In the physical world of business everyone checks out what their competitors are doing, right? But what about getting a clear understanding about what they’re doing online? In my experience, many businesses either forget that part, or are so random about it, that there isn’t any strategic benefit from the exercise.

Dave Chaffey, the UK-based digital marketing expert and author of the excellent book “Emarketing Excellence: Planning and Optimizing your Digital Marketing” says, “The purpose (of analysing your competitors online) is to gain a level of insight that allows you to evolve your digital marketing strategy based on competitor insight. It’s not that you should be dictated by what you learn about competitors, since being very reactive to that can be worse than doing nothing. Yet common sense tells us that knowledge is power”.

Here is my 5 step method to knowing what your competitors are up to in Social and Digital

1. Start with a spreadsheet or whichever recording tool you prefer

Note the date of your analysis, the name of your company and the name of the person who is doing the analysis. The reason for this is that you are going to continue to do this over time, so you want a good record. Put column headings in your spreadsheet and include the following columns:

  • Competitor URL
  • Website observations/opportunities
  • Blog observations/opportunities
  • Positioning words
  • Email
  • Social (you can choose to have a column for each social channel: Facebook; Google+; You Tube; LinkedIn; Instagram; Twitter)

2. Choose four competitors to analyse

Two of those should be direct competitors, and two indirect competitors that are outside of your specific industry, but similar.

For example, for car dealerships it is appropriate to look at real estate sites and boat sale sites. In some industries, a few website supply companies or digital marketing companies serve most of the businesses and even when that is not case the digital marketing practice of particular industries can start to look very similar. This is the reason to look at sites outside your own industry.

3. Start with a manual process

Go to the competitor websites and look at the structure, design, content, positioning keywords and the way the website is generating leads. Do the same with the blog and ask the following:

  • Does the blog add value to the prospect/customer?
  • Is it customer focused or product focused?
  • What are the keywords?
  • What is the frequency of publishing?
  • What content opportunities are there for us?
  • What can we learn?
  • What are they doing that looks great that we are not?

Be critical and granular in your analysis. For email/newsletter analysis, simply sign up to any email program and, while you are signing up to things, “like” their Facebook page and follow their Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google +. Subscribe to their You Tube. Analyse these for the content topics and types, the level of engagement, and frequency of publishing.

4. Use some online tools for a different perspective

There are a number of free online tools that are useful

  • Rob Hammond’s SEO crawler ( great for analysing your competitors’ pages, keywords and titles
  • will show you which keywords a site ranks for, if they are moving up or down in search, how many keywords are unique and how many are shared across competitor sites and the value of search engine optimisation to the site (expressed as a dollar amount). This tool will also tell you if your competitor is using Google Adwords, or paid search links in Google and for which keywords and what the bid is for that keyword (how much they are paying for a click through on that link). Note that data won’t be perfect but will offer some insights in a comparison, only if the website you are performing the check on has enough data for the tool’s analysis.
  • For an overview of your own site and competitor sites there is a handy free tool called It provides site ranking, traffic overview and traffic sources (both of which track volume) for your site and competitor sites. Yes, you can see how much traffic your competitor gets and where it is coming from! You can see how they are performing against you in search, if they are doing display, how they are tracking with referral sites. Very cool and useful! For very small sites, however, there may not be enough data to get the full analysis.

Go to competitor websites and look at the structure, design, content, positioning keywords and the way the website is generating leads

  • A useful site to evaluate digital marketing technology investment is This site allows you to input any web address or URL and it provides information on the technology the site is using. You will be able to understand from here what advertising systems the competitor is using, what technology they are using for email distribution, for analytics, and for their website. At the very least you will learn how much investment your competitor is putting into digital marketing and over time you will be able to evaluate continuing investment.
  • For a catch-all, regardless of the size of the site, use Hubspot’s Here you will get an overview of social, mobile, SEO, blog activity and a handy score. It’s really useful for a strengths and weaknesses analysis.
  • For Facebook, Meltwater has made a tool called This tool analyses any Facebook URL and provides information on engagement, time and frequency of publishing and response, use of hashtags and an overall score.

A note on the site-focused competitive intelligence tools – these tools are sometimes not very accurate but as Avinash Kaushik, author of the Occam’s Razor blog and the book Web Analytics 2.0, says, “You are comparing ‘bruised apples’ with ‘bruised apples'” . There are many competitive intelligence tools available, so choose the one you like to use and stick to using that one for your analysis. That way you are always comparing the same bruised apples.

5. Draw some conclusions and apply the “So what?” test

Ask yourself: What did we learn? What actions can we take?

It’s useful to benchmark the data you gather about direct competitors against your own data. You can then take the data analysis an extra step. Ask yourself – “why does this matter?” and then ask the same question of the answer you get. This process will result in one of two responses, either: “okay, this is just an interesting observation” or “we can act on that and this is what we are going to do”. In analytics, the second response is the only correct one (more on that in another blog post) but in competitor analysis, so long as we observe and learn from the process, I think the first response is okay also. For indirect competitors ask yourself, what are they doing that seems to be working that we are not doing? How could we implement and test that to make sure it works for us?

How regularly you schedule time to revisit the five step process depends what industry you are in and how competitive it is. For some of my clients every 6 months is fine, for others monthly review is important. The main thing, though, is to decide your suitable time frame and schedule it. If you don’t it is unlikely to happen until the time comes for some massive review because you find you have a P76 (car metaphor there – tell me in the comments below who gets it?).

These are my methods to understanding what competitors are up to with their digital marketing. What methods do you use? We’d love to hear in the comments!


Beth-Powell-Leaders-in-HeelsBeth Powell
Beth Powell is the founder of Digital Marketing Club, a coaching and support program that provides direct answers to your questions about your own digital marketing. She created the first social media and digital marketing training programs in Australia and has become known as the go-to person for clear explanations about how digital marketing can grow your business. Beth is a sought after conference speaker and author of the soon to be published book “Drive More Business: A 5 step Guide to Digital Marketing for Auto Dealers”. For more information, contact her at

While the charm of a cute local boutique will always exist, couch-shopping sprees in pajamas are more the norm these days.

No longer do you need to have a brick and mortar storefront to be a successful business, which can either be a blessing or a curse, it’s your call. There’s a certain advantage to having a place where you can interact with your customers face-to-face, but those relationships are now being taken to the world of social media and simply having an option for your customers to buy online just isn’t enough.

In the world of e-commerce you have to have it all, which sounds a lot like what we aim to do as women every day. Now’s the time to make plans, take action and step it up in the game of e-commerce, or else be left behind in the dust. By keeping these strategies in mind while laying out the groundwork, I have no doubt that your business will not only survive, but thrive too.

5 e-commerce survival strategies:

1. Have a blog and a refined voice

Your blog is the ideal space for replacing the typical in-store experience. You can go into further detail about your products or services, provide advice and opinions and use it as a launching point for conversations with your customers. When someone can’t physically pick up your product or see how your service works (unless you have a sample or free trial option) it’s important to showcase it through your blog so customers don’t feel like any part of the shopping experience is missing.

In addition to boosting your site’s SEO, your blog gives you the opportunity to share your voice via social media channels with ease. The more original content you post, the more people will find your site. Additionally, putting yourself out there on your blog helps your customers to feel more connected to you and to your business.

2. Make a great first impression and invest in a well-designed website

Have you ever been to a store that had shelves stuffed to the brim, or things piled on the floor, up high and everywhere in between? It’s a bit overwhelming and often results in a customer leaving empty-handed. In that aspect, websites aren’t dissimilar.

Although nearly every business has a website, the difference is a website that is easy-to-navigate, visually appealing and functional will bring in the money, whereas a bad website will just allow you to say “Yeah, of course we have a website.”

Having a website with a clear layout and an easy navigation system will keep customers on your site and more inclined to buy. If you’re not savvy enough to design your own site, work a designer’s services into your budget. Also, don’t be afraid of white space—with more white space comes less frustration and a better first impression.

3. Set yourself apart from other retailers with an authentic brand voice

Be original, post frequently and respond timely. These are three simple tips that will gain you a solid following on social media, which should be a big part of your marketing plan.

Not only does social media allow for immediate interaction with your customer base, it’s also free and an easy way to drive users directly to your website and blog. Make the most of the platforms you choose to take advantage of, respond to customer inquiries and gather feedback to show you’re accessible and transparent.

Additionally, by crafting a schedule of social media posts, you can shape your voice to fit your target audience’s wants and needs. By giving the people what they want, interest will be piqued and engagement will be increased.

4. Have a secure site; ensure no Heartbleed bug for your customers

Online shoppers know they’re going to fork over their personal information and credit card numbers if they want to make a purchase. And although we are much more comfortable paying for things with a couple clicks of a mouse (thanks for making it so easy, PayPal), if a site looks fishy, customers will opt to play on the safe side and not make the purchase.

It’s the same idea as driving through unfamiliar territory and choosing not to go into the poorly lit store on the desolate corner to get a snack and use the restroom. I don’t know about you, but I’ll usually just wait until the next brightly lit exit.

However, in the case of the Heartbleed bug, it took a long time to be discovered and sites that seemed secure really weren’t. Have a professional look into the security of your site, and if a breach does happen, communicate with and protect your customers immediately.

5. Be mobile-friendly

Not only are shoppers choosing to buy online more and more each year, the number of online shoppers using mobile devices has also soared. With information right at their fingertips, shoppers can turn into buyers anywhere with a Wi-Fi signal, but only if you have a mobile-friendly site.

A mobile-responsive site ensures that all of the qualities from your main site, like easy navigation and functionality, don’t get lost in translation when the desire to buy strikes your customers.

Now that you’ve taken a good hard look at your e-commerce site, determine what you’re currently working with and what needs to be worked on next. Maybe you already have a blog and social media channels set up and you post occasionally. Take your efforts a step further with an online overhaul, bringing your site completely on par with what customers expect.

If you’re starting from a blank canvas and your online business hasn’t debuted, go back to your plan and put these ideas into action for a strong start. Regardless of where you’re at in your online business adventure, use these strategies to see your traffic climb, and your revenue will be soon to follow.

Elaine NgoElaine-Ngo

Elaine Ngo is the VP of Marketing for HIDExtra, a leading e-commerce site helping customers with the most reliable HID kits on the market. With more than 5 years of experience in marketing, customer service and proving that girls can have fun with cars too, Elaine always takes a creative approach which shows through her innovative ideas. Graduating from the University of California Riverside in 2009, Elaine loves the sun in southern California and taking her golden retriever to the beach.

So you are feeling really happy that you have your business website up and running and you’re already receiving enquiries for your products and services. That’s all great news but what do you do next?

If you want to know where your website visitors are from, or how they even found your website then it is important to do more work to discover if all your effort is paying off. The good news is that you can have this valuable information arrive straight into your email inbox by using Google Analytics, which is a free website analytics tool provided by Google ( of the most important reports you should look for is your referral data, or, what channels are providing you with the most visitors to your website


In my opinion, one of the most important reports you should look for is your referral data, or, what channels are providing you with the most visitors to your website.
There is a report in Google Analytics called “Acquisition Channels” which will tell you, within a given time period, how many of your visitors came from Organic Search, Paid Search (if you’re engaging in any), Direct Traffic, Social Media Traffic and Referral (e.g. visitors that have come from other websites to yours). Also included in this report are the key 9 metrics which form the Acquisition-Behaviour-Conversions (or ABC) cycle. This will tell you how successful each of your channels are in acquiring visitors & sales/goals.

Acquisition Section
1. Shows the number of visits per channel (e.g. the number of visits from Social, or Organic etc.)
2. Shows the % of new visits per channel
3. Shows the number of new visits per channel

Behaviour Section
1. Shows the Bounce Rate (% of single page visits to the website) by channel
2. Shows the average amount of pages visited per visit, by channel.
3. Shows the average visit duration by channel

Conversion Section
1. Shows the Goal Conversion Rate (Goal Tracking discussed in the next section)
2. Shows the number of Goal Completions
3. Shows the value of the Goal Completions

Goal Tracking

As you can imagine, the above ABC report is fantastic, but only when you have the time and expertise to configure your goals. Fortunately, Google has a dedicated page to help you set up your business goals here (

Goals will depend on the type of business you operate. They can range from successful purchases of your product, to e-mail enquiries, social media interaction. Even if you only have your website up to take enquires from new clients, then you should still take the time to track and assign a value to this.

Popular Content

All websites will contain different content. For example, you might have informational pages that introduce people to your business, explain what you do or how your business differentiates itself from its competitors. You may also have what we call ‘acquisition pages’ such as a ‘ contact me’ page.

The good news is that Google Analytics also has a great report named “Site Content -> All Pages” which will create information about the most popular pages on your website, how many unique page views each page has had, the amount of times that page was an “entrance” (the number of times this page was the first page people saw in your website) and much more! This report is really useful in determining what type of content is the most effective with your audience, which you can then use to tailor the content on your other pages to be more effective.

In conclusion, these three reports can really assist in determining whether you’re on the right path or not with your online marketing.

photo credit: SalFalko via photopin cc

Mike van der Heijden
mike van der heijdanMike works as SEO Director at Australia’s leading enterprise search agency Atomic Search. Mike has more than a decade of experience in consulting for large blue chip and ASX-listed companies on their online strategies in both search and social. Mike can also be reached on his LinkedIn profile should you have any further questions.

As smartphones, tablets and touchscreens become more entrenched in business, our customers, clients and associates want interaction and freedom to explore the information being presented. Increasingly, it’s becoming important to show the heart in a business or organisation. Sharing information, not just advertising, is necessary to remain relevant.

We’ve all suffered death by Powerpoint, being forced to sit through uninspiring and dull presentations

This is where the buzz phrase ‘digital storytelling’ enters. This rapidly evolving culture encompasses elements of traditional presentations and combines multimedia and often touchscreen capabilities to enhance the overall information delivery experience. Through images, video, sound, touch we have a greater chance of evoking emotions and eliciting a response from our audiences.

Enter the new players – giving us choice, flexibility and above all else, new scope for creativity. Predominantly web-based, these new platforms are not only bringing exciting new features to the field but also allowing you access anywhere, anytime regardless of your device.


Free, Available for Apple iOS

Designed to be used on iPad, this app can set you free from your desk and unleash a whole new way to explore the way we present information.

This is where the fun and creativity begin. With its incredibly simple navigation – drag, drop and link content from your iPad, Google, Facebook or Instagram, to create your interactive display or Flowboard as it’s known. The creative at Flowboard have provided some templates to work with or you can create your own. An interactive magazine style publication can be created in just a few minutes.

But here’s where Flowboard truly shines. Not only is your presentation stored on the cloud accessible anywhere, once you publish your Flowboard you can share your content on Twitter, Facebook or as a URL direct link. No more having to attach a presentation to an email or saving to thumb drives. You could even include the link in your email and newsletters.

What’s also special is although you have created it on an iPad it is compatible on any other platform – meaning no boundaries or worries about who can view it.

If you’re looking for a large scale high-end publishing platform Flowboard would not fit the bill. But if you’re looking for a simple way to create some fun, interactive content for a business presentation, seminar or product pitch then this app is highly recommended.


  • The better the quality of your images and the more engaging your content, the better the overall look will be.
  • Take a look at the Gallery to see what other Flowboarders are creating if you need some inspiration.


  • Create up to 200MB of content for free
  • Premium plans are only $4.99/month and offer up to 1 Gigabyte of storage.


Free, iOS, Web-based/Browser-based

Zoom in for this one. Using the notion of presenting ideas with passion and the unmistakable zoom feature, Prezi definitely has wow factor visually, but may require a little more initial thought to make a truly awe inspiring presentation. The potential is definitely worth the investment. Available to use online, offline, desktop or as an iOS iPad app, the range of options is there for the taking.

Take your audience on a journey literally as you move around the single canvas zooming in and out to create emphasis and fit small pieces of information into a bigger picture. Think info graphics with movement, music and videos. Very impressive.

It’s truly amazing how the simple addition of motion really can lift your presentation to a much higher level.


  • Take the time to learn how to navigate and familiarise yourself with it, watching the video tutorials provided will make life a whole lot easier when starting out.
  • Import existing Powerpoint slides to embellish, alter and improve. Prezi is flexible enough to allow you to utilise existing work.
  • Once you’ve finished, share your Prezi via Facebook or download it as a PDF/portable version.


  • Free
  • ‘Enjoy’ member for $4.92 per month with extra options e.g. private presentations, extra storage space
  • ‘Pro’ user for $13.25 per month
  • Business options for larger scale.

Creative force, visual excellence and dynamic, entertaining presentations are not the domain of big business with unlimited budgets. They are accessible, affordable and easily achieved. So get creative!

Featured Image Credit: Judith Klein

Emma Wallace

Emma Wallace plays her magic flute and has computer mice following her. Not really – but she has acquired lots of tech-knowledge and business skills co-running regional based IT consultancy, CloneSurfing Technology for over 7 years. She has a passion and flair for shaking things up and loves meeting inspiring folk.

A.K.A @digisquirrel this graphic/web designer, digital artist, digital publisher and former radio presenter with gift wrapping skills is a little bit different – but what’s wrong with that?

Elizabeth Heusler, Director of Heusler Public Relations and Media Training, dwells upon the aspects of PR video production. From script to film and from editing to uploading to digital channels, Heusler discusses marketing brands through videos.

As excited as we, in the communications business, are about the myriad of multimedia marketing options spawned by a melange of technologies and techniques, when it comes to the tactic de jour, it is staring you in the face.Marketing your talents by video is a growth area. Over 120 million YouTube videos and about 2 million are uploaded every day.

Video is the golden opportunity to shine and bring the brand to life, but like most things bright and shiny there are pitfalls to avoid a feature on Funniest Home Videos. Undertaken in line with Brand You, this medium can be a powerful adjunct to the marketing mix.

As entry point to video is easy and free, this has rapidly become a popular marketing option. Just flip open a video camera and shoot. There is a chasm that separates the enthusiastic amateur’s attempt from the effective.Watching all the YouTube material would take more than 600 years but in the course of making profile videos for clients, I am constantly aware of what works and what should be left on the cutting room floor.

There are several companies I used to think quite highly of, until I saw their videos which, instead of engaging, sent the wrong message and in some cases were alienating to their targets.


There’s a lot of noise about putting a video on your site to make a more personal connection. This is an overly simplistic way of looking at brand development. There are numerous factors that go into developing videos: content, tone, nuance, look, style, environment, lighting and sound.

Video is the golden opportunity to shine and bring the brand to life

Several videos I’ve viewed recently are just plain annoying; there’s the representative of a management firm who keeps bobbing his head from side to side, it’s like watching a metronome. Another has a bottle of very expensive whiskey in sight on the bookshelf and this definitely isn’t the right image, another is filmed in a boardroom where staff are in shot, strolling languidly around the office. On the other hand, there is a wonderful woman who sits bolt upright in a very elegant statement-chair with terrific lighting, solid points, engaging content, well-planned and she looks straight at me. I want to do business with her.

Initial questions before creating videos for your business

As part of our public relations strategies, videos are increasingly integral to the mix and we start with these three questions:

Audience: who are you talking to – stakeholders, mums and dads, c-level executives, tech-savvy managers? The more you can narrow the audience, the better. The answer isn’t a generic catch-all such as ‘corporates from 20 – 50’. Describe the executive you are talking to.

Information: what’s the information you want to impart, what’s the issue you want to talk about? Script it out. Write bullet points first. Plan and rehearse well in advance.

Message: what do you want the viewer to think, feel or believe as a result?


Tips on how to create engaging videos for business

Identity: Put your name, title and logo on your video and maybe a descriptor which is a good opportunity for SEO keywords.

Timing: Keep it short – the average video is 3.8 minutes in length. If you have too much information consider a series.

YouTube: YouTube provide the option to write a description of your video – start with a link of your websites; after all, Google owns YouTube.

Offers: Think carefully about a text box or discounts. It’s not for everybody and can seem a bit in-your-face. Unless your brand is ‘cheap deals’ perhaps ‘happy to answer more questions on Facebook,’ might be a more subtle call to action.

Energy: Video often exaggerates or flattens a presentation. The naturally reserved should pick up and exaggerate the energy but if you are a show pony, rein in a few notches.

Speak up: Say it loud, say it proud. Invest in a lapel microphone and a USB sound card to plug into your computer for clarity.

Surroundings: Think outside the office. Perhaps a gallery, the steps of a significant building, hospital, library, engine-room, nursery or on-site. Let the environment be part of the story.


The aim of a professional video is to showcase your knowledge and position you as an expert (example). Play to your strengths and video could be a very successful part of your brand exposure.

Featured Image Credit


Elizabeth Heusler

As a communications consultant and media trainer it’s important to stay ahead of the trends. I am keen to predict the next big thing and call the tipping point. Everything I know about technology I’ve learned the hard way. Hours spent at conferences, courses, seminars and webinars. Invested in the hard books, e-books, software, routers, toggles and dongles and paid the big bucks for gurus, nerds and boffins. Many weekends have been spent in the foetal position with instructions manuals and call centre operatives and online elves have driven me to drink. After all, devices are all so intuitive and I am blessed with intuition as a gender perk. Hopefully reading my monthly column will stop you wanting to throw your technology from the top of a tall building and if I can stop you biting your nails and tearing your hair out then my work is done.

These days, emails bearing outrageous claims about Viagra or Cheap Rolex watches automatically raise suspicions and trip our spam filters. But spammers are getting more sophisticated, particularly when targeting business owners or website administrators. They are using a range of techniques to make their emails seem more legitimate; both to baffle recipients and to escape spam guards.

The underlying purpose of the email may be marketing related, that is to generate more clicks or potential clients; or it can have more sinister purposes – either of the phishing type, or for distribution of malware. Time to get your spam savvy on!

How to identify spam

binoculars horizontal

1. The ‘Errors in your website’ type notification

These emails alert the receiver to a ‘problem’ identified with their company website. If the email is not from your website host, domain registry or other service provider, then get suss.

Look closely at emails claiming to have identified web issues such as under performing search engine optimisation, social media activity or lack of website responsiveness for mobile sites.

Techniques used to validity include:

  • A basic assessment of your site which finds an opportunity where your site can be improved.

These are often generic assessments but have some personalised details – such as your company’s website url for example, which makes any information which follows appear relevant to your site

  • Screen grabs of Google searches or other data (with poor pixelation so it’s difficult to tell that whether these are related to your site or not).

One that we have seen a bit of lately uses a screen grab of a small part of a company website which is then photoshopped into a picture of iPhone screen. The aim is to get someone panicking about how their website displays on a mobile device. The reality is the site could never actually appear the way it’s represented in the example. This guy needs to hone his technique – although we fully appreciate why it has worried some of our clients.

Dodgy phone

  • Glowing testimonials and claims about how the company has single handedly improved its clients’ search engine rankings and profits by 800%, for example (well, we all know to take this with a grain of salt!)

Other clues which indicate it could be a potential harmful piece of spam:

2. Contact details don’t add up

The Spam Act requires that a sender includes contact details, and we’ve come to expect that in any legitimate communication. But why would someone who works for* have an email address*?

3. Obvious spelling and grammatical errors

I mean for starters, there’s no way you want someone as sloppy as that messing with your website!

As there is a risk of malware with any of these mass produced emails, resist clicking any links – even if there is one to unsubscribe. If you want to do your own research on a company, open a new window in Google and search the company’s name.

It’s always true that there are many things you can do to improve how your website performs. But businesses that spruik their wares via unsolicited emails are violating The Spam Act. If they are prepared to use dodgy ways to offer their services, we need to be wary of what they are offering.

If it seems to be from a legitimate business, is it still spam?

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) defines spam as follows:

The Spam Act refers to spam as “unsolicited commercial electronic messaging”.

To be covered by the Spam Act, the message must be commercial in nature – for instance offering a commercial transaction, or directing the recipient to a location where a commercial transaction can take place.

There are a large number of commercial electronic messages that can be sent legitimately.

They are only considered to be spam if they are sent without the prior consent of the recipient – as unsolicited messages.

A single message may be spam. The message does not need to be sent in bulk, or received in bulk.

So the best thing to do with any unsolicited emails? Ignore them, and mark them as spam. They’ll get tangled up in the net sooner or later.

*these are examples only.

Featured image credit

Heidi McElnea

Heidi manages written communications for the various digital and print design services offered by Orion Creative. It’s a colourful blend of website and social media content, email marketing, e-learning, copy for print and scripts for voice overs.