Competitive Intelligence (CI) is the practice of systematically gathering data about your competitors and using that data to analyze their strategies. This practice helps you anticipate your competitor’s actions and take advantage of opportunities in your market. Gathering competitive data that feeds this intelligence is recurring and constant in thriving businesses. There are several ways to collect this information, and we’ve consolidated a list of free tools that you can use to start compiling competitive data today.
Crunchbase is the go-to resource for an overview of financial data. Their software gives an inside look into a broad spectrum of economic metrics such as funding, stock trends, mergers and acquisitions, leadership team information, and more. Their data relies on multiple sources, with a community of contributors including in-house data teams and a venture partner network. This intelligence allows you to monitor up to 1,000 companies and push information from Crunchbase into Salesforce for an easily accessible database for multiple units to reference. They integrate with several other online tools, including Owler and SimilarWeb, allowing you to create an all-in-one dashboard.
Owler is a great place to start for acquiring competitive data. They create competitive analysis and company overviews that will help shape the framework for all of your intelligence efforts. Their database includes exclusive information on over 13 million public and private companies, including annual revenue, employee count, funding, and top competitors. Using their advanced search options, you can drill into details like geography, industry, and sector. Owler then creates a competitive graph displaying 40 million relationships among those 13 million companies. While their basic plan is free, you will need a subscription plan of $420/year to gain unlimited access.
Google Alerts is the original solution for monitoring web activity for specific news articles, mentions, and keywords. It crawls the web to ensure you aren't missing any information about your area of interest. Google Alerts is popular because it's free, easy to set up, and the frequency of alerts is tailored to your preference. Add your competitors' names to receive an alert any time they are mentioned across new stories, press releases, or company reviews. Whatever you're searching, Google Alerts makes sure nothing falls through the cracks.
SEMrush offers over 40 tools to monitor digital marketing performance. Their competitor analysis features make SEMrush one of the most widely-used SEO tools available. The SEMrush platform provides a comprehensive all-in-one toolkit for exploring marketing strategies. Analyze qualitative metrics on organic search, SEO, social media, advertising, content marketing, public relations, and more. Admittedly - SEMrush is not a free tool, but they offer a 7-day free trial. SEMrush holds a place on this list because you can glean a lot of competitive data in a week if you have a clear framework for what information you seek.
Visualiping audits websites and alerts you to any changes. This information is handy when monitoring sales and promotions or pertinent updates to website content or services offered. Keep an eye on big announcements like product launches and smaller changes like additions to website layout or navigation changes. Visualping provides information that is best gathered over time to monitor combined effects, such as year over year web traffic growth or the number of subscribers to a new blog. According to their website, over 83% of Fortune 500 companies use Visualping.
Marketing agencies use Sprout Social worldwide to increase engagement and gather competitive data. Because of the nature of social media, utilizing a social listening tool for your own company will reveal information about your competitors. Since you share an audience base, social media monitoring gives you premium intel on your target audience by observing trending hashtags, social mentions, sentiment, and behavior. With Sprout Social, you'll turn metrics into opportunities to fill gaps in the market and meet the needs of your customers. While not entirely free, Sprout Social offers a 30-day free trial to get you started.
MOAT, created by Oracle Data Cloud, aggregates competitive data on paid search campaigns, giving you insider access to your competitors' digital advertising strategies. In a continually changing digital ad landscape, MOAT saves you precious time and money by helping you more effectively place your digital ads and track their progress. MOAT is an excellent tool for inspiration and can help you develop fresh content for your digital ad campaigns. Knowing if you are reaching the right audience at the right frequency is a powerful result of using their competitive data to bypass what isn't working and focus on what is.
SurveyMonkey is a global leader in survey software. Their site allows you to create customized (and branded) surveys for market research. Tailor questions to be investigative of the market, leading to insights about how your competitors perform in the eyes of your (mutual) customers, in addition to updating demographics on your target market. Sending direct surveys via a mailing list can produce tons of valuable intel. Offering a small incentive for completing the survey often leads to new business as well.
Moz is a well-known SEO software toolkit, offering several free resources to monitor the competition's website performance and digital marketing strategies. Install the Moz Bar into your Chrome browser for metrics on any site you visit, or use their free domain analysis tool and see instant SEO metrics such as top pages, ranking keywords, and other competitive data. The Moz link explorer feature uncovers content and link building opportunities by crawling 40.7 trillion links. Touted for their superior data presentation, it's no wonder why Moz is a top choice for SEO analysis.
Feedly is an application for web browsers and any mobile device running iOS and Android. They also operate as a cloud-based service. Feedly lets you keep an eye on your competitor’s content without having to log online to read their latest blog posts. They are a content aggregation engine that prioritizes content relative to topics and trends that interest your organization. While Feedly is not entirely free, their plans start at $6 per month. At that price, you still have access to thousands of sources of competitive data that you can save to OneNote, Evernote, or Pocket; you can also share to LinkedIn, Buffer, Zapier, and Hootsuite.
A Final Word
Before you get started, it's essential to know what kind of metrics will be valuable to your intelligence team. When you have the most influential competitive data, you can dissect the "why" behind the marketing strategy. Report all of your information into one dashboard, and note the date you collected it. This will help you monitor trends over time and keep your competitive data up to date. Incorporating data into your strategy will give you a strong competitive advantage and help you differentiate your products and services in the marketplace.