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‘Practical Techie’: Gather your own business intelligence

Author Rafael Matos is professor of multimedia at a private university and director of the Caribbean Multimedia Center, a nonprofit media lab focusing on closing the digital divide. Questions should be sent to Author Rafael Matos is professor of multimedia at a private university and director of the Caribbean Multimedia Center, a nonprofit media lab focusing on closing the digital divide. Questions should be sent to

What is the competition up to?

The National Security Agency not withstanding, looking over one’s shoulder to check on the competition is always a practical procedure to help survive in the competitive world of business. Spying, it’s called.

It’s not a neat word to utter but that’s what it is, in essence. China has universities dedicated to training industrial spies. All security and military agencies in the world do it. All embassies have non-descript attaches that snoop about their host countries.

Smart entrepreneurs must do it as well to stay ahead of the game. It’s all a matter of doing it legally. Preferably, do it in a very elegant manner. Technology can help in both instances.

This week the Practical Techie looks at some savvy tools to check out business competitors. Some are paid, some are free, depending on how deep you want to peer into your rival’s doings.

iSpionage looks at how your competitors are advertising with Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo search marketing tools.

Want a snapshot of a competitor’s Twitter presence? Use Topsy. This application allows you to search tweets from 2006 forward; that is, from Twitter’s year one. It give’s you a digital X-ray of your competitors social media actions, how it influences users, links used, photos and videos.

Of course, it’s also wise to follow competitors on social media and track their messaging content. Also subscribe to their blogs and check out announcements of upcoming product launches or sales pitches and strategies for customer retention. Don’t be shy and also sign up to their newsletters and Facebook pages.

Also, Open Social Buzz provides real-time search of Twitter, Google+, Facebook, and LinkedIn. Plug in your competitor’s name and see how much social prominence they have accumulated.

These next tools, Adbeat and AdGooroo will aid you in determining where competitors are advertising. The apps will show the ads that an advertiser has put up on the Web and also locate competitors you didn’t even know about within the Google realm.

This one, SocialAdNinja deals with PPC monitoring. PPC is a type of sponsored online advertising that is used on a wide range of websites, including search engines, where the advertiser only pays if a web user clicks on their ad. Hence the term “pay per click.” offers a database of about 400,000 social PPC ads and is very useful for detecting Facebook advertising by competitors. The database is searchable by categories of ads.

Marketing Grader quickly gives out a ranking of websites and blogs. Use it to find out how your competitor’s are rated in terms of lead generation and overall effectiveness. If you want to check out your competitors’ direct mail, email, and social campaigns got to Who’s Mailing What.

MixRank allows you to see the mix of ads that companies are using. SpyFu lets you see up to six years of data on your competitors’ keywords. A more technical, but useful tool is BuiltWith. It gives you info on the technology, servers, content management, underlying technology, analytics and advertising behind your competitors’ sites.

Social Mention provides real-time search of brand mentions on blogs, microblogs, images, videos, questions, and bookmarking sites and this tool, Talkwalker is the most practical. It offers a service similar to Google Alerts. It monitors news, blogs, discussions and other themes that include your competition’s tracks in the Web and it’s a free service, according to

Then there are links and there are backlinks. This tool, Majestic Site Explorer provides a detailed link profile for any site.

The goal of all this is simple and shameless. Discover what competitors are doing better than you, monitor their best marketing optimization strategies and improve your business by emulation. All based on data rather than assumptions, or the old and unrealizable rumor mill.

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This story was written by our staff based on a press release.

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