1. Tap into their marketing strategies
In my opinion Google Adwords (http://ow.ly/1i8h8) is one of the greatest web applications of all time. Not only has it levelled the playing field for small businesses, it provides us with an unparalleled level of market intelligence. Try it -- type in a few words and phrases relating to your business; you will discover what's hot and importantly, what's not. Alternatively, why not try using tools such as Compete (http://compete.com) to dive even further into the data.
2. Social networking tools
The power of social networking has been discussed countless times. Now the latest generation of web and desktop tools (Tweetdeck.com / Hootsuite.com) can help you to monitor topics or companies. Most integrate with a number of services such as Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin. You can create custom searches and spend time reading and engaging.
Google Alerts (http://www.google.com/alerts) does exactly what it says on the tin. Specify your search terms, set the update frequency and sit back for news to arrive straight to your inbox. Why not try to set up searches for other brands, people and products in your space? In the past Google alerts has broken news much quicker than traditional channels. It's a must have.
Ever wondered who's linking to your competitor's website? Thanks to the power of search engines you can find out quickly and easily. Try a search for ‘link:competitor.com’ (obviously replacing with the necessary url). Alternatively investigate tools such as Alexa.com for even better traffic metrics and analytics.
5. Monitor website changes
It’s always a great idea to keep your eyes on changes to the competition’s website. Tools such as Copernic (www.copernic.com) automatically scan for changes so you don’t have to.
While keeping your eyes on the competition is always important, it can be time consuming. But using tools such as those discussed here should make the process more tolerable.
Benjamin Dyer, director of product development for E-Commerce specialist, Sellerdeck Originally published at Social Small Biz.