Creating a holistic digital marketing strategy can take months, while effectively executing that strategy - after tweaks, minimal fails and multiple learning curves - can take up to a year.
One stage often omitted from this important process is monitoring your competition. Watching your competitors online can provide a range of benefits, including identifying market opportunities, connecting with companies you should be cross-promoting, back-link insight, ad targeting options and more.
To help, here are five simple, free tools which enable you to monitor your competition.
1. Google Alerts
One of the most underused tools, Google Alerts enables you to monitor the internet for "interesting content".
You can set up alerts for your industry keywords or even for mentions and articles on your competition. Google Alerts lets you customize the email reports you receive by how often you'd like the notifications, type of sources, the origin of source, and languages.
Use alerts to drive trending content ideas and see how well your competition is doing with PR.
2. Facebook 'Pages to Watch'
Facebook offers Page admins the opportunity to "watch" competitor Facebook Pages.
To add a competitor Page, simply go to your Page Insights, scroll to the bottom and type in the name of the business you'd like to watch.
You can see the company's follower growth, engagement, and you can click on any to see the competitors' top posts from the past week.
Hootsuite is a simple social media publishing tool which also offers numerous in-platform apps to increase the overall user experience.
One of those free apps, TrendSpottr, enables you to set up multiple "streams" in your Hootsuite dashboard to watch trending topics, keywords, brand reputation and even identify industry influencers.
Hootsuite also serves as an excellent social listening tool for when potential customers are unhappy with the competition. Below is an example of great social listening in action. In this instance, I had tweeted dissatisfaction to Xfinity and within minutes received this tweet from their competitor:
Alexa is a helpful tool that my company uses prior to working with any company to analyze their overall reach.
It can also be used to analytically measure competition - you can see how the competitor's website ranks globally, what keyword searches are driving traffic to the site, which pages generate the highest engagement, and which sites link to the competitor's site.
5. SEM Rush
SEM Rush offers great analytical reporting on all aspects of digital marketing performance.
With a free account, you can see how your competition ranks, the keywords that generate high traffic, and even view their AdWords and video ad campaigns.
Once you have all this data at your fingertips, it's time to utilize it wisely by crafting new campaigns.
Contact websites that link to your competitors to build new relationships, start focusing on keywords that drive heavy traffic to your competition's site, avoid social media snafu's that failed on your competitors' platforms, and connect with your competitor's dissatisfied customers through social listening.