Web Intelligence and Data Visualization for Competitive Analysis

Dissecting the digital marketing assets of your competitors is relatively easy to do these days. Many tools are available that can help marketers pick through the majority of the online marketing efforts and buzz of another company. Leading marketers are keeping a database on their competition with insight that can paint more clear lines for their own strategies. By accumulating your own marketing data and the data of your competitors, you can improve your efforts more quickly, spend less money and accumulate market share faster.

When keeping a database on your competitors its best to break the data into logical groups that may lead to future actionable trends. For example, create sheets in Microsoft Excel with lists such as influencer mentions, product discussion, key product / service line appearances, geographical relations, keyword focus, target market demographics and more. Distinguish your lists as you sort through collected data based on the things you find and that data can later be merged later into an analytics platform.

One commonly known tool is Google Alerts which will provide you with regular updates on newly indexed appearances from a company, brand or other key term. Google Alerts is by no means perfect and only gives you a very loose following of the online marketing efforts of whomever or whatever you are tracking. Moz also provides a product with their Pro service that is a bit more meticulous than Google Alerts, and performs a similar function. Some common opportunities for marketers coming from the use of these tools can be low hanging fruit link building opportunities, positioning data, market size data and media appearance opportunities.

Another fantastic tool for competitive analysis is the social media tracking tool Needtagger. Needtagger allows you to set up multiple keyword searches that alert you when mixed with other terms such as buying signals or actionable phrases. Needtagger can notify you of any social conversation that your competitor may show up in. It can also help you to identify the influencers that are engaging your competitors brand or assisting in spreading your competitors name and reputation online. By tracking these types of occurrences and the information that Needtagger provides you with, a marketing team can retrieve many actionable strategies such as new influencer targeting, positioning data, market size data, market share data and additional target segment demographics, data and trends.

Another essential element to tracking your competition is to somewhat frequently dig through their backlink structure. This is a very common practice in SEO and many tools such as the Open Site Explorer are great for this practice. This will give you a little more accurate look into where your competitors are getting coverage and backlinks online.

Also, part of the Moz Analytics Open Site Explorer platform is the anchor text tab. Checking up on your competitor’s keyword focus is essential to watching what direction they are moving in. Exporting this information on a monthly basis can help you to later visualize a clear path to what their marketing team is working to actively promote, or perhaps what is right around the corner for them. Another tool that can go along with this is Spyfu, which not only provides keywords, but also gives you an assessment of what your competition is spending on search ads on a daily basis. Very helpful!

Building Your Web Intelligence System
The key to building your web intelligence system is to find a comfortable rate at which you extract data about your industry and competition from the tools above. Some of the tools make it very easy, some, are more time consuming. The more time consuming data extractions are best to keep at an infrequent rate, maybe quarterly, go through and spend some time extracting some pre-identified information. Spend more time on the easier data extractions such as keyword and anchor text information, these also have more marketing actionability to them.

As mentioned earlier in this post, an Excel document with different key tracking points will work just fine. Once you have that data in Excel, you can easily import that into the majority of tools that are out there for data visualization. Some of the tools that I can recommend include the free MicroStrategy Analytics Desktop tool and Tableau Public. For a full service data collection and visualization, the people at Recorded Future are doing some exceptional things. Their licenses are not cheap, but their service is definitely out in front.

Either way, simple and infrequent data extractions on your competitors can be plugged easily into free data visualization tools that can lead to actionable pattern identification, with just a little bit of effort. Not many marketers have embraced this, but it is extremely powerful. I’ll write at some point in the future about some other opportunities in data visualization for marketers.