5 Surprising Sources of Competitive Intelligence

Author: Gab Goldenberg

Competitive intelligence provides entertainment, an inside-track on industry trend-spotting, and the potential to develop tangential business opportunities before others, or at least catch up quickly. I gluttonously consume information, and thought I’d share some parts of my diet with other competitive intelligence collectors with hearty appetites.

1) Affiliate networks.

Ever wonder what a competitor’s margins are like?

What countries they focus on? What KPIs they use?

What verticals they’re in?

Get the answers to all these questions and many others by joining multiple networks.

2) Email newsletters. I recently got a newsletter disclosing [indirectly] the profitability of certain market segments. For newbies struggling to find their affiliate niche, this is valuable info!

Consumer-facing email newsletter are also valuable, although I admit that I’m slack in monitoring these. Some things you can pick up:

- Benefits emphasized – to model your copy on

- Profitable or high volume products or otherwise desirable goals

- Tone of voice for branding purposes

3) Corporate HQ websites.

I subscribe to the RSS feed of a particular company that I highly respect, where they openly share corporate strategy. It’s pretty impressive seeing the massive, fast-turning gears turning in these people’s heads, but it’s also inspirational here and there.

If you’re a fast-food restaurant owner, you can probably pay attention to McDonald’s, Harvey’s, Wendy’s, KFC and other press releases to see where they’re going in a broad sense. The same is broadly true of many industries.

4) Alerts and keyword trackers.

Think these tools just serve to measure how much brand discussion is happening in social media? Guess again.

If new, as-yet-unknown competitors are linkbaiting, you can’t subscribe to their RSS feed.

You can set up trackers to look for particular keywords linkbait might target, or roll your own solution to monitor Digg, StumbleUpon etc.

Similarly, if the approach is more traditional, why not monitor press-release sites for your industry keywords?

Find ‘em while they’re fresh to the industry and buy those sites out…securely.

5) Mainstream newspapers and newsmagazines.

This week’s edition of Maclean’s (a popular Canadian newsmagazine) has an excellent piece on the Wall Street Journal, Rupert Murdoch and paywalls.

There are some fantastic nuggets to pick up in there, which I haven’t seen on places like Search Engine Land (despite Danny Sullivan’s thorough coverage of the issue!).

During SMX Advanced, I picked up the local Seattle paper and saw a piece about Google taking on Amazon for ebooks. Now, Slightly Shady SEO imagined that almost 2 years ago! And I had similar feelings and predictions on Google’s move into ecommerce and the implications about 7 months before SMX Advanced.

Since I love saying I told you so, here’s a little gem from my now 1+ year old post.

“The organic search results for obviously commercial searches will be dominated by Google Base products.” If you haven’t seen Google base practically become the default spot 3 on commercial searches, you’re sleeping:

Google Base integration in universal search

Oh, and have any of you read Aaron Wall’s interview with eBay’s head of SEO?

Here’s an excerpt:

“[Millions of listings] end up cradle to grave quickly. What are some of the keys to helping search engines understand the structure and importance of content in such a fast changing environment?

[...]

“We have invested a good amount of resources in our data-feed technology & analytics. The Sitemaps protocol plays an important role here. As eBay has so many new listings every day, over the course of the day, you can almost update the sitemaps on a continuous basis.

“However, the effort to source the items from the database, generate the sitemap files, submission and pick up, takes decent amount of time. We have made good headway tuning our feeds in way to get more efficiency out of the items we send. We started optimizing based on probability of conversion. We can make these assumptions based on predictive modeling and data. Predictive modeling on large datasets will become even more important when it comes to scaling the projects. As a company, we are putting lots of efforts in building out a competitive advantage based on analytics, predictive modeling and scaling the technology to handling even larger datasets.”

If that isn’t the integration of merchandising and SEO, what is?

Well, here’s one of 5 calls I’d made about Google shifting more and more into ecommerce:

<“Merchandising will need to integrate more closely with SEO in order to feature more cheap products and expensive products where G’bot can access it.

“As a result, the middle ground of average products at average prices will see its market share gradually lost to either end of the spectrum. Just like Seth Godin suggested would happen, in his book Meatball Sundae.

And if you go to eBay, you’ll see that cruises abundantly listed there, for example, are of the cheap and generic variety. Where something is advertised in abundance, you know the ads work…
[I know about the cruises in particular because my dad combines dental CE seminars with upscale cruises and travel. Our eBay test yielded folks looking for bargains...]

Bottom line? Read, read and read some more! Add my rss feed to your reader, then check out these 30 other advanced search blogs.

Oh, and you might also like some recent guest posts of mine at Search Engine Land, Wolf Howl and Search Engine Journal. (Links go to my author profiles.)

p.p.s. I’m booked on a flight to Israel for tomorrow night. If I’ve been blogging slowly lately (or in the next little bit), that’s why!

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Comments

  1. Monitering press release sites for keywords is a fine idea. I'll have do that.

    Comment by Ed Kerns - January 20, 2010 @ 7:15pm

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