Do you like feeling naive and out-of-the-loop?
Or do you like being in the know, up to date and aware of the information around you?
When you run an online business there’s a treasure trove of helpful information surrounding you.
The most potent information is provided by your competition, if you know where to look and how to identify the diamonds they’ve left out in the open.
In this post you’ll discover the exact tools and tactics you can use to spy on your competition to find these diamonds.
They’ve already done the hard work and now you’ll be able to piggy-back on their efforts to develop your own profitable strategies, catch up and then stay ahead of them.
You’ll feel like Jason Bourne felt when he discovered he could fight for the first time...suddenly aware of his deadly abilities...
Uncover New Offers & Angles by Spying on Your Competitor’s Landing Pages
Sales and landing pages are the best place to start your spying efforts because an optimized sales and landing page is a huge factor in what makes a successful business, so this is where you’ll find your competition’s best attempts to convert visitors to customers.
Maybe they are doing things you’ve never thought of, or attacking similar problems from an angle you’ve never considered.
The best way to increase conversions and sales is to be relentless in your effort to improve the performance of these pages for your own business.
You should be testing new headlines, offers and page design as often as you can.
This requires a lot of creativity and audience understanding, which can be a large barrier, so when you analyze your competition’s pages you should also be gathering ideas to test for your own website.
How to Sift Through a Landing Page to Find Diamonds
When you analyze their sales/landing pages for the first time you should be looking for the following:
- The benefits to the customer
- Headlines and subheadlines
- What they are offering to the visitor and what the visitor has to do to get it.
- The layout and order they present the different elements
- Capture the Page - I like to use Full Page Screen Capture and Skitch (Windows & Mac) to capture everything. Jing is also a good tool.
- Offers and CTA - Here I’ll look at opt-in offers. Are they offering a free report, a free consultation or something else? What copy are they using to try and get the visitor to take action and what does the visitor have to do? If there’s anything I haven’t seen before I’ll make a note of it in a word document.
- Headlines and Subheadlines - Then I’ll copy all the headlines and subheadlines into the same document and try to figure out what emotions are they invoking, what problems they are trying to solve and what features and benefits they are highlighting.
- Deeper dive into the small copy - Next I’ll read through the entire page and every bullet point. Here I’ll be looking for clues on what is true for my business and what is different. Are there any good stories or language they are using to paint a good picture? If yes, I’ll add it to the document.
- Page Structure - What order are they presenting the information? Is it an above the fold landing page or an in depth, long-copy page. Do they start with a video or an opt-in form? When do they list the features compared to the benefits, are there testimonials, guarantees or bonuses? Anything notable will go into the document.
After you’ve done a preliminary investigation, it’s important to keep checking in. Maybe your competition is testing a new design, headlines or new offers.
If you have many competitors in your space it can get VERY time consuming to check them all manually and look for changes.
The following tools will alert you to any change on the pages you specify, so you’re automatically updated anytime your competitor changes anything:
- iSpionage’s Campaign Watch
- Visual Ping
- Archive.org - Lets you look back in history at any website so you can see how your competition has been evolving
- Stillio Note: Automatic and scheduled screenshots. The tool won’t tell you what or if anything has changed though.
How To Use The Diamonds For Profit
Your goal with all of this information gathering is to help you generate ideas for you to test on your website so you can constantly keep improving your landing pages and offers.
By the time you're done with the 5 steps outlined above, you should have a plethora of information for your testing ideas. You want to start by testing big things because this will have the largest impact on your results.
Use the information to help you create different versions of your landing pages. Then you can use Google Analytics to set up A/B tests to show you which version performs the best.
You can then use the information to help you design new opt-in forms to test. Feel free to steal the step-by-step process we used when we increased John Lee Dumas' conversion rates by 268%.
Spy on your Competitor's Funnel to Find What Lies Beneath the Surface
90% of an iceberg lies beneath the surface. And like the iceberg, in many successful online businesses, much of the “magic” happens on the backend, after a visitor has converted.
To find out the secret sauce your competition is using behind the scenes you need to first opt-into their free newsletter (if they offer one), and then buy their products (if they offer them).
This will give you an insider’s look at their full funnel. You'll be able to see their content offers, pitches, funnel pages, frequency of emails and more, so pay attention to the following:
I like to use the screen capture tools I listed above (Full Page Screen Capture, Skitch (Windows & Mac) or Jing).
- Upsells, downsells and cross-sells
- Almost done/checkout/add to cart pages
- Confirmation/Thank you pages
- Confirmation & Transactional
- Follow up, drip campaigns & email frequency
- Exclusive customer offers
- Retargeting tactics
- Discounts for customers/subscribers
How to Turn Your Subscribers Into Raving Fans
Everything in this technique is aimed at optimizing your funnel after you get a visitor to opt-in. Your goal then becomes transforming them into a customer/raving fan ASAP by engaging, entertaining and educating them.
Upsell, Downsell, Almost Done and Confirmation Pages - Is your competition doing anything unique immediately after a confirmation you can also test? For example, at one point Social Triggers had an almost done page with a countdown timer and a nifty link that automatically searched the users Gmail account for the confirmation email to make signs ups as seamless as possible.
Followup Emails - Depending on your niche and competition it's possible you could never have to brainstorm ideas for onboarding emails, customer offers and how often to send newsletters ever again. All you have to is subscribe to a few of your competitor's email lists.
For example, I used the Gmail trick below to subscribe to Sujan Patel's newsletter and after a few months I had a ton of great information. Without even reading the emails I can see frequency, headline ideas, content topics and drip sequence order:
Live chats & Interactive Webinars - If your competition offers them, sign up. It's a great opportunity to see what they're up to and ask any specific questions you’re curious to have answered (product roadmaps, audiences, etc.). You might be surprised at how much information you can gather.
Advanced Tip: How Keep Your Inbox Clutter Free & Opt-In to Multiple Email Newsletters
- Use Gmail - Gmail allows you to create an infinite amount of email addresses under the same address with a simple “+” For example, if my email address is [email protected] I can send an email to [email protected], [email protected] or any other combination I can think of and they will all show up in my inbox at [email protected]
- Create a Label for your newsletters.
- Create a filter for your newsletter email address.
- Sign up for all the email newsletters you want with your newsletter email address.
- Wait a few weeks.
- Go to your newsletter filter and start analyzing the emails.
Create Viral Content by Spying on your Competition's
When you understand the type of content that’s getting shared, liked, discussed and linked to in your industry, you have a massive opportunity.
- Brian Dean increased his search traffic by 110% in 14 days using his skyscraper technique.
- Richard consistently gets ranked #1 in Google for his targeted keywords using expert roundups.
- Creating the fastest & cheapest content your readers are guaranteed to love with quality curated content is a no brainer.
- You never have to think about what to write about for your blog posts or wonder if your audience will read them.
The key to these opportunities is having your finger on the pulse of the successful content being generated in your industry so you don’t have to guess what’s working, you know.
In this section I’m going to show you exactly what tools and techniques to use so you can be in tune with what’s working in your industry. These valuable insights will allow you to create content with a much better chance of going viral:
IFTTT - If This Then That
IFTTT is a free automation tool allowing you to create “recipes” to perform certain actions when a specific trigger is fired.
There are tons of useful recipes you can create with this tool. Here's 38 IFTTT recipes helpful for small business owners
One of my favorites for spying on the competition is a recipe to aggregate any new post your competitors publish into a Google Doc. You can set it up for all of your competitor’s sites, and anytime you need inspiration or a real time market overview you can open a constantly refreshing library of post ideas. Discover how to create this recipe step-by-step in IFTTT when you share this post.
Keep Your Finger on the Pulse of your Industry with this IFTTT Recipe PLUS A Bonus Recipe to Automate Tweets
IFTTT Recipe to Spy on Your Competition
Content Sharing Sites
Search for a competitor's website on content sharing sites like Reddit and Pinterest. I like this because you get to see HOW people are sharing and interacting with content and what they’re saying about it.
It also allows you to see what sub-communities are sharing the content, which can give audience insights you might not have thought about.
Here's how to search on Reddit and Pinterest:
- For Reddit use http://reddit.com/domain/[Domain]
- For Pinterest use http://pinterest.com/source/[Domain]
For example: https://www.pinterest.com/source/thrivethemes.com would show you all the content on Pintrest regarding ThriveThemes.
Find What's Already Working
Buzzsumo and Social Crawlytics are fairly similar tools. You search by the topic or keyword you’re interested in writing about and the tools analyze what content performs best for any topic or competitor, as well as finding the key influencers to promote your own content. You can also search a specific competitor’s website to see which of their content has done the best.
These tools make researching and validating post ideas a breeze.
There’s also a backlink option (note: Ahrefs and Majestic also have this functionality) to see who else is linking to the popular blog posts, which is great for outreach link building (you’ll learn about this powerful strategy in the next section).
Spy on Your Competitor’s Outreach for the Easiest Links, Mentions & Endorsements You’ll Ever Get
To boost your popularity you need to be talked about.
Doing this for your online business means building links from other powerful websites, being endorsed by influencers or just being mentioned on social media.
There’s an easy way to find these opportunities by using your competition as a guide.
The idea here is to find sites who have already linked to businesses like yours in other articles they’ve published or who are already promoting and mentioning similar businesses or posts in their social media accounts. Here’s a twitter example:
A quick mention on social media never hurts, but what if you could:
- Build 40+ contextual links to your site every month?
- Get high DA and PA links?
- 80/20 your outreach to eliminate trial and error and sites who are unresponsive to linkbuilding?
If they’ve already linked to your competitor or mentioned similar content to what you offer, the likelihood they’d be interested in your helpful resources is strong and an easy sell. In this section I’ll be showing you tools you can use to find these easy link building opportunities.
The free way to do this is to set up Google Alerts around topics of blog posts you’ve written, your competitor’s company name, their website URLs and even the names of the executives or founders. Every time anything is mentioned or published on the internet around your alerts, you will be notified.
Then it’s as simple as checking out the notification yourself, and deciding if it would be a good fit for your business.
Use the gmail trick I outlined in spy technique two to filter these alerts so you don’t clutter your inbox.
The links you’ll find will fall into 1 of 5 categories:
- Resource Link - What we normally think of when we think "links." For example, all of the links in this post would be considered a resource link.
- Guest Posts
- Paid - This includes sponsored content or prizes
All of the categories (except Comments) will require some type of outreach. Here’s a good template you can modify for Resource Link outreach and this post details how to write effective outreach emails, in general.
Google Alerts will provide you real time notifications, but if you want a deeper dive into your competitor's outreach success you can use more powerful tools like: Ahrefs or Majestic Site Explorer.
These allow you to examine a website's backlink profile to find out everyone who has ever linked to them and to which specific post. This is great information to have if you’re trying to 80/20 your link building efforts because you know exactly who’s going to be receptive to your outreach and it makes it much simpler.
Something like: “hey, I see you have X listed as a great tool for Y. My tool also does Y and it might make a great addition to your post/resource list” could be all you need to build some powerful links back to your own site.
These tools also allow you to compile broken and lost link reports from your competitors. You need these to take advantage of a powerful technique called Broken Link Building, which involves finding links that don’t work anymore and are related to an article you’ve written. You'd then contact the website owner with an email like this as a quick and easy way to provide value and build links back to your site to increase SEO, traffic and popularity.
Be a Smart Spy
Your competition is a great place to quickly gather intel and creative ideas without having to start from scratch. However, it’s easy to get sucked into the vortex and spend all your time spying instead of innovating and working on your business.
It’s also possible your competition has no idea what they’re doing, which is why it’s important to use these techniques for ideas to test and not as the capital-T-Truth on what works.
Research, get ideas, implement, and then test and modify accordingly.
How do you channel your inner Jason Bourne when you’re spying on the competition? Share your tactics in the comments!
Coming Soon...More Advanced Tactics
This is going to be a multi-part post. This has been updated once, but there's still more information you can uncover about your competition.
However, these are the building blocks and If you do not understand these then other tactics and tools to spy will be less effective.
Use this opportunity to take action with these strategies so you're ready for the next post update. If you want to be notified when part 3 is published, enter your name and email below:
If you're already subscribed to the Thrive Themes newsletter, you don't need to fill out this form.
You. Rock. Dave.
Thank. You. Dean 🙂 Stoked you found it helpful!
Amazing posts. You’ve really shared some insights to spying on competitors and getting to know how they do their stuff. I’m starting with you guys.
Oh and thank you for sharing the Gmail trick above. I’ve always used signing up for newsletters as a way of knowing what’s going on with a few competitors but I’ve been put away too many times due to the too MUCH emails.
I guess that’s a sign too? That I should start sending emails like crazy lol.
Hats of for this one.
Thanks for sharing,
Glad to hear you’ve been enjoying the posts! It definitely could be a sign, but again, I recommend testing it and seeing how your audience responds…they might be following you for the fact that you’re not as overwhelming.
Dave, you make crushing our competition…..fun.
Hahaha, glad you enjoyed the post Steve! Keep crushing 🙂
Love these kinds of post at Thrive … keep them coming!
Glad you’re enjoying them Erik!
great stuff! One question though: What’s your strategy to find your competitor’s landing pages? Find out what and where they advertise – so basically hunting down their ads – and then clicking on them to get to the LP?
Great question Johannes. One of the future, more advanced strategies will go into detail on how to spy on your competitor’s PPC efforts, which will show you more of their landing pages.
Finding ALL of their landing pages might be a bit tricky (many sites will noindex and nofollow their landing pages for SEO reasons) so a lot of the times it’s more hunting. Clicking their ads is a good way to do it when you come across them, but also just going through their site as if you were a new visitor and looking for what they’re promoting works too.
Love it! this is so where im at right now – but my inbox is a bit of a mess.. when you create the labels – is it one label for each competitor or one label – the same label – for all the competitors you’re spying on??
Glad you like the post, Dana 🙂
So personally, I’d create one label (for example, a “Newsletter” label) instead of a label for each competitor. Then, when an adequate time has passed and you’re ready to do some analyzing you can just click your “Newsletter” label and ALL of them will show up. If you want to isolate a single competitor just type the competitor’s sender name in the search bar at the top of gmail and gmail will only show those emails.
Does that help/make sense?
This is an awesome post Dave, full of very useful tips 🙂 Now the ball is in the readers’ court to make use of them..
Indeed! Glad you liked the post and found the tips useful!
Great post and thanks for putting this together. I’ve done some spying on the competition and implemented some great stuff I’ve seen, but I’m going to spend a little more time undercover.
No problem, Mike! Glad you enjoyed the post. Good luck and have fun uncovering more!
Great post and tip on Gmail Dave, would you know how some of my competitors CTA pages capture my information from a previous visit and display all the static information waiting just for me to prove I’m not a robot and hit the CTA button? I guess it’s cookies but is there a special trick/switch I can use in TT to activate something like this?
I’m not exactly sure what you mean Peter, can you clarify a bit and I’ll do my best to help you understand what’s happening!
That was an awesome post. Thank you for writing it!
No problem, Bryce! Glad you found it helpful 🙂
Hi DAVE, I have always looked at competitors copy & design for ideas & inspiration – actually I put it down to not being very creative but perhaps I can reframe myself as being a spy ninja! Never knew about the Gmail tip – good one:)
Haha, I know what you mean as far as the feeling uncreative, but yeah, I like to reframe it as standing atop the shoulders of giants (if they know what they’re doing of course), because you get a sense of what works and then can add your own unique flavor to it!
ha ha… Loved that Newsletter subscription tip without cluttering inbox and all. Going to try that for sure! Thanks.
Glad you enjoyed the tip, Arun!
I have pre-sale question regarding content builder and I will throw it up here. I really like the blog layout, so If I buy content builder, can I make the same blog as this or it will depend on the third party plugin which I use.
Thrive Content Builder can be used to edit the content within the content area of your WordPress theme. It can’t be used to create an entire blog layout. That’s up to the theme.
Awesome detail and step by steps. I look forward to mapping this out and implementing. Thanks.
Glad you enjoyed it, Nate!
I tweeted for you– now what?
A button to download should have appeared…let me know if this didn’t happen and I’ll help you 🙂
Interesting angle. Look forward to getting more tips on link building spying.
Glad you enjoyed it Lebron!
Loved reading through this really helped me, Thanks!
No problem Mia! Glad you found it helpful 🙂
Amazing post. Keep writing good stuffs.
BTW what an amazing choice of the article title. You seem like a fan of Jason Bourne like me.
PS: Awesome movie
Glad you enjoyed it (and the title), Mehul!
Love Jason Bourne…awesome movie, indeed 🙂
Big Dave, fantastic article helped me a lot. You gave me several ideas. Thank you very much!
No problem Miguel! Glad you enjoyed it and found it helpful 🙂
Great Post Dave! Anxiously awaiting the next post 🙂
Sweet, Great article. Thanks Dave
Glad you enjoyed it Juanis!
Great article Dave. An absolute ton of useful info. Thanks
No problem! Glad you found it helpful 🙂
Thanks bro, you are number one Dave
Ah yeah! No problem!
Wow this is awesome. Thanks a lot.
No problem, Paul! Glad it was helpful 🙂
Awesome post!thanks for sharing such informative and useful article.it is really such an amazing.the points you have shared here there really educative.
Glad you enjoyed it!
These are the strategies I deem “necessary:
1. Personal branding.
2. Content marketing.
3. Search engine optimization (SEO).
4. Conversion optimization.
5. Social media marketing.
Thanks for sharing this article
Love your post
The amazing article again. I just love your articles.
Great post, Although I would like to add a few points. These steps always works for me.
Step 1: Analyze your competitors
Step 2: Copy their best practices
Step 3: Take advantage of their mistakes
Working all the time!
I’m new to the digital marketing world and your tips are helping me to learn fast.
Amazing post. Keep writing good stuff. Loved reading through this helped me, Thanks!