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).
Browse. Search the Internet for news, public relations, and other mentions of your competition. Search blogs and Twitter feeds as well as review and recommendation sites. While most of the information you find will be anecdotal and based on the opinion of just a few people, you may at least get a sense of how some consumers perceive your competition. Plus you may also get advance warning about expansion plans, new markets they intend to enter, or changes in management.
Between 2016 and 2017, Amazon was mentioned almost 3 times more frequently by senior executives on earning calls than any other company. It’s no wonder executives at public companies are obsessed with the retail giant. Even the threat of an Amazon entrance could result in a seismic shift in the market and put them out of business overnight. In other words, the SaaS world moves fast —  and the only way to keep up is to be one step ahead.
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.

Information from an analysis of the competitor's objectives, assumptions, strategy, and capabilities can be compiled into a response profile of possible moves that might be made by the competitor. This profile includes both potential offensive and defensive moves. The specific moves and their expected strength can be estimated using information gleaned from the analysis.
b) Compare to your competitors pages and devise a plan to beat them. Sort of–I may want to write a follow up piece to this checklist with what comes next! It may not be realistic for you to go toe-to-toe with Amazon, for instance, if they have more linking root domains than your site does. However, if it's clear that you've got a very poor backlinks profile and your competitors outperform you here across the board, that means it's probably time to start discussing creative link building strategies, or content marketing plans.
Every business can benefit from attracting higher value customers. Whether you’re a real estate company looking for high net worth individuals looking to buy property or a B2B SaaS company looking for a higher average revenue per user (ARPU), attracting customers who will pay you more than others is a powerful way to amplify the growth of your business.
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.
How do you figure out what keywords your competitors are ranking for, you ask? Aside from manually searching for keywords in an incognito browser and seeing what positions your competitors are in, SEMrush allows you to run a number of free reports that show you the top keywords for the domain you enter. This is a quick way to get a sense of the types of terms your competitors are ranking for.
HubSpot also has a campaign tool that allows you to associate keyword phrases, related blog posts, emails and landing pages with a particular campaign so you can get a better idea of the overall performance. If a particular set of keywords doesn't seem to be bringing in new site visits or converting leads to customers, it might be time to search for alternatives.  
For branding campaigns, your budget is often not an issue. You may have a fixed budget or your budget may be seemingly limitless. It doesn’t matter, because with this strategy the focus is on position; and in most cases only position #1 will do. This is often the easiest strategy to execute for paid search, but it’s also inefficient. The reality is that bidding into the top position in search results is often a waste of money. Google has gone on the record as saying that conversion rates don’t vary much by position, so in many cases all that the first position buys you in paid search is brand awareness (and vanity).
Long tail keywords are longer word phrases. They are specific phrases searchers are more likely to use when doing a specified search.  Due to the more tailored nature of long tail keywords, it is important to create a theme around these phrases. Doing so will increase your business’ rank in search engine results. A generic single keyword is not as valuable as multiple keywords that match a user’s search. In short, long tail keywords prove that, as far as B2B SEO goes, less is not always more. Once you’ve compiled a list of “long tail keywords” that describe a certain theme, you can begin conducting your keyword research.
Now, to figure out state and postal code involves a more complex process. At the ‎core though, the geolocation services build up a network of servers from which ‎they can send out pings, or connection requests, and known physical locations of ‎public entities like universities and government office IPs.  Eventually, with enough ‎data, the geolocation company has the capability to triangulate any IP on the web.   ‎
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.
Another method that you may consider is following Google’s Webmaster guidelines for country segmentations and either using subdomains or subfolders for specific countries and languages. This assumes that you have a generic TLD (.com, .org, etc). For example, es.example.com or www.example.com/es/ for Spain/Spanish. This might be the better local SEO solution because it also means that the subdomains or subfolders you specify will be shown in local searches on Google, based on TLD. The downside is that it requires a fair amount of work to setup, and might not coincide with your branding efforts internationally. An important note about this method is that it does not solve the problem of language, but only the country location. So if your service or product is available internationally, you probably shouldn’t limit the geographic location for which Google serves results. Nonetheless, this approach serves as a good platform to initiate conversion optimization on those segmented pages or sites.
Geotargeting is a practice frequently deployed by such restaurants and brick-and-mortar businesses looking to drive local foot traffic, but it isn’t exclusively the province of these verticals. Even sports teams have gotten in on the action, targeting fans that are at (or have been to) a particular stadium or event in order to drive ticket sales, app downloads, and more.

There are lots of questions, as yet unanswered. For example, when considering anonymity, is it okay if trackers gather data, but aren’t able to discern exactly who a user is? There are questions of security and privacy, and information one company might share with another. There are questions of choice: should customers always have to opt-in, or can opt-outs work, too? There are questions about who can and can’t be trusted with these services: your company, for example, versus, say, the U.S. government.
It's important to note your competitor's actions over time. For example, if one of your competitors is consistent with pricing, product features, promotion, and their market share it may mean that they're not exploring or exploiting additional market opportunities. Or, if one of your competitors has a decline in sales volume it may mean they will be employing new marketing strategies in the near future and should be monitored closely. Identify the Competitions Strengths and Weaknesses In order to develop effective competitive strategies, you need to make a realistic assessment of your competitors' strengths and weaknesses, as viewed by the market. You need to ask yourself what each of your competitors do very well, better than your own company? Then, ask yourself in what areas are each of your competitors weak. Construct a simple chart. The copier company's might appear like this: Strengths and Weaknesses of Competitors Competitor: Strengths Weaknesses A. Superior customer service 3-year warranty Higher price B. Quick innovator Unique features Higher price Limited distribution channels C. Large market share Lower price Comprehensive ad campaign Viewed as market leader by market segment Slower product No direct access to parts Other Factors to Consider
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.

There is a “home” for newly published content. A hub for new content can be the site’s blog, or a news section. For instance, Distilled’s “home for newly published content” is the Resources section. While this line item may seem like a binary (score of “0” if you don’t have a dedicated section for new content, or score of “2” if you do), there are nuances that can bring each brand’s score up or down. For example:


Geo-targeting is virtually a necessity for businesses advertising online, since they cannot assume – as one can with traditional media, like newspapers or radio – where their audience is located. Luckily, this powerful tool is not hard to implement. For example, a small outfit like a pizza parlor with a finite delivery range can purchase online ads that only appear in the browsers of people with an IP address within the neighborhood. Geo-targeting also increases the opportunities for A/B testing. For example, a Japanese-speaking immigration lawyer in the U.S. may choose to run two separately geo-targeted campaigns: one locally for people looking to bring family over or maintain status in the country, and another one in Japan targeting people looking to emigrate.
The first case is quite simple yet happens often. So for example, you have not sold tandem bikes for years (and had the word “tandem” in a negative list), then you started to sell them again. But your PPC specialist forgot to remove the word from negatives, and now you are left wondering why you are not getting any traffic for this keyword. To avoid this situation, check your negative keyword lists regularly and bring the relevant keywords back to life.
Still in the early phase of rollout, Store Visits is being added to the Adwords Estimated Conversion tool in order to track in-store visits directly from your AdWords account. According to a recent Google study, 32% of offline customers said that location-based search ads led them to visit a store or make a purchase. For businesses with physical stores, this tool could really help to show how your PPC ads are affecting your overall bottom line and marketing initiatives. To be eligible for the feature you must meet the following criteria:
For many of you reading this post, you may wonder why these other strategies exist at all. Shouldn’t people only be paying for clicks that directly impact their ability to generate revenue and ultimately profit? I struggled with this concept early in my career, but ultimately came to the conclusion that not every single marketing activity can be direct response.
Then, a few months ago, I was driving around town and the beloved Comedy Attic had a brand new LED Sign. A beautiful high-resolution digital sign manufactured by my client. I had a fangirl moment in my car upon recognizing my client’s name in small letters underneath the sign. Next call I had, I mentioned this moment to the client. I asked when that lead came in. The client looked up The Comedy Attic and divulged the sign was purchased in March 2018. The purchase came from a lead that came into the funnel in July 2016.

HubSpot's marketing automation software has several tools just for this purpose.  The first is the HubSpot keyword tool, which allows you to keep track of keywords you're targeting. Once you've done your research and know which keywords are most likely to perform well, you can import those keywords into the tool. The tool will show you how you're currently ranking for those terms and whether your ranking is moving up or down over time. 
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.
Strategic technique used to evaluate outside competitors. The analysis seeks to identify weaknesses and strengths that a company's competitors may have, and then use that information to improve efforts within the company. An effective analysis will first obtain important information from competitors and then based on this information predict how the competitor will react under certain circumstances.
In the print days, taking out an ad in the Detroit Free Press allowed businesses to know that primarily Detroit area residents who could actually visit the business would see the ad in question. Not so in the era of mobile ads which, if delivered indiscriminately and without location context, can be less successful because they aren’t relevant or personal. Ad creative targeted at — and customized for — an Oklahoma consumer versus a New York City one is likely to be more effective in driving a physical sale.
Information from an analysis of the competitor's objectives, assumptions, strategy, and capabilities can be compiled into a response profile of possible moves that might be made by the competitor. This profile includes both potential offensive and defensive moves. The specific moves and their expected strength can be estimated using information gleaned from the analysis.
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.
Evaluate your competitors by placing them in strategic groups according to how directly they compete for a share of the customer's dollar. For each competitor or strategic group, list their product or service, its profitability, growth pattern, marketing objectives and assumptions, current and past strategies, organizational and cost structure, strengths and weaknesses, and size (in sales) of the competitor's business. Answer questions such as:
You’ve probably been hearing more and more about retargeting in the couple of years or so, and for good reason too. Retargeting campaigns use cookies to keep track of the internet users who visit your site so that you can continue to market to them once they leave. Have you ever shopped for an item and then suddenly noticed it following you around on other sites? That’s retargeting. And believe it or not, it really works.
Getting your site to rank on Google is not as simple as plugging a keyword into a website and hoping for the best. In short, placing them into an intentional keyword strategy is just the beginning. By definition, keywords are words or phrases that describe and sum up a central idea pertinent to your business and marketing strategy. Keyword strategy means using keywords in your business and ad campaigns to attract your target market audience. When it comes to B2B marketing, keyword strategy is necessary to draw in your target audience. As B2B marketing is not the typical Buyer-to-customer setup, your keyword strategy needs a B2B marketing and relations spin. For example, if your business were looking to bring in ordinary customers, your keyword strategy might look like this:
Some publishers and networks have even developed performance-based marketing plans based on geo-targeted ads. Ads and marketing are only placed and paid for when there have been proven results to show that this venture is worth it. It has always been very effective to target a certain demographic based off of their age, gender, or career. This can be taken even further by taking a look at certain locations and what demographics reside there. Website data can be used to determine what geographic locations are most frequently perusing a site and that area can be targeted as well.

1,000+ keywords: if it’s just you or 2 of you, this is probably more than you can chew off. It’s not hard to gather 1,000 keywords though, so if you’ve got the time, the people and the inspiration, it usually does pay off to write a lot of meaningful content. Do make sure that all those keywords relate to your products or services as otherwise it’s nonsense and make sure that you’re structuring your site well around it.
A transactional sales approach to customer acquisition is best for products with a higher average selling price (ASP) then self-service solutions. Customers expect to see a demo, or even try the product. In fact, when customers are paying more, they expect more hand-holding throughout the process. While this can drive up organizational costs and complexity for a SaaS vendor, it can yield significant revenues and long-term customer loyalty. For this approach, companies need to optimize their sales, marketing, and support in a way that allows them to build a relationship with the customer over the customer lifetime. Most SaaS companies fall under this category.
“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.”
Understanding which websites already rank for your keyword gives you valuable insight into the competition, and also how hard it will be to rank for the given term. Are there search advertisements running along the top and right-hand side of the organic results? Typically, many search ads means a high-value keyword, and multiple search ads above the organic results often means a highly lucrative and directly conversion-prone keyword.
Your costs can be lower when you stay away from national campaigns that take a more shotgun approach to your social media advertising efforts. Instead, geotargeting will enable you to conduct regional-, state- and city-level campaigns that will improve your results. That’s because this approach helps to tighten your campaign’s boundaries around your company’s physical location.
If you’re aiming for a steady cost per conversions (also known as Cost Per Acquisition) average, despite the potential challenge in calculating those costs, then Conversion Optimizer may be of help. This strategy works by setting a target Cost per Conversion at campaign level, and then AdWords uses your historical conversion data to optimize your bidding strategy to reach your targeted average.
One way to get a good idea of how your target market might view your industry is to just ask them. Using focus groups, questionnaires, and surveys can help you can gather information on popular businesses with products similar to your own. You’ll also get first-hand information of how customers feel about the products that are already on the market.

"Cloaking" via IP delivery works differently from cloaking via "user agent". While IP address spoofing is harder than user-agent spoofing and more reliable, it is also harder to keep the list of IP addresses used by search engines for their crawlers up-to-date. An outdated list with active crawler IP addresses missing enables the search engines to detect the cloaking and may result in a removal of the site from the search engine's index.

It’s important to remember that online shoppers are humans, and to treat them as such. The examples below show two versions of the same ad for a fake cyber security business. While version A does provide potential customers with information about the company and the services it offers, it fails to address them as people or speak to the challenges or pain points they might be experiencing.
Generic keywords: These are generic words that describe your business as well as other businesses in your niche. They do not necessarily set your business apart from the million other businesses out there and ranking for these keywords is difficult given the immense competition for both paid and organic results. Nevertheless, these terms are likely to be used by your audience in the first stage of searching.
Katey Ferenzi has lived and breathed ecommerce for +10 years. In the mid-2000s, she and her husband started their own online business and successfully exited so they may come to Bigcommerce to teach other SMBs how to do the same. Currently, she's consulting for Jasper PIM, a Product Information Management (PIM) solution focused on unifying back-office operations with front-end shopping experiences for mid-market and enterprise businesses looking to scale.

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.
It doesn’t take a marketing expert to know that marketing is a complex endeavor. With so many moving pieces, it can be hard to decide what you should focus on. What mediums do you prioritize? How do you narrow down your target audience? How do you rank better on search engines? Should you have a social media campaign? And if so, which social media platform should drive that campaign? And where in the world do you even begin to dig into this stuff?
Shakeups. As you analyze your competitive information be on the look out for broad management changes or changes in ownership. This is an indication that major policies and marketing shifts are on the horizon and you should anticipate changes. It may be a good opportunity to court your competitor's star employees. People often change jobs during management shakeups. 

I analyze the story the competitors tell with their landing pages, their site UX, and transparency (reviews, trust). Then I adjust my wireframe, making sure my client’s page can stand up to all that and more. Sometimes all I need is a better visual design than the competitor’s, but often, it is a matter of better explaining the value proposition of the service/product and putting together a more logical flow of elements.”

Unless you have a budget to conduct formal research, its best to use available resources such as news articles, industry journals, analyst reports, the company’s website, marketing collateral, company reports and so forth. You may also want to do a general blog search to find out what their customers’ and others are saying about the company and the products they offer. Networking events and tradeshows also present great opportunities to collect data about your competitors. Your more loyal customers may also share information with you.
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.
Strategic technique used to evaluate outside competitors. The analysis seeks to identify weaknesses and strengths that a company's competitors may have, and then use that information to improve efforts within the company. An effective analysis will first obtain important information from competitors and then based on this information predict how the competitor will react under certain circumstances.

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!
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