Effective Competitor Intelligence

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So how do you report on Competitor Intelligence within your company? Let me guess, it is probably one of the two following options:

    • You have a fancy account at Hitwise
    • You have nothing

In a previous article, ‘Complete Web Monitoring for $65‘, I quickly touched based on Competitive Analysis. This article, part one in a two-part series, will take you further.

Ok, ok, I must admit. The options mentioned above are poor, and probably not even realistic, but how much do you really know about your competitors? How much do you really monitor them?

Immediate Effectiveness

With the various SaaS tools around these days, a lot can be done to gain actual insights (no pun intended) into the effectiveness of your competitors online presence. It is easy to learn more about the user friendliness, performance, marketing activities and online sentiment.

It is not a question of ‘if’ you should do this, but how soon you can start doing it, because nothing gets a manager’s mind going then when you draw comparisons between ‘yours’ and ‘theirs’, ie. the ‘Neighbors New Car’ syndrome as I like to call it.

Researching Your Competitor

As I have just mentioned, there are several different approaches that you can take to investigating your competitor online. Prices vary too. While some methods are free, others require some investment, but all methods will help you learn more about the differences between you and your competitors.

The following list has been sorted to my personal preference, ie. from top to bottom what I find the most interesting and effective to less. Opinions might differ on the order, but let’s stay focused on the end goal… Effective Competitor Intelligence.

Usability Task Testing

Remote Usability Testing is a hot topic these days. With SaaS tools like UserTesting.com and Loop11 you are able to remotely test your website and quickly get results back for you to analyze.

“best Usertesting.com is by doing 2 tests: showing the CEO that his site sucks, then show that his competitor is better.”

Avinash Kaushik @ Web Analytics Congres 2012 Workshop

With both tools you simply define a set of tasks you want the participants to complete, enter a URL where you want the test to begin and voila… testing has begun. What I found interesting, something I found out when doing some performance monitoring, is that these tools do not require you to place a javascript tag on your website in order to use it. So why not perform similar tests, but instead of pointing participants to your own site, point them to a competitor’s website.

UserTesting.com Example

UserTesting.com already mentions that you can test a competitors website.

The great thing about performing these kind of tests is that your competitor doesn’t need to know what you are doing. The downside is that this method costs money. Less expensive alternatives are using local tools like Silverback App and invite colleagues or family members to perform the tasks.

Usability Feedback Testing

In many previous articles I have spoken about Usabilla. With Usabilla you can perform similar tests as previously described with UserTesting.com and Loop11, but this time, you research competitor design.

Usabilla Research

Usabilla research can also be done on a competitor’s website.

By using screenshots from your competitors’ websites, you can run off a series of questions geared towards finding out what people like about a design. Comparing these results with your own website will give you plenty of input for A/B or Multivariate Testing.

Usabilla often conducts research between different websites by itself and publishes these. Working in the Travel sector myself, this report on the user experience of 18 different travel websites was very insightful.

If you need help with building a panel to conduct Usabilla style tests with, make sure to read my article ‘Guerilla Online Panel Recruitment‘.


Again, a hot topic that really gained momentum in 2011… performance. In other words, how fast and efficient does your website load in the end users’ browser? To get insights on this topic, there are 2 different roads that you can take. A paid road, or the free road.

Manual Performance Analysis

The free option will push you in the direction of WebPageTest.org. The website’s service (remote performance testing) is free to use as it is sponsored by a variety of companies offering consultancy services on the same topic.

On the website, you can enter the URI of the webpage you want to test and it will produce a superb analysis for you to dig through. Testing is done manually and there is no historic comparison feature for similar test setups. This, however, is not my most favorite functionality of the website.

The best feature can be found under the tab ‘Visual Comparison‘. Enter multiple URI of pages ou want to test and get a mind-blowing video display of how the pages load… compared to one another. Here is an example:

Paid Performance Analysis

The second road is a paid road, toll road if you will. There are many tools out there that will automate performance monitoring for you. You should of course focus on monitoring your own performance, but there is nothing stopping you from monitoring your competitors.

In the example below, using Watchmouse as the monitoring tool, a clear analysis can be done of the performance of our websites with those of competitors (whited out for privacy reasons).

From this information you can keep a close eye on the progress competitors are making in page speed optimization. The test is limited to what you are willing to spend, but an initial setup including a comparison between your key pages and comparable pages on your competitors’ websites is recommended.

Competitor Performance Analysis

Monitor the performance of competitors and compare it to your own.


Since this is the first part of a two-part series on Effective Competitor Intelligence I won’t write an extensive conclusion. The examples speak for themselves. Staying on top of your competitors’ activities is paramount to maintaining a lead or gaining a lead in your online market segment. Although heuristic evaluation of your own is still crucial to building a clear picture of your competitors’ capabilities, the techniques described above will definitely help you get started.

Recommended Books

Complete Web Monitoring ;by Alistair Croll, Sean Power

Recommended Articles

The Definitive Guide To (8) Competitive Intelligence Data Sources! by Avinash Kaushik

21 Tools to Legally Spy On Your Competition by Bryan Eisenberg

About Matthew Niederberger

Matthew works as Conversion Optimisation Manager at Ziggo BV. In his free time he enjoys family life as well as digging into online user research material whilst frequently generating some of his own, which he freely shares here on actualinsights.com.


  1. Hi Matthew,

    Again great piece of work…In addition to the tools mentioned you can also use sites like compete.com or spyfu.com to check out things like webtraffic and/or adwords used. Insightful if you want to check how your competitors promote themselves.



  1. […] the performance and availability of your competitors is just another method to gain insights on how you are performing against the competition. So, by setting up the previously mentioned tools to query your competitors’ websites you can […]

  2. […] the main one being the option to compare several URL’s at the same time (such as a list of competitors) and having the tool creature a video of the recorded screenshots, comparing all the URL’s in […]

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