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So... What Is Your Competition Up To?

Aug 17, 2007
Running a home business takes some serious work. You have to keep track of how your business is progressing, whether you're making or losing money, think of things you can do better... the list goes on.

One step that is easy to skip is paying attention to what your competition is doing. There's nothing wrong with this, so long as you keep things legal. Keeping an eye on your competition can motivate you to work harder and may even give you new ideas.

I don't mean ideas necessarily stolen directly from the competition. However, you can look at what someone else is doing and think of something with your own twist. Or you might spot a market segment you'd missed.

One easy way is to use the RSS services of sites such as Google News. Drop your competition's name and/or website into a search there, then put the RSS feed into your feed reader. You'll be updated any time there's something new with the competition or any time someone says something about them that makes it into Google News. You can also sign up for emailed Google Alerts, make Technorati watch lists, search Yahoo News... think about where you are likely to find the information you need.

While perhaps not as revealing as they once were due to waning popularity, you can sometimes figure out what keywords your competition is targeting by looking at the meta tags in their website's source code. These are now only minimally used by search engines, but many people still take the time to drop in at least a few keywords.

Google Alerts are good for more than just keeping an eye on what people are saying about your competitor. They're also good for keeping an eye on who's linking to them. Google does not list all links, however, so this is not 100% accurate. It is a place to start, however. Yahoo also provides a link search. In Google, type link:domain.com, or in Yahoo type linkdomain:domain.com in the search box to see the results.

While there are a variety of tools out there to check link popularity, I like DigitalPoint's Keyword Tracker. It's easy to use and stores your data. You have to sign up for a free account and you need a Google API and install a script on your server to track Yahoo and MSN rankings, but that's all pretty easy.

No matter how interesting an idea you find your competitor working on, you need to be ethical and not steal the idea directly. Don't go making an exact copy. Figure out how you can do better. Tighten the niche, add a little more to the product or service, offer more information... you get the idea. Or decide that it's not a direction you need to go because it's a distraction from your core business. You never know.

Pay much more attention to your business than to that of your competition. You don't want to be distracted from the work you need to get done. Your business will grow at its own pace and there's only so much you can do about it in your particular situation. You may have limitations on time or money the other business owner does not. Or you might be doing amazingly better, in which case you need to avoid complacency.
About the Author
Stephanie Foster blogs at http://www.aspectsofhomebusiness.com/blog/ on issues relating to home business. Read her blog at to learn more about traffic generation tactics .
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