Understanding how much money your competitors are allocating to paid search on a monthly basis helps you understand their level of investment. With SpyFu or Keyword Spy, you can estimate amount of spend, seasonality and any recent ramp up in spend. This data can provide insight into your competitors’ marketing strategies and financial commitment to paid search.
Get a good idea of competitor's specific areas of focus by examining the keywords they target in paid search. Both Keyword Spy and SpyFu will provide keywords where your competitors’ ads appeared. I recommend dumping all of the keyword data into a word cloud tool (Wordle.net is a great one) to easily visualize the frequency of keyword targeting.
After you identify what keywords your competitors target, dig into the raw data at the keyword level. Look at average position and cost per click to determine their aggression level for these keywords. Are your competitors always in a top position (first or second)? Do they pay a surprisingly high amount for certain keywords ($20 to $40)? High position and high bids are good indicators that a keyword is effective.
One of my favorite areas to look into is what I call the “Competitive PPC Hot Zone.” By cross-referencing a few of your competitors using SpyFu’s Kombat tool, you can identify which keywords all competitors target. If you aren’t bidding on these keywords, you probably should be. You also might identify areas where none are bidding, presenting an opportunity for unique visibility.
This same competitive keyword review process can be used for SEO too. Looking at competitor ranking information can shed light into where your competitors focus their optimization efforts.
Ads and Messaging
Once you know your competitor's keyword targets, take a look at what messaging they use. Does the messaging include features or benefits? Any trends in their ad text? What calls to action (CTA) do they use?
Understanding what they see as their main value proposition can dictate whether you want to approach their messaging head on or create a different competing value proposition. Generally, it’s good to test both of these strategies against one another and let the data do the talking.
Landing Pages and Offer Roadmap
Now that we know spend level, keywords targeted, and ad messaging, let’s explore how competitors are trying to close the deal and get visitors to convert. By looking at what landing pages and offers (white papers, industry reports, demos, free trial) your competitors have run over time, you may come up with new ideas for content to create.
Inbound Linking Opportunities
The final area of competitive research is specific to SEO, and involves identifying backlink opportunities. When doing this, note that you have two types of competitors: actual competitors in the real world and search results competitors. If you search for terms relevant to your business, not every result shown will be a literal competitor, and it’s important to take search result competitors into account.
A good place to identify opportunities lies in the inbound links your actual and your search result competitors have from high authority sites. Are there industry resource listings with high domain authority that would be easy to get inbound links? With search result competitors, what links are helping them rank? Moz and Raven can help with inbound linking efforts.
Taking your competition into account when devising your online marketing strategy will help you identify areas of opportunity and expose your competitors’ weakness. It’s imperative to use this information to make your strategy as effective as possible.
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