1. More Powerful Personalization, Targeting and Campaign Analysis Capabilities: The capability for ever-more-specific PPC ad personalization and targeting (plus re-targeting) is available, but underused. You can, of course, target demographics and persona characteristics like age or income, customer type or purchase history/level (existing, repeat, prospect), sales funnel position, company role (for B2B ads) and more. Beyond these basics, you can now map the customer journey, learn how the visitor came to you and/or see much of the path taken to buy. This “attribution” insight can significantly improve the ROI of your 2018 campaigns; you’ll see what’s working and what isn’t, for better PPC strategies.

This report also helps drive our editorial calendar, since we often find keywords and topics where we need to create new content to compete with our competitors. We take this a step further during our content planning process, analyzing the content the competitors have created that is already ranking well and using that as a base to figure out how we can do it better. We try to take some of the best ideas from all of the competitors ranking well to then make a more complete resource on the topic.


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.
Newspaper and Magazine ArticlesArticles in newspapers and magazines are a source of information you can use to get an idea of what your competitor is planning for the future, how their organization is run, and what new product information or innovations they have. Journalists may also uncover and reveal unflattering information about your competitor that may prove valuable to you. Be on the lookout for product reviews in magazines; they will reveal a competing product's strengths and weaknesses. Visit a college or public library. The reference librarian will show you how to find pertinent articles online much more quickly and easily than you'll find them by browsing.  
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?)  
For example, say you have a clinic in Des Moines, Iowa. Someone looking at your social media advertising in California isn’t likely to come to your clinic. A geotargeted campaign would help you find social media users that need your clinic and live in your area. And if you have multiple locations, you can run geotargeted social media ads in each area where you want to increase your customer base.
Gather Competitive Information Secondary sources of information are recommended as an excellent starting point for developing a competitive and industry analysis. Secondary sources include information developed for a specific purpose but subsequently made available for public access and thus alternative uses. For example, books are secondary sources of information as are articles published in journals. Marketing reports offered for sale to the general public also are considered secondary sources. Although, they have been created for a purpose other than your current need, they are still excellent sources of information and data. With the ever increasing speed of document identification and retrieval through electronic means, secondary sources are not only an inexpensive source of information but are readily available soon after publication. Sources of information include:
Another way to do this is to analyze the keywords that are driving traffic to your site and match the user intent to the right page of your site. In the figure below, you can see a typical buy cycle for a new searcher. They will start off using broad keywords to get a general idea of what content is out there. Searchers who use these broad terms would infer that they’re in the information gathering stage of their search. So ask yourself, which page on your site is best suited to help them gather the information they’re seeking? Do you have an article, how-to, or comparison page you can lead them to that helps them get the information they need?
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.

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.
3. Video Ads Become More Practical: Video engages viewers extremely effectively, but advertisers have sometimes avoided it because of the perceived difficulty in making a video and the high cost of running video ads. Remember, video ads can be very short, from 15 -30 seconds, depending upon where you run them. To keep production costs down, there will be more and more free video tools provided by advertisers who want your business, for instance, Boomerang, free Instagram video ad creator. In 2018, consider YouTube, which offers a variety of video ad formats and, as part of the Google ecosystem, makes a great bet to place effective PPC ads. Consider Bing advertising, especially for higher-end products, since one-third or their traffic earns over $100k. Look at options to advertise with Yahoo/Verizon, Facebook/Instagram, Amazon (for product ads), LinkedIn video ads (for B2B) and more.
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SEMrush isn't free, but it will give you the comprehensive data you need to make smart decisions about what keywords to target. It's also easy to use. Let's say your company wants to be the first name to show up when someone searches for "solar panel installation." Type that keyword into the Phrase Match tool within SEMrush, and you'll be able to see that term along with other related terms. 

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.
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