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Keep Your Enemies Close: Things Your Competitors Can Teach You About Your Digital Marketing Campaign

James Connell May 24, 2016 Category Digital Marketing

Competitor analysis is a wonderful, insightful and sometimes surprising means of learning more about your business. As a digital marketing agency, for us competitor analysis is not just a value add, it’s a core strategy. Here, I’m going to share how we get meaningful, actionable insights at Path and how you can integrate them into your own marketing.

Research your digital competitors – not just your business competitors

Brief refresh: in digital marketing there are several types of competitors we monitor. In addition to direct, indirect and replacement competitors, we look at business competitors and digital competitors.

You or your client often has an established idea of who your business competitors are. For brick-and-mortar, it is business competitors offering the same service/product nearby geographically.

Your digital competitors are likely completely different from your business competitors. Your digital competitors are likely not your business competitors, but they are bidding on the same keyword terms and inflating the marketing place. Sometimes it’s an unrelated advertiser who did a poor job using keyword targeting.

An example of a business competitor for a NYC cosmetic dentistry practice would be other practices located within 0.5 mile of your location. Patient behavior indicates that when searching for a dentist, people are more likely to go to a nearby dentist during work hours within walking distance of the workplace rather than a dentist further away or closer to home. This behavior is dictated by practice hours being limited to the work week with limited availability on weekends.

So you’ve identified that these 5 dentists are immediate / direct business competitors, but that’s not even close to the big picture of who you’re competing against.

How do you find out who your digital competitors are?

  • Identify your top clicked or top converting keywords in your paid search campaign. Ideally, you would want to look at brand keywords (these include your business name in the keyword) and generic keywords (these are services, products that your business offers)
  • Start searching!

Take a look at competitor ads showing up for your brand name

  • Who and how many are there? What’s their messaging? Are they digital, business or other competitors? Are they mentioning your brand name in their ad copy? (If they are, you can take steps to prevent competitors from using your trademark.) What’s their messaging?
  • Do this regularly, competitors may come and go – but it’s good to search monthly to see if the SERP changes.

Now, on to generic service or product queries:

Much of the same questions apply from brand searches; however, it is important to check if there’s any overlap with competitors showing up on branded keywords. What promotions/offers, if any, are used in ad copy? Are there any trends and commonalities with how competitors differentiate themselves on SERP?

Conversion rate optimization opportunities: make it easier for potential customers to buy/call/sign-up/register

You’ve done the work to identify who your digital competitors are, now it’s time to find out what happens after the click. (Click on the ad, I won’t tell.)

Insights from your competitors can help you improve your own conversion rates:

Where does the ad to go to?

Is it the homepage of the site or landing page? Is the content on the page relevant to the ad and the search query? Is the offer in the ad consistent with the messaging on the landing page? Is there a CTA? Is there enough information about the product and service for potential customer to convert?

What’s the conversion process like?

Lead Generation: Is there a form on the site? What information is required to submit a form? Are there any qualifying questions? Is the form too long, too short? Is the submit button clear? What is the primary lead type – to submit a form or call? Is there a soft capture element (newsletter signup)?
E-Commerce: You may want to purchase an inexpensive product to review the entire conversion process. How easy is it to add a product to the shopping cart? How many clicks does it take to check out?
Mobile: Access the sites / landing pages on your mobile device. Is the site optimized for mobile or is it the desktop version? Is there anything on the mobile site that creates additional friction – slow load speed, flash, difficult to navigate? If eCommerce, how many clicks does it take to complete a purchase? A great free tool to mimic a mobile environment across multiple mobile devices (including tablet) is www.mobiletest.me

What’s next?

Identify aspects that work and don’t work on your competitor’s site. Focus on features that streamline the conversion process or create a better user experience then take your findings and develop a testing strategy to put your findings to work. A conversion rate optimization program can be very effective at improving your site’s performance.

Identify gaps / failures in your competitors’ marketing. More importantly, identify opportunities to expand to new channels

In a recent case study, our agency worked with a renowned national legal firm on several large-scale class-action lawsuits bidding on the types of keywords that notoriously wind up on annual most expensive Google keywords lists. We were tasked with reaching the affected groups to generate leads and eventually get signed retainers. Timing was of the essence since in many legal cases, the first legal firm with to file a case represents all constituents.

In a very short timeframe (2-3 weeks), the marketplace was saturated with numerous new competitors. Avg. CPCs on Google and Bing skyrocketed and it became cost prohibitive to maintain lead volume and efficiency but it was still necessary to maintain our presence on paid search.

After optimizing and conducting competitive research, we found that while paid search was saturated, Facebook was not! The bulk of competitor spend was on paid search, but only a handful were advertising on Facebook. This was a huge opportunity to expand to a new channel that didn’t face the same challenges as paid search and generate clicks at a cost of $1-$4 as opposed to well over $50.

How do you identify these opportunities?

Keep monitoring search for any major shifts in competition. Google’s Auction insights functionality is a great way of reviewing which of your competitors are increasing market share.
Monitor fluctuations in your paid media performance. An increase in avg CPC or reductions in avg. Pos are often good indicators of increasing competition in the marketplace.
Free online competitive research tools! There are a vast amount of free and incredibly useful tools online that will give you more information and estimates on what type of people are getting to your competitor’s sites, how they’re getting there and how much they’re spending online. Take spend estimates with a grain of salt – the only real way to know how much a competitor is spending is to get transparency into their media accounts – and that’s very unlikely).

We use a variety of proprietary tools and pro enterprise versions for research purposes. Our favorites are:

  • SimilarWeb: www.similarweb.com
  • Quantcast: www.quantcast.com
  • Compete: www.compete.com

What’s next?

One you’ve identified opportunities for new platforms or within your current campaigns, build out a strategy to expand or reach out to Path Interactive to setup a strategy and work with you to capitalize on this potential win.

Monitor your competitors – with only a few clicks.

Google Alerts: www.google.com/alerts.
How would you like a daily digest of in your inbox daily or weekly of any news related to your competitors? You can do this with Google Alerts – it takes a minute to setup and you’re on your way to staying up-to-date with what your competitors are doing.

Sign up for competitor online newsletters and mailing lists.
If your competitors offer an online newsletter or have a physical mailing list, sign up! You’ll get a more complete picture of how they communicate with potential customers, how promotions/offers differ from online and more insight into e-mail marketing and direct marketing strategies.

Interested in learning more about smart digital media management and competitive conversion rate optimization (CRO) strategies? Contact us today for an evaluation of your current digital media strategies.

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