The use of semantic search has completely changed the way we perform modern search queries today. A decade ago, people stuck with what was short and simple. If they wanted to find the best pizza places in New York City, they would type in “Pizza New York.” However, with Google’s Hummingbird update and the algorithmic improvements to semantic searches, people now are more inclined to type in “Where is the best pizza place in New York City.”

Keywords are the crucial foundation for online marketing efforts, and in this course, author Matt Bailey shows how you best structure search engine optimization and pay-per-click plans around the insights you glean from keyword research. He helps you explore the sources for keywords and build a keyword list with research and management tools like Raven Tools, Moz, SEMrush, and Wordtracker. He shows you how to filter and interpret keyword data, observe trends, and better understand the intent of the searcher, and how to develop an informed strategy and implement keywords throughout your site for maximum searchability. Matt also covers how to apply your keyword insights to Google AdWords campaigns and measure the results of your SEO and AdWords efforts.
Truly awesome stuff Zee! For those involved in doing competitive analysis for Local SEO, I would also add GMB Completion/Optimization, and NAP Profile Quantitiy/Quality (which can be checked via MozLocal and Majestic SEO). The conversion part of your analysis that you laid out is especially important in my opinion. Thank you for writing and sharing your insight!
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.
Sometimes even the most savvy among us can feel like a confused great-granny on a MacBook Pro running Linux when it comes to the newest, latest tech, and how it actually works. Location-based marketing is already happening. All of the available tools provide opportunities to serve highly localized, highly relevant communications to your customers, based on where they are right now. But what exactly are those options, and how do they work?

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.
As a manager, this may take the form of believing that people with less experience but lots of initiative tend to outperform experts. It may mean looking past the traditional resume. As an entrepreneur, this may be a conviction that some social stigma, like sleeping in someone else’s home (Airbnb), wearing someone else’s dress (Rent the Runway) or persistently sharing your location with all your friends (FourSquare), will lessen over time and eventually disappear.
What is PPC (pay-per-click) marketing? Pay-per-click marketing is a way of using search engine advertising to generate clicks to your website, rather than “earning” those clicks organically. You know those sponsored ads you often see at the top of Google’s search results page, marked with a yellow label? That’s pay-per-click advertising (specifically Google AdWords PPC, which we’ll talk about below).
Once your ad is displayed, it’s likely to be clicked by only a tiny percentage of people who search for such a broad term, making it less likely to be displayed in the future. And even if you create an ad that’s broad enough for those searchers to reliably click, they’re unlikely to find exactly what they’re looking for on your landing page. You’re paying a lot for poor-quality traffic.
If not, you’ll need to determine how close to being profitable you are. If it would only take one or two more sales or leads to turn a profit, it’s time to start optimizing your PPC campaign so you can cross that threshold sooner rather than later. Start adjusting your landing page (perhaps with the help of A/B testing), your ad text, and your keyword strategy until you find a winning combination.
This emphasis on competition is related to the advent of game theory in the mid 20th century around the same time. The problem is that game theory is one mental model of many to help make decisions, not the only one (Ben Thompson from Stratechery has a good post on the Prisoner’s Dilemma that is a fundamental one). Even researchers are starting to point to the fact that there are no perfect solutions (such as a Nash equilibrium) to most situations.
A competitor's capabilities can be analyzed according to its strengths and weaknesses in various functional areas, as is done in a SWOT analysis. The competitor's strengths define its capabilities. The analysis can be taken further to evaluate the competitor's ability to increase its capabilities in certain areas. A financial analysis can be performed to reveal its sustainable growth rate.
Lower Costs: When there is a near-infinite supply of search query impressions each month, your strategy is to lower your cost per click in order to drive more click (and conversion) volume to your website. This generally involves making use of keyword list refinement (match types, negative keywords) and lowering bids while keeping an eye on average position.
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!
You cannot expect your employees to stick to their schedules and stay organised if the person at the top doesn’t do the same. As the leader of your start-up, you need to set an example for your staff, which means that you have to be the most organised person in the company. While it is important to ensure your employees follow suit, try not to be too overbearing about how they choose to organise their days.
4. Choose keywords based on more than just high search traffic. Depending on which strategy you’re using, branding or conversion, you should not fall into the trap of just looking at search volume when judging which keywords to use. Just because one keyword has a whole lot more searches than another doesn’t necessarily mean it will be a better performing search term. Take the time to analyze other factors that provide more granularity. Here is an example of other factors you may want to look at:
In the last year, Google and Bing have both indicated a shift to entity-based search results as part of their evolution. Google has unscored this point with rich snippets and Knowledge Graph, and Bing has now upped the ante on personal search results with Bing Snapshots. Find out how you can adopt strategies to stay ahead of the curve in the new world of semantic search results.
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.

Geo-Targeting content is simple and beneficial to most websites, advertisers and publishers, as well anyone using PPC campaigns or SEO. Not only does it enable you to match the most relevant content to your visitor, Geo Targeting also serves as an excellent basis for experimenting with traffic to optimize your funnels. Some ideas were presented here that may be tested, but the options are virtually limitless.
Instead of immediately sponsoring a Search Engine Marketing (SEM) campaign for certain keywords, keep an eye on your competitors for the best moment to do it. An SEM campaign implies a daily expenditure that most companies can’t afford long-term, so they won’t keep it up for long. If you are determined to spend some money on it, don’t just go crazy and then measure your ROI. After 3 – 4 months of watching, you should know if it’s worth it for your business to spend money on search engine ads. For an advanced strategy, try to identify your competitors’ timing for purchasing search engine ads, and try to replace them when they are not actively sponsoring results.
The first step in this process is determining who are the top four competitors that we want to use for this analysis. I like to use a mixture of direct business competitors (typically provided by my clients) and online search competitors, which can differ from whom a business identifies as their main competitors. Usually, this discrepancy is due to local business competitors versus those who are paying for online search ads. While your client may be concerned about the similar business down the street, their actual online competitor may be a business from a neighboring town or another state.