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Use Google Reader to Keep Tabs on Competitor Web Sites

February 9th, 2010

Recently Google announced a new feature in Google Reader that lets you create a custom feed to track changes on pages that don’t have their own feed.

You can use this new feature to simplify your competitive intelligence gathering. Just identify the most important/central pages on your competitors’ sites and create feeds for them in Google Reader. Then every time your competition makes an update, adds content, links to a new site or page, rewrites something, updates a price, an image or offering etc, you’ll be pinged – and the change is tracked.

And because Google marks each update with the date/time they detected the change, you have the ability to track how often your competitor updates the pages. Of course, it’ll depend on how often Googlebot returns to the page which is a function of how “valuable” and frequently-updated the page is overall.

This feature has a lot of great implications for SEO, particularly for tracking link building efforts by your competitors, however this feature tracks changes to content, not the page code itself.

If you’re thinking “wait a minute, I don’t want my competitors to be able to track me”, there is a way you can “opt out” of this feature. You can block the creation of feeds for any page by doing the following:

  • Adding <meta name=”googlebot” content=”noarchive”> to the page head. Adding the noarchive meta tag will prevent Google from caching your page.
  • Or by using Robots.txt to block Googlebot (though this option means your page is removed from Google’s index)
  • Moving content into an iFrame (this renders the content invisible to Googlebot)

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