SEO and Competitive Intelligence — SMX Advanced

The view outside this session is incredible. I’m trying not to rub it in right now, but there’s natural light, water, trees and boats. Natural light! View = good. Internet connection = meh. Let’s hope I can publish this.

View from an SMX Advanced session

This session promises to show us how to implement and profit from a comprehensive competitive intelligence campaign. The moderator is Matt McGee, executive news editor of Search Engine Land. And the speakers are:

Seth Besmertnik, CEO, Conductor
Mitul Gandhi, Chief Architect, seoClarity
John Straw, Founder, Linkdex

First up, moderator Matt McGee. Matt says we are going to learn how to use what your competitor is doing against them. (Mwuahahahaha.)

First speaker up is Mitul Gandhi of seoClarity. He is talking about how to build a competitive intelligence (CI) practice. He said the most common use of competitive intelligence is by finding keywords and links the competition is using. But he wants to answer questions like, how active are the competitors in SEO? And more — the less obvious questions.

Tracking CI is tough. Too much of too little; there are too many things to track. Too much noise in the data. The data is tool late. How does it help to know the data of your competitors las month. Also, too dependent on researcher and tool. Causes us to focus on the effect vs. the cause.


He’s talking the typical approach. Pick a competitor, research keywords, backlinks and implement. But it’s full of flaws. Proposed framework:

  • Research true competitors: Competitors online is actually different than offline. Competitors at domain level may be different at category, product or service level.
  • Eliminating noise: Avoid the urge to go to keywords as the next step. Researching a single competitor is misleading. Too much data, little context. Leverage the wisdom of the crowd. That means, take each of your true competitors, compile them, then you should see an intersection of keywords that are common across competitors.
  • Tracking causes: What is the competitor doing on and off page? Rankings may have changed due to your own actions or something your competitors did.
  • Track effects: Track KPIs closely — not just rankings, but traffic patterns as well. Set up thresholds. Very simple high school stats, he says.
  • Learning, testing, implementing and repeat: Timing is important; can lose out on a lot by waiting. CI gives us a starting point for ideas to test.

Be careful using this data. CI without human review can lead to insanity.

Next is John Straw of Linkdex. He has an accent; this makes me happy.

He says we like to talk a lot of CI, but as an industry, we don’t do much with it. We are going to talk about the data that we can use. He is using JC Penney as a case study (with his apologies to JC Penney for always being the case study). They looked at fresh links — recently appeared and recently dropped. He used Majestic SEO database, says it’s free-ish.

He is looking at the SEO strategy of JC Penney versus Bloomingdales versus Macy’s. He sees that everyone grew their link structure, with Macy’s growing it in blogs. Wants to know how JC Penney found love after the Google disaster. They have had a very specific campaign to get links from .edu. Shows hundreds of links acquired by .edu in the past four months.

This is his plan of attack for CI is defining influence, identifying classification signals. When classifying a blog, you might look for:

  • Comments
  • RSS feeds
  • Post archive
  • Labels and tags on posts
  • WordPress-based
  • Hosted on a blogging platform

K, he went really fast and was talking math stuff. I don’t know that anything I just blogged made sense. Here’s hoping …

Last but not least is Seth Besmertnik of Conductor. How do you discover who your competitors are? How can you spot trends? What do you focus on?

You can do the following internally:

  • Start with your keyword set
  • SERP extraction — not just rank data, ID domains
  • Saturation (frequency in which domains are showing up for your keywords)
  • Competitor categorization within organization
  • New competitor alerts

How to understand who your competitors are (example):

800 keywords times 1oo positions. Top 50 percent by saturation. Top 50 percent by average rank. This can start to build out your initial competitor set.

How do you typecast your competitors?

SEO Competitive Intelligence

Direct competitor: Traditional business, SEO driven, affiliates, retailers, manufacturers, family sites (parent company with family of sites)

Indirect competitor: Review sites, newspaper and magazines, Wikipedia, user groups

Universal results is a big opportunity to see who your competitors are (direct and indirect). Metrics change when images, for example, push rankings down.

Understand competitors’ momentum. Follow ranking shifts to ID aggressive movement positively or negatively. You can learn something from those that are doing poorly as well.

New competitor alerts: Look at top three pages and ID new competitors that did not exist in previous time.

As the industry gets more advanced, metrics need to be more advanced. Modify data sets.

Use CI to build a business case to get more investment in SEO. He says this is a better case-building tactic than anything else. Show how competitors are performing against the same set of keywords as yours. Go to LinkedIn put in competitor’s name and the word “SEO” and you can see how many SEOs are there, if they are hiring SEOs and such.

Jessica Lee is the founder and chief creative for bizbuzzcontent Inc., a marketing boutique that focuses on digital content strategy and professional writing services for businesses.

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

Comments (5)
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5 Replies to “SEO and Competitive Intelligence — SMX Advanced”

I wish I were in that expo. I bet there is much to learn when your there physically present.

Susan Esparza

I have to agree. I think we’re pretty darn good livebloggers but there’s just no substitute for being there. The speakers are phenomenal.

Hi Jessica, is there any books, videos that are complied together for this SMX Advanced. Since I am from Malaysia, I don’t have chance to attend it but I wish to learn everything from the expo. If Bruceclay doesn’t have it, any other websites that have it and you can recommend to me?

I spoke with a contact at the conference and unfortunately, there isn’t anything available to the public. A good place to look is Search Engine Land for a recap of all the liveblogging from all parties. There may be some videos as well, produced by the conference, but those aren’t yet available. Other businesses have video coverage at these conferences as well — you can check WebProNews, Web Marketing Today and ReelSEO, to name a few (although it’s early and if they did have it, doesn’t look like it’s up yet). I will keep you updated as I find things to share with you and everyone else. :)

Thanks Jessica, I will search on Google and browse those websites you mentioned! :)


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