This checklist is broken out into sections that reflect key elements from our Balanced Digital Scorecard. As previously mentioned, this checklist is to help you identify opportunities (and possibly areas not worth your time and budget). But this competitive analysis is not prescriptive in and of itself. It should be used as its name suggests: to analyze what your competition’s “edge” is.
xAd’s first step was to expand its use of location data. “We wanted to move beyond just the where, and use location data to define the who and the what of audience targeting,” Monica Ho, xAd’s CMO, told GeoMarketing in 2015. After all, while a consumer’s proximity to a Denny’s can be significant, targeting someone who has been to and enjoys their local Denny’s will often prove more successful — whether or not they happen to be near the restaurant at the time they see the ad.
PPC marketing is now a standard way for businesses to find new customers for their products and services. Yet many small businesses have been disappointed with their first steps into PPC. It can be a tricky marketing strategy. First-time PPC marketers often underestimate the time it takes to lay down the right foundations, the budget required, and the work needed to keep on top of your game.
Although this process can be tedious and time consuming, it is essential in identifying where your competition may be surpassing you as well as what advantages you have over your competition. Developing takeaways will help identify these strengths and weaknesses. From there, you can improve your marketing plan by putting greater influence on the features your company offers and finding ways to implement features your company doesn’t offer that seem crucial to gaining customers.
Protecting your company with one of the core barriers is smart. Nailing down two barriers is even better. Slack is a great example of a company that has a network effect, having successfully created widespread demand through word-of-mouth referrals and a highly engaging product. It has also invested in building strong relationships with developers. Slack’s developer platform roadmap and its commitment to transparency for developers has helped the company build a strong ecosystem around its product.

Although this process can be tedious and time consuming, it is essential in identifying where your competition may be surpassing you as well as what advantages you have over your competition. Developing takeaways will help identify these strengths and weaknesses. From there, you can improve your marketing plan by putting greater influence on the features your company offers and finding ways to implement features your company doesn’t offer that seem crucial to gaining customers.
Beacons aren’t designed to know you’re you, where you were a moment ago, or where you’re going next. By and large, they’re just little stationary computers that react: when your device moves near the beacon itself, it triggers a ping, and your app—if you have an app with notifications enabled for the beacon’s particular location—goes to work communicating with you. When you move out of that beacon’s range, it’s basically a done deal.

A quality ad account in 2018, according to Google, is an “autopiloted” account; the more options that are delegated to Google Ads, the better. However, even if Google is now able to decide on its own which banner size will fit best on a particular website, it is still your responsibility to provide catchy text, relevant images, and the right keywords.


These are usually single-word keywords with insane amounts of search volume and competition (for example, “insurance” or “vitamins”). Because searcher intent is all over the place (someone searching for “insurance” might be looking for a car insurance quote, a list of life insurance companies or a definition of the word), Head Terms usually don’t convert very well.
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.
But switching costs, or the cost that a customer incurs as a result of switching products, still exist. Technology can be a driver of higher switching costs. When a product is integrated with multiple systems and APIs, switching to another product becomes increasingly difficult. Such a switch usually results in business interruption and the need to retrain staff, among other unwelcome effects.
In order to know which keywords to target, it's essential to not only understand the demand for a given term or phrase, but also the work required to achieve high rankings. If big brands take the top 10 results and you're just starting out on the web, the uphill battle for rankings can take years of effort. This is why it's essential to understand keyword difficulty.
Information from an analysis of the competitor's objectives, assumptions, strategy, and capabilities can be compiled into a response profile of possible moves that might be made by the competitor. This profile includes both potential offensive and defensive moves. The specific moves and their expected strength can be estimated using information gleaned from the analysis.

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.


This is a great list! I especially appreciate the sample set of pages you recommended - oftentimes we ask clients we're onboarding who they consider to be their competitors, but once we start digging into their sites we see they're not necessarily "search" competitors or the sites just aren't that similar to be regarded as such in the search engine's eyes. At least these pages can help weed out any sites that just aren't built out to be similar to a client or are way ahead, so you can get an accurate comparison!

Across the top of the paper, list the main features and characteristics of each product or service. Include such things as target market, price, size, method of distribution, and extent of customer service for a product. For a service, list prospective buyers, where the service is available, price, website, toll-free phone number, and other features that are relevant. A glance at the competition grid will help you see where your product fits in the overall market.
Why make the same mistakes your competitors have made when you can learn from them? As its name implies, SpyFu is a great way to spy on the competition so you can learn from their failures and more importantly, their successes. When you type in a competitor's URL, you'll be able to see how many keywords they are ranking for organically and even the ad value of those keywords. It also offers good analytics on backlinks driving the most traffic to your competitors' sites so you can see where you might want to  publish guest blogs or be listed. If they are running any paid advertising campaigns, you can even see what campaigns they're running and how much they're spending.  

It's important to check that you have a mix of head terms and long-tail terms because it'll give you a keyword strategy that's well balanced with long-term goals and short-term wins. That's because head terms are generally searched more frequently, making them often (not always, but often) much more competitive and harder to rank for than long-tail terms. Think about it: Without even looking up search volume or difficulty, which of the following terms do you think would be harder to rank for?


The key to getting the most successful results from your PPC (pay-per-click) campaigns is developing a strategy that utilizes the many powerful tools at your disposal with Google Adwords. While boosting your clicks and conversions may at first seem like some sort of magical alchemy, there are actually tons of tangible ways to help drive traffic and increase sales. Best of all, Google is constantly adding new tools and refining older ones that you can add to your arsenal.
For many of you reading this post, you may wonder why these other strategies exist at all. Shouldn’t people only be paying for clicks that directly impact their ability to generate revenue and ultimately profit? I struggled with this concept early in my career, but ultimately came to the conclusion that not every single marketing activity can be direct response.
That said, if you’ve never had to come up with a keyword strategy before, it might seem a bit daunting to generate a list of terms that will drive qualified search traffic to your website. Not to worry. Creating an effective keyword strategy—figuring out which terms you should create content for—isn’t hard. It just involves a little bit of reverse engineering and some research.

One way to get a good idea of how your target market might view your industry is to just ask them. Using focus groups, questionnaires, and surveys can help you can gather information on popular businesses with products similar to your own. You’ll also get first-hand information of how customers feel about the products that are already on the market.
It’s critically important to ensure you are collecting good data, and to do this you must correctly configure Google Analytics and Google AdWords to share data. It is important that this is customised to your reporting needs and individual objectives as you can then use that data to optimise your campaigns. This chapter outlines how to measure your campaign to enhance your PPC strategy.

More importantly, take the time as you conduct your keyword research to segment and categorize your keywords to map to the right landing pages. If the page doesn’t exist on your site yet, then that is your cue to build a new page for that set of keywords. By doing this you will achieve the relevance that will lead to more engaged visitors and higher conversion rates.


If you have a poor billing system or are constantly losing invoices and important documents, soon your clients will move on to greener pastures (and more organised businesses). If you implement a strategy to become more organised, you will find your customer service improving. This will lead not only to return clients but to new business, as word-of-mouth travels about your professionalism and efficiency.

Megan Malone is a Founding Partner with Vici, and leads our Operations division. Megan has both a radio and digital marketing background working for the Philadelphia Eagles, Beasley Broadcast Group, and Cox Media Group. In her career she has helped plan and implement thousands of digital media campaigns. She holds a certification from Disney Institute’s People Management, and was awarded the top 10 advertisers in Louisville from the American Advertisers Federation.


Thanks for sharing your template file. It will help focussing on the right things right from the beginning. I checked out SEMrush to get a comparison of the keywords our competition is using. The results are poor basically. Its about sites in Switzerland for keywords and competitors we know since years. The data these tools show you is not at all reflecting the actual situtation here. I guess they perform well in the US/Canada, by far less good in rest of the world...
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