It’s Online Marketing War Out There! Sizing Up Your Competition at #SESCHI


Welcome to AIMCLEAR‘s coverage of SES Chicago! The windy city greets us on Day 1 with mild weather, fine company, and serious knowledge bombs! There are so many intriguing sessions to choose from this year, and speakers flew in from far and wide to share their search and social strategies with all of us.

Diving right into our first session, I Spy: How to Outwit Your Competitors – SEM Analysis, moderated by president and founder of Find Me Faster, Matt Van Wagner, we sat back, relaxed, and took copious notes as speakers Jamie Smith, founder of Engine Ready, and John-Henry Scherck, content marketing manager at SEOgadget took the stage.

jamie-smithJamie Smith took the podium first. After giving us a quick overview of Engine Ready, he moved on to the meat and potatoes. The first step to performing a competitive analysis, according to Smith, is market research. All of this data about competitors needs a frame of reference. That frame of reference is the profile of your customer—and all of the usual psychographic targeting suspects play a part—publications, music, lifestyle, you name it. Know your customer intimately and then competitive intelligence will actually make a difference! Knowing that something works isn’t the same as knowing why it works. Your customer’s persona is a crucial element to answer the why.

The next step is to note who your direct competitors are and who your SEO competitors are. Direct competitors are businesses who compete with you for market share. SEO competitors are those who are bidding on similar keywords but aren’t necessarily competing with you. A good example is a search for “Yamaha.” Does this person want a keyboard piano or a lawnmower?

The two Yamaha searches compete from an SEO standpoint but they are clearly not direct competitors. Keep this in mind when looking at data on a specific keyword using one of the many tools used for competitive intelligence.

There are four major factors to consider in analysis, and various tools can provide us with this data. The more you want, the higher the price point, generally speaking:

  • Visibility as measured by impressions, average position, and impression share
  • Creative Performance as measured by CTR and conversion rate
  • Continuity (the relationship between query, ad creative, and landing page content) as measured by bounce rate, conversion rate and cost per action
  • Conversions

Smith mentioned a tool, Keyword Monitor, which functions similarly to many tools on the market used in competitive analysis. Regardless of the tool you choose, you should use it to discover a few key things:

  • What keywords are my competitors bidding on? This can be a great way to expand your own keyword list and capture more traffic share.
  • What creative are they running? How often? Successful creative is generally run more often; this can be a fantastic place to get some inspiration (to crush the competition). Be careful though, Jamie warns, you may not be blessed with smart competitors.
  • Receive alerts when your competitors use your terms or new competitors enter the space.

Another tool Jamie mentioned is called The Search Monitor. This product provides a laundry list of reports:

Paid Search Reports:

  • Market Share Reports
  • New Ad Copy Reports
  • Special Offers Reports
  • Most Popular Ad Copy Reports
  • Competitor Trends Reports
  • Day Parting Reports
  • Average Rank Reports
  • Keyword Coverage Reports

Organic Search Reports:

  • Competitor Rank Information
  • Listing Content
  • Video and Image Rank
  • Compare Organic to Paid Search
  • Geo-Target SERP Results (See the SERPs from a specific country, automated)

john-henry-scherck-ses-chicagoNext up was John-Henry Scherck. Competitive analysis is hard, time intensive and requires exhaustive research to truly get the full picture. Be warned, this dude loves automation and making lives easier, you might sleep a little better at night!

It’s important to define automated processes and John had a few examples up his sleeve.

First up, he shared how to perform content gap analysis for SEO. He outlines his process for finding content overlap and gaps.

Ever wanted to find blogs linking to your competitors? Blogs require fresh content and if your competitor is being linked to, it’s a good indication that blog is thematically related to your business too.

He talked about his philosophy about data entry next. That philosophy is that it’s a colossal waste of time—automate it! He  discusses the details of how to do that using Xpath and JSON imports into Excel, which saves time exponentially.

Schema has created a great set of standards that many websites are using, so hell, let’s scrape it! John explores how to pull in product data using Screaming Frog and OutWit Hub. This works particularly well on eCommerce sites where the site structure is based on a template.

Savvy internet marketers will especially appreciate his next methodology that mines user data with the FullContact API.  If you operate in multiple channels and are wondering who your influential users are and what websites they frequent, this is your jam.

John’s methods might propel you into more competitive intelligence than you can handle!

That wraps it up for day one coverage of #SESCHI! Stay tuned for more in the next two days.

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