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Why Marketers Should Spend More Time Spying on Their Competition

Sure, it sounds shady. But all great marketers spy on the competition. Here's how to do it effectively.

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Sometimes, marketers can get a little squeamish about spying on their competitors and think it's best to focus just on their own brand. However, to succeed in the hyper-competitive landscape, you need to know what you're up against.

Blend Images | Colin Anderson | Getty Images

Related: The Secret to Outpacing Your Rival? Competitive Insights.

Luckily, it's pretty easy these days to keep an eye on what your competitors are up to in their pushes. If one of these brands, for example, is marketing online, it's often simple to find and examine its strategies: All you need to do is figure out how to do what that competitor is doing, better.

Not convinced? Here are a few more reasons why checking out the can benefit your business.

Trim your PR media list.

Interestingly, finding potential media outlets for a press list isn't that time-consuming a task. Instead, the problem is the many options, making it difficult to figure out which outlets actually want to write about your company.

In this context, if you track a competitor's PR coverage, you'll see which journalists are reporting on your industry and who will likely write about you. This way, you can cut unresponsive media outlets from your list without going through the effort of trying to contact them.

A good strategy here is to set up an alert for your competitors to get notifications whenever a journalist mentions them. You can find all of the articles about your niche first, then identify the writers.

Improve your landing pages.

Another reason to spy on your competitors, especially in AdWords, is to understand their landing-page strategies to increase conversions. Landing pages are extremely important, as they can affect conversion rates. Strong landing pages can double a conversion rate, while weak ones can turn off potential customers.

Taking a peek at what other businesses in your industry are doing with those pages can also help you pick up new strategies. For instance, some companies use video demos, while others keep things simple, with short contact forms and company contact information.

This can be especially useful if some of your competitors are large companies with big budgets, since they have the resources to figure out what works and what doesn't. If the information is out there, you might as well take advantage of it. Then, after checking out what seems to be effective, you can adapt those strategies for your own landing pages.

To do this research, either do Google searches and click on ads (which is a little shady, as the company has to pay for those clicks), or use online tools to send you screenshots of competitors' top landing pages.

Related: 9 Advanced -- and Ethical -- Techniques for Spying on Your Competitors Online

Find better key words.

For any successful PPC campaign, you need solid, profitable key words. However, it can get tough to keep coming up with key word ideas, and Google Keyword Planner provides only so many. If that's the case, you'll want to take a look at the key words your competitors are bidding on.

By spying on a competing business with a tool, you can download your competitor's PPC terms quickly and easily. All you need to do is search the name of that company using a search tool, and you'll see a list of its key words. Since this effort can produce around 60,000 results, use a sorting tool to cut the list further. Key-word search tools can also show you information like cost per click, average position, days seen and more to maximize the utility of your search.

Once you have a list of your competitor's keywords, you can cross-reference them with ones you're bidding on to figure out new terms for your next marketing campaign.

Solidify your content marketing.

Content marketing is an integral part of any business strategy. By taking a look at a competitor's founder's blog or social media, you can identify what he (or she) is publishing, when he's publishing it, how he's marketing what he published,and if it works. This is a treasure trove of information for your own content strategy.

Pay attention to what your competitors write about, their style, how they distribute their blog posts and how they engage with readers. Check out comments and likes to figure out what's working and what isn't, then use that information to bolster your own content marketing approach.

Do they write about an industry topic you haven't thought of or have they tackled a familiar topic from a fresh perspective? Do certain posts of theirs fall flat, while others become hugely popular? You can pick and choose what you want to include in your own marketing plan, and the best part is that the strategies have already been tested by someone else.

Related: 12 Ways to (Legally) Spy on Your Competitors

Due to the public nature of the web, information about business's marketing is easily (and legally) accessible for practically anyone. The benefits of checking out the competition can greatly boost your next .

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