The Armchair Sleuth: Competitive Intelligence Via Search

Would you like to have a heads-up any time your competitors are about ready to launch a new product? In many cases you can get good advance warning with clever use of search. There are specific competitive intelligence tactics that make this relatively straightforward. But first, take a step back and think about the things that you do when you are readying for a brand new product or new ad campaign.  I think it goes something like this:

Step 1: Get in a meeting room and brainstorm names, slogans, and ideas.

Step 2: Register the new brilliant name and new catchy slogan with the United States Government,, to protect your future trademark rights.

Step 3: Get a domain name:

  • If you’re launching a new product line, there is a good chance you will go perusing about for a special url.
  • If you’re launching a new ad campaign, maybe instead you will create a sub-domain or microsite to drive traffic to a special landing page.

Step 4: Post new jobs. You have to hire some people right?

Step 5: Issue a press release. When you are ready for launch, you’ll get that PR machine going.

Step 6: Advertise. Finally, the product or campaign is upon you, and you will launch a marketing blitz across the web and of course we expect that you will do this using both SEM, SEO, and social networking tactics.

Armed with the above awareness, you can easily find out ALL of the new product offerings, ad campaigns, and catchy slogans that your competitors are about to lob into your vertical, with the click of your mouse and a little bit of “too much time” on your hands (or you can find someone to automate this for you).

Let the spying begin:  USPTO.GOV

You never thought as a marketer you would ever have to visit The U.S. Patent & Trademark Office and perform a search.  Well my friend, you will if you want to get a crystal ball vantage point on your competitors.

Bet you didn’t know that each new trademark application represents a brand name, logo, or tagline for a new business, product launch or ad campaign.  The timing of registration proceeds actual launch by many months, and possibly even a year.

The way to do this is to enter the site and go directly to the trademarks section.  Your next move will be to create a search on your competitor’s business name.   Once you do this, every single filing for trademarks will appear.  You will learn:

  • If a competitor is changing a logo
  • If a competitor has registered a new brand name
  • If a competitor has registered a new slogan

But that is not all.  Every trademark application requires a description of the product or service that the mark represents.  That means that in addition to knowing something new is happening, you will also know WHAT that something is!

By the way, you can, and should, do the same type of search on new patent filings also.  Try Google’s patent search because its easy:

Next step: Investigate domain registrations

This one is easy—you are probably familiar with what to do here.  You need a database of every single domain registration known to mankind.  Then you need some way to search through it to detect any of the following occurrences:

  • New registrations by the company you are tracking; and/or
  • Domain transfers into the hands of the company that you are tracking

If you don’t have access to this wealth of information or an easy way to sort through it, there are several vendors who can help you with that. I will have a separate article on vendors coming out next month.

In some instances, competitor x will opt for a sub-domain instead of a new registration.  In the case of a sub-domain e.g., detecting DNS record changes are not so public.  However, there are a few ways you can find them:

  • Guess. Create logical derivations of the domain based on what you learned from the USPTO and stick them in your browser. See what comes up.
  • Alexa. Try typing in the main domain into Alexa, sub-domains might appear.

Why do you care about this?  You care because when competitor X starts to build out page content, you’ll be able to read it before anyone else does—well at least 1 or 2 days before they go live, unless they are trying to get some SEO advantages, and then you may get as much as a 30 day head start.

Finally: Peruse job boards, advertising and press releases

Well in advance of launch, job postings will go online.  So watch job boards and your competitor’s career section of their web site.

Also, somewhat in advance of launch, you will see a few other activities: (1) Social media.  If your competitor plans on using social media, they will make efforts around this, and (2) SEO activities.  Detecting these will only give you a small window of opportunity because most of these efforts will become public just before launch.

Then of course at launch, the press release goes out, which you can follow using your normal alerting service which will tell you all about the interesting press and the new product, ad, or slogan you will be competing against.  I hope you are not relying on the press release to alert you to new products and campaigns, because guess what – it’s too late!

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: Brand Aid | Channel: Search Marketing | How To: SEM


About The Author: is CEO of The Search Monitor. The Search Monitor is an ad monitoring platform which provides precision intelligence on SEM, SEO, PLAs, Shopping, and Display ads.

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