Eight Free Websites to Use to Spy on Your Library Marketing Competition

Library marketers are asked to make a lot of miracles happen. We are asked to grow circulation, drive attendance at programs, and increase the visibility of our libraries.

To reach your goals for 2020, your library marketing needs to stay ahead of your competitors. Who are you competing with? You’re fighting with independent bookstores, Amazon, Audible.com, video streaming services like Netflix, museums or other local attractions, genealogy websites like Ancestry.com, language apps like Duolingo, retail stores, and co-working spaces for your cardholders’ time and attention.

But don’t be discouraged! You can spy on your competitors and identify their areas of weakness. Then, you can use those weaknesses as an opportunity to promote your library. And you don’t have to pay to find out how to target your competitors.

I found eight websites that will help you gather intelligence on your competition’s website and social media presence. Most of these sites require you to sign up with an email and password for free access but their information is extensive. They also have paid plans (most are very affordable) that give you access to more data. I use all of them.

Here are my top picks to help you spy on your competitors in 2020!

SEMrush: This is my favorite tool. I check it frequently. Their analytics are incredibly robust. You can compare your own website and your competitors’ website in several areas, including keywords, traffic, where your page ranks on Google, what websites are sending traffic to your library’s website, and so much more. The colorful charts will tell you how well your website is positioned on the internet in comparison with your competitors. And it will even show you the cost, in dollars, that your library is losing in traffic to other websites. That’s a great statistic to have if you’re trying to advocate for additional resources for your library’s online presence.

SpyFu:  Use this tool to check how high your competitors rank in SEO keyword search. Get insight on keywords that lead people to your competitors’ site, including any paid keywords they may be using. You can plot the reach of any website on a timeline, giving you an idea of when the site is seeing a spike in traffic. The graphic below shows you what that looks like for this website!

My favorite feature on SpyFu is the keyword analysis. I found out that people searching for “free downloads,” “free download music,” and “free faxing” are most likely to end up at my library’s website. Now I know that I need to make sure the word “free” appears frequently on every page of my library’s website to drive more traffic!

Social Searcher: This real-time social media search engine allows you to quickly pull all recent mentions of a competitor from the major social media platforms and the internet together into one dashboard. You can search for keywords and hashtags to see recently published posts. You can also set up email alerts to keep track of what people are saying about your library, a competitor, or a service, like Audible or DuoLingo.

SimilarWeb: This tool reminds me of Google Analytics, but with prettier graphics. You can see all kinds of useful information about your competitors including where their customers live, how much of their website traffic comes from social media, what keywords people are using to find their website and more. You can also see the top five “interests” of visitors to your competitors’ websites. And of course, you can compare that with your library’s website.

Moz: The site is focused on links and can tell you how other websites are linking to your competitors’ website, and how your competitor is using anchor text to drive traffic. You can also download their reports for free as a CSV file. You can also find out your website’s Spam Score!

Alexa:  This site will show you how your bounce rate and traffic sources compare with your competitors, as well as how much of your audience overlaps with that of your competition. Best of all, Alexa will identify keywords to drive more traffic to your website, based on what people in your area are searching for on Google and Amazon (Alexa is owned by Amazon).

TalkWalker: An alternative to Google Alerts, it lets you search blogs, websites, and news for posts about your competitors. You can have the alerts delivered to your inbox once a day or once a week.

MarketGrader: This free tool from Hubspot grades your website or your competitors on factors like how fast the pages load, keyword ranking, and security.

I did an analysis of this website and found that 30 percent of my traffic comes from mobile devices. That’s incredibly important information because that means that I must make sure everything I do on this website is responsive. This tool also gave me tips on how to increase my SEO ranking and security. All of those tips would be invaluable for my library’s website as well.

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