SES Chicago: How to Outwit Your Competitors Recap

As a part of SES Chicago yesterday, I had the opportunity to attend the seminar I Spy: How to Outwit Your Competitors – SEM Analysis.

For those of you who may not be familiar yet, SES is a global conference dedicated to search and social marketing.  This particular seminar was on the topic of competitor research, analysis and how to use it to stay ahead of your competition.

The seminar was moderated by Matt Van Wagner, President of Find Me Faster and was split between two speakers.  Jamie Smith, Founder of Engine Ready, discussed competitor analysis from a Paid Search perspective and John-Henry Scherck, Content Marketing Manager for SEO Gadget US spoke from a SEO perspective.

If you did not have the opportunity to catch this presentation, you are in luck because I am an excellent note taker!  Here are a few of the key points from each speaker that I found valuable:

Jamie Smith, Founder of Engine Ready

Jamie Smith, Founder of Engine Ready

Jamie Smith, Founder of Engine Ready

Throughout Mr. Smith’s presentation he focused on 4 components to look at in your competition:

  1. Visibility– Where are your competitors ranked on the search engine results page?
  2. Creative– What are the most successful ads?  Which ads have the highest click through rate and conversion rate?  What elements of the copy make this ad successful?  What about landing pages?
  3. Continuity– What is the bounce rate, conversion rate and cost per acquisition?  Are people finding what they are looking for from SERP to conversion?  *most likely this is where the biggest disconnect is.
  4. Conversion– Look at what has the best conversion rate and return on investment.

Ok, great.  Now what?  If you are looking for somewhere to start, Smith suggested starting with keyword research and then move on to URL’s and ad creative.  Also, it is important to keep in mind that market research is just as important as competitive research and analysis.  Don’t lose sight of the big picture.

Suggested tools: Engine Ready, Search Monitor, Wordtracker, Compete, Raven Tools, WordStream, AdGooroo, iSpionage, SpyFu, Conversion Critic and Google AdWords.

John-Henry Scherck, Content Marketing Manager for SEO Gadget US

John-Henry Scherck, Content Marketing Manager for SEO Gadget US

John-Henry Scherck, Content Marketing Manager for SEO Gadget US

The focus of Mr. Scherck’s portion of the presentation was competitive analysis for content, social and links.  The most important aspect for Scherck was defining a process for competitive analysis and utilizing team members properly in execution without wasting valuable time and energy.

So how do we go about finding insightful data we can put to use?  Instead of research for research’s sake we need to be focusing on actionable data.

In Scherck’s opinion apps are not recommended as they can be time consuming.  All data should be exported into excel or imported through an API and business intelligence (BI) platforms will give deeper insights.  To get started, Scherck gave a few examples:

  • For content analysis use SEMrush to see search volume per page.
  • Find all blogs linking to a competitor using Majestic SEO and Screaming Frog.
  • Monitor social using Xpath in a spreadsheet, JSON in a spreadsheet (for smaller projects), roll your own scraper using an industrial web scraper.

However you decide to approach competitive analysis, it is important not to let your competition directly influence what you are doing.  In the words of the moderator Matt Van Wagner, “it’s easy to have a fatal attraction to competitors”.  As you are developing your process for competitor analysis, remember, if you are constantly chasing your competition it leaves no room for innovation.