Thanks for sharing your template file. It will help focussing on the right things right from the beginning. I checked out SEMrush to get a comparison of the keywords our competition is using. The results are poor basically. Its about sites in Switzerland for keywords and competitors we know since years. The data these tools show you is not at all reflecting the actual situtation here. I guess they perform well in the US/Canada, by far less good in rest of the world...
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).
Once you know your target audience, you can easily aim your advertisements towards areas where your target audience would be. Bonobos, an online male clothing store, did a great job of this when they were launching their Guide Shops pop-ups. The “store” would serve purely as a try on and styling area. Once you ordered clothes, they’d be sent to your house directly.
In online environments, ad servers look at a user’s IP address to figure out their ‎location.  Behind the scenes, the ad server maintains a large database that has ‎every IP address already mapped to its country, state, and postal code.  So, when a ‎request comes in, the ad server strips the IP address from the header of the ‎request, queries this table, finds the necessary location data, and then picks an ad ‎that matches that criteria.  ‎
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.
Do they have separate marketing messages for different segments? Sometimes, you might see a stark difference between how your competitor markets their business for one type of customer versus how they present themselves to another type of customer. For example, if you're trying to sell services as a math tutor to high school students who are struggling to pass their math subjects, you'll be making a completely different pitch than you would to those students who need additional help with their SAT math so that they could get into prestigious universities. Your message to the struggling students might be closer to "I'll help you finally pass your math tests!" While your message to the other market will be similar to "I'll help you get into the school of your dreams!" Also, be sure to note if your competitor does something similar with their own customer segments. 
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.
Other EmployeesYour employees working in other areas of the company also become exposed to competitive information. They interact with others in their industry area and often learn what your rival is doing or hear gossip and rumors. Make sure your entire staff knows they should share any information concerning the competition immediately. Former employees of a competitor can provide you with insight on: your competitor's new products, marketing strategies, how-to improve productivity and employ other resources more effectively, and what your competitor's general working environment is like.  
Although this process can be tedious and time consuming, it is essential in identifying where your competition may be surpassing you as well as what advantages you have over your competition. Developing takeaways will help identify these strengths and weaknesses. From there, you can improve your marketing plan by putting greater influence on the features your company offers and finding ways to implement features your company doesn’t offer that seem crucial to gaining customers.
SpyFu displays side-by-side data on your competitors' paid and organic search results, so you can easily see where it's more cost-effective to bid on a particular keyword as opposed to trying to rank for  it organically. That way you can use your time more efficiently by writing content around those keywords that drive a lot of traffic but are more expensive to bid on.
Customer preference of products is only part of the analysis. There are internal operational factors which can provide a competitive edge as well. Your competitors' products may not have the high quality of yours, but they might offer free delivery; or their employees might be extremely motivated and committed to gaining market share. You need to learn how they are doing on the inside. Some factors to consider:

But while many marketers understand the value of geotargeting, not many are ‎likely to understand how the technology behind it works.  Having a firm grasp on ‎the technology though is actually critical in this case, as different solutions take ‎different approaches to the problem of determining the physical location of a ‎consumer, and the simplest solution is usually the least accurate.  Just as traditional ‎strategies don’t always translate well to digital, many desktop strategies don’t ‎translate well to mobile.  ‎

More and more consumers are finding businesses online through search engines. How do they find them? By using keywords! Fortunately, you can take advantage of this consumer habit by optimizing your website around the keywords that are relevant to your business and which keywords consumers are using to find you online. This will increase your chances of getting found by people searching with those keywords, which will drive more and better quality traffic to your business’ website.

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."
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.
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.
Great article. This ties in perfectly with the article I just published yesterday. This checklist in conjunction with my competitor analysis, that is more based on keyword and traffic data, will really round out the research stage of your campaign. Taking a deep look at a competitors website just like you would do your own, can be a valuable exercise that drives strategy.

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.


Has anyone tried to use Changetower (https://changetower.com) to monitor for new competitive keyword changes? I can seem to figure out a way to monitor for specific keywords that my clients wants to get alerted for, just general changes or changes in a certain area of the page… If anyone knows anything about Changetower or another site to recommend for monitoring keywords? Thanks!
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.”
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.
Now as searchers start to gather information, they begin to refine their search and start using more specific terms. Then finally they begin to use very specific terms. They have switched from information gathering to a transactional mode. If someone searches on the term “canon eos mark III,” what does that suggest about their intent? That they have done their research and are ready to buy. So do you send them to your home page? Absolutely not. You need to send them to your product page that has the product, its features, maybe related products, the price, and most importantly the “buy now” button. They don’t need more information; they’re probably price shopping and are looking for a trusted source with the best price.
Take advantage of location extensions and call extensions to make it as easy as possible for local prospects to contact and reach you. When location extensions are enabled for your search ads, prospects in your specified, targeted areas will see your street address. A call extension, alternatively, provides either your phone number or a direct link to a phone line. Landing pages are often referred to as the leakiest part of the marketing funnel, and extensions such as these help cut out the middle ground and prevent the lead leakage.

Keyword strategies are essential to developing winning search engine marketing campaigns. Your keyword strategy should involve selecting high-performing keywords that drive relevant traffic to your business. Choosing the right keywords for advertising can make all the difference in your campaigns, determining how well your advertisements rank on Google and other search engine platforms.
Use the search intent of a keyword to help determine what sort of page it should be used on. Informational keywords should be used on pages optimized for a branding campaign with content such as how to guides or product comparison articles. Avoid using these pages to target more specific in-market keywords. Those searchers have no use for a how-to guide or product comparisons. Use those to target your product pages that include specs, reviews, options and, most importantly, price and the "buy now" button. Of course, the “buy now” button could also be the email sign-up page or contact information form, depending on the type of goals you’re targeting.
Using negative keywords in PPC campaigns is an often overlooked but highly effective strategy. These are keywords that you add to your campaign that you don’t want to target. Adding negative keywords will let Google know that it should not show your campaigns in searches that include these words. This is a crucial step in order to make sure that you don’t waste money by displaying your ad for irrelevant searches.
Whether you’ve heard a little about PPC marketing and are curious to learn more, or you already know that you want to use PPC to market your business, but aren’t sure where to start, you’ve come to the right place! This is the first lesson in PPC University, a set of three guided courses that will teach you everything you need to know about PPC and how to make it work for you.
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.
Another method is to track your competitors’ links. Content marketing is often done in unison with link building. Your competitors most likely create content on blogging sites. Within the articles they submit, there are external backlinks that point back to their own websites. Those links can be followed like a trail of breadcrumbs to track what they’ve been up to. Moz and Majestic are tools that are great for doing this. Here’s a look at what Moz found when I looked up Easel.ly, an infographics company.

For our clients, we typically gain a few backlinks at the beginning of an SEO campaign just from this data alone. It also serves as a long-term guide for link building in the months to come as getting links from high-authority sites takes time and resources. The main benefit is that we have a starting point full of low-hanging fruit from which to base our initial outreach.
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