10 best competitive intelligence tools from 10 experts 10

Posted on October 19, 2014 by Rob Petersen




Competitive Intelligence

Sun Tzu’s wisdom in The Art of War is as true today as it was in 500 B.C.

Competitive Intelligence is the gathering of publicly-available information about an enterprise’s competitors and the use of that information to gain a business advantage. The goals of competitive intelligence include discerning potential business risks and opportunities and enabling faster reaction to competitors’ actions and events.

If Sun Tzu were with us today, he would probably be using digital competitive intelligence tools to understand his adversaries. Which ones would he use; why and for what purpose?

Here are 10 experts giving us their best competitive intelligence tools:

  • GOOGLE TRENDS: Measuring individual sites (yours or competitor) is good but the real fun in this is comparing trends. That will give you the key context you need to make even more sense of this competitive data. Don’t focus on the actual numbers (you’ll notice I say this a lot in this post). You want to compare the trends and each line gives context to the other two. That is deeply meaningful. – Avinash Kaushik (Google)

Google Trends Competitive Intelligency


  • COMPETE: Has a useful interface, speaks the right language (unique visitors, visits, etc.), offers the ability to compare multiple sites, and its data is easy to understand and well presented. Compete is best used for comparing competitors’ website traffic. The trends are reliable. The information could be meaningfully used to look into seasonal trends between competitors. – Sam Crocker (MOZ)

Compete competitive intelligence

  • ALEXA: Has been around since 1996. It’s a (mostly) free service that will help you analyze traffic on your competitor’s ecommerce store. Type in your competitors URL and Alexa will give you their global traffic rank, number of sites linking in, search analytics, audience insight, average site load time, and a whole lot more. You can really dig deep with Alexa, but it’s important to note that there are inaccuracies with Alexa’s information, since they get their data from those who have installed their toolbar for IE and Firefox or installed their Google Chrome extension. Take the numbers with a grain of salt. – Mark Hayes (Ecommerce University)

Alexa compettive intelligencce

  • HITWISE: An Experian product, provides excellent data and insight that no free/ low-cost alternative can rival. With Hitwise, you can build an even more accurate picture of where you are versus your competitors. Upstream and downstream reporting allows you to form an impression of the behaviour, intention and ‘mindset’ of visitors to your website. An ‘upstream’ report will show you what sites visitors have been to before visiting yours and shed light on the types of behaviour customers are displaying before they visit you. – Gavin Llewellyn (Smart Insights)

Hitwise copetitive intelligence

  • KEYWORD SPY: Offers a free Organic Competitors report that can help identify who the top competitors are for a particular keyword. Using this tool to identify competitors can not only help identify competitors you may not have known about, but also lets you see how competition differs around different keywords.  – Mark Purtell (Search Engine Journal)

Keyword Spy Competitive Intelligence

  • OPEN SITE EXPLORER: Is one of the free tools which will enable you to check link popularity, and monitor existing backlinks. If you are trying to promote your website with the help of blogs or guest blogs, you should definitely keep an eye on the links that you create. Open Site Explorer can help you predict page and domain authority, calculate total number of inbound links and determine the domain’s ranking potential (with the help of over 40 parameters). – Anna Robeson (Grow Map)

Open Site Explorer Competitive Intelligence

  • QUANTCAST: Provides “free direct audience measurement for all website owners including traffic, demographics, business, lifestyle, interests and more.”  What I love most about this free tool is the amount of data it shows, in graphical form, without needing to sign up for an account.  See the screenshot example below for – Amin Shawki (InfoTrust)

Quantcast Competitive Intelligence

  • SEMRUSH: Lets you monitor competitors’ organic keyword positions, find relevant long tail keywords, see your competitors’ PPC ads, and more. It also includes SEO tools. There’s a wealth of data available from the free search bar on the homepage, though you will have to upgrade ($69.95 per month) for more queries and results – Chris Kilbourn (Kiss Metrics)

SEM Rush Competitive Intelligence

  • TOPSY: Is the tool Siltala recommends for competitive intelligence analysis because it lets you search the entire history on Twitter. He also said, “Use Circle Count for G+ to find intel about your competitors”. – Matt Siltala (Avalaunch)

topsy competitive intelligency

  • MARKETING GRADER: Allows you to learn about the overall success of your competition’s SEO. With this tool, you can learn website traffic patterns and SEO data. You can also see which tactics are working and which aren’t, and you can also learn if conversions are being made. This tool will score you out of 100, and it will even provide you with suggestions on how you can improve your SEO. – Indiesilver Marketing

Marketing Grader competitive intelligence

These are our 10 best competitive intelligence tools from 10 experts. Do they match yours? What would you add or delete?

How content marketing improves the buyer journey. 7 ways 3

Posted on June 02, 2014 by Rob Petersen





  • 80% of people appreciate learning about a company through custom content (source: Demand Metric)
  • 67% of the buyer’s journey is now done digitally (source: Sirius Decisions)
  • 60% of people are inspired to seek out a product after reading content about it (source: Demand Metrics)

The facts show content has a major influence on buying behavior. And, when done effectively, content marketing  improves the journey.

How? Here are 7 ways content marketing improves the buyer journey.

DISCOVERY: Potential buyers are  likely to learn about your business from relevant content.

  • KEYWORDS ARE THE CURRENCY OF THE INTERNET: 54% of people find websites through natural search results according to Forrester. This means, when people type in their unmet need in the query box of a search engine, relevant content is likely to begin the brand relationship. A good tool to use to find the right keywords with the most search volume for your business is the Google Keyword Planner.
  • BUYER NEEDS CHANGE; CONTENT MARKETING QUICKLY ADAPTS: Buyers’ needs change but content marketing can maintain relevance. To illustrate, here’s how consumer needs in pajamas have changed using Google Trends. But content marketing could easily be adapted to changing needs, tastes and seasonality.

CONSIDERATION: There are different Buyer Personas and stages to the Buying Cycle. Content Marketing builds 1-to-1 reach relationships with all of them to facilitate their journey.

  • BUYERS GO THROUGH FIXED STAGES IN BRAND CONSIDERATION: There are three stages to our buying behavior on the internet based on three personalities: Researchers, Shoppers and Buyers. Researchers expect the business to educate them. Shoppers expect comparisons to other products. When ready to buy, Buyers want an experience that is clear, easy and fast. Content marketing is one of the most practical and thorough ways of appealing to all of them.
    • Articles
    • Blog posts
    • Advertorials
    • White papers
    • Email campaigns
    • Newsletters
    • Web content
    • Infographics
    • Illustrations
    • Photos
    • Videos
    • Tutorials
    • FAQs
    • Webinars
    • Case Studies
    • E-books
  • LINKS CREATE AUTHORITY, INFLUENCE AND ADVOCACY: One of the most effective ways to be recognized as an expert in your area. It might seem like a paradox but if you extol competitors you admire, you elevate your brand to that competitive set. One of the easiest and most effective ways to do this is to link with other authorities. Content marketing  is an effective ways of incorporating links. They raise authority and search rank.

SELECTION: Content marketing is one of the most measurable means to find the audience you want to attract, find more just them, get them to take the actions you what and prove effectiveness. So, you can repeat this process over and over again.

  • ANALYTICS GIVE AN ACTIONABLE SCORECARD: Every piece of content can be measured to see who visited, spent time, opened, shared, commented and their behavior flow. Whether through Google Analytics on a websites, short links like on social media or a download, everything can be measured. It shows what worked, what to keep doing and what to improve.
  • RELEVANT CONTENT CREATES COMPETITIVE DIFFERENTIATION: After the product, relevant content is a brand’s most relevant asset. All things being equal, a brand that produces relevant content, vs. a similar brand that doesn’t,  has significant competitive differentiation.

For more facts on content marketing and buying behavior, check out the infographic below.

Did this convince you content marketing improves the buyer journey? Are you ready to do something about it?


21 social media listening metrics every marketer should know 2

Posted on October 28, 2013 by Rob Petersen



Social Media Listenting

Social media listening, also known as social media monitoring, is the process of identifying and assessing what is being said about a company, individual, product or brand on the internet.

The right tools can be anything from free Google Alerts to an expensive software suite like Radian6 or Lithium with full integration of a customer relationship management (CRM) application like

Conversations on the internet produce massive amounts of unstructured data. In fact, social media listening is often a key component in Big Data analysis.

But it’s not the data, it’s what you do with it. To help get you started on what to look for, here are 21 social media listening metrics every marketer should know.


  • ALERTS: An automated web search from Google Alerts or Yahoo Alerts to help people and businesses monitor the Internet for developments and activities that could either delight or concern them. Results are sent to subscribers by e-mail.
  • PRESENCE: The complete collection of a brand’s presence across all the social networks.
  • REACH: The total combined amount of a brand’s audience, compounded by the friends of the audience and anyone in the greater community who is talking about or engaging with the brand.
  • TRAFFIC REFERRALS: The number as well as percent of people who come to your website for social media in general and by each social network as measured by Google Analytics.
  • REVIEWS: According to the Huffington Post, a one star boost in Yelp can lead to a 5% to 9% increase in revenue. A service like Review Tracker can help in the tracking.
  • INFLUENCERS: The authority of an online consumer, measured by his or her overall reach online. A consumer with a highly read blog and thousands of Twitter followers is assigned a high influence score. Services like Klout or Kred monitor them.
  • SHARE OF AUDIENCE: How a brand does against these audience metrics in comparison to their competition.


  • KEYWORDS: To determine the volume of people looking for the product or service you sell, it is important to understand search volume for primary keywords in social media and where they come from. Hootsuite can be configured to help you find people in real time who are looking for what you have to offer.
  • SOCIAL MENTIONS: How often a phrase like your brand, an event or a competitor comes up. Social Mention is social media search engine and analysis platform aggregates user-generated content from multiple social sites (Facebook, Twitter, blogs, comments, mainstream news, video, and images) into one activity stream.
  • LINKS: Content that is posted on social networks through short links and how often it is shared. Short links services like track with analytics by social network.
  • SENTIMENT ANALYSIS: A linguistic analysis technique where a body of text is examined to characterize the tonality of the document. It is useful in social media monitoring to automatically characterize the overall feeling or mood of consumers as reflected in social media toward a specific brand or company. Topsy is a good example of a free sentiment analysis tool while Lithium is  good enterprise solution that find sentiment from millions of social media sources.
  • TEXT ANALYTICS: The process of deriving high-quality information from text and keywords. Text mining usually involves structuring the input text, deriving patterns within the structured data, and evaluation and interpreting the output.
  • VIRALITY: The rate or how fast a brand’s content spreads across a social network or social networks. In some instances the success of a piece of content is tied how viral it becomes.
  • SHARE OF VOICE: How big a brand’s slice of the conversation is compared to their competition.


  • FACEBOOK ENGAGEMENT: The percent of people “Talking About” divided by “Likes.” “Talking About is an algorithm Facebook uses that combines comments, shares and likes to a post so the ratio show not only if people “Like” you but they like and share what you’re saying.
  • TWITTER ENGAGEMENT:  Combination of all the activity on a brand’s Twitter account to mention not only quantity but quality of followers and content: Re-Tweets, mentions, replies and clicks. Simply Measured offers a Follower report.
  • GOOGLE+ ENGAGEMENT: Combination of all the activity on a brand’s G+ page: Re-Shares, comments, and +1s for the same reasons as above.
  • YOUTUBE ENGAGEMENT: Combination and ratios of the activity on a brand’s YouTube channel – Views, comments, shares and subscribers – to measure not only who views but who comes back.
  • PINTEREST ENGAGEMENT Combination of all the activity on a brand’s Pinterest page: Repins, comments, and likes.
  • BLOGGER ENGAGEMENT: Comments and links to a blog as well as user generated content that isn’t get picked up as news or alert. Use Google Blog Search and Technorati to monitor.
  • SHARE OF ENGAGEMENT: How a brand does on these engagement metrics compared to their competition.

You may or may not need all of these measurements to listen effectively for your business. But if the ones you choose ones cover your audience, content and engagement, you’re more likely to come up with a good plan to listen.

Are these metrics you think every marketer should know. Would you include any others? Are you listening to your audience in social media?


21 reasons social media metrics are a waste of time 0

Posted on October 20, 2013 by Rob Petersen




Why is it so important to brands to: “Like Us on Facebook”?

Is it building relationships that lead to sales? Or is it a way to proclaim: We’re in social media; we have a Facebook page?

Ivory Madison in the Harvard Business Review, and Eric Ries, in his book, The Lean Startup, says social media metrics such as: Like, Follow Us and Re-Tweet are, by themselves, “vanity metrics.”

Is it a waste of time to measure them? Or do they offer insights into business growth? Is it even possible to know if tweeting a link leads to revenue?

Here’s a guide to tell you what to consider and how to spend your time. Or 25 reasons to know if you’re wasting time with social media metrics.


  • Do you have business goals for your social media activities?
  • How long do you expect it’s going to take until you achieve the results you want?
  • Do you take into account the time and resources required to reach your goals?


  • What are the business actions (sales, subscriptions, registrations,, leads or downloads) that matter most?
  • Are your Likes, Followers, Views, etc. tied to these actions that lead to revenue?
  • Do you measure conversion from these actions?


  • Do you know the real customer prospects among your Likes, Followers and Connections?
  • Do you know which social networks are most likely to be your customers?
  • Do you know the quality of your Likes, Followers and Connections?
  • Are there advocates among the people who Like and Follow you or Share your content?
  • Do you know which social networks share your content most often?
  • Are there traceable patterns where the actions of your existing customers create new customers.
  • Are the relationships impacting the sales actions that matter most?


  • Do increases in Likes, Followers, Connections, Views, Comments and Shares translate to increased visits to your website?
  • Do they visit the pages you most want them to visits?
  • Do the social network generating the most traffic in your Google Analytics translate to where you are spending your time?


  • Are your making connections (e.g. Like, Followers, Subcribers)  faster or slower than your competition?
  • Are “people talking about” your brand as measured by Comments, Likes, Re-Tweets, Shares and Views more or less than your competitors
  • Are you seeing an increase in search rank from your social activities?


  • Do you take actions from the results of your social media metrics?
  • Do you review Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) on a regular basis?
  • Has your business grown for the review and actions you take from social media metrics?

Social media metrics don’t have to be vanity metrics. Combined with the metrics that are most important with your business, they can provide insights into relationship that build revenue and build real value.

In our case studies, we’ve seen  brands grow and money saved. While every business is different, there is a KPI scorecard that can developed for specific characteristics.

Did these reasons help guide you on how you should be spending your time? Are you ready to stop wasting time with social media metrics?








11 definitions of ROI reveal a simple solution 4

Posted on November 24, 2012 by Rob Petersen




Show Me the ROI

Return on Investment (ROI) is the final word on the success of any marketing campaign. Among marketers today, the need to “Show Me the ROI has never been greater but most can’t agree what it is. Consider these facts:

  • 87% of marketing leaders agree capturing the right data is important to measuring ROI in their companies
  • 70% say their marketing efforts are under greater scrutiny
  • 70% report that a “cross-platform model” for ROI on their business is a major goal
  • 68% base marketing budgets entirely or in part on “historical spending”
  • 57% do not base their marketing budgets on any ROI analysis
  • 39% say it is important to spend only on marketing activities where  financial effects can be measured
  • 37% did not mention financial outcomes when asked to define ROI
  • 37% claim brand awareness is the universal metric they use to make marketing decision
  • 22% base marketing decisions on “gut instinct”

Source: 2012 BRITE Study (Columbia Business School and NY AMA)

Does this sound like your organization? We looked at 11 definitions of ROI. They revealed a simple solution.


ROI is the final word because it proves how well a business is being managed. The formula for ROI is:

Return (e.g. sales, income, profit) – Investment/Investment (X 100) = %

Let’s take an example. A business invests $100,000 at the beginning of the year on either an ad or marketing campaign or the money is used to make internal marketing improvements. At the end of the year, the gain is $150,000. The ROI is: $150,000-$100,000 = $50,000/$100,000 X 100 = 50% return on the investment or a 1.5-to-1 ROI.

A few steps to be taken when beginning.

  • Establish a “baseline” for the return before the measurement period (in the example it was 0)
  • Define the basis of the “return” or gain (e.g. sales, income, profit)
  • Determine the time frame

But this isn’t hard to do. Here are some examples of how it might be expressed:

  • Double sales in a year and a half
  • Increase profitablity by 25% within a year
  • Gain 200 new customer within 3 months
  • Generate a 25% increase in conversion within 6 months
  • Decrease customer complaints by half within a year

Now you’ve got a plan; one with a clear business objective, defined goals and ROI evaluation model.

But if you read this and say, “the ROI for my business requires more ‘rigor’ and ‘granularity;” then, determine Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) so you have an actionable scorecard to keep your business on track. Here is some help on how to do it with a video that explain how to identify KPI’s.


1.  The rate of revenues received for every dollar invested in an item or activity. Calculating ROI is not difficult. It is the amount of revenues generated divided by the expense. For example, if you spend $1,000 per month for Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising and generate $2,000 in revenues directly from your PPC campaign, your return on investment is actually $2,000 but is more often referred to as a ratio such as $2 or 2 to 1. –

2. The measurement for profitability of an investment. It is calculated by dividing the revenue each product generated by its expenses. Overall, the ROI tells the story of a business’s financial successes or hardships. – eHow

3. It’s the most common profitability ratio. The most frequently used method to determine ROI is to divide net profit by total assets. So if your net profit is $100,000 and your total assets are $300,000, your ROI would be .33 or 33 percent. –

4. The money that a person or company earns as a percentage of the total value of his/her/its assets that are invested. It is calculated thusly: Return on investment = (Income – Cost) / Cost – Free Dictionary

5. A performance measure used to evaluate the efficiency of an investment or to compare the efficiency of a number of different investments The formula (Investopedia) is:.

ROI Formula - Investopia

6. The income that an investment provides in a year – Investor Words

7.  The cost of a marketing campaign relative to the profit generated. If you invested $1000 on January 1, and on December 31 you had $1,200, you generated a 20% ROI – your Return on the Investment of the original $1000 is $1200 – $1000 = $200 / $1000 invested = 20% ROI on an annual basis (excluding transaction costs). – Jim Novo

8. ROI is more than ‘money in, money out’. It’s about efficient business success (expressed through not only money but people’s time)  – Eric Swayne and Radian 6

Eric Swayne and Radian 6

9. A measure of the net income a firm is able to earn with the its total assets. Return on investment is calculated by dividing net profits after taxes by total assets. When someone asks about ROI, they are really asking: What do I get back (‘return’) for the money I’m being asked to spend (‘investment’)? What is it really worth (the “ROI”)? – Resource Management Systems

ROI costs vs. benefits

10. How much profit or cost saving is realized. An ROI calculation is sometimes used along with other approaches to develop a business case for a given proposal and grade how well a company is managed – SearchCIO

11. A snapshot of profitability adjusted for the size of the investment assets tied up. The formula is: return on investment = (gain from investment – cost of investment) / cost of investment – Wikipedia

Our company, BarnRaisers, was founded on the idea marketing campaigns should start, be sustained and scaled based on ROI and proven relationship principles. Does this solution for ROI help your business? Would you like to learn more about how we done it for others?



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