Ah, competitive intelligence. It can be tempting to pretend your competitors don’t exist. But that wouldn’t be a wise business decision.
Today, the impact of competitors' online whereabouts to your business is indeniable – updates to website prices, product offers, shifting marketing messages and fluctuations to website traffic and SERP positioning. The list goes on.
It’s nearly impossible to manually track and record this information. That’s where competitive monitoring tools come in. Tools collect this information for you – everything from competitors' traffic overviews to what people are saying about them.
You analyze this data for competitive intelligence, comparing rivals' strategies to your own to identify key business opportunities.
We’ve carefully selected 9 tools that are both easy-to-use and freemium, while yielding extensive data to help you cultivate tactical business decisions.
HubSpot, a leading developer and marketer of software products for inbound marketing and sales, says Visualping is an “easy and free way” to monitor competitors' website changes, such as their pricing, product, news feeds, blogs posts and team and career pages.
Semrush emphasizes the role websites play in conversions and growth, and says Visualping is the top competitive intelligence tool for monitoring the ways competitors try to meet their conversion goals through their websites.
Tracking competitors' websites for data is invaluable. Crayon’s 2020 competitive intelligence report, which sampled 1,000 executives of small, mid-sized and large businesses, says 98% of businesses rated competitor websites as the top source of their data.
Visualping offers a free plan, as well as several affordable pricing options to unlock premium monitoring features.
But there are other many free and freemium competitive intelligence tools that assist businesses in gauging the competitive landscape.
Check out our list of the top competitive intelligence tools of 2021.
An overall repository of business data for the technology industry, Crunchbase is an online database that provides in-depth information regarding tech companies in your field. The basic tool is free, although it offers two paid versions for more comprehensive analysis.
Crunchbase is a top competitive intelligence tool because, beyond just a business directory, you can uncover insights through information about investments and funding, founding members, mergers and acquisitions, news and industry trends. Crunchbase reports emerging competitors and keeps track of major changes you should be aware of. The tool specializes in providing data on private companies and startups, which can, otherwise, be tricky to find.
Wondering what your customers (and potential customers) are saying about you and your competitors?
Crayon’s survey, mentioned previously, says respondents viewed monitoring competitors’ social media channels as equally as important to monitoring competitors’ websites. Nearly 90% found independent review sites helpful sources of CI data, and 80% mentioned the value of monitoring public forums.
Talkwalker Alerts is a top competitive monitoring tool because it’s fantastic for alerting users of new mentions on the web. Marketed as an alternative to Google Alerts, Talkwalker monitors audience mentions across the web, including in blogs, newspaper articles, public forums and social media. If someone tweets about your company without tagging you, or enquires about you on Reddit, you can survey what’s being said, and even respond if the discussion warrants it. Talkwalker Alerts filters your company’s mentions, shielding you from an overload of unrelated or irrelevant mentions.
Search engine optimization (SEO) is one of the top digital marketing methods. Ahrefs is a top competitive intelligence tool in that it helps companies drive and optimize their SEO campaigns, making it easier to compete against competitors in search rankings. One of the largest databases of live links, Ahrefs is known for its famous backlink authority checker, which allows you to see who’s linking to you and your competitors’ content. You can also use the backlink authority checker to monitor your competitors’ Google rankings.
And, guess what: it’s free.
There’s also a free domain authority checker to measure and rate the strength of any given domain name. But when you subscribe to Ahrefs on the paid plan, you get access to several useful tools worth the cash: Site Explorer, Content Explorer, Keyword Explorer, Rank Tracker and Site audit. These tools assist in your keyword research, and show you how your competitors’ content ranks relative to yours. You can even check out the origin of your competitors' traffic.
What kinds of messages are your competitors sending to their customers (and potential customers)?
A nifty email analytics tool, Owletter lets you study competitors’ email marketing strategies. Owletter is a top competitive intelligence tool in that it monitors email campaigns, evaluates them, and notifies you of any particular trends you have asked the tool to detect and alert you for. You do not have to subscribe to your competitors’ emails, and Owletter does the analytics work for you. You can spot overall patterns and take advantage of opportunities your competitors haven’t touched.
Wappalyzer is a free browser extension for Chrome, Firefox, or Microsoft Edge. It identifies which tools and technologies the website on your browser is using.
You can imagine how it’s a top competitive intelligence tool. Use it to discover what your competitors’ websites are built with, how they’re optimizing their pages and which tools they’re using to send automated emails. You can set up alerts for technology changes and, by comparing technologies across websites, you can see if your own tools provide similar levels of success, or if it’s time for an upgrade.
Are your website traffic numbers where they should be, or have your competitors caught up?
In terms of comparing website traffic analytics across websites, SimilarWeb is as good as it gets. It’s a top competitive intelligence tool that provides a general picture of a website’s reach, ranking and user engagement. Simply enter a website URL in the search bar, and you gain access to insights such as traffic sources, organic versus paid search, social traffic and related sites.
Moat is a cloud-based analytics and intelligence platform that opens the door to a creative ad portal of your competitors’ digital creative history, including advertisements and press releases.
Moat aggregates all the advertisements from a given brand in one location, and lets you compare your brand’s messages to that of your competitors’. You can gather inspiration from your competitors’ work from up to three years in the past, studying their content and making it easier to hone your own advertisement strategy. Moat monitors — even analyzes — trillions of ad impressions from competitor websites, evaluating the effectiveness of their ad campaigns. It also tracks which clicks originate from humans, rather than bots.
Hootsuite is a social media management platform that assists in nearly every aspect of social media marketing, from curating content, scheduling posts, managing a team and measuring ROI.
Hootsuite performs social media monitoring of various accounts for you, such as keeping track of new mentions, retweets, followers and likes. It uses social listening to collect information regarding what’s being said about your brand — and about your competitors. Hootsuite even offers a variety of built-in analytics functionalities, analyzing your competitors’ posts to see which are performing well, and comparing those to your own engagement numbers.
Hootsuite offers several plans to choose from, such as a limited free plan for single users, a paid single user plan with up to 10 social profiles and customized enterprise accounts for large teams and organizations.
Do you or your competitors have a mobile app and, if so, how is it performing?
App Annie is a top competitive intelligence tool in that it provides marketing and advertising analytics to measure you and your competitors’ app performance. By producing strong mobile experiences, App Annie help you increase mobile engagement and drive more downloads. As App Annie provides data on over 8 million different apps, you can monitor competitors’ app engagement, allowing you to fine-tune own mobile strategy.
With these top competitive intelligence tools, you can collect valuable competitor data and compare competitors' strategies to your own for insights and opportunities.
To determine which of these tools are best for your brand, determine which aspects of competitive research is most fitting for your strategy. Then look at your budget. According to Crayon’s report, about half of businesses are currently budgeting $15,000 or more, per year, on competitive intelligence.
The majority of the tools above are freemium, so you can test a limited version of the service for free, before unlocking premium features for a reasonable monthly payment.