Instead, SEO now takes a multi-faceted approach where you’re involving different disciplines (i.e. content, email, advertising, social), building a brand (i.e. investing in intangibles, not just conversions), and competing on multiple fronts (i.e. paid search positions, review & aggregation sites like Yelp, TripAdvisor, beefing up your local listings, and more) – all at the same time.
The jockey does not have to be the manager of all the operations and support functions of your business, but it is your duty as founder of the business to ensure that the fundamentals are in place. Institute controls by identifying strengths and weaknesses in yourself and your team. Then implement solutions to avoid any pitfalls or risks in your business.
Jeff Baum is Director of Services at Hanapin Marketing and a seasoned PPC advertising professional with Hanapin Marketing. a 13 year track record of success in digital advertising. He has developed and implemented strategies to substantially grow revenue and profits for a variety of lead generation and e-commerce businesses. He has also been responsible and accountable for managing hundreds of thousands of dollars in PPC advertising spend per month. Jeff is a recurring writer for Hanapin's blog and PPC Hero.
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.
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!
Are they targeting low, middle, or high income customers? Look at their pricing information, including how they phrase it. If they use words like discounts, sale, affordable, or cheap, then they aren’t targeting the high income crowd. Also look at the marketing materials themselves, whether it’s a brochure or online banner. Are they attention-grabbing or elegant?
They differ in many aspects, from gender to age; from organic to paid; from 1024×768 to 320×480 and onwards. More significantly though, people arrive to your site from across the world: from different countries and languages, different currencies and climates, and a whole assortment of cultural expectations. Hence, even if you have a “.com” English only site, you may very well be an international business by default.

Finally, some strategies will drive both efficiency and growth within an account. For example, concluding an ad copy test based on CTR, conversion rate, or conversion per impression can increase revenue and improve ROI. However, these strategies typically show incremental long-term improvements, and are less likely to ramp revenue or improve ROAS in the short-term.
Informational: These keywords represent the very beginning of the conversion process, and are not very likely to convert on the first visit. If you’re running a branding campaign you’ll want to be sure to include informational keywords on your list. If you’ve got a conversion goal, you still can’t afford to ignore these keywords as they make up the majority of searches. Informational keywords often use words/phrases like "how to", “do I need” and “where to find”. Consider these leads to be converted later via your website or a retargeting campaign.
Even more specifically, I’m talking about Google AdWords—the major player in this space—and Bing Ads, the next largest network of its type, which also handles PPC ads on Yahoo. AdWords and Bing Ads operate so similarly that the differences between them won’t affect the advice in this post. For practical purposes, when you’re just starting out, you can think of Bing Ads as a mini AdWords: smaller in terms of traffic but also in terms of cost, which can be appealing.

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.

Competitor analysis is an essential component of corporate strategy.[3] It is argued that most firms do not conduct this type of analysis systematically enough[4]. Instead, many enterprises operate on what is called "informal impressions, conjectures, and intuition gained through the tidbits of information about competitors every manager continually receives." As a result, traditional environmental scanning places many firms at risk of dangerous competitive blindspots due to a lack of robust competitor analysis.[5]


Here’s how it works: Every time your ad is clicked, sending a visitor to your website, you pay the search engine a small fee. (That’s why it’s called “pay per click.”) When your PPC campaign is well-designed and running smoothly, that fee will be trivial, because the visit is worth more to your business than what you pay for it. For example, if you pay $10 for a click, but the click results in a $300 sale, then using PPC is a no-brainer.

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.

Part of designing your keyword strategy is making sure you target keywords that will bring in enough traffic to be worth the effort. There’s no minimum number of searches for a keyword - that depends on your niche and your ability to convert visitors into sales. If you’ve got a Pro or Premium WooRank account, use SERP Checker’s new search volume feature to track estimated monthly searches for your keywords, as well as historical ranking data. If you’re already using SERP Checker, the search volume will appear for your keywords automatically. If you haven’t used it yet, just enter your keywords in the tool and you’ll see your data within 24 hours.

Zee came to Distilled after several web development and digital communications positions in the nonprofit space, including the Ad Council, Power Poetry, VolunteerMatch, DonorsChoose and Planned Parenthood. With her background, Zee learned how to make the most impact with shoestring budgets. A graduate of Smith College, Zee studied French Studies and Psychology and studied psychoanalysis at Paris IV – Denis Diderot University. Aside from analyzing languages and humans, she found a home in the tech space, where solutions are complex and (sometimes) easier to come by. Ask her about: user experience, web development, analytics, technical SEO questions, and rescue dogs like hers.
According to Nielsen Norman Group’s “User Experience Careers” survey report, 61% of UX professionals prefer to do the competitive analysis for their projects. But what exactly is competitive analysis? In simple language, competitive analysis is nothing but a method to determine how your competitors are performing, what they are offering and how well they are doing it.

It would be unreasonable to run a full technical audit of each competitor, but take into account your own site’s technical SEO performance if you know there are outstanding technical issues to be addressed. In addition to the previous checklist items, I also like to use these Chrome extensions from Ayima: Page Insights and Redirect Path. These can provide quick checks for common technical SEO errors.


Based on your competitor’s marketing message, what kind of customer does the viewer have to be for these messages to appeal to him or her? What is their age range? Where do they have to be located? What's their profession, if any? What other customer demographics can you infer? You're essentially trying to come up with a "buyer persona", a character who best represents the person your competition is trying to reach.
Your competitor analysis framework should give your stakeholders an overview of how the playing field looks. A side-by-side comparison with top competitors helps teams strategize better, plan business growth and provide a clearer vision for the organization. When creating a competitive analysis, you should first consider defining the criteria for the comparison. Common high-level pieces are company information, description, products or services, strengths and weaknesses and market-fit.
It is crucial to separate business and personal finances – and to be very prudent in the first few years of running your business, especially when you start making profit. Keep tight record, develop regular forecasts, avoid overdrafts, watch interest rates, keep track of expenses, bank all income, self-fund if possible and check bank statement regularly. Re-invest your profits into the growth and development of the business, the reward will be well worth the investment.

It’s also best to look for those businesses that are of a similar size as yours. For example, if you’re a solo entrepreneur selling handmade potholders online, big chain grocery stores usually aren’t your direct competitors, even if they might carry handmade potholders in their inventory. Instead, look for other small to medium scale producers of handmade potholders and similar kitchen accessories.
The distinctions here can become quite urgent depending on the kind of product you’re selling or the kind of customer you’re looking to find. If you’re trying to find people who are interested in selling their homes in the East Village, then you don’t want to target people who are just in the East Village on their spring break or while visiting family. If you’re trying to target high net worth individuals on vacation in Montauk, New York because you believe they’re ripe targets for ads about buying beachfront houses in Montauk, then you don’t want to waste your ad spend showing ads to locals.
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.
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.

Keyword Competition tools can make things much easier on your keyword strategy. Some tools include the Adwords Keyword Planner  (you can tailor this for B2B) and MozBar. Google Adwords help you discover and compare new keywords. MozBar helps you check keyword competition against other B2B business sites. Some tools must be purchased, such as Long Tail Pro. This tool identifies profitable long tail keywords focused on your content.
If you're a regular blogger, these are probably the topics you blog about most frequently. Or perhaps they're the topics that come up the most in sales conversations. Put yourself in the shoes of your buyer personas -- what types of topics would your target audience search that you'd want your business to get found for? If you were a company like HubSpot, for example -- selling marketing software (which happens to have some awesome SEO tools ... but I digress ;-) -- you might have general topic buckets like "inbound marketing," "blogging," "email marketing," "lead generation," "SEO," "social media," "marketing analytics," and "marketing automation."

And so on and so on. The point of this step isn't to come up with your final list of keyword phrases -- you just want to end up with a brain dump of phrases you think potential customers might use to search for content related to that particular topic bucket. We'll narrow the lists down later in the process so you don't have something too unwieldy.


WooRank is a freemium tool that provides an “instant website review.” Without a premium account, you are only allowed to generate a limited number of free reports, but you are able to view previously generated reports. Also, the tool currently offers a 7-day unlimited free trial, which gives you access to unlimited reviews. If you’re interested in purchasing a plan, the cheapest one is $49/month.


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.
If you have and use a smartphone, it’s possible for you to set location-based reminders for yourself, right now. You can, for example, tell your phone to alert you when you’re within range of the frame shop, so that new piece of art doesn’t become a six-month fixture in your trunk. Or, if you’ve attended a concert lately, and the band sends you a push notification to buy some gear while you’re in the venue, they’ve likely used geofencing.

To determine your company's market share on a percentage basis, the following formula should be used: Current Market Share = Company sales Industry salesYou should then compute each of your competitors' market shares. It will give you a clear idea of how your sales volume compares to your competition's. If you don't have total industry sales figures you won't be able to figure out your market share, but you can still get a good idea of your competitive position by comparing the sales volume figures. For example, say last year Company A sold $3 million dollars worth of copiers, Company B sold $5 million, and you sold $4 million. It's obvious that Company B has the largest share of your market and is your greatest competitor. Competitive Objectives and Strategies For each competitor in your analysis, you should try to identify what their market objectives are and determine what types of strategies they are using to achieve them. Are your competitors trying:
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.
Trade AssociationsMost professional trade associations compile and publish industry statistics and report on industry news and leaders through trade association magazines and newsletters. Most trade associations also sponsor trade shows and other professional meetings. This is an opportunity to see first-hand what your competition is producing. It also provides the opportunity to discover new players who may soon become your competition.  
This is a particularly useful strategy for local businesses (or any business that takes calls, really) to target people who are likely to call them directly from a search query. With Call Extensions you can easily add a click-to-call button to your mobile ads and phone numbers to your desktop ads. Additionally, you can track customers who make calls from your website using Website Call Conversions.

You can use multiple different exclusion zones if you have an extremely particular region that you’re looking to target. The only caveat here is that you have to make sure you’re not being too narrow with your behavioral and demographic targeting. When you focus on too small a region, the size of your audience can get so small that it becomes practically impossible for Facebook to actually deliver your advertisements.
You will likely run into some difficulties along the way, and you may need to develop a hybrid strategy to achieve your goals. For example, I have often broken out campaigns between profitability focused keywords and brand focused keywords in order to satisfy clients. This is especially useful when someone demands visibility for certain keywords but does not give enough budget to achieve that visibility. The same goes for balancing visibility and profit.
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.
If you have been dabbling in this PPC advertising thing and not noticed much traction, you might want to reconsider your budget. Many small businesses set a PPC spend that is too small to make any significant impact. Most people don’t realize that while PPC campaigns generate an average of 2% click-through, most do much better, especially with the help of new technology like machine learning.
We must clearly identify our objectives for the campaign and tie the campaign objectives to business objectives. Your objectives could include raising awareness, increasing engagement, generating conversions, and customer retention. Your objectives will need to be tailored to your specific business and you will want to map your objectives to a typical marketing funnel. This chapter highlights how to identify your objectives to measure success.

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.


Test putting the location in the ad copy. If you’re a local business, there’s a chance that people want to find you locally. Who cares about a tire repair shop in Massachusetts if you’re in Denver? Because of this, putting the location in your ad copy can give you an edge. If necessary, run multiple campaigns with each specifying the individual location.<
It’s all about repeated exposure—while your previous site visitors browse other websites, your retargeting provider will show them ads for your services and products. Using retargeting, you can entice visitors back to your website and effectively convert these digital window shoppers into customers for your business. In fact, potential customers who are retargeted with display ads are 70 percent more likely to convert. Now, doesn’t that sound nice?
What’s the difference between your brand and your keywords? Are you using both effectively? Your brand is one of your most important keywords, but it shouldn’t be your only keyword, nor should you have lots of keywords but no brand. There should be a keyword strategy behind the keywords you pick. This post highlights the why of that and explains the basis of the how, then points you to several useful posts for the how.
If you're a regular blogger, these are probably the topics you blog about most frequently. Or perhaps they're the topics that come up the most in sales conversations. Put yourself in the shoes of your buyer personas -- what types of topics would your target audience search that you'd want your business to get found for? If you were a company like HubSpot, for example -- selling marketing software (which happens to have some awesome SEO tools ... but I digress ;-) -- you might have general topic buckets like "inbound marketing," "blogging," "email marketing," "lead generation," "SEO," "social media," "marketing analytics," and "marketing automation."
Thanks Ramon! You can easily add more tabs to input more backlink data for additional competitors and then adjust the query formula to use the new tabs. I often increase this to 10, 15 or even 20 competitors for larger clients. The beauty of Google Sheets templates is the ease in which you can make these adjustments. Let me know if you need any help with that.
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