Competitive Research — SES San Francisco


Kristopher Jones, President & CEO, KBJ Interactive


After a nice afternoon nap break, I start the afternoon of SES Wednesday with Competitive Research.

ses sf logo

Kristopher Jones, our moderator, starts off the session by pointing out the standing room only in this session. He explains that each panelist will provide some tips and strategies to understand the competition. Then, we will follow up with Q&A.

Eli Goodman starts off the panel by explaining a “Search Funnel.” He defines it as a collection of search events that leads to a conversion. Goodman states that search engine tools can be a marketer’s best friend (Google AdWords, Yahoo! Search Marketing, and Microsoft AdCenter), because they can help with keyword discovery and sizing up the marketplace.

AdGooroo, SpyFu, and The Search Monitor help paid search marketers with competitive research. From an organic competitive research standpoint, the “best of the breeds” are Conductor, Covario, and Rank Above. These tools “tell you what to do.” They are not free, but many of them have small business options.

The tools above are great, but they are not at the click level. They only provide positioning and impressions. ComScore, HitWise, Compete, Trellian and Alexa are the big players in actual competitive search clicks. These tools provide not just bidding and optimization, but also traffic drivers.

The “new holy grail” is being able to follow the competitive data all the way through conversions. ComScore, Hitwise and Compete offer solutions, but they are pricy and not for everyone. These sites require large sample sites to work. [My note:  I have tried these tools before, but the sample size was so small in the industries I was working with that no value was gained. Competitive conversion data sounds great, but not very applicable to most industries… At least not yet. ]

Mark Munroe, from Merchant Circle, takes the stage next to discuss competitive link analysis.  On-page strategies are open to the public. If marketers want to know what competitors are doing for SEO on their site just have to look. Third-party link analysis tools can give insight into competition.

Munroe’s preferred tools are LinkScape and Open Site Explorer. Google’s PageRank Toolbar is not reliable enough because it’s a snapshot in time of a page (not a site).

He takes us through an example of examining a competitor, recommending SEOMoz and MozRank along the way. He recommends studying what’s working for competitors and implement that strategy into link building efforts. Even very strong sites gain a large percentage of their strength from a small percentage of links. [In other words, it’s not about quantity, it’s the quality of the links.]

Our “closer” is Bill Leake, with Apogee Search.  He says he is “too old for the industry”.

Leake takes us a step back by explaining that obsession with the competition is a luxury of the over-funded, because what works for them may not work for someone else. Competitive analysis is fun, but doesn’t create bonuses. However, some insight can be gained in it.

Looking at the competition helps identify strengths and threat levels.  What is the competition doing (off line and online)?  He goes though a few things marketers can check on, for free, outside of the SEO/PPC scope, including: website tracking tags, LinkedIn monitoring, domain name ownership, automated website change monitoring.

eClerx is recommended. It will scan the prices of the competition on a regular basis. For retailers, this let’s them know when the competition drops prices.


Question: Can you provide an example of a website monitoring change service?

Answer: Kristopher Jones, our roving moderator, mentions that GoDaddy offers a service.

Question: Can you recommend any competitive keyword tools?

Answer: Mark Munroe suggested Keyword Spy, SEM Rush, SEO Book FireFox Plugin and Trellian.

Question: Any recommendations for social media competitive analysis?

Answer: Eli Goodman mentions Radian6. For a lower cost option, Bill Leake says Google Alerts is a must.

Question: How do you find the competition’s IP address?

I do not like where this conversation is going. Too much black hat discussion now. I will leave it at that. Eli Goodman saves us with “bad karma” is not good. He says spend more time taking care of yourself and not worry about your competitors.

John Ellis began his online marketing career, not in marketing at all, but as a computer programmer. With a degree in computer science, he started tech support/programming in the mid 90’s. It was during that time companies were getting on board with an online presence. As a “technical” person on-staff, naturally it was a good fit for IT to manage the website. It was through those processes that John learned search engine optimization, web analytics, and eventually pay-per-click marketing. Eventually, John moved from the technical side to the marketing side of the company. However, it is with those same technical skills that help with the analytics and optimization required in online marketing. 15 years later, John Ellis is now frequent speaker at online marketing events, including PubCon, Search Engine Strategies and much more. He can also be found throughout the blogsosphere contributing marketing tips and perspective. John writes about SEO and PPC at John Ellis currently resides in Nashville, TN where he is an online marketing consultant. Follow John on Twitter @JohnWEllis.

See johnellis's author page for links to connect on social media.

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