Competitive research is one of those things that many people skip, and yet it’s one of the most important things you can do to stack the odds in your favour when it comes to finding a good nichefinding a good niche or a good product (or both).
Competitor research can be tedious and expensive (competitor analysis tools and market research tools are usually tools that the big brands use).
…you can gauge the competition for any product or niche quickly, easily and for FREE.
All you need is the right tools, and in this quick article, I’m going to show you 4 free tools that you can use to conduct quick and easy competitor research.
And you can use one of these methods to spy on your competition.
So let’s do this.
Here's what we're going to be covering...
4 Free Tools for Checking the Competition for a Product or a Niche
Method 1: checking advertisers
In this method, we want to quickly check whether there are other people advertising for our search term or keyword.
All you do here type in the keyword or search term that you’re interested in (for example iPhone 4 leather case) and hit enter.
Keep in mind that your results may be location-specific depending on what you’re searching for.
If you see advertisers (Google ads) in the search results, that is usually a great sign. It means that people are spending money to advertise, which logically means that they are making money (i.e. after the ad costs).
This is a sign of a profitable product or niche.
When using this method, I tend to ignore eBay because I think of eBay as a giant car boot sale (for the most part). Most eBay listings are from people getting rid of things that they don’t want, as opposed to people who are actually paying money to advertise and sell product.
Similarly, I ignore Amazon ads, although – unlike with the eBay listings – these are all from sellers in the Amazon marketplace, so that is indicative of market activity.
… one ad does not give us a gauge of how competitive a market is.
So for now, we ignore Amazon ads.
Look for other advertisers – companies that are advertising in the results for whatever you type in.
Remember to check both the top and the bottom of the results, because that’s where Google currently places ads.
If the ads you see are not relevant (for example, in my iPhone 4 case search, I saw ads for the iPhone 6 case) this can be the result of poor targeting by the advertisers, but if this is very consistent, it can be a sign that there are not enough advertisers – which is the opposite of what we want to see.
Don’t be put off by competition. In fact, if you do a search for the keyword that you have in mind and there’s no one advertising then that should set alarm bells ringing in your head. You have to ask yourself why is nobody advertising?
Flip that on its side: you’re not going to advertise if you’re not making money, so if there are adverts then that means potentially that they are making money.
The exception, of course, is a brand new advertiser that’s just testing a market, and that’s why I look for multiple sellers.
Now, you can use a tool like spyfu if you want and that will actually show you who has been advertising consistently, which is exactly what we want to see. An advertiser that pays to run the same ad week in and week out is an advertiser that’s making money.
How’s that for a quick method to save yourself from entering the wrong market, eh?
So the bottom line is: competition is healthy.
The only thing that matters is whether the supply-demand equation is right.
Everybody said “don’t go there” and “it’s too competitive” and “it’s a saturated market”…
… but I took a chance and guess what happened?
I made money. My products sold really well.
The reason for that is because there are more people who want the product than there are people supplying the product.
The supply and demand equation is right.
Of course, the more competitors there are in a market, the more choices the consumer has and the better your product and your brand have to be in order to stand out.
I’m not saying too much competition is not a problem.
But assuming that your product is good and your pricing point is good then there’s always going to be somebody willing to buy as long as that supply and demand equation is stacked in your favour.
You just need to be able to find them (that’s where advertising comes in).
So, to recap, the first method is simply a Google search for your keyword or your search term and to check whether there are people advertising.
But let me throw in something important:
If there are no adverts it doesn’t always mean that there is no competition.
For example, many dentists offer Botox treatments (like Botox lip injections). Botox is a trademark word, so advertisers can’t use it in their ads.
To make things worse, Google really have no choice but to – by default – stop those type of ads, because you could be some guy in a backstreet injecting people with Botox…
… so the onus is always on the seller or the advertiser to prove that they are a legitimate (in this case legally certified) seller.
And that usually means contacting Google or the platform where you want to advertise and jumping through hoops and legalities.
And that does not guarantee that an advert will be allowed to run.
Dating is another tricky subject with Google. If you search for a dating ebook for men, you’re not likely to see any Google ads.
But that doesn’t mean that there is no competition: that’s a very competitive niche!
This is the reason for using multiple methods to gauge the competition rather than relying on just one.
Using various methods will enable you to get a better, fuller picture.
Method 2: Checking Competitors
In Google, use the intitle operator in front of the keyword you want to research.
The image below shows what this looks like:
The intitle search operator essentially makes Google filter out the results and show you only the results that have whatever you enter after the word intitle:
In the image example, the results of that query would be all the websites that Google knows about that have the words ‘iPhone 6 Case’ in the title.
This gives you a good gauge on the level of direct competition in the organic results.
This method is particularly useful if you want to rank for a keyword (for example if you’re writing a blog post) or if you want to rank a webpage for something specific. Doing this search is going to give you a good idea of what you’re up against.
This is also a great method to use when doing local marketing. If you want to rank a webpage for a local service, doing the intitle: search for your keyword plus the location will show you how many real competitors you have.
If there are nine competitors that have your keyword plus the location in the title, that means that technically there is room for one more because there are ten results on the first page.
With a little bit of work optimizing your article and making sure that the keyword is in that title, you have a good chance of being in the top ten.
Method 3: Checking Market Demand in Amazon
The third method is applicable if you’re dealing with a physical product. What we do here is we check out the Amazon Bestsellers list.
How’s this for FREE market research?
This method is great if you’re starting with a blank slate and you’re actually looking for a product that has demand. This method is a perfect way to validate that there is indeed demand.
Method 4: Quick Competitor Research
This method is also applicable if you’re dealing with a physical product, and it’s particularly handy for drop shippers.
In Google, simply type in your keyword or your search term and then add in quotes “by” and then the name of a popular e-commerce platform (e.g. Shopify).
The image below shows what that looks like:
This query will make Google return the results for all websites that contain the words “iPhone 6 case” but also have the words “by Shopify”.
Here’s what this really is:
Ever noticed that many websites have a bit of text in the footer? Something along the lines of ‘designed by’ or ‘powered by’?
Well, many people remove that text, but many others don’t.
While this search won’t give us a complete picture, it nonetheless enables us to see all the stores for any given platform that have left that footer text and that sell the product that we may be thinking about selling.
This is a great way to spy on your competition.
For example, if you want to do drop shipping and you want to start a Shopify store then you can very quickly find out how many Shopify online stores there are selling the type of product that you’re going to be selling.
You can also check competitors on other platforms by modifying your search.
Quick, easy and free.
Remember: don’t be put off by competition. If you find only one competitor that doesn’t mean that this is great news and if you find a thousand competitors it doesn’t mean that there’s no room.
It’s actually the opposite.
A lot of competitors means that there are a lot of suppliers servicing that demand.
Okay, so those are four very quick and very free methods that you can use to get a quick gauge on any competition.
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