14 competitor tracking tools to stay ahead of the competition
June 2, 2021
20 min read
Competitor tracking is a powerful way to plan strategically and maximise your chances of success. Here are 14 excellent tools every consumer brand should know.
While many brands might wish they could eradicate it, competition is healthy. It keeps you on your toes and means you’re continually looking for ways to improve your offering. Competitor tracking tools can help unearth essential information to help give you a competitive edge.
The challenge, however, is effectively monitoring your rivals, so you don’t get left behind. What are they doing that you should be doing too? Have they overlooked an opportunity you could seize? Are they losing market share that you could gain?
What is competitor tracking?
Competitor tracking is a type of consumer research where you measure the awareness and perception people have of your competitors’ brands. You can compare this with what consumers think about your brand to gain a full understanding of your category.
By running competitor tracking you give yourself a thorough understanding of how your customers and potential customers perceive your competitors. Tracking this will make sure you’re on top of any possible shifts in customer loyalty or preference for certain brands over others—you can then take steps to boost your own brand’s standing in the market.
Why do competitor tracking?
Competitor tracking enables consumer brands to plan strategically and maximise their chances of success. You can track a range of metrics: what’s being said about you and your competitors, but also what they are doing in terms of marketing efforts.
What does their SEO look like? How can you beat their email marketing campaigns? And how do people feel about the different competitors in the market?
Why should I use competitor tracking tools?
It’s safe to say that the success of your marketing efforts is directly connected to what your competitors are doing. If you want to stay ahead of them, you’ll also need to keep an ear to the ground to find out what they’re up to. Simply to out-perform them.
But tracking what competitors are doing can be time-consuming and hard to keep up with. From social media to SEO and from discounts to new offers: how can you keep an eye on all of this, without wasting time on the wrong things?
The tools we’ve gathered in this list all cover specific areas of competitor tracking, based on what you want to focus on. They take out the guesswork and require almost no manual work to get detailed and actionable insights.
While these tools are running in the background and reporting back to you, you can keep working on those campaigns and strategies that will help you beat the competition.
Here, we walk you through fifteen of the most useful competitor tracking tools, offering invaluable insights into things like your rival’s web traffic, content virality and consumer brand awareness levels. Keeping tabs on these will help you to both anticipate your rival’s next move and plan your own.
Nobody’s better at marketing your brand than your own customers. We have yet to see an online ad that’s more convincing than the genuine advice of a friend you trust or colleague you respect. What they say about you and your competitors can have a real snowball effect in your market.
And while that sounds abstract, it can actually be measured and mapped out, so you can act accordingly. There are several metrics you can look at, from NPS to purchase intent and brand recalls. We’re here to help you figure out, well, all of them.
Measuring NPS across your market
The Net Promoter Score (NPS) is a must-have metric for marketers. Luckily, it’s fairly easy to measure your NPS. You simply ask your target audience one question: “On a scale of 0 to 10, how likely are you to recommend this company’s product or service to a friend or a colleague?”
But having your own score ready doesn’t mean anything without context: you need to know the NPS of both your own brand, and from others. Here at Attest we let you take a peek into the NPS of your competitors.
Here’s a real-life example of an NPS question from a survey we sent to 500 makeup shoppers ⬇️
After finding out what your own NPS is, we’ll classify your customers as either brand detractors, passives or promoters.
Then we dive into our audience of millions of consumers. With their help, we can survey your competitor’s customers to find out how loyal they are and obtain your rival’s NPS.
Who has the higher score, you or them? Are there dissatisfied customers you could win over? How is this changing over time? Perhaps you see a competitor with a lot of passives, who could be persuaded to buy your brand with a special offer or advertising campaign.
Purchase intent made visible
If you want to go beyond NPS, we help you do similar research to consumers’ purchase intent. To do this, you can send out a survey with questions designed to discover the brands a consumer already shops with, or would in the future. For example, you might ask:
Which of these paint brands would you be most likely to buy:
Farrow & Ball
The response to this question will immediately show you how much market dominance competitors have — and allows you to monitor how that changes down the line in relation to your own brand’s marketing efforts.
You could also ask respondents to agree or disagree with statements in relation to your competitor brands i.e. “Dulux is the best quality paint on the market”. This helps you understand the reasons consumers are choosing rival brands and shape your messaging accordingly.
Unprompted brand recall: how strong is your messaging?
Attest can also measure unprompted brand recall, which involves asking consumers to name brands without influencing them in any direction. For example, you might ask: “What is the first brand that comes to mind when you think of luxury holidays?” or “Which toilet roll brand cares most about the environment?”
How does the percentage of people naming your brand over that of your rivals change over time? Who has the stronger messaging? By not providing a list of brands to select from you can really see how much different brands are in the public consciousness.
These are just a few examples of questions you can use to ask consumers about their different brand preferences, and uncover how you sit amongst your competitors.
The Attest platform allows you to ask any question you would like of your target consumers, under the guidance of in-house experts, to get the answers you need. You’ll get the results in a matter of hours and days, meaning you can act ASAP and when the data is relevant.
Get ahead of your competitors
Attest gives you insight into your and your competitor’s position so that you know exactly where you stand and how you can win.
SimilarWeb is a competitor tracking tool that allows you to enter the URL of any website and instantly see how much traffic it’s receiving. The insight, however, goes much further than this, showing you the source of the traffic i.e. direct, organic/paid search, social, referrals, email or display ads.
You can make discoveries about your competitor’s marketing by looking at which social platforms are delivering them the most traffic, as well as where on the web they’re advertising and which websites are providing referrals.
You’re also able to see the different countries a site’s traffic is coming from and learn about the interests of their customers, including what other websites they visit. SimilarWeb suggests competitors and allows you to set your own so you can benchmark against them.
Meanwhile, a recently introduced feature helps you identify which keywords you should target to get ahead of your competitors. Search any term and see not only the search volume, but which URLs currently have the most traffic share (paid and organic) for that keyword or phrase.
Find out how difficult it would be to obtain traffic from the keyword by understanding who is currently competing for it. You can also locate less popular, long tail terms that your competitors aren’t targeting but still command a significant search volume. Challenger brands can go after these in their SEO strategies and PPC campaigns to get one up on rivals.
BuzzSumo is a competitor tracking tool that shows you how successful your competitor’s content is by highlighting the pieces most shared on social media. Just enter your rival’s URL to see their top content and the number of shares and engagements achieved across Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.
This is really useful as it reveals the type of content that is performing the best for them and essentially allows you to replicate it, just with your own unique angle — why reinvent the wheel if you don’t have to? BuzzSumo can also show you the backlinks for a piece of content i.e. the websites linking to it, enabling you too, to target these sites for backlinks.
You’re also able to view the individuals who shared the content on social media and get insight into their authority. This is an opportunity for your brand to develop relationships with the top influencers in your market.
Another way to use BuzzSumo is by entering a keyword or phrase rather than a competitor URL. It will return a list of the most shared content featuring that keyword thus enabling you to understand what works in your niche.
Other insights you can glean from examining viral content are ideal content length, optimum day/time for publishing and best headline structure. Recently, BuzzSumo published the results of an analysis of 100 million headlines.
It found that, when it came to Facebook engagements, the most powerful three-word phrase was “will make you…” i.e. 6 Harsh Truths That Will Make You a Better Person. It also shattered the conventional wisdom that short headlines are best, finding the optimal length to be 12-18 words.
BuzzSumo makes it easy to keep track of your competitor’s content with alerts whenever they publish something new, as well as detailed Competitor Content Performance reports. You can also understand how you are doing in comparison with Competitor Comparison Reports, helping you make intelligent decisions about your content marketing.
Mention is a competitor tracking tool that provides a web listening service and lets you know what people are saying about your brand or your competitor’s brands. Simply enter the name of the brand you’d like to track and specify the priority pages for monitoring, such as the company’s website and social profiles.
The tool will show you all of the mentions a brand has received, updated in real-time. Filtering allows you to view mentions from different sources, such as mentions on Twitter or on Facebook. Reading real customer feedback will highlight any areas where your competitors are either excelling or failing.
If you notice lots of complaints about slow delivery times or poor customer service, for example, this is an opportunity to push how great your brand is when it comes to these things. You could even reach out directly to unhappy customers and incentivise them to come over (you can respond to people’s comments from within the tool).
Mention also provides reports so you can check your rival’s mentions over a period of time and whether they have gone up or down. You can see the average amount of mentions they receive each day and the percentage of mentions with positive sentiment.
You can even track two or more brands side by side to compare metrics, allowing you to analyse share of voice and sentiment online.
5. Rank Signals
Want to win the war in ranking? A strong back linking strategy is a crucial part of the plan. And since you’re not alone in your market, it would help to see how the competition is going about it — so you can do it better.
Rank Signals lets you reverse engineer your competition’s backlink sources with their free backlink checker. That’s right, a free peek into your competitors SEO strategies. It doesn’t hurt to look, right?
Enter a domain and Rank Signals’ software analyze the content strategies of your competition. More specifically, the tool lets you track your competitors’ backlinks. Why would that be useful? It could give you inspiration on what sources to use. If you see that your competitors are taking their back linking efforts more seriously than you are, it’s time to step up your game.
You can also check your own backlinks: the tool identifies toxic links that could be harming your SEO efforts. Last but not least, they also show social sharing metrics across major social networks.
6. Google Trends
Google Trends is one of the lesser-known Google tools, but offers a great way to keep track of branded searches — in other words, how many people are searching for you or your competitors.
Enter the name of your competitor and you can see a graph depicting interest in that brand over time. You can tailor the results by looking only at searches made in a certain country or over a certain time frame, such as the past 90 days.
You can then enter your own brand name, or that of another competitor, to see graphs side by side and compare results. You’ll be able to see any times when the interest level of one brand overtook that of another, which might indicate the success of a particular marketing initiative.
You can also compare interest by region, seeing where in the world or the country people are most interested in each brand. If you notice your competitor is doing better than you in a particular city, you can take a look at the marketing they’re doing in this region to find out why and then double your own efforts there.
STAT lets you take a peek into your competitors’ SEO strategies. Tell STAT which competitors you want to watch and it will provide alerts every time they move up or down the SERPs (search engine results pages), so you can monitor exactly what they’re up to.
You can pull full reports on tracked competitor sites, showing their performance. Getting the data out is as simple as right-clicking on any table to export as a CSV spreadsheet. You can also create scheduled reports so that all of your key data is regularly exported to spreadsheets and sent to your email.
Meanwhile, you can also receive weekly reports detailing your brand’s top competitors for every site, tag, and custom keyword segment you set. It shows you who’s competing in your space and prevents competitors who might be under your radar from creeping up on you.
8. Answer the Public
Want to know what people are asking about you and your competitors? Ask the public, on Answer the Public. According to the makers of this tool, “there are 3 billion Google searches every day, and 20% of those have never been seen before.”
That’s a lot of valuable, up-to-date information. With Answer the Public, you put in a search query — like your competitor’s name. Then the tool will provide you with countless questions that have been asked about said competitor.
Knowing what questions people are asking about your competitors can help you build a solid SEO and content strategy, simply by making sure that your content is answering those questions and they find you first.
Keep a finger on the pulse of your market
Send surveys and get results in hours for quality insights from your target market.
Want to keep track of what people are saying about you and your competitors on social media? BrandMention’s Social Mention tool allows you to scan different platforms and types of media at the same time and gives you examples of what’s being said. It’s real-time and includes all of the most important social media platforms, so you never miss a thing.
Moreover, Social Mention can track sentiments. If you give in a keyword related to your market or business, it shows you how people feel about it. This can be useful in creating inspiring campaigns that positively change the image of your market and helps you stay ahead of the game.
If you’re looking to ‘expose the search marketing secret formula of your most successful competitors’, you don’t need to send an actual spy over there. With Spyfu you learn everything you need to know about their paid traffic and even backlinks.
What keywords are your competitors using, and could you beat them there? Or are there any keywords they aren’t using yet, giving you space for quick wins? By knowing what keywords your competitors rank and have ranked for, you can set up a strategic paid advertising campaign, without any guesswork.
If you’re looking to beat your competitors on SEO, you can’t go without SEMrush. This is one of the most popular keyword tools out there. It allows you to see how well your competitors are doing when it comes to SEO — and thus how you can beat them.
With their Market Explorer, you can immediately identify competitors. See what brands are a potential threat to your growth and start analyzing their SEO efforts to learn for their mistakes and wins, and close gaps in content demands from your target group.
Find out how they’re ranking, and what they’re doing to acquire those rankings. You can do a lot more than just track keywords: SEMrush also enables you to peek into the backlinks and external links your competitors are acquiring.
Your own marketing efforts and their results are directly influenced by what your competitors are doing. If only you had a person on the inside, right? No need for espionage. There are easy ways to see what others in your market are doing.
HootSuite is a great tool for social media management, but it goes beyond your own efforts. You can monitor online conversations to find out what people are saying about you and other brands in your market. What kind of content are they putting out? How are people responding to their campaigns? And how can you do it better than them?
If you want to step up your competitor tracking game, integrate Hootsuite with the social listening tools that you are using. That way, you get a complete picture of who’s the favourite in the market and what you can do to become them.
It’s not just how many people are talking about you, it’s about what they’re saying. Scratch that, it’s about what they’re feeling when it comes to your brand, and your competitors. You want to be the one to give them butterflies, goosebumps, and the feeling they’ve come to the right place.
Brandwatch lets you dive into this information by benchmarking brand awareness metrics against your competitors. With this information, you learn more about who to aim your campaigns at, but also with what message and tone.
If you want to give more context to your competitor analysis, this is a great starting point. With Brandwatch you can measure your share of voice and compare what customers are saying about you versus your competitors.
If you want to know what your competitors are doing when it comes to email marketing, but don’t feel like clogging up your inbox by signing up to all their newsletters and downloading all their content offers, Owletter is here to help.
The smart tool captures, stores and analyzes every email that a brand sends to their mailing list. If it turns out to be relevant to your business, you’ll get notified and can analyze that specific email.
You also get data on how often and on what times their email campaigns are going out the door, to inspire your own email marketing efforts and beat them to it. And if you ever need inspiration on how to create an email that looks better than theirs, you can simply take a peak at all their past emails: Owlbox stores them forever without filling up your own storage.
Our top tips for using a competitor analysis tool
Determine a goal
Before you get started with entering their domain name everywhere, sit down and think: what is it that you really want to know? Choose your competitor tracking tools wisely: data that is not actionable or relevant to you right now can distract you from areas in which you could make quick wins.
If your own data is showing that your SEO isn’t performing as strongly as it could be, analyze your own efforts and those of your competitors. If you’ve been slow with social media, educate yourself on what the competition is doing on there before you launch your own campaigns. If you’re unsure how to win market share, speak to your consumers via these tools to understand pain points and perceptions of competitor brands that you can leverage.
Combine data for more context
If your competitor tracking tool is showing that way more people are mentioning you online than your biggest competitor, don’t count yourself lucky just yet. What is it they’re actually saying? Not all attention is good attention, after all.
Based on the objectives you’ve set, find out what data and tools you should combine to get the complete picture of what is going on in your market.
For instance, combine Attest with a social listening tool like Mention. We will help you identify what brands are popular amongst your target audience, and what their buying reasons are. Then you can hop onto social media to find out what their fans are saying about them. This will give you a solid foundation for improving anything from your messaging to your product.
Another strong team is Alexa and Answer The Public. Alexa will tell you what keywords your competitors are ranking higher on. With Answer The Public, you get an idea of what people want to know related to these keywords, allowing you to create content with the highest possible value.
It’s likely your competitors are changing their strategies from time to time. Maybe even based on what they found out when tracking you. That’s why competitor tracking isn’t a quick fix: make it a recurring practice in your marketing efforts.
You can take a moment every few weeks or months to look at what your competition has been doing and if you can adjust what you’re doing accordingly, and if you’re outperforming them – or there’s room for improvement.
Make informed decisions based on quality consumer insights
Learn what consumers think about your brand (and your competitors’!) to become the market leader.
Ignoring what your competitors are up to when planning your sales and marketing strategy is like going into battle without any enemy intelligence. Don’t go in blind; you can use these fifteen tools to easily gather insights, which will prove invaluable when making strategic decisions.
And by understanding how your brand performs in the context of your competition, you can better monitor your own success. Are you on track to become the market leader or in danger of being crowded out? Don’t let any developments take you by surprise; stay on top of your game and show the competition what you’re made of!
Nick joined Attest in 2021, with more than 10 years' experience in market research and consumer insights on both agency and brand sides. As part of the Customer Research Team team, Nick takes a hands-on role supporting customers uncover insights and opportunities for growth.