7 Free and Easy Tools You Can Use to Evaluate Your Online Competition
It’s always good to know what your competition is up to, especially when it comes to their digital marketing efforts. By evaluating your contractor competitors online, you can glean valuable information about:
What products and services they’re focusing on
Whether they’re prioritizing specific geographic areas
What keywords they’re using
What branding and messaging they’re using
What their pricing strategy may be
Note: Online Competition Isn’t the Same as Real World Competition
Before we dive into exploring these tools, it’s important to note that the businesses you define as your competition in the real world might not be the same as the ones you’re going up against online.
It’s not uncommon to have a few online competitors who you might not be getting quoted against for jobs, but are competition nonetheless. This could be a new competitor who you haven’t heard much about but is gaining traction online.
This isn’t to say that you should ignore your real-world competitors and put your focus entirely online, however. Online and real-world competitors are equally important—they just tend to be a little different.
The Best Free Tools for Evaluating Your Online Competition
We use a lot of different tools here at Energy Circle, and we’ve compiled a list of what we believe are the best, easy-to-use free tools out there for evaluating your online competition.
1. Learn how your competitor’s websites stack up, with Moz Link Explorer (Free Trial, Free With Limits)
The Moz Link Explorer gives you a domain authority score that measures the health of your website on a scale of 0-100. (For local service businesses and businesses in our industries, anything within the 20-30 range is considered a good score.) Once you have your score, it’s easy to pull up your competitors’ scores and see where you’re falling in comparison.
The number and quality of inbound links is the main driver behind your domain authority score, and the Moz Link Explorer will also let you see what those links are both for your own website and your competition. By scouring your competitors’ inbound links, you can find great link-building opportunities for your website.
You can also use the Moz Link Explorer to run a keyword analysis, which will show you what keywords you’re ranking for and how they compare to the keywords your competitors are ranking for.
2. See where you and your competition land in search result pages, with BrightLocal Local Search Results Checker (Free With Limits)
Using the local search results checker from BrightLocal, you can enter a keyword and location, and the tool will replicate what that particular search might look like for someone searching in your specified area. So, for example, you could enter “heat pump installation Portland, ME” and see what results searchers in Portland are likely to see when they Google “heat pump installation.”
This will give you a good idea of who your online competitors are and where they’re ranking in comparison to your website. It’s also a great way to get around the pitfalls of Googling your own business. But take these results with a grain of salt—while they’re a good indication of where you’re ranking, their accuracy remains a subject of debate.
3. See what content your competitors are producing, using Google (Free)
Anyone who is serious about organic SEO has an active content development strategy, and you can see how often your competitors are putting out new content with a simple Google search. Just type “site:” and then your competitor’s URL into Google. (For example, if you wanted to check out Energy Circle’s content production, you would search “site:https://www.energycircle.com”).
You can then click on the tools button to specify a time frame and see how much new content has shown up in that period. If your competitor is putting out new content regularly, it’s a good sign that they’re on top of their digital marketing efforts.
4. Take a look at how the competition is handling their Google My Business accounts with GMB Spy (Free)
You can get a decent idea of how well your competitors are managing their GMB reviews and profiles just by looking at them. But for more in-depth information, use GMB Spy. With this Chrome extension, you can see whether they have any secondary business categories listed and what those categories are, which will give you insight into how well they’re managing their GMB profile. Proper category use indicates real GMB strength and is something you want to look out for.
5. Take a look at how your competition is using paid search ads, with SpyFu (Free With Limits)
SpyFu is one of the best tools for evaluating your competitors’ paid search campaigns. Using the tool, you can see:
How many keywords your competitor is paying for
How many clicks they’re getting per month
What their estimated budget is
What their paid search trends look like over time
SpyFu will also show you what your competitors’ actual paid ads look like, so you can see how they are positioning themselves and what messaging they’re using.
6. Compare your own Google paid ads campaigns to the competition, with Google Ads Auction Insights (Free)
You’ll need a Google Ads account to run this report, but signing up is more than worth it to get the results. With auction insights, you can see data about how well your PPC ads are doing in comparison to your competitors.
7. What are your competitors doing when it comes to Facebook? Find out in the Facebook Ads Library (Free)
The Facebook Ads Library is an inspiration goldmine, and it also gives you great insight into your competitors’ ad campaigns. You can use the library to search for anyone who is running ads using specific keywords, like “heat pump installation” or “solar panel installers.” You can also see all of the ads a specific company is running and when they launched. Facebook Ads are often used to develop brand awareness, and evaluating your competitor’s ads will give you a really good indication of their messaging and priorities.