Want to find out what Chinese suppliers your competitors are using? There’s a tool for that. Or find out what Facebooks ads they are using? There’s a tool for that too.
Creeping isn’t only reserved for ex-lovers and high school classmates–it has a very practical role in ecommerce businesses as well. Creeping, also referred to as competitor research, is essential in keeping up with the Jones’ ecommerce business. In this article we’ll review some of the best competitor research tools out there.
Facebook – Seeing What Facebook Ads Your Competitors are Running
As many of us may have heard about, in June 2018, as part of the Russia fake news backlash, Facebook made a change that allows you to see all the ads that your competitors are running. The best part about this feature is that it is completely free.
With the ability to see all of your competitor’s Facebook ads without any paid third party services, there has never been an easier way to borrow marketing ideas from your competitors. To see your competitors’ ads, all you need to do is go to their Facebook page and browse down to Info and Ads from the left menu.
Google Ads – See Who’s Advertising Against You
Google Ads has a fantastic little tool called Auction Insights. If you’re like me, you’ve seen this button countless times in your Google Ads dashboard but ignored it. You shouldn’t.
With Auction Insights you can see exactly what websites are competing against you for adshare. You can also see what percentage of the time their ads are showing instead of yours.
I love using Auction Insights to discover competitors I never even knew were competitors. While Auction Insights is free, it does require you to actually be advertising through Google Adwords.
Port Examiner – Customs Data Lookup
Customs data lookup is probably my most favorite competitor research tool. In America (and several other countries) customs entry information is, by default, public information thanks to the Freedom of Information Act. This means that every time you make a formal entry into the United States, others can see exactly what information is on the entry, including product descriptions, supplier info, invoice amounts and countless other information. The bad news though is that this information is also publicly accessible for your competitors. By doing a customs entry lookup on your competitors you can figure out exactly what suppliers they’re using for their products.
Port Examiner provides a decent free tool for getting this information, although the data is relatively incomplete and disorganized. However, the majority of the time you can get the information you’re looking for, albeit with a bit of grunt work. Panjiva or Import Genius have far better paid tools but they are expensive, with even the most basic plans easily being above $100 per month.
The downside to all of these tools, paid or free, is that clever competitors have ways of blocking this information. However, the information you can obtain is still absolutely invaluable.
SimilarWeb, Google Ads – Competitor Website Traffic Estimates
My favorite tool for quick website traffic estimates is SimilarWeb. You can get traffic estimates from SimilarWeb for completely free. I use SimilarWeb multiple times a day (thanks in large part to their Chrome Extension). The downside with SimilarWeb is that their estimates are very approximate and in my experience they over-estimate the traffic of websites with very techy audiences (i.e. ecommerce websites like EcomCrew) and underestimate them for less techy audiences (i.e. like my previous boating brand).
There’s another more reliable way of predicting competitor website traffic though and that is through Google Ads. For any website that has the Adsense tracking code on it, Google will give you a fairly accurate estimate of how many impressions you could get from targeting Adwords Display Ads to that website. The downside is that you can only get this data for websites using Adsense (which means predominantly content websites) and it only gives you the impressions for pages on those websites displaying the tracking code (i.e. many websites only put ads on certain pages, like blog articles). Still, it is a great (and very accurate) way to find the most popular websites in your niche.
To figure out this traffic you need to create a dummy Display Ad within Google Ads. Next scroll down to Content (as seen above). From here you can search for various keywords. You can see that I was able to search for Offroad and now I am able to see that Offroad.com generates approximately 500k-1m in impressions. This data on its own is not that useful but it is great for comparing it to similar websites to get some perspective of how small or big they are in the offroading space.
Jungle Scout BSR Estimator, AMZ Scout – Amazon Research Sales Estimators
Amazon sales estimation tools have been so ubiquitous I almost omitted them from this article. It seems everyone has an Amazon Sales Estimation tool now, with the most popular being Jungle Scout. Amazon Sales Estimation tools are fairly accurate and arguably the most important tool to use when first developing a product.
Jungle Scout’s main tools are paid, starting at $29 a month but it does offer an excellent free sales estimator tool based solely on the best selling rank (BSR) of a particular item. It’s not as accurate as the paid tools out there but the results are good enough in most cases.
One of my favorite Chrome Extensions is AMZ Scout’s FREE FBA Calculator. Not only does it calculate FBA fees on the fly, it also shows you sales estimates (I actually think the developers forgot to remove the sales estimator from the free version so use it while you can!).
Excel SEO Tools – Amazon/eBay Search Results Scraper & SEO
SEO Tools for Excel is one of my all time all-round favorite tools. The name of SEO Tools is deceiving. Although it was originally designed for doing on-page SEO and analyzing page titles, meta tags, etc. it has evolved into a much more robust search tool.
One of the more frequent ways I use SEO tools is for scraping search results of Amazon and even eBay. I can quickly see hundreds of search results for a search query all within the comfortable interface of Excel. I find it really useful for segmenting search results by reviews and prices. For Excel nerds, SEO Tools is the ULTIMATE competitor research tool.
SEO Tools is technically not a free tool but its free trial only requires an email and you can request a new trial an unlimited number of times if you provide a new email address.
Multiple – Company Business Registration Lookup
One of my favorite hacks is to look up a company’s official business registration. Why? Because often you can use the company’s address and/or owner’s name along with a Google search to determine any other companies, websites, or brands they may be running. I’ve used this strategy in countless situations from verifying the patents of a company to performing due diligence.
Most jurisdictions allow you to look up the basic business registration of businesses. For instance, there’s the Canada Federal Corporation Look Up, the California Secretary of State Entity Look Up, etc.
Snooping your competitors doesn’t have to cost money. As this article shows, there’s a ton of ways to do it without spending a dime.
Are you using any of these tools for competitor research? Or, do you have any other tools not mentioned here? If so, please share below in the comments box.
Dave Bryant has been importing from China for over 10 years and has started numerous product brands. He sold his multi-million dollar ecommerce business in 2016 and create another 7-figure business within 18 months. He’s also a former Amazon warehouse employee of one week.