RSS As Competitive Analysis Tool

Written By: October 9, 2006

I posted a blog article this morning on our partner internet marketing blog (Small Business 2.0) titled “Understanding RSS:  A Quick Guide For The Insanely Busy Executive”.  I’m guessing that most of the readers already know what RSS is and are using it daily anyways, so the article will likely not be of that much interest to you.  On the other hand, if you’re not using RSS, go read that article first, because I’m not going to be able to sell you on the concepts of this article if you’re not already using RSS.

So, let’s now assume you’re already using RSS.  Chances are, you subscribe to a blog here and there, a news site here and there and perhaps even a social news site like digg or reddit.  That’s great.  I don’t need to sell you on the utility of RSS for this kind of “keeping up with the news”.

But, RSS doesn’t need to stop with tracking the latest news (both personal and business).  It can also be used as a way to track what is going on with your competitors.

For example, let’s say for whatever reason you were competing with my current startup HubSpot.  Here’s what I would do if I were you:
  1. Make sure to subscribe to the RSS feed for the HubSpot blog.  This one is obvious.  If I’m a direct competitor, you’d want to know every time something new was posted.  You should also track the comments on the blog entries to see what kinds of things are resonating with our target market.

Note:  It is entire possible that your competitor doesn’t have an RSS feed (or doesn’t even have a blog).  If I wanted to be controversial, I’d say that you don’t need to worry about these types of competitors because if they haven’t figured out yet the efficiency of online marketing, they likely won’t be successful anyways.  But, I don’t want to be controversial, so I won’t say that.
  1. Subscribe to a Google search RSS feed.  Basically, this is the equivalent of doing a regular Google search on a specific search term and getting an RSS feed for the results.  You can add a feed URL like this:  (Note:  I’m using the sample search term “startup hiring” on the off-chance that you actually are a competitor.  Don’t want to make things overly easy for you).

  1. Figure out who else is writing about the particular target market segment (other bloggers, analysts, community websites, etc.) and subscribe to their feeds.

So, what are your secret tips for tracking competitors (clearly, RSS is not enough)?  Or, are they so super-secret that you can’t share them?

On a related note, stay tuned tomorrow for a more lengthy (and substantive) article on the issue of competition. 

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