One thing that many new businesses take for granted is that their competitors are the same companies online and offline. While it’s often the case that the same company controls market share in both sectors, when you start looking at the complex landscape of keywords and user dynamics, the competition increases and new players enter the field.

For those who are less internet savvy, this is an area of internet marketing called competitor analysis. Many people believe it’s absolutely essential to know who your customers are and what they’re doing in order to succeed in business. Researching this information using the internet doesn’t require years of working in the industry; it only requires patience and a bit of hard work – and what you do with the information is your remit.

In terms of financial analysis, you can look up company credit scores at, which is the world’s biggest free database of company information. You can search company accounts going back 20 years (aggregated from UK Companies House) and view millions of company profiles, which have details from a variety of “free, open and paid sources and providers.” This is particularly useful for those looking for partnerships, networking opportunities and recruitment as according to the website, there are 8,674,893 company profiles on the site and counting.

For basic SEO metrics, the MozBar from SEOmoz is a quick and easy tool that gives you instant information on the sites you visit. It highlights no-followed, followed, internal, external links and keywords, all of which can help you analyse a competitor’s marketing strategy. Among a number of useful tools, the SERP overlay lets you compare link metrics and the Analyze Page overlay is a shortcut to quickly reviewing page elements.

Some of the world’s most importation information is conveyed through conversation, and in internet terms that means Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest – even Instagram, Tumblr, Reddit and Buzzfeed. There are so many conversations going on every day that you’d be remiss not to tune in to find out what your customers are talking about. Use Tweetdeck or Monitter, which are apps that can help you select and search for trending keywords. You can use this information to start your own conversations in tweets, blog posts or Facebook updates.

Although some companies hire consultants to tell them who their competitors are, you may not have the means or time just yet. It’s still essential to keep an eye on the competition and use the resources that you have at your disposal, but imitating your competitors shouldn’t be the sum total of your marketing efforts. Use competitor analysis as a “forewarned is forearmed” strategy, and keep working to present unique ideas.

AvatarHelen Major

Helen Major has a keen interest in finance and has been writing for blogs and newspapers on the subject for a number of years. Recently, she has been consulting small and start-up businesses on building successful internet marketing campaigns.