Ever wonder if your competitors are targeting niche phrases that you are missing out on? A new tool offered by Velocityscape allows you to do a little bit of competitive research to make certain that your competitors aren't leaving you behind.

Known as GoogSpy, the tool works by scraping the search results of over half a million phrases each day and then storing them in the GoogSpy database. Marketers use the tool by entering the domain name of a competitor and viewing a list of the search terms that they rank well for. The tool also displays the top 25 competitors for the company that you search on. Entering a search term will bring up a list of companies that are purchasing Adwords, along with the text of their ads.

"I read all those Search Engine Optimization Tips & Tricks articles," says Michael J. Roberts, Velocityscape's President, "and each one said 'Find out which search terms your competitors use.' I thought, 'That seems obvious, but how?' Apparently, the 'best practice' was guess-and-check. There had to be a better way. With Web Scraper Plus+ we extracted a million search results and built a proof of concept in a few days."

Roberts' team has done an excellent job in creating this tool. I've used it myself for several clients and have added it to my arsenal of handy tools. While the tool is limited in scope (I tried several niche phrases for a current client and there were very few results), but has excellent reach on some of the more common terms.

Using the tool is fairly simple.

1.) Go to GoogSpy

2.) In the search box, type "usairways.com"

3.) Look at the listing of companies and click on usairways.com

On the results page, you'll see a listing of the search terms that usairways.com ranks well on organically. Among the results, you'll see that they rank first for the phrase "dividend miles" and fourth for the phrase "flight check".

Scroll down a bit and you'll see a section that says "usairways.com Pays for these Google Adwords." Select the phrase "flights discount" and you'll suddenly see a list of companies that are bidding for this phrase on AdWords. You can find the ad title and description that they use, as well as a listing of other phrases that these types of companies bid on.

Another option is to simply enter a search phrase in the initial search box on GoogSpy. Doing this with the phrase "cheap flights" reveals a list of about two dozens URLs and over one hundred variations of that keyword phrase. Selecting one of the phrases (rather than one of the URLs) takes you straight to the page that lists the companies that bid on this term.

The tool isn't just handy from the actual optimization and pay-per-click side of things, it also has uses in determining whether your competitors have beat you to the market. Trying to convince your boss that you need the funds to start a PPC campaign? Showing him that four of his top competitors are already advertising there may be the incentive he needs to make a budget adjustment.

The tool appears to be actually scraping data, rather than using the Google API, so there's a chance that Google may decide they're not too fond of it. That said, the tool has been around for a few months now and has been covered on several blogs, so there's a good chance that Google sees it as a potential revenue builder. After all, why would they argue with a tool that encourages folks to spend more money on Google?

Discuss this article in the Small Business Ideas forum.
June 29, 2005

Jennifer Laycock is the Editor of Search Engine Guide, the Social Media Faculty Chair for MarketMotive and offers small business social media strategy & consulting. Jennifer enjoys the challenge of finding unique and creative ways to connect with consumers without spending a fortune in marketing dollars. Though she now prefers to work with small businesses, Jennifer’s clients have included companies like Verizon, American Greetings and Highlights for Children.

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