More specifically, who gets to appear on the page is based on and advertiser’s Ad Rank, a metric calculated by multiplying two key factors – CPC Bid (the highest amount an advertiser is willing to spend) and Quality Score (a value that takes into account your click-through rate, relevance, and landing page quality). This system allows winning advertisers to reach potential customers at a cost that fits their budget. It’s essentially a kind of auction. The below infographic illustrates how this auction system works.
Generic keywords: These are generic words that describe your business as well as other businesses in your niche. They do not necessarily set your business apart from the million other businesses out there and ranking for these keywords is difficult given the immense competition for both paid and organic results. Nevertheless, these terms are likely to be used by your audience in the first stage of searching.
When I was working on my own startup, Complete Seating, we did this for OpenTable. I spent at least a night a week working as a host. What was most interesting was all of the other tools that they needed to get their job done: hardwired phone, discussions with waiters, discussions with the kitchen, POS access, and more. We saw some key differentiation with automating the communication through SMS and phone before a guest got to the restaurant. They were really powerful in showing how OpenTable was just a digitization of the maitre d book.
If you are a UX designer, then you might be aware of the service design cycle. This cycle contains four stages: discover, explore, test and listen. Each one of these stages has multiple research methods, and competitive analysis is part of the exploration. Susan Farrell has very helpfully distinguished different UX research methods and activities that can be performed for your project. (You can check this detailed segregation in her “UX Research Cheat Sheet”.)
With the constant stream of new betas, introduction of format changes (hello Expanded Text Ads!) and a multitude of new targeting methods such as tablet bid modifiers and demographic bidding for search, paid search marketing continues to become more and more complex. Gone are the days when running ad copy tests, adding negative keywords, performing bid adjustments, and launching more targeted ad groups was sufficient to drive account growth. Today’s paid search advertiser must choose from hundreds of available account optimization strategies.
For example, say you run your own B2B marketing agency. If you’re advertising high-level digital marketing services, you want to make sure that the traffic you get from PPC campaigns only includes quality leads. Using negative keywords like “free” and “cheap” will help you avoid people who are not looking to pay for marketing services. If you only work with clients in the United States, you could also use location-based negative keywords. For example, to avoid keywords like “B2B marketing services in Russia” you could add “Russia” as a negative keyword.
If you want to become a better UX, interaction, visual (UI) or product designer, there are a lot of sources from which you can learn — articles, books, online courses. I often check the following few: Smashing Magazine, InVision blog, Interaction Design Foundation, NN Group and UX Mastery. These websites have a very good collection of articles on the topics of UI and UX design and UX research.
By looking at them from a customer’s point of view, you are looking at their major strengths and flaws. In other words, you are doing the first part of the SWOT analysis. You think like a customer would. Why would a customer go for their services? Is it because they do things differently or their quality is top notch? Either way these things are like strengths for the competitors. You put yourself in the customer’s shoes and wonder why you would go for them instead of coming to your own company.
In the figure below, you can see I have set up a keyword rating spreadsheet. I first gathered keyword data from a keyword tool to populate the orange columns. In this example, I used the Google AdWords Keyword Tool. From there I began looking at each keyword and gave each one a score from one to 10. For some I built a formula to automate the process, which comes in handy with larger keyword lists.
The other option is to follow up with page visitors outside of AdWords. To do this, you’ll want to create an opt-in page (like the templates above) that offers visitors something of value in exchange for their email address or other contact information. Our dishwasher vendor could offer a free guide on the best way to prolong the life of your dishwasher.
Comparative user testing to the rescue: you ask the participants to evaluate your website as well as the websites of your top 2 competitors. To avoid biased feedback, try not to disclose which company you are with, and mix up the order in which you show the websites to the participants. Not to overwhelm the participants, limit the number of websites to 3 per person.
“The sales cycle is an average of 9-12 months. When a qualified lead enters the funnel, the revenue generated from that lead is an unknown variable that will not be fully identified until several months into the cycle. In order to increase the probability of a PPC lead turning into a viable source of revenue we need to generate leads at a ratio of high ratio of sales quality leads to conversions (roughly 65%). We will continue to test new targeting in order to reach our 20% YoY growth goal at a reasonable average CPA in order to continually grow the account and keep the sales funnel full every month.”

Need some keyword strategy help while actually creating your posts? If you use WordPress to manage your site content, the Yoast SEO plugin analyzes each post and offers suggestions for improving page content as you prepare your post for publishing. While it’s not a silver bullet that will guarantee good results, it does offer helpful tips for improving your post once it’s in WordPress.


If you are a UX designer, then you might be aware of the service design cycle. This cycle contains four stages: discover, explore, test and listen. Each one of these stages has multiple research methods, and competitive analysis is part of the exploration. Susan Farrell has very helpfully distinguished different UX research methods and activities that can be performed for your project. (You can check this detailed segregation in her “UX Research Cheat Sheet”.)
Working on common practice tasks such as negative matching, keyword expansion and more are the right things to do for an account, and there’s a proper place and time to do them. Without a policy governing how to manage our PPC accounts, we’re “stringing tactics together,” which creates misalignment between volume of work done versus meaningful work that’s impacting results positively.
Steve Webb is an SEO audit specialist at Web Gnomes. He received his Ph.D. from Georgia Tech, where he published dozens of articles on Internet-related topics. Professionally, Steve has worked for Google and various other Internet startups, and he's passionate about sharing his knowledge and experiences with others. You can find him on Twitter, Google+, and LinkedIn.
Use Google Keyword Planner and your list of potential search ideas to create a list of terms/phrases that align with your brand and that, ideally, aren’t highly competitive. Google ranks competitiveness in Keyword Planner, seen above. You can also get an idea of how competitive a keyword search is by looking at the price of the suggested Adwords bid. Competitive search terms are typically much harder to rank for.
In more sophisticated use cases, geotargeting doesn’t have to be solely based on a consumer’s real-time location. Locations or businesses a customer has visited recently can be a great predictor of interests and intent, so adding targeting based on historical location as well can be key to delivering a captivating, relevant message. Denny’s had great success with this tactic in a campaign with xAd, detailed below.

In 2017, it’s a requirement for any company to live on the internet. This section gives you and your team easy access to your competitors’ online presence. Include links to the social media channels and webpages your competition has the most activity on. By providing these links, your audience can quickly determine what channels the companies take advantage of the most and how they use them to tell their brand story. Understanding why and how the competition is doing well or not with their online presence will reveal the opportunity.
Let’s take the example of a guy, we’ll call him Jerry, who runs a coworking space in the city of Bristol, UK. He’s concerned about his keyword rankings, as seen in WooRank’s SERPs tool. Even his main keywords are only providing ‘+100’ rankings. (If you have used our SERPs tool, you know that this is the number we give to search engine results that rank out of the first ten pages in Google and Bing for a certain query.)
In more sophisticated use cases, geotargeting doesn’t have to be solely based on a consumer’s real-time location. Locations or businesses a customer has visited recently can be a great predictor of interests and intent, so adding targeting based on historical location as well can be key to delivering a captivating, relevant message. Denny’s had great success with this tactic in a campaign with xAd, detailed below.
This chapter will discuss how to best structure your campaign within Google AdWords. These basic building blocks are campaigns and ad groups contained within those campaigns. How you structure this will depend upon your business and marketing and the main takeaway here is that there is no single way to structure a campaign. Just be mindful of what matters when it comes to advertising and measuring the results of your campaign.
Keywords are the words and phrases that people type into search engines in order to find what they're looking for. By extension, they also describe what a piece of content (or an entire website!) is all about, and they're the words at the heart of on-page optimization. They still play an important role in a site's ability to rank, so by identifying the right words and phrases to target you can have an outsized impact on achieving your SEO goals.
1. Branding or converting strategy. One of the first things to consider in developing a keyword strategy is what you want to accomplish when you reach your target audience. Do you just want to generate an impression for branding purposes or do you want to invite them to your place where you get them to make a purchase? Here are three types of strategies to consider:
Now, evaluate your competition's product or service. How does your product compare to your closest competitor's product? What features and benefits are unique to your product? To theirs? The more unique features and benefits your product has, the stronger your market position will be. For example, if you produce and market an office copying machine that staples collated copies together and your closest competitor doesn't have this feature, you have an advantage. You can then sell the same market segment the benefit of added convenience and time saved. However, your competitor may have developed a feature that you don't have on your copier that gives him/her a selling advantage. 
When they started to open these “stores”, it didn’t make sense to advertise to everyone because not everyone would be near the pop-up stores. So instead, they only advertised within a small radius of their shop. By using geo-targeting to drive traffic to their shops, they were able to save money and resources while still achieving success in their pop-up shops.
In this example, competitor #1 is rated higher than competitor #2 on product innovation ability (7 out of 10, compared to 4 out of 10) and distribution networks (6 out of 10), but competitor #2 is rated higher on customer focus (5 out of 10). Overall, competitor #1 is rated slightly higher than competitor #2 (20 out of 40 compared to 15 out of 40). When the success factors are weighted according to their importance, competitor #1 gets a far better rating (4.9 compared to 3.7).
Use Google Keyword Planner and your list of potential search ideas to create a list of terms/phrases that align with your brand and that, ideally, aren’t highly competitive. Google ranks competitiveness in Keyword Planner, seen above. You can also get an idea of how competitive a keyword search is by looking at the price of the suggested Adwords bid. Competitive search terms are typically much harder to rank for.

I have often gone on the record with my skepticism toward paid search campaign management software, and I have several reasons for being skeptical. My main concern has been that these tools over promise on features and under deliver on performance. They claim to replace the analyst by using algorithms to optimize campaigns, but in reality they replace the fun piece of the analysts job (improving results) and replace it with the tedious task of managing to get their campaigns to work properly in the software. I have been burned by this sales pitch twice and have written about this in a previous post called “Paid Search Bid Management Tools: Great Investment or Save Your Money?” – so feel free to read that post for more details.
Ever heard the saying that a picture is worth 1,000 words? Well, a video is worth 1.8 million, and YouTube is the best place to promote your video ad to an engaged audience. One of the most popular YouTube ad formats, TrueView ads, play before other videos on the site and allow users the option to skip after five seconds (and you don’t have to pay if a viewer skips your ad!). Since there is less competition on YouTube compared to other search engines, your brand has a massive opportunity to reach and convert a ton of consumers across a variety of different demographics.
As you consider new ideas for your next project or business, give extra credence to the things you believe to be true that others doubt. The most exciting products are created by people with tons of conviction for something that strikes most others as odd. I’ve heard from Joe Gebbia, co-founder of Airbnb, that when he and his co-founder Brian Chesky pitched the idea of having strangers sleeping in your home when you weren’t there, many investors shifted uncomfortably in their seats.
The secondary and tertiary groups are both your indirect competition.Their products may not be the same as yours, but could satisfy the same need or solve the same problem. You should primarily focus on your direct competitors, but you should watch your indirect competitors. These businesses may move into another group as your business, or theirs, grows and expand product offerings.
SEO competitive analysis is critical because it gives data about which tactics are working in the industry we are in and what we will need to do to start improving our keyword rankings. The insights gained from this analysis help us understand which tasks we should prioritize and it shapes the way we build out our campaigns. By seeing where our competitors are strongest and weakest, we can determine how difficult it will be to outperform them and the amount of resources that it will take to do so.
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