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Six things missing from your competitor research

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Six things missing from your competitor research


30-second summary:

  • There are ways to save and optimize your SEO budget, here’s how
  • Start with creating an “at a glance” report comparing your competitors’ key metrics. Find interesting trends to look further into!
  • Analyze and monitor your competitors’ online sentiment and customer satisfaction. How can you become better than your competitors?
  • Identify your competitors’ marketing priorities by looking at their competitors’ PPC tactics. Note their branded keywords they are bidding on: what do they consider their competitors?
  • Research your competitors’ branded questions by analyzing “People Also Ask” and monitoring tweeted questions from their customers and brand ambassadors
  • Analyze your competitors’ social media marketing tactics: what can you learn from these and which should you avoid?

1. Competitors at a glance for domain analysis

You can never have just one competitor in the real world. In some niches, you’ll end up with ten or more competitors that need your attention. Where to start?

This is the section I usually start my competitive report with: competitors at a glance which is a chart letting me easily compare my competitors.

What should be included in this section?

This section includes any metrics that would allow you to spot some key trends:

  • How new or old is this competitor?
  • How many backlinks has your competitor managed to acquire?
  • What’s their website traffic?
  • How large is the website?

Seeing all these numbers side by side often allows you to see important niche patterns or spot some interesting cases to explore further. For example, you can identify a new competitor that nonetheless gets a lot of organic traffic. Or you can find a competitor with fewer backlinks that managed to build solid web visibility. These are both good cases to learn from.

Here’s an example of how I use an “at a glance” method for my competitive research that is also color-coded based on how successful each competitor is (green showing very good numbers). 


Source: Screenshot made by the author

2. Online sentiment and customer satisfaction

How happy are your competitors’ customers? Is there an opportunity for your product here? Is there a particular feature or aspect that makes your competitors’ customers unhappy?

Knowing why your competitors’ customers are unhappy helps on many levels, from learning the mistakes you need to avoid, to developing a better product that covers a niche gap.

So why do so many competitive reports fail to include this section?

And that report is pretty easy to generate. Sentiment analysis and monitoring are doable with some advanced social listening that dives into the segmentation of consumer sentiment.

Sentiment analysisSource: Awario

3. PPC keywords

Most competitive reports include organic keywords and positions but how about PPC keywords? 

Whether you are planning to invest in paid ads or not, knowing your competitor’s PPC keywords will help you understand what they are focusing on. It’s a smart way to understand high and low competition keywords without having to spend your own dollars.

When looking through my competitors’ PPC keywords, I always pay attention to their branded keywords. Firstly, it shows the competitors they as a business take seriously. And second, this may inform my own PPC decisions as there’s a solid case for bidding on branded keywords because they tend to have high intent and are often cheaper.

Here’s an example of a branded keyword report from Ahrefs. Notice the ‘Traffic’ column estimating the number of clicks a particular PPC keyword is bringing to the target site:

Analysis PPC keywords to inform your keyword strategySource: Screenshot made by the author

4. Branded questions

Niche question research is useful on many levels but have you ever given a thought on how useful it is for your competitive research? Questions people ask about your competitors will give you valuable insight into:

  1. Your competitors’ drawbacks (and how you can practically fill that need gap in the market)
  2. Your customers’ failures (and how to avoid them)
  3. Your target customers’ journeys (and how to best approach them)

When it comes to understanding your niche buying journeys, Google’s People Also Ask results, also known as ‘intent questions’ help you understand and visualize all the different paths consumers are taking when making their buying decisions.

Branded questionsSource: Screenshot made by the author

Always take note of the “People Also Ask” results when searching for your competitors or their products. These help you better understand your target customers’ interests and research styles throughout their buying journeys.

Source: AlsoAsked

You could also use some freemium-based tools to keep track of questions your competitors’ customers are asking in real-time, use Twitter question search which can also be monitored through a free app called Tweetdeck. Create a new column in your Tweetdeck to monitor this search term:

[competitor ?]

Make sure there’s a space in between your competitor’s brand name and the question mark.

Source: Screenshot made by the author

5. Your competitors’ promoters

Who are your competitors’ most vocal promoters? Can you get them on board to promote your brand instead? Or how did your competitors manage to win their love?

Your competitors’ friends are not your enemies. These are people who may fall in love with your product or agree to collaborate on similar or better terms.

Checking your competitors’ backlinks is the most popular way to find their promoters but it seldom includes people behind those links.

Social media is another great place to look for your competitors’ promoters.

6. Social media content

Are your competitors using social media to find and engage your customers? There are some lessons to learn there as well.

You can run a solid analysis of any Facebook page engagement metrics which you can use for your competitive report:

Social media analysisSource: Screenshot made by the author

Conclusion

Competitive research is much more than tracking your competitors’ organic positions and checking their backlinks from time to time. 

It can give you a lot of insight into your target customers, their struggles, and buying journeys, it can teach you to build a better project and identify niche gaps. Finally, it can help you identify mistakes to avoid and build a stronger business. Good luck!


Ann Smarty is the Founder of Viral Content Bee, Brand and Community manager at Internet Marketing Ninjas. She can be found on Twitter @seosmarty.

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Inflation’s Impact On Ad Spend Detailed In Merkle Report

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Inflation’s Impact On Ad Spend Detailed In Merkle Report


The leading technology and data-driven customer experience company, Merkle, released its quarterly Performance Media Report last week.

Research from the past quarter shows valuable insights into marketers’ priorities, challenges, and performance.

With over 57% of respondents indicating an increase in paid search spend YoY, these findings are especially crucial as we face economic challenges and uncertainty.

I sat down with Matt Mierzejewski, SVP of Search at Merkle, where he provided his take on some of the most glaring stats from the Performance Report.

Prioritizing Privacy And Measurement

From the Merkle report, 45% of respondents stated that getting accurate reporting in the face of privacy regulations is a top priority in measurement.

Many companies are likely in the same boat but may not know where to start.

Mierzejewski states: “Brands are big on cross-device measurement. Apple disrupted the measurement game. Many companies are looking to build their data warehouses for multiple reasons:”

  • Too much reliance on individual platforms. The more conversions are modeled in a platform, the less perfect a company’s individual measurement is.
  • They’re tired of black box solutions. Brands want to be able to own or change the way they model conversions.

Mierzejewski also noted that with more brands looking to build their own reporting solutions, it changes the dependency from the platform conversion truth to their own conversion truth.

Prioritizing Audiences & First-Party Data

Looming privacy regulations have kickstarted the need for brands to create and manage their first-party data.

However, only 35% of respondents prioritize managing audiences and first-party data.

I asked Mierzejewski: “what do you see as the macro implications of so many companies waiting on this?”

He responded with a few points:

“From a digital perspective, they’re shifting towards getting their creative and messaging right.” If you’ve interacted with a brand, you’ll notice how consumer expectations have shifted.

“An implication of deprioritizing audiences and first-party data is poor customer experience.” Not prioritizing these crucial aspects of marketing will accelerate the deceleration, or further remove, the customer feeling connected to that brand.

“You have to use those unknown audience signals to your advantage to meet the expectations of consumers and beat out the competition.” For example, In-Market audiences from Google releases more signal and intent of propensity to buy. They’re allowing those signals to be in the open market.

Mierzejewski summarized: “It misses out on the opportunity for the best customers. You’ll be left competing for the worst customers!”

Paid Social Growth In 2023

An overwhelming 67% of respondents prioritized paid social more this year than 2021.

The growing number of social platforms with ad opportunities is a partial factor in increased prioritization.

When asked about what social platform would see the most growth in 2023?

“If we’re talking raw dollars, Facebook and Instagram will still win,” Mierzejewski stated.

Further, he notes: “If we’re looking at percentage growth and who to watch for, it’s TikTok.” Matt shed some light on user projections, with TikTok’s growth projected to surpass Snapchat next year.

Inflation Is Driving Faster Adoption Of Machine Learning

With inflation costs, adopting automation and machine learning may be put on the backburner.

Not according to the Merkle Performance Report.

  • 41% of respondents are beginning to take action on automation and machine learning strategies
  • 38% of respondents have made significant progress in their ML strategies

So, why is inflation driving faster automation adoption?

“Inflation is just one element. It goes hand-in-hand with the last few years. COVID accelerated Ecommerce and the digital world for many companies,” Mierzejewski noted. He went on to say:

“There’s greater scrutiny on the investments in companies. They are trying to beat the market and the competition. There’s pressure for leaders to be tied into the data and marketing measurement.”

Let’s not forget one of the most critical aspects: resources.

Mierzejewski finished by noting that if companies are having trouble hiring individuals, they’re trying to do more with less. They have to rely on automation to supplement the workload.

Inflation’s Impact On Advertiser Strategies

We’ve seen the stats on increased advertiser costs YoY.

We have a better understanding of what marketers are prioritizing in the future.

Amid economic factors that companies can’t control, advertisers might not know how or where to pivot their strategy. When posed with this question, Mierzejewski provided his expert opinions.

“Expect double-digit changes to ad spend.”

Whether the above statement refers to an increase or decrease in ad spend, this change is based on a mixed bag of strategy, cash flow, inventory positions, and the vertical.

“The economic pressure reminds me of 2008 – the downturn of the digital sphere. Some clients will pull back on ad spend. Others may take the opportunity on the downturn and have double-digit growth,” Matt commented.

CPCs will likely decline.

In these types of environments, CPCs are likely to go down. This could allow advertisers to shuffle dollars based on what will work hardest for them.

Matt notes, “If you can be bold, it’s the time to do it.” The decreased CPCs become a buying opportunity for advertisers with the financial capacity to spend more.

“Don’t over-pat yourself on the back.”

Mierzejewski emphasized, “Be careful on the data.” He explained that with inflation and rising costs, you may also see a natural rise in revenue.

For example, if you’re seeing a 10% lift in sales but spent 15% more in advertising or COGS, that can provide a false narrative in growth. The 10% increase in revenue may be attributed to inflation costs and, in this case, shows a decline in profitability.

Summary

The Q3 Performance Marketing Report provides invaluable data to unpack.

If you haven’t yet taken action on privacy regulations, you’re not the only one.

And while inflation, privacy, and other economic impacts can cause shifts in performance trends, they’re not the only factors.

The paid media landscape changes every day. Use this to understand how others in the space are shifting priorities and strategies and what this means for you.

You can download your copy of the Performance Marketing Report here.

A special thank you to Matt Mierzejewski, SVP of Search at Merkle, for taking the time to address these statistics and providing additional insights.


Featured Image: PopTika/Shutterstock





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Google Maps Testing New Local Panel With Images & Tabs

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Google Maps Testing New Local Panel With Images & Tabs


Google Maps is testing a new local listing interface where it shows more images in the top portion of the local listing and there are tabs to show the business overview on the left and the reviews on the right.

Here is a screenshot I took from the video recorded by Punit on Twitter:

click for full size

Here is his video so you can see it in action:

In 2017, Google rolled out the tab interface like this for local panels in Google Search but I don’t think it launched in Google Maps.

I think I like the tabbed approach, since reviews for many local listings are super important.

Forum discussion at Twitter.





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Small Business Search Trends On The Rise In 2022

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Small Business Search Trends On The Rise In 2022


A new report from Semrush reveals searches related to small businesses, particularly ‘opening’ a small business, are on the rise.

The report details the business categories and specific search queries gaining traction and offers insight into what areas of marketing businesses are investing in.

Data in the report is based on the keyword and search volume intel collected by Semrush.

After analyzing the traffic growth trends to organic search performance over time, Semrush shares which small business categories manage to do better online.

Here are some key highlights from the report.

Search Trends Around Opening A Business

Looking at search volume for various searches that indicate an intent to open a business, the report finds:

  • Over the past four years, the number of “open business” searches has grown by 21%.
  • The majority of “open business” searches occur in January and March.
  • From 2018 to 2022, searches for all things related to starting a small business spiked by 76%.

Most Popular Small Business Categories

While general interest in starting a small business is spiking, search volume indicates aspiring business owners are looking to open boutiques:

  • Almost one-fifth of all entrepreneurs-to-be want to open a boutique.
  • starting an Etsy business looks attractive to almost one-fifth of all the searchers.
  • Vending machines appear to be gaining the most significant traction, as the category broke into the second spot of most-searched small businesses.

Analyzing search trends across regions, the report finds:

  • The “Etsy, cleaning, boutique” triad is present—fully or partially—across each state’s top 3.
  • In exactly half the states, coffee shops also make it into the top 3 most searched small business categories.
  • Montana and Vermont searchers also consider delivery services as a potential undertaking.

Most Frequent ‘Small Business’ Related Searches

Half of all the top small business-related searches are related to financing.

Here are the top queries, ordered by average monthly searches:

  1. Small business loans
  2. Small business grants
  3. Small business administration
  4. Small business ideas
  5. How to start a small business

Small Business Searches Related To Marketing

Keyword stats indicate small business owners try to embrace all the up-and-coming trends:

  • Searches for digital marketing services surged by 1,500% (especially fast during the pandemic).
  • Interest in creating short videos for small businesses grew by 420%.
  • 600% more people were looking up free text message marketing in 2022 than in 2018.

Small Business Site Categories With the Highest Traffic Growth

The report finds the average traffic growth for small businesses across the board was 2900%.

Semrush states:

“This means that over the past 4 years, most of the websites within our client list managed to expand their visitor base.”

Top 10 Small Business Site Categories By Share of High-Ranking Organic Keywords

The report explores which small business site categories have the largest share of high-ranking organic keywords.

Here are the categories listed in order, followed by the median number of organic keywords where the domain ranks in the top 10

  1. Publishing: 45,581
  2. Online Media: 10,116
  3. Veterinary: 9,379
  4. Entertainment: 6,627
  5. Consumer Services: 3,518
  6. Consumer Goods: 3,339
  7. Building Materials: 2,957
  8. Music: 2,593
  9. Human Resources: 2,145
  10. Food & Beverages: 1,839

What’s interesting to note here is how the top 10 categories by high-ranking keywords don’t line up with the fastest-growing site categories by traffic. Semrush suggests this could mean ranking for a high number of keywords might not directly lead to traffic growth.


Featured Image: Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock





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