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Competition Research Tools

You may think that your startup stands alone - that it’s truly unique in the market - but that’s rarely true. In fact, having no competition might mean that your startup just isn’t necessary. If there’s a market of people willing to buy your product, they’re probably spending their money elsewhere today. Your job is to find out where.

Why Research Your Competition?

Getting a lay of the competitive landscape can help you in many ways. Not only will you be prepared to compete better against established players, but you’ll also learn how your rivals market their products, who their customers are, and how successful they’ve been.

Researching your competition can also help you discover new niches that may be underserved, and if your startup starts to gain traction, your competitors may end up being partners or even acquisition targets.

That said, where do you start on this path to knowing your competition? What tools can you use to find and learn about your competitors? That’s where this list can help you.

Startup Competitor Research Tools

In this list, I’ve included several of the tools I use to find and research similar startups and products. You can use these tools to come up with ideas for your blog, figure out how they’re doing, and learn more about their customers.

Alexa ($0) - Alexa’s similar site tool uses audience overlap rather than site content to determine similarity.

AlternativeTo ($0) - If you know your product is similar to at least one other site, you can use AlternativeTo to find dozens of alternatives to that site.

AngelList ($0) - Many startups create profiles on AngelList for hiring and promotional purposes, but you can also use it to learn about your competition and their history.

Competeshark ($89) - Imagine being able to see details on your competitors’ marketing campaigns. That’s the premise of Competeshark’s service.

CrunchBase ($0) - See when companies were started, how much financing they received and who is leading them.

Google Alerts ($0) - Keeping up with mentions of your competitors in the news or blogs is easy with Google Alerts.

Internet Archive ($0) - Want to see what your competitors’ websites looked like last month? A year ago? The Way Back Machine from archive.org has been storing old versions of websites since the 90’s.

Keyhole ($149) - Great for tracking social mentions, brand names, or hash tags over time so you can quickly respond or catch emerging competitors.

Linkedin ($0) - Just about everyone has a Linkedin account, so it’s a great way to research your competition’s company, founders, employees, and even open job listings.

MonitorBacklinks ($24.9) - Your existing competition may have a number of strong links that have helped them jump to the top of search results. Knowing what they are can help you get your site ranked above them.

Product Hunt ($0) - If you’re into startups, you have probably heard of Product Hunt. It helps you find new products by emailing newly submitted products every day (or week) and does a pretty good job categorizing submissions.

ScoutZen ($0) - Use ScoutZen to track a competitor’s followers/following on Twitter, as well as to monitor for mentions of your competition with automated advanced Twitter searches.

Serpstat ($15) - Serpstat compiles historical data on keywords, allowing you to easily see how a keyword’s popularity has changed and how strong the competition is for it.

SimilarSites ($0) - SimilarSites’ search is pretty good at identifying competing sites in a specific niche.

SimilarWeb ($0) - SimilarWeb can show you how your competition is getting traffic (eg: from social, SEO, or advertising).

Sitegur ($0) - In addition to similar sites, Sitegur shows you traffic estimates for domains.

SocialMentions ($0) - SocialMention offers real-time social media search for keywords including domain names.

SpyFu ($33) - Use SpyFu to keep up with backlinks, keywords, and ads your competitors are using to attract visitors.

The Search Monitor - This tool will help you keep up with who is buying ads on which search terms. Great if you’re in an industry that does a lot of paid advertising.

Trade Journals ($0) - For more traditional businesses, there is probably a trade journal out there. In new media, you might be more likely to find competitors mentioned in industry blogs or news sites.

Visual Ping ($0) - Monitors webpages by letting you select an area of text to watch.

Wachete ($0) - Track a website, get notified of changes

WebWire ($0) - WebWire hosts a list of trade journals by industry that could be very helpful if you’re exploring a new market and want to know what the major news sources are.

Whois Lookup ($0) - This might be helpful for smaller competitors who don’t include much information about the company’s founders or structure on their site. Whois lookup allows you to see who owns the domain name, when it was bought/sold, and any other domains they own.

WooRank ($49) - Good for ranking your competitors’ websites and looking for ways you can outperform them.

Did I miss a tool that you love? Submit your suggestions here, or email me to suggest an update.

Karl Hughes

By Karl Hughes

Karl is a former startup CTO and the founder of Draft.dev. He writes about technical blogging and content management.