Whether you want to be James Bond or be a Bond ‘love interest’, it seems we marketeers could all pick up a tip or two from the 007 agent and the way he operates. Spying (legally) has never been so hot. How does this relate to PR and communications?

In true 007 style, we’re all aware of the importance of the technicalities – analysing and understanding our SEO strategies, aware of what’s around us, never putting a foot wrong.  PR and SEO have become intrinsically linked for building brand awareness and credibility. Instead of content just being “out there”, SEO helps to increase website traffic, and also ensure that we reach our target audience, optimising images and pinpointing reach geographically, resulting in more strategic campaigns.

But what if, beyond looking at our own SEO campaigns, we could spy on those of our direct competitors? That is exactly what Spyfu enables us to do, revealing and decoding the secrets to our competitors’ search marketing success.

This tool investigates your competitors, showing everywhere they turn up on google, keywords they have bought, every organic ranking and every ad variation, from as far back as 9 years ago! Find out what has been most profitable and what did not work so well.  It is good to learn from mistakes, but even better if you do not have to make them yourself. A bit more than just being plain nosey, it is a great way to help develop campaigns and boost our own results.

So, how does it work? Far from having to join the ranks of MI6, the process starts with simply entering a competitor’s website into a search. The mass amount of data is collated and sorted instantly.  It may seem a little daunting (we are, after all, more used to streams of words rather than numbers) but if you do get a little lost, there are blogs, videos and even a live chat to guide you through your mission. You may be wondering where all this valuable, “secret” information comes from? The answer, just from Google. SpyFu collects and saves information from specific search engine results and tracks millions of keywords, finding out how many searches a keyword gets in a month and how much it costs to buy in Adwords.

Most importantly, all of the data can also be compiled and summarised in simple SEO and PPC reports. Being able to send these straight to clients is a definite plus point for this platform. But what really sets SpyFu apart is that it actually helps to generate business and sales leads, claiming to have special access to contact information that cannot be found anywhere else. The only potential baddie to watch out for is that this tool only looks at the overall, larger picture for trends, it is not able to track developments in real time.

SpyFu certainly did not stay a secret for long, already having been picked up by the likes of the Washington Post, Forbes and the Wall Street Journal and it is hard to imagine how it will not keep going from strength to strength. Better get spying quickly, before competitors catch on too.

The unthinkable happens. Brands arrive and rise at a breathtaking pace. Brands disappear alarmingly quickly, as well. Who remembers Netscape and Alta Vista, to name just two?

Today I read on the Inside Facebook blog that Facebook growth in North America has slowed for the second month in a row, although overall, Facebook is expanding (especially in Brazil, India and Mexico). Is this the beginning of the end?

Still strewn across my desk is “The F-Factor”, a great report by trendwatching.com on friends, fans and followers and why the Facebook phenomenon is important to consumers, influencing their purchasing decisions in ever-more sophisticated ways.

Should PRs panic? Well, with 700 million Facebook users worldwide, losing a few million users in North America won’t make a dent. A 45% site expansion over the last year is amazing but is Facebook heading for saturation?

Facebook is still an unstoppable beast and any company needs to consider Facebook and social media generally, as a part of its communications strategy. In terms of proliferation, ease and entertainment, nothing else comes close to Facebook…yet.  But I do think people will get bored and look for something new, and there will be a contender to Facebook, as indeed Facebook has become the contender for Google, which seemed unthinkable in 2005.

Is it time to shape your reputation?

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