Competitive Intelligence : Know Thy Competitor Well

Nov 12, 2008 - 3:38 pm 3 by
Filed Under PubCon 2008

We are live blogging this session from Salon C @ the Las Vegas Convention Center, PubCon 2008. Because it is live, there is no editorial or proofing process.

The Internet allows marketers to gain unprecedented insight as to competitors' tactics and strategies. This panel is going to discuss competitive intelligence gathering tools and tactics. Bruce Clay is moderating. Andy Beal, Internet Marketing Consultant, Marketing Pilgrim LLC is speaking first this morning. Spying on your competitors? Here's Andy's tool kit: takes the WHOis information to a whole new level of detail. Get information past who owns the site, to what other websites are owned. Find what directories they're in and other great "snapshot" information. spiders keyword density. reveals, in order of importance, backlinks to a site.

SEOmoz tools offers free and paid-premium tools, which Andy Beal values a lot. puts Google information for your site, on a grid to view. is a tool that costs about $50.00 ( free alt) to watch a page constantly. Set it up to spy on your competition. Keep an eye on their products, clients or any kind of content by RSS, email or dashboard.

Use to watch competition to instantly get updates anytime a blog or video (or anything) mentions you in the blog universe. If you prefer simple email, GoogleAlerts will contact you anytime your like, on the keywords of your choice. These alerts can also be set up as feeds. reveals keywords that bring traffic to competitors. Paying for the service gets a comprehensive list of referrals. shows a graphic representation of a site's authority constellation. If your competitor is a public company, spy on their SEC filings at For patents,, offers competitive intelligence surrounding job placements. Keep an eye on your competitors' employees. It's amazing how much information they will freely give, especially on Twitter. He's showing a clever picture of one Matt Cutts. He joked that getting people "drunk at parties," always works.

Larry Mersman, Vice President, Trellian.The definition of competitive intelligence can mean many things, depending on the channel we are dealing with. For the most part it's gathering information on competition. HitWise, Trellian and ComScore offer competitive solutions. Target relevant keywords and see who is optimizing around it. Find out who is sending traffic to your competitor and being clicked on to get the user to your competitor. Sources include search engines, banner ads, links on a website, affiliate partner links, blogs, etc ...Optimize your site around the data.

William Atchison, Founder, Crawl Wall says while you're looking at them, they're looking at you. "Techniques for protecting your SEO investment from prying competitive eyes." Why let competitors use your hard work and paid research, as low hanging fruit, to launch their business. Competitors want the path of least resistance to encroach on your online business. They want to make easy money helping competitors rank by leveraging your information. Tool vendors want to steal you data for a profit and help those competing against you.

Bad guys gather data from Google, Yahoo and MSN's cache pages, which don't reveal the visitor. Eliminate search engine cacheing to stop covert researchers from gathering data on your meta tags, internal anchor text and outbound links. Use the NOARCHIVE BANS Cache. Check out is used to covertly gather both historical and recent site data.

Remove clues about you, your administrative and technical contacts and how many domains you have. The whois data is easily blocked using proxy commands. Use robots.txt to tell well behaved 'bots whether they're allowed to crawl or not. Robots.txt is the VIP list at the night club. Badly behaved crawlers that won't honor robts.txt to get stopped at the server with .htaccess. Make sure the search engines ARE who they are who they claim, using full trip reverse DNS checking, avoid spoofing. Go to .ppt for examples of all code. There will still be crawlers gathering competitive information that don't want to get caught and pretend to be human browsers. Tools such as robots.txt and .htaccess can't stop those.

Remove competitive vulnerabilities Eliminate search engine cache pages, opt out of archive .org, opt in only allowed spiders, 'bot blocker scripts to catch hidden threats. Tighter controls on copyrighted content, improve search engine ranking after thwarting unwanted competition and better ser performance for visitors and legit search engine crawls.

Jake Baillie,Managing Director, STN Labs thinks Google is still the one of the best tools out there for competitive information. Do you know who your ISP is and are they trustworthy? ISPs are very weak points in the competitive intelligence chain, and usually picked based on who's cheapest. ISPs can feign being Googlebot so it's much better to do IP lookups to see who owns what. Disgruntled employees and ex-spouses can be a weak point as well. Get those NDAs out there. Don't use Robots.txt to block development sites. It telegraphs the project. Use strong passwords.

Marty Weintraub is President of aimClear, an Internet Focused Advertising Agency and publisher of aimClear Blog.


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