The start of any successful search marketing campaign begins with solid research. That research includes identifying the best search terms for your website, implementing the right analytics tools, learning about your target market, and most importantly, compiling initial competitive analysis data.
Competitive analysis data will tell you exactly which companies are leading in your industry, why they are leading, and how they have managed to steal the spotlight. Gathering this competitive analysis information is vital if you want to construct your campaign in a way that both generates proven results, and differentiates your website from others.
It’s true that competitive analysis can be a daunting task for any search marketer, so here is a quick step-by-step competitive analysis workflow guide that will help you through the process of getting the right information to help you with your offensive and defensive marketing strategy. This particular workflow guide not only offers the steps given by Moz.com, but also helps you understand how to use the iSpionage.com software through each step of the competitive analysis workflow process.
Step 1: Identify your SEO competitors
The first step in the competitive analysis workflow process is to identify your SEO competitors. This includes understanding who the top sites in your industry are, and also which sites are currently taking the top spots for your targeted search terms. If you are going to beat out your competitor, monitor their behavior, or simply learn from their successful tactics, it’s important to know who they are.
To find out who is leading in your industry by using the iSpionage.com software, login to iSpionage.com, and enter in the keywords you plan to target. For the purpose of this article, and since I am primarily a freelance writer, I entered in the search term “content writing services.” Once you have entered in the keyword, press search, and iSpionage.com will scan the top search engines including Google, Bing, and Yahoo, and return you a list of your top competitors. This step is so simple, but gives you the insight to really know who exactly you are up against.
Step 2: Validate your SEO competitors
As soon as you have run a few different queries on different keywords you plan on targeting, and gathered a list of potential competitors, it’s time to validate them. This means you will compare and contrast your target keywords against their keywords and determine which keywords they are already ranking for, and how long they have been ranking for those keywords.
This will help you refine your keyword list in order to give you an idea of what keywords you have a shot with ranking for, and which keywords are already heavily saturated and dominated by someone else in the market.
If you find you have keywords you plan on targeting that no one is ranking for, then you know you have a shot. If you can’t seem to find keywords that will bring you traffic, you can always do more keyword research, expand your keyword list, and look for new opportunities to organically rank for different keywords.
To validate your SEO competitors using the iSpionage.com software, pay particular attention to a competitors Google rank, Bing/Yahoo rank, and also the Share of voice. The Share of Voice stat in iSpoinoage.com represents the overall potential organic traffic a URL gets for a specific keyword. For example, someone who ranks #1 in Google and #5 in Bing/Yahoo will have a higher Share of Voice than someone who ranks #1 in Bing/Yahoo and #5 in Google.
In the event that you need to conduct additional keyword research, you can consult either the Google Keyword Planner, or enter your URL into the iSpionage.com search bar.
As soon as you enter in your URL and press “search” iSpionage.com will return a list of SEO keywords that work well. Keep in mind, if your site is relatively new, and you haven’t yet done any SEO, you will not see any data. This is where it’s a good idea to use a URL of a company that is similar to yours. If you enter in their information, it will give you a list of keywords that they are ranking for in the organic search terms. Try this with 2-3+ other companies to give you an idea of what potential keywords you could add to your research.
Step 3: Compare with your SEO competitors
Now that you have a solid list of SEO competitors, and a list of keywords that you are thinking about targeting, you will want to compare and contrast, you can start to really go to work by comparing your site to your competitors.
This step is the most involved of all the steps, and will take a great deal of time. When you are researching, you will want to determine the following:
– Important basic keyword information: keyword type, relevance, search volume, rankings, positions, and your ranking opportunity. Tip: You can find most of this information in the iSpionage.com software by entering in the domain and clicking on “SEO keywords.” In order to find the keyword type and search volume, you will need to use the Google Keyword Planner in conjunction with the iSpionage.com software.
– Popularity of current ranked pages: page authority, domain authority, external links, and more. Tip: One of the best places to find information about the popularity of currently ranked pages is Moz.com’s Open Site Explorer. Moz.com will show you the domain authority, page authority, inbound links, linking domains of any URL you type into the search bar. Moz.com offers a few free views daily, but if you plan on conducting research for more than one URL, it will be better for you to pay for a subscription.
– Ranked content: optimized content, relevance to keyword, search information, social metrics, and more.Tip: To look at optimized content, keyword relevance, and search information, you will need to look both at the actual content of the URL you are analyzing, and also at their rank. The better the content they have these days, the higher they will be ranking in the search engine. For more information about social metrics, click on the “social mention” tab on the iSpionage.com navigation bar.
Another important thing to consider is that with iSpionage.com, you don’t have to do all of the comparative analysis url-by-url. Instead, iSpionage.com has a compare tool built right into the software. All you do is click on the “compare” tool on the iSpoionage.com navigation bar, and enter in up to 3 different URLs that you are interested in comparing.
For example, since I am a content writing service, I would want to compare my top 3 competitors against each other. In this case, I would enter “writeraccess.com,” “odesk.com,” and “elance.com,” and press the search bar.
Step 4: Select your keywords
After conducting a vast amount of competitor research including keyword information, rankings, popularity, content optimization, and more, you’re finally ready to settle and finalize your keyword list. Here are a few things you want to keep in mind when choosing your final keyword list. Pick keywords based on the following:
– Keywords that are most relevant to what you do
– Keywords that have enough search volume to make it worth it to you, but also aren’t so difficult to rank for that you will spend all your budget on SEO alone
– Your potential rank vs. the rank your competitors have
– The popularity of your URL vs. the popularity of your competitors
– The ability you have to pump out relevant and optimized content
– The amount of competitors you are up against for a particular keyword.
It’s crazy the amount of research that goes into a competitive analysis, but it’s also extremely important if you are interested in seeing results and making sure you target the right keywords. Without the right type of keyword research and competitive analysis, a search optimization campaign could potentially be expensive and futile. That’s why it’s important to use software like iSpionage.com. You want to make sure you know what you are getting into before you start strategizing.
Step 5: Continued analysis
The last part of the competitive work flow analysis, and a part that the Moz.com article reference in this article leaves out, is to continue to conduct competitive analysis research. Things in the search marketing world are constantly changing, and a smart move by a competitor can often make all the difference in the world, and in search engine rankings. Since the #1 spot should be your goal, it’s important to keep an eye on your competitors and keep up with them.
You can do this in the iSpionage.com software by setting up a competitor alert. In order to do this, click on the “competitor alert” tool at the top navigation bar, and add an alert for whatever competitor you would like to keep your eye on during your campaign.
Ashley R. Cummings is the owner of Searchlight Content and a freelance writer, specializing in online marketing, education, and travel. Connect with Ashley on Facebook or on Google+, and learn more about her on LinkedIn.