I'm curious to know how most go about gathering information regarding their competitors? I am interested in developing an application that would directly compete with numerous websites and I am having trouble finding effective ways to evaluate my competitors.
I have used alexa.com, compete.com, statbrain.com, and Google Trends. All of them produce pretty similar results, which is basically just a little bit of traffic information.
So I'm just wondering if there are any other effective ways for me to evaluate my competition and have a more accurate idea of what I am up against. How do most start ups determine what they are competing with?
Use an SEO product like SEOomoz Pro which allows you to get more qualitative data on competitors like their rank, positions on keywords (you supply), social presence, etc. This will show you how much effort will be needed on marketing/SEO.
What are you trying to determine - size, revenue, profits, marketing budget, conversions?
You are saying you are interested in developing a product that has existing competition. Are you hoping to develop a better product, cheaper product or going after a niche market?
Sounds like you simply need a lot of leg work to learn your competitors products, understand their strategy, strength and weaknesses. I would suggest to use your competitors products or find people who do and see if you can identify opportunities to do better.