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Using Your Competitor’s Tactics to Gain a Competitive Edge – A4UExpo London 2010

13 October 2010 BY

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It’s all about winning not losing

Sam Crocker from Distilled is my first presentation of the day, and it’s most definitely a winner. Sam is talking about focusing on going beyond just protecting your site, and thinking about getting on the offensive.

Some initial explanations of what this means. Think about looking at static vs dynamic. It’s not just about letting information come to you, go out and hunt down information that can help you and your site. e.g.

  • Patent applications
  • Scrape competition for 404s
  • Monitor job boards
  • Find ‘movers and shakers’

Sam splits these into four quadrants, moving from left to right on the x axis would be going from loss limiting to advantage gaining, and on the y axis moving from dynamic to static. So for example:

Stalking allows you to understand their weakness but make that dynamic and actually implement the knowledge you gain into a useful activity then you can actually move into beating them at their own game

The goal: lead and protect – you should be doing more than protecting your site, focus on actively be better than your competitors

Sam then moves onto to running through a few examples that can easily be implemented:

Dynamic Stalking

(ie. understanding your competitor THEN using that information pro-actively)

1. Yahoo! Pipes – don’t underestimate how useful and easy this tool is.

Use it to monitor competitor’s blog using rss feed then filter – e.g. location. So your rss feed is only related to the terms you’ve entered. Can watch Google and Facebook at same time.

Watching all of your competitors’ subdomains?

Are they security conscious enough? Are they protecting their dev server?

As an example, Sam quickly found an entire email thread about a company’s plans for their website using a simple  “dev *.com” query in Google. Other companies’ unprotected staging sites can easily be found simply by searching company name + staging.

Turn defensive tactics into offensive.

Tactic 1 – Using competitors’ broken links

Having a look at your competitor, identify their weakness then use them to your advantage.

Step 1: Find 404s on a competitor’s site

Step 2: Check all links to those pages

Step 3: Contact those people and suggest they maybe point to you as those links are broken.

Top Tools:

SEOMoz Pro and Xenu to find the 404s followed by Majestic and Yahoo! Site Explorer to find the links.

It’s their responsibility to keep their content updated and not let pages expire – or they could be taken advantage of like this.

Tactic 2 – Competitor Downtime

Is “competitor.com” down for everyone or just me?

You can use tools to monitor if your competitors’ sites are down, and take advantage of that downtime.

Top Tools:

Finalwebsites.com – testing platform that will check the platform from various locations and will send you updates as the site goes down.

Pingdom – similar service

Next-Level Defence

Defence against the Dark Arts

1. Stealing bandwith – don’t let them get away with it!

e.g. Email/call general company number & get low-level employee to come to an unlinked to/non-indexed url, get their IP and block or get more creative.

2. Dev sites – GET THEM ON LOCK DOWN

e.g. putting your no index folders clearly in your main robots.txt file is basically telling your competitors which folders you don’t want to be indexed so they can go hunt them down

3. Defence meets stalking – keep your eye on job boards, linkedin and patent applications.

Use standard tools: xpath, mozenda etc – these allow you to monitor any given company and what jobs they are hiring for.

More useful Tools & Ideas

Use a tool to monitor changes to your site protection – this will send you a warning allowing you to be on top of all and any issues.

- Find out if your competitor is undertaking CRO and learn from their findings. How? Use a combination of Tools

1. WASP – look for website optimiser or other testing tools by checking relevant script in source code

2. Google Chrome Incognito – identify which areas of the page they are testing

3. Note all combinations being tested

4. Wait for them to ‘post results’

5. Decide whether to mimic.

- The Need for Speed – monitor your site speed against your competitors

Some great ideas that are simple to implement and integrate into your daily routines from Sam – good start to the day!

Update: Head over to Distilled to see Sam’s slides, now up.

AUTHORED BY:
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Originally from the UK via France and Malaysia, Annabel Hodges is a digital marketer with long experience in the industry now residing in Sydney. She heads up the Digital Marketing at Next Commerce, working across an array of products, channels and brands.
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