Search Marketing: Competitive Analysis

Posted on October 2, 2019

Everybody has that one. The one competitor you are always trying to crush. From seeing their website pop up higher for a certain keyword you are tracking, to discovering a new ad campaign they just launched online, it becomes frustrating at times. So how do you stay on top? There is a lot to be learned from your competitors’ digital marketing efforts. From uncovering new keyword opportunities to keeping track of new ad creative, staying informed of what the competition is doing will help your brand stay ahead of the game. Join us as we talk about competitive analysis in a search marketing world.

The goals we’ll be breaking out during this presentation include:

  1. Benchmarking against your competition
  2. Analyzing your data
  3. Uncovering new search opportunities
  4. Tracking progress

Benchmarking Traffic & Keyword Opportunities

What we like to do for new clients is to benchmark organic traffic and keyword opportunities. We like to use traffic estimates from SEMRush, it’s a great took for getting a brief lay of the land to estimate how much traffic our competitors are getting from organic search and how that compares to us. We also like to look at keyword weaknesses, which is the most actionable item from the SEO side. We like to look at the competition and find out what keywords they are ranking for and sum the monthly searches and cost per click for some clarity which will tie into PPC later. We want to be able to talk through how to pull the report and how it’s useful to you.

We use a tool called SpyFu – the combat report specifically. You can input yourself plus your competition to see where you differ. You’ll see “keyword universe” – a massive list of all the keywords you all rank for, “exclusive keywords” – keywords competitors aren’t ranking for that you are and “the weakness report” – keywords your competitors rank for but you don’t. This is very interesting to pull the list and analyze the data.

Things to remember when you search the keywords yourself: 

  1. Do you see your competition and do you see paid advertising? If your competition is bidding on the keyword, they think it’s important and you should probably consider if it is for you as well.
  2. Do you see Wikipedia? This gets at the search intent behind the keyword. If you’re going to rank for that search, you need to be able to present the content in the right, informational way.
  3. Do you already use the keywords somewhere on your site? Should you bolster the information you already have or create a new section on your website? The best way to rank is to add to the search space – making it more useful.

Paid Search Analytics

Similar to what we looked at on the SEO side, there are plenty of tools that will try to estimate spend for you and your competitors. Take this with a grain of salt, the only people that know how much you are spending are the companies you’re spending with, these sites tend to rely on scraping results and algorithms on the cost per click to try to tell you an estimate. It’s more of just a benchmark on your competitor’s spending versus an exact number.

Evaluating Your Competition for Free

Do a Google search for your top keywords. Do you see paid advertising? Do you see your competition doing paid advertising? What kind of message are they using? Is there anything that surprises you? Take note of all of this and gauge if you are doing enough to compete in this same space. Tip: Do this search on desktop and mobile and compare your results.

If you are already advertising, you can use a tool called Google auction insights. This data is available on the campaign level, ad group level and all the way down to keyword level to see who you’re up against, what their impression share is and what your impression share is compared to them.

Compression share = takes how many times that Google served your add divided by the times you were eligible to show based on your keyword, your bid, and your targeting.

Improving your Impression Share

  1. Add search impression share to your fields that you’re looking at. It will give you a quick glance by campaign to see where you need to do some work.
  2. Search lost IS (impression share) rank – shows how many impressions share you lost to competition due to ad rank (keyword bid x quality score).
  3. Search lost IS (impression share) budget – this shows how often you lost out to competition due to your budget.

Pro Tip: Make sure to work on your rank first rather than throwing more budget at the keywords.

Display Advertising

  • & (tools to use to see what your competition is doing)
  • Show you ads
  • Get performance metrics
  • Alert you of changes

Paid Keyword Opportunities

Just like on the SEO side, we’re always looking to hone in on the actual keywords that we want to target. Again, the SpyFu combat report is great to use here – this time we’ll use it for the paid side. There are two to take note of:

  1. Buy recommendations report – these could be used to gain some quick impressions
  2. Exclusive keywords report – this is meant to call out any keywords that your competition is bidding on, but you are not. It can be a quick way to expand your paid keywords but make sure to do your research first.

Competitive Link Analysis

If you’re not aware already, link portfolios are a look at what links are coming to your site as well as what links are going out. Which then has an indirect benefit toward your ranking potential.

Tools to use to analyze competitors link portfolios:

  • MOZ
  • ahrefs
  • SEMrush

Using a tool like this you’ll be able to compare your competition directly with yourself. Make sure to pay attention to domain authority, total links, and total linking domains.

Link Outreach

This is something that is not quick – it takes a lot of time and needs to become part of your process in order to work. With link outreach, you are essentially exchanging value. What you want out of the transaction is you want a link from their website to yours but in order to get that you have to give them something of value. Common ways to get links: guest blogging, update broken links towards your content, event promotion, create a better version of current linked content.

User Experience

This can sometimes get glossed over a little bit but there is a lot of interesting things you can learn from your competitors by doing some technical checks and some subjective CTA check-ups.

Site speed remains extremely important and will help to determine your rankings. So make sure your website runs well on desktop and also on mobile. We use Google’s PageSpeed insights for this. Once you run the report, it will give you some recommendations on what to consider to improve your scores.

Something to remember: There are multiple moments in the load experience that will determine if this tool views your site as fast or slow.

Conversion Points & CRO: 3 Ways CRO Benefits SEO

  1. Improved customer insights – acquiring more people doesn’t do your business any good if they’re not the right kind of people.
  2. Better ROI – by studying how to get the most out of your acquisition efforts, you’ll get more conversions without having to bring in more potential customers.
  3. Enhanced UX/Trust – your website is your number-one salesperson. Just like a sales team, your site needs to be professional, courteous, and ready to answer your customer’s questions.

In summary, for SEO specifically – take a look at benchmarking organic traffic and identify opportunities through SpyFu combat report. Make sure to take notes on your competitor’s content, style, and organization. Always benchmark your site speed and lastly analyze the conversion points. For PPC, know who your paid search competitors are, use Auction Insights if you’re currently advertising – and do this regularly and always make sure to evaluate your competitor’s keyword reach.

If you have any questions or would like more information on what we covered or insights into any of the tools mentioned, please contact us. We’re also offering a free Digital Marketing Audit which could help give you a better idea of how you stack up to your competition.