Savvy Competitor Analysis and Keyword Research Your Competitors Arent DoingBy: Dave Davies - October 1, 2008
First, let’s tackle competitive analysis. As an entrepreneur, you’re no doubt familiar with some of the conventional wisdom about how to handle competitors. Do your research. Check public records and disclosures about big name firms in your industry. Assess your goals, branding plans, and future efforts in the context of the presumptive goals of your industry rivals. Understand why customers choose competitors over your firm — both why they like your rivals and why they refuse to work with you.
Beyond this broad and relatively intuitive theorizing about competitor analysis, however, you may not be that up-to-speed on the latest tactics.
First of all, purchase stock in rival companies. This may seem counterintuitive – why support a rival firm at all? – but great benefits await. Stockholders get regular reports on firms’ finances and long-term strategies. You can glean a lot about your rivals’ positioning — and see what other stockholders are saying — all without wasting dozens of hours on frustrating Internet research.
Second, learn from your competitors’ competitors. You may have heard the expression “my enemy’s enemy is my friend.” This tactic makes use of a similar concept. You don’t have to do all the “oppo” research yourself — you can trade ideas, data, and strategies with mutual competitors. Learn your rivals’ weaknesses as well their strengths. The devil you know is almost always easier to handle than the devil you don’t.
Stay up-to-date on what’s happening in your industry. Go to conferences. Don’t delegate the responsibility of watching your rivals to a third party. Attend trade shows. Use Google, the Internet, and public archives to investigate competitors. Don’t let your guard down — even if you are an established “big dog” in your field. Be knowledgeable and networked, and you will be less likely to be surprised.
Finally, remember that the competitive landscape is always fluid. Your biggest competitor next quarter may be an unknown today. Given the advent of global business markets and the mixing of industries that globalization has created, there is almost no way to anticipate what “the next big thing” will be in your industry. But simply by maintaining a flexible posture, you will be more agile when responding to new challenges.
In terms of keyword research strategies that defy the conventional wisdom, your best bet in general is to try out a variety of tactics in a microcosm and then apply the ones that work in larger “marketing laboratories.”
Employ abbreviations, acronyms, and shortcuts — real shortcuts that people searching on Google would actually use. Keep things simple: “personal computer” might be abbreviated as “PC”; the month of “January” may be abbreviated as “Jan”; and so on.
Zero in on better keywords. For instance, if you are marketing a Phoenix real estate site, you might want to have a keyword for “Phoenix AZ real estate,” since many people who search Google will abbreviate Arizona as “AZ.”
Anticipate typos, malapropisms, and misspellings when coming up with your keywords. People may type too many or too few letters in a word, omit key vowels, or switch letter orders around by accident. There is a great site — searchspell.com — that can help you guess the most popular misspellings and typos for particular words and phrases.
Throw geographical references into your keywords. The more specific your geo targeting, the easier time you will have not only at attracting local business but also at ranking high in the general “lottery” for Google rankings. For instance, if you are advertising a Connecticut law firm, don’t just create keywords based on permutations of “Connecticut,” “CT,” “law,” “lawyer,” etc. Throw in names of nearby towns that your office would service, such as “Simsbury,” “Avon,” “Farmington,” “Bloomfield,” and “Hartford.” You will have an easier time ranking, and your resultant visitors will feel you are speaking and relating more specifically to them.
To increase the effectiveness and conversion of your keywords, think about the action your demographic needs to take and titrate your keywords down to specific action-oriented phrases. “Los Angeles mortgages” has some measure of geographic filtering; “Los Angeles mortgage brokers” is better and more specific. But “Los Angeles home mortgage application” is better by leaps and bounds because the phrase carries a significant amount of implied intent. Of course fewer people will search using that term, but the ones that do are further along in the cycle, closer to closing a deal, and ready to take action.
We at Beanstalk use AdGooroo’s keyword tool and competitor analysis services to get an even more in-depth look at what our competitors are doing online to make sure we’re not missing anything. In this whole article – it’s probably the more recommended of the tools.
Finally, consider these all-purpose tips when piecing together your keywords and key phrases: liberally employ descriptive adjectives ( “top” and “free”); vary up your verbs; use both singular and plural permutations of critical words; rank for domain names if and when appropriate; and research what your closest industry rivals do and plot out your marketing strategy at cross purposes, as well as on a parallel track, and see what true independent, even contrarian thinking can do for an enterprise. The bottom line, of course, is persistence and determination. You can get help, like this article, to work smarter. Working harder, of course, is up to you.