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.
You should always track and monitor the effectiveness of your PPC campaign. You should know what things are working for you in a better way. If you are publishing your ads on the Google search platform using the Google Adwords tool, use Google Analytics to get better insights into searcher’s behavior. You should measure the bounce rate of your website. Bounce rate will tell you how many searchers visited your site but did not perform any action. You should also track CTR and conversion rate of your campaign. This will help you to optimize your PPC campaign and your landing page.
In Keyword Planner, formerly known as the Keyword Tool, you can get search volume and traffic estimates for keywords you're considering. Unfortunately, when Google transitioned from Keyword Tool to Keyword Planner, they stripped out a lot of the more interesting functionality. But you can make up for it a bit if you take the information you learn from Keyword Planner and use Google Trends to fill in some blanks.
When you conduct your competitive analysis, it's worth analyzing the sales models of your competitors. In his article Three SaaS Sales Models, Joel York describes the three most common SaaS sales models based on the relationship between price and product complexity. Companies with low priced and low-complexity products must focus on developing a self-service option so they can maintain a healthy relationship between customer acquisition cost (CAC) and customer lifetime value (CLV). Slack, Trello, Dropbox, GitHub are all low-price, low-complexity products.
Avoid industry research. Industry analysts aren’t good at predicting disruptive companies and cutting-edge trends because such changes occur at the bottom of the market, which is generally not on their radar. Research giants like Forrester and Gartner provide industry consensus after major shifts have already occurred. Plus, they derive their research by analyzing large organizations, so startups won’t find what they’re looking for here.
Google Ads operates on a pay-per-click model, in which users bid on keywords and pay for each click on their advertisements. Every time a search is initiated, Google digs into the pool of Ads advertisers and chooses a set of winners to appear in the valuable ad space on its search results page. The “winners” are chosen based on a combination of factors, including the quality and relevance of their keywords and ad campaigns, as well as the size of their keyword bids.
Competitive analysis is a key aspect when in the beginning stages of an SEO campaign. Far too often, I see organizations skip this important step and get right into keyword mapping, optimizing content, or link building. But understanding who our competitors are and seeing where they stand can lead to a far more comprehensive understanding of what our goals should be and reveal gaps or blind spots.
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!