It would be a bit cheeky for me to claim proudly that Fiona Mackenzie, founder of Undercover Strategist is one of my Protégées.  Still, she did complete a diploma in public relations which I set up when I began at AUT University.   Now she and I are in contact again, through our mutual interest in social media.  Fiona has presented some fascinating suggestions via her site Undercover Strategist.   I acknowledge her superior expertise in this field.  I expect some of the readers of this blog will also be interested in the following summary of her ideas on how to better your competition in the e-marketplace.  

1. Set up Google Alerts Google Alerts are open to all and take just a few minutes. Go to, enter your competitor’s name, choose “Everything”, and add your email address.

2. Join their mailing list (but delete them from yours) Fiona says: “Okay, this might seem mean, but all’s fair in love and war.”

Use a non-identifying address (Gmail or Hotmail) and subscribe to their list.

   3. Monitor changes to their website Fiona notes: “This is perfectly legit, but seriously sneaky.”  You can use the free application at and enter the pages of your competitor’s website. Enter your email address and Change Detection will tell you each time they make changes to their page.

 4. See what Keywords competitors use One of the easiest ways to do this, according to Fiona, is another free tool, SEO Digger (  Enter your competitor’s URL and click search. Ignore the ranking information which is US-based data.

 5. See who links to competitors Use Google or Bing to search for backlink checker tools. Remember, Google assigns PageRank (its proprietary quality score) on the basis of those links

 6. Torpedo rule-breakers
Google and Bing both have strict rules when websites are constructed to make them rank better.  E.G. Uploading a website a second time under a new domain name is a breach of duplicate content rules.  Keyword stuffing is also frowned on. 

Search engines take breaches of their rules seriously and penalties for bad infringements can be severe, including getting struck off the search engine index, which leaves room for another website to fill the gap on the front page.

“With a bit of skill and luck, perhaps it could be yours,” says Fiona.

Fiona’s experience includes online retailers, business-to-business service providers, telecommunication businesses and a long gig in web design for the Commonwealth Bank of Australia.   Here are a couple of links, if you’d like to know more


Petra Theunissen
9/15/2010 08:29:29 am

Hmm. Although most of this advice is very useful, Joseph, I do have some qualms about using unidentifying email addresses and monitoring without making yourself known. "Undercover" may sound exciting but it's hardly transparent or ethical.

Petra Theunissen

9/15/2010 09:47:38 am

Great blog post Joseph. Keep up the great work!

9/15/2010 09:50:47 am

Competitive intelligence has never been transparent

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