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.

Customer preference of products is only part of the analysis. There are internal operational factors which can provide a competitive edge as well. Your competitors' products may not have the high quality of yours, but they might offer free delivery; or their employees might be extremely motivated and committed to gaining market share. You need to learn how they are doing on the inside. Some factors to consider:


Furthermore, 70% of consumers are willing to share their location information if they believe they are getting something of value in return like coupons or loyalty points, according to LSA’s Local Mobile Search Study.  This dynamically moving consumer base is only going to be more receptive to search results and ads that are specific to their location.
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.
Exhaustive – Your keyword research should include not only the most popular and frequently searched terms in your niche, but also extend to the long tail of search. Long-tail keywords are more specific and less common, but they add up to account for the majority of search-driven traffic. In addition, they are less competitive, and therefore less expensive.
In online environments, ad servers look at a user’s IP address to figure out their ‎location.  Behind the scenes, the ad server maintains a large database that has ‎every IP address already mapped to its country, state, and postal code.  So, when a ‎request comes in, the ad server strips the IP address from the header of the ‎request, queries this table, finds the necessary location data, and then picks an ad ‎that matches that criteria.  ‎
Geotargeting in geomarketing and internet marketing is the method of determining the geolocation of a website visitor and delivering different content to that visitor based on their location. This includes country, region/state, city, metro code/zip code, organization, IP address, ISP or other criteria.[1] A common usage of geo targeting is found in online advertising, as well as internet television with sites such as iPlayer and Hulu. In these circumstances, content is often restricted to users geolocated in specific countries; this approach serves as a means of implementing digital rights management. Use of proxy servers and virtual private networks may give a false location.[2]

Strategy is more than a bundle of cultivated tactics. When we onboard a new client, we have a whole arsenal of tools to use and reports to run that help us understand the account better. It is easy for us to pat ourselves on the back and say “this is a good strategy for learning the account!” Pardon my language when I say: That ain’t no heckin’ strategy.


Make a list of product features and benefits in order of importance, and prepare a table to show whether or not each of your competitors fulfill them.For example, Medium-sized companies that purchase copier machines may look for the following product benefits and features when making buying decisions: Competing Company: A B C D Features: 1. Auto paper feed 2. Auto enlarge or reduce 3. Collates 4. Staples 5. 24 Hour Repair Service 6. Warranty Benefits: 1. Easy to operate 2. Saves money 3. Good print quality 4. Dependable 5. Fast Price: $ Other factors you may want to evaluate include:
Beyond the city level, your geotargeting on Facebook can further narrow your targeted customers to within miles. For example, a fairly standard radius is 10 miles and closer when you’re targeting a specific product or service in a particular vicinity. If you’re in a more rural setting, you can expand that radius to 20 or 25 miles. Urban areas like Chicago, Los Angeles and New York are targeted within one mile.
Keyword strategies are essential to developing winning search engine marketing campaigns. Your keyword strategy should involve selecting high-performing keywords that drive relevant traffic to your business. Choosing the right keywords for advertising can make all the difference in your campaigns, determining how well your advertisements rank on Google and other search engine platforms.
It is dependent on the pre-analysis of the entire IP address space. There are more than 4 billion possible IP addresses, and detailed analysis of each of them is a Herculean task, especially in light of the fact that IP addresses are constantly being assigned, allocated, reallocated, moved and changed due to routers being moved,[6] enterprises being assigned IP addresses or moving, and networks being built or changed. In order to keep up with these changes, complex algorithms, bandwidth measurement and mapping technology, and finely tuned delivery mechanisms are necessary.[7] Once all of the IP space is analyzed, each address must be periodically updated to reflect changes in the IP address information, without invading a user's privacy. This process is similar in scale to the task of Web spidering.
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.
From my experience, you don’t need complex algorithms to save money with paid search. You don’t need a crazy PPC management tool to trim down costs for campaigns. You need only employ one of 3 core paid search strategies in order to succeed in your PPC campaigns: 1) Maximize your budget, 2) Improve Branding by showing up in a top position and 3) Maximize your profit potential.

In B2B, the term target customer (or ideal customer profile) refers to both the company and decision maker profiles. We can’t fully grasp the pains and challenges of a decision maker without looking into his/her organization —  and their stakeholders. Larger organizations can throw more money at problems than a smaller, more agile company. Even decision makers with the same title, same goals, and same challenges might have different priorities and stakeholders to convince depending on the size of their organization.
Your CompetitorsYou probably see the owner of a rival organization at trade shows, association meetings, and perhaps even socially. You can garner a great deal of information through a simple, friendly conversation. People like to talk about themselves and share their success stories and concerns with business associates. Assign someone to check the competitions' Web sites regularly for pertinent changes and news. (And take a good look at your own: Do you say anything there that you'd just as soon not have your competitors see?)  
Before we can create our campaign we must clearly understand our target audience. This will help develop the campaign structure and inform the way you create the campaign. The key to successful advertising is truly understanding the wants and needs of your customers. To understand our audience we can ask Who? What? Where? When? Why? This chapter discusses how to understand your audience and build a campaign around their wants and needs.
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.

Brands love to be front and center and who can blame them? Essential to becoming a well known brand is achieving awareness and name recognition, and well branded companies tend to do well at drawing in new customers. In the world of search, the best way to build your brand is by showing up in the top position of search results. Preferably you can do this for both organic and paid results, but at the very least you can often buy your way to the top of search results with a high enough Maximum CPC bid. You will also want to enhance your brand even further by adding Sitelinks to your account to showcase the depth of products and services you offer and occupy even more real estate in search results.
John Lincoln is CEO of Ignite Visibility, one of the top digital marketing agencies in the nation and the number 698 fastest growing company in the USA in the 2017 Inc. 5000. As a digital marketing expert and in-demand public speaker, Lincoln is consistently named one of the top influencers in the industry. In 2017, he was the recipient of the Search Engine Land "Search Marketer of the Year" award. Ignite Visibility crafts custom digital marketing strategies for clients, including services in SEO, social media, paid media, email marketing, Amazon and more.
It's quite likely that no prospect or customer reads your press releases as carefully as your competitors do. Press releases are helpful in understanding a company’s strategic focus. Sometimes PRs show your competitors’ customer count. The About section in a press release shows your competitor's strategic messaging. These two to five sentences are how your competitor wants their customers and prospects to perceive the company and its products.
Export the weighted list back to your spreadsheet and combine it with the others in Excel. Then use the data tools to sort the list by ‘Priority’ – this is a score based on the difficulty, traffic, opportunity and your score. This tells you which keywords you should be targeting in descending order of attractiveness. Suddenly, you’ve turned more than 1,000 keywords into a usable list of a few dozen. Using the same example for wines:
“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.”

When a competitor is identified, have your sales team dive deeper by asking why they are considering switching to your product. If you've already lost the deal, be sure to follow up the with prospect to determine why you lost to your competitor. What services or features attracted the prospect? Was it about price? What's the prospect's impression of your sales process? If they've already made the switch, find out why they made this decision.

Remember: The idea of a competitive analysis isn't to overly focus on the competition but to understand where your company stands in the marketplace and identify opportunities to further differentiate. At the end of the day, a focus on the customer will serve your company far more than a focus on the competition. Done well, a competitive analysis can help you find ways to outplay the competition by better serving customers —  theirs and yours.
People are no longer shocked to find elements of personalization embedded into various aspects of advertising, and in fact, have even come to expect it. Think about it this way: When it comes to marketing emails, which are you more likely to open and read—the one addressed to “Dear Customer” featuring generic copy on topics that aren’t relevant to you? Or are you more likely to engage with the email addressed to your name that includes links to blog posts relevant to the industry you work in, as well as items you might like based on your previous purchases? That’s right—you’re going to open and read the email that’s tailored to you.
It’s easy to notice what your competition is doing wrong, but what about the things they’re doing right? In order to compete, you must dissect all aspects of your competition by completing a SWOT analysis.  What are their customers happy about? What are they complaining about? Use this opportunity to dive into some qualitative competitor analysis. Go online and gather YouTube and Facebook comments, check out conversations on Twitter. If you can interact with your competitors’ customers face-to-face, go out and talk to them. You can use all of this information to your advantage.

It works like this – if there is an IP address the company wants to locate, they ping ‎it from a few of their servers, for which they already know the location.  A ping is ‎just a way to test if a computer can connect, and how long it takes to do so, but ‎doesn’t transmit any meaningful data.  Then, by looking at the time it takes each ‎server to connect, it can establish a shared point or origin, and thereby physically ‎locate the user.  It uses the public IP locations to validate their approach and check ‎for anomalies in network latency which would lead to bad data.  ‎


You should also take time to ensure that your landing page is designed well, but not just in appearance. Be sure to focus on loading speed and usability as well. Together, all of these elements are crucial to the success of your campaigns. Afterall, you don’t want to spend all your time designing PPC ads only to have your leads bounce right off as soon as they reach your boring or unsightly landing page design—or worse, leave before it even has a chance to load.
The first part of your competitive analysis only requires basic research. You’ll just be looking up and making note of easy-to-find facts about your competitor’s business. For this part, you’ll need to have some idea about who your small business competitors are, where to find their website and social media pages, and perhaps have access to their offline marketing materials such as brochures, ads, and posters.
Some super awesome points here no doubt. What I like about this approach is it is hands on and not just ran via a site being scanned by a third party. Also when a new client comes to you and has these thoughts of ranking the highest in their particular industry you need to know that baseline of who is at the top. Many times when I have conducted a much lesser analysis than what is above I see some items right off the bat that can make that strong competition not so strong after some minor changes.
Along with understanding how your potential customers are searching for your company and/or product online, you also need to decide what part of the sales process you want to target. Are you looking to start a prospecting campaign that attracts users at the very beginning of the process, and then convert them later via email marketing or retargeting? Or do you want your website to be shown in front of in-market searchers who are looking to buy right away?
If you’re an ecommerce business, then you need to be running Google Shopping Campaigns. Consumers use Google’s search engine on a daily basis to find all kinds of products that they need (including yours), and running Google Shopping campaigns can help you connect with them. These campaigns pull product information, such as the product image, price, and merchant name, from your company’s Merchant Center data feed and conveniently display them to the viewer. Because it pulls this data each time a user makes a search inquiry, you can be assured that your product ads are always up to date and accurate (so long as you keep your data feed that way), keeping your potential customer from feeling confused or frustrated.

Remember: The idea of a competitive analysis isn't to overly focus on the competition but to understand where your company stands in the marketplace and identify opportunities to further differentiate. At the end of the day, a focus on the customer will serve your company far more than a focus on the competition. Done well, a competitive analysis can help you find ways to outplay the competition by better serving customers —  theirs and yours.
Great article. This ties in perfectly with the article I just published yesterday. This checklist in conjunction with my competitor analysis, that is more based on keyword and traffic data, will really round out the research stage of your campaign. Taking a deep look at a competitors website just like you would do your own, can be a valuable exercise that drives strategy.
The best way to see what geotargeting can do for your company is to undertake a test campaign on a site like Facebook employing the parameters that would best access your target audience in various parts of the country. Include the specified area(s) within the ad’s content and launch it to see how it impacts results at your various locations and your online business. From there, you can further expand on what the technique can do, even using it as a recruitment tool to locate new marketing talent to run your next geotargeting campaign.
Knowledge of a competitor's objectives facilitates a better prediction of the competitor's reaction to different competitive moves. For example, a competitor that is focused on reaching short-term financial goals might not be willing to spend much money responding to a competitive attack. Rather, such a competitor might favor focusing on the products that hold positions that better can be defended. On the other hand, a company that has no short term profitability objectives might be willing to participate in destructive price competition in which neither firm earns a profit.
For example, a coffee shop can set a 1-mile perimeter around its store and reach any user within that radius. Or, it could set a 3-mile perimeter around a nearby office complex to reach users that may be looking for somewhere to grab coffee before going into work. You can also try geo-conquesting, which targets customers around a competitor’s location.
Competitive analyses help you evaluate your competition’s strategies to determine their strengths and weaknesses relative to your brand. When it comes to digital marketing and SEO, however, there are so many ranking factors and best practices to consider that can be hard to know where to begin. Which is why my colleague, Ben Estes, created a competitive analysis checklist (not dissimilar to his wildly popular technical audit checklist) that I’ve souped up for the Moz community.
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