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Quick Tips for Competitive Intelligence Gathering

As a savvy Internet Marketer, you know how valuable it is to have the “skinny” on your competitors at your fingertips. Below, you'll find our picks for the best Competitive Intelligence gathering features of two toolbars: the SEO Toolbar and the Alexa toolbar.

SEO Toolbar

The SEO Toolbar aggregates data from many of the leading search resources, including Alexa, Compete, Yahoo! and Google and puts it all in a single toolbar.

This toolbar is designed to make generating search-based information as easy as possible. Much of the information appears in pop-up boxes on the page you're viewing, while others open in new tabbed pages.

Here's what the toolbar offers search marketers:

1. Detailed site information in a pop-up window, including PageRank, site age, Google cache date, number of links to the site and to interior pages, traffic data including total and unique traffic from Alexa and Compete, and how many social networks link to the site, including Twitter, Delicious and Digg.

2. Keyword report: Number of Google keywords, number of competitors for those keywords in Google, number of potential ad buyers, traffic rank, plus approximate prices for keywords. This basic data is provided gratis to the user. For more detailed data, you'll have to sign up for a paid subscription.

3. Keyword density data (pop-up) including meta keywords, meta tags, stop words and the site's meta description.

4. Keyword suggestion tools including those from SEOBook, Google, AdWords, Yahoo! and Wordtracker

5. A "Competition" link. This feature brings up a pull-down menu and links to key intelligence sites, including:

  • Keyword data, suggestions and bid prices from the Google Search-Based Keyword Tool, which shows the top keywords for that site, the number of monthly searches, suggested bid prices and the page or pages those keywords were extracted from
  • Google Trends
  • PPC destination links
  • Google Ad Planner
  • Whois lookup information. This feature is especially helpful when you want to find out quickly who is "behind" a Web site when it is not readily apparent from the home page of said site. You can also get the phone number of the domain owner, which we find is often lacking in contact pages of target sites.

6. PageRank graph: Click to find Google data including cache date.

7. Site comparison: Includes up to five sites and gets detailed site information such as traffic and inbound links on each site, which you can export to Excel.

8. Top referring links from Yahoo! Search and discover how many links there are in the directory. It pays to compare inbound link search results between Yahoo! and Google. You will often find they yield different results.

9. Backlink statistics: (Gratis registration required for more detailed information).

10. Page archives in the Wayback Machine directory. This feature can help give you a sense of how a given company presented itself at various stages of its growth.

11. Unique visits and trend data using statistics from Compete, a research company that combines data from its 2 million Compete toolbar users and survey participants.

Alexa Toolbar

You probably know about the Alexa toolbar, which has been around practically forever, providing information for the intellectually curious who want to know the hot stories and sites of the day and explore the Web in all its riches.

What you might not know is that Alexa has grown up over the years. It provides a gold mine of traffic, popularity, keyword, clickstream and trend data for search marketers, too.

Alexa for Internet Explorer

Alexa, which is owned by Amazon, renders two different ways. In Internet Explorer, it's a classic top-of-the-browser toolbar, showing the Alexa search field, page traffic ranking, the top story of the day, related links, hot Websites and the average user rating for the site you're viewing in your browser.

Alexa for Mozilla Firefox

Alexa provides a richer experience in Firefox. In this browser, Alexa is an add-on, which sits in the taskbar at the bottom of the browser. It uses graphs to show the Alexa traffic ranking, traffic trends and page rank and also has a "reach" meter to display the page reach, which is the number of people the page reaches per million users.

At the top of the browser, Alexa places a "Related Links" tab with recommendations of similar pages.

And now for those search goodies:

Once you click through to the Alexa site, here's what you'll find, using data generated by traffic from 10 million toolbar users and blended in with traffic data from other sources:

1. Keywords

Here's where Alexa helps you get your competitive edge on. What keywords are driving traffic to the Website in question? Alexa shows you the top 10 keywords, updated monthly, and drawn from users who type search terms into the Alexa search engine.

This Alexa page also shows the global popularity of keywords that drive traffic to that site, whether it's yours or your competitors' sites.

2. Clickstream

Where do people come from when they arrive at a given site, and where do they go after they leave? This part of Alexa shows the top referring pages and post-visit destinations and the percentage of traffic from and to each one.

3. Graphical Traffic Statistics

  • A graph shows traffic trends, from a one-day period to a three-month trend, whether it's rising or falling and by what percentage.
  • View the pie chart showing which countries people come from and where they go on your site.
  • How fast does the page load?
  • How does the site rank in traffic compared to all other Websites?
  • Average pageviews per user session.
  • Bounce rate: How many single-page visits occurred, and is the number going up or down?
  • Time on site, expressed in minutes.
  • Search percentage: How many visits to the site started with a search engine? (up to 6 months' historical data)
  • Compare search visit stats of four competitors in a color-coded single graph.

4. General traffic and reputation information:

  • Alexa overall ranking
  • Alexa ranking within the US
  • Inbound links
  • How long the site has been online

5. Contact information

This includes site administrator name, postal address and email address but not telephone number.

6. Related Links

What other sites are similar to the one you're looking at? Those "birds-of-a-feather" sites are listed in this section. We sometimes refer to these sites as "cohort" sites.


  • Alexa Toolbar: The site will detect whether you use IE or Firefox and serve up the correct download.
  • SEO Toolbar is offered by Aaron Wall's SEO Book site, one of a collection of SEO tools, including the Firefox add-on, SEO for Firefox.