Google and other such tools are ideal for competitor research, but, you can also look up trade directories, backlink checkers and the website of your competitors yourself. You can also check review sites and other such areas where public opinion may be given. Here are a few ways that you may research your competitors.
Look at the source code of their website
How their website is written may not look like it holds many secrets, but it really does. If the coding is a big heavy mess and you do not recognize any HTML structure, then it is probably written in another code. This means they are not relying on SEO to do their marketing, so what are they relying on?
You can also take a look at what keywords they are optimizing each of their pages for. If they are optimizing for a lot of the same ones as you, then this may be a good then, after all, they are in direct competition with you.
Run a backlink checker on their website
This is naughty, but you can bet that your competition has done it on you. All you do is run a backlink check to see who they are linking from. If they are linking from some great places, then you can follow their lead. You may end up finding some great directories and even some great places where they are picking up new customers.
Run an SEO checker on their website
This will tell you little details such as how well their website is ranking for certain words and if the website is losing links every week. It also shows you things such as their most optimized keywords, and will give you an indication as to how they are doing their SEO. Are they working on the premise that heavy SEO is the best way? Or are they working for the reader and their search engine rank has simply come about as a natural extension of that.
Look them up on trade directories
There are trade directories all over the net. Some of them are going to be able to tell you a little bit about the company. Others are going to tell you things about the company by the simple fact that the company is on there. For example, if the company is on a directory that charges hundreds of dollars to be on there, then there is a fair chance that they have a big marketing budget, and possibly that they are getting a lot of business from those adverts.
Find them on social media and see what people are saying
Do not forget that the social media sites you find are going to have comments that are moderated. This means that any of the negative stuff is going to be deleted.
But, a lot of social media sites are poorly edited and negative comments slip through all the time. Find them and use them against your competitors. If they complain that the service is slow, then lots of people will be thinking it, so brag that your service is fast.
Look at review sites and check the negative ones
This works on the same principle as the paragraph above. Look up all of the negative things that people are saying about the company. The negative comments will speak for a lot of people, as only a small portion of angry customers will write about it online. Look them up and then play on them when you market your services and goods. You can even run a campaign about how good you are at something, and write a bunch of anonymous reviews online about how bad your competitors are at that same thing.
Read about their newest offers and news on their own website
Their website is the image that they want to project. Look a little deeper and ask yourself some searching questions. Is their site clearly a content management system built website? If so, are the company really doing that well? Is this a sign that they have more than one website? Look at their offers to see if you are competing at the same level? And, look for the things they are not saying such as not bragging about security or customer service, etc.
Google them to see how far up the search engine results pages they are
Googling them should have been your first port of call. Look at how high up the search engine results pages they are, and see if they are ranking for the same things as you are. Google them to see how much they are mentioned by other websites. Are other websites saying good or bad things about them? Could you go online and offer some more fuel to fire the flames of any hate campaigns? Google image them to see if they have viral images to or for them too.