me about this tool and I use it a lot now, it's called Similar Tech Prospecting.

It's a Chrome extension and when you're on a website, you can click on the little Chrome extension and it pulls up all kinds of information about the business that is featured on that website. It shows you which technologies they're using on their website. So if they are using Mailchimp or HubSpot or Constant Contact or that kind of stuff, it'll tell you all of that stuff. It'll tell you what it's using to track the site. So if it's running a Facebook pixel, or if it has Google Analytics tracking, of course, which most sites do, it'll show you all that information as well. And it'll even give you a sense of how much money that company is spending on tech, which is huge for us, looking at businesses to see which ones are investing in technology and marketing spend, and which ones are not. So, that's another tool.

One of the next tools, or maybe the last tool I'll talk about, is called Ubersuggest. This is a tool that was developed by a pretty famous marketing guy. His name is Neil Patel, and you can read up on his stuff. He's kind of a controversial figure. He has really good stuff out there. Some people say that all he does is copy other people and post it on his blog, but it really is a good comprehensive resource for people who are looking to read up and learn about marketing, he's got some good stuff. But he's developed a tool called Ubersuggest and it is free. You do have to log in to use the tool, but you can use it to analyze any business's domain to see what are the top pages on their website, which keywords are driving them, traffic... If you want to run it on your own site, it'll give you an analysis of your site and give you suggestions on areas that you can improve it. So that's just another really valuable tool as well. So, with any of these tools you can use them to look at your competition to see what they're doing, but you can also use them to study up on prospects and to analyze your own performance as well, so...

Steven Carter: I know in HubSpot, obviously we use that a lot, so there's some baked in features within HubSpot that we use very regularly-

Anne Shenton: Yeah, that's a good point.

Steven Carter: And our clients use very regularly, to kind of scope out that competition.

Anne Shenton: Right, yeah. So there's a couple of tools, and that's a really good point. There's a couple of tools, one is ungated. So, this is a tool that anybody can use, and we use it all the time. Especially when we're onboarding new clients to get kind of a before and after snapshot of how their website is doing. It's called Website Grader, and if you just Google that term, the link will pop up and you type in the website domain, and it gives you a grade. An actual grade, like A, B, C, or D, and a number to let you know how the site is performing.

And it ranks on a number of factors like page speed, SEO, mobile friendliness, the actual size of the website, is it a really huge monstrous site, that kind of thing. And gives you a good idea of areas that you need to improve in, especially from a technical standpoint. Another tool that you can use is within HubSpot. So if you're a HubSpot Marketing customer, HubSpot Marketing Hub Pro or up customer, there is a competitive tool, and you can find this under reports and then there will be a little blog that says competitors, and you click on that. And you can type in all the domains of any competitors that you want to track, and it'll show you a bunch of stats comparing your domain to your competitors, and it updates on a regular basis. So you can track that regularly and over time.

Steven Carter: Which is really good because as you're progressing and growing your site and implementing more content and targeting different personas and stuff, you can see how that is improving along the way. It kind of helps with that for a while a little bit.

Anne Shenton: Yeah. Yeah, 100%. So no matter what industry or what job function you're in, I think it's important to find ways to pull inspiration, see what your peers are doing, and then see how you can build on that, and contribute to that as well when you get the chance, so...

Steven Carter: Sure.

Anne Shenton: Yeah.

Steven Carter: Okay, awesome.

Anne Shenton: All right.

Steven Carter: All right. Well, thanks for the insight Anne.

Anne Shenton: Yeah.

Steven Carter: And appreciate your time, and thanks for joining us. And we'll see you next week.