If the SaaS world feels like a blur these days, it’s not just you. SaaS products and services have proliferated. Product categories have gotten more crowded. A lot of their features and functionality have started to overlap. The subscription economy has made it easier to switch to competing products. The marketplace has turned into a competitive high-stakes, “winner-takes-all” environment.
As I consult and train people on Internet marketing, I typically ask whether keyword research is a strategic function or a tactical one. Often people think it’s tactical because of the tedious nature of the work. I submit it is not only strategic but also foundational to all marketing channels you will use. If you take the time up front to outline a killer keyword strategy, you will find your campaigns will be higher performing and more successful. In this column, I will outline seven tips for developing a killer keyword strategy you can use to take your campaigns to a higher level.
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.
Many marketers experience this issue during PPC campaigns: They’re attracting the attention of their audience and driving traffic with their ads, yes—but those website and landing page visits aren’t resulting in the amount of conversions they would have expected. If you are also experiencing this, your ads may be targeting consumers who aren’t quite in the decision stage of their buyer’s journey through the use of too many top-of-the-funnel (TOFU) keywords in your ad copy.
Once you’ve established some broad categories you should now look at direct competitors to your product. These include any company that sells a very similar or identical product or service in the same footprint as your organisation. For example; if your company sells Cable TV service, you would only list your competitors as those offering a similar service that your customers can also purchase. If the competitor’s service does not extend to your company’s geographical footprint, there may be no point including this competitor in your analysis. Their product offering however may be interesting and you may include it in a Product Comparison paper.
As of 2017, there are over 5,000 products in the martech sphere alone competing for business in complex and overlapping ways. Some companies leverage their expertise and resources to enter new markets. Salesforce is a great example; look at the number of martech categories it’s listed in. With so much competition, SaaS companies can't win on features alone; they must win on brand and customer experience.
This is one of the major reasons why organisation in a start-up is essential. You will spend less time procrastinating and more time achieving goals and completing client tasks. Spend time every day organising your digital folders and your physical folders before you start working. This will ensure that there are no distractions throughout the day and you can complete all the important tasks on time and within budget.
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.
Below, you can find our suggested stages for implementing your keyword strategy, specifically if you are trying to get a newer business with a branded service / product to rank higher in an industry with competitors who have already established a presence in the main search engines. We leave it up to you to decide when it is best to move to each stage. In our opinion, what works for SMEs that need to boost their presence on the web is to develop a keyword strategy that starts out general, without worrying too much about competitors. This strategy can then evolve over time to include more and more branded keywords as well as aiming for some SERPs of better-known competitors.
This report also helps drive our editorial calendar, since we often find keywords and topics where we need to create new content to compete with our competitors. We take this a step further during our content planning process, analyzing the content the competitors have created that is already ranking well and using that as a base to figure out how we can do it better. We try to take some of the best ideas from all of the competitors ranking well to then make a more complete resource on the topic.
To give you an extra boost, we’re also giving away two landing-page templates designed especially for PPC campaigns. These templates have powered hundreds of successful PPC campaigns, and with a little customization (some coding’s required if you’re not a LeadPages® customer), they can do the same for you. Click below to download them now, and we’ll talk about why they work and how to use them in a bit:
Google is constantly refining and adding new tools to AdWords, so remaining active with your PPC strategies is critical if you want to beat out your competition. There’s never a set-it-and-forget-it approach that you can take–as much as one might wish–so it’s important that you test, analyze, re-test, and repeat to find out what is working for you and what is not. Also, keep in mind that while some strategies might work wonders for a particular business or industry, they may not be as effective with yours. Experiment with different approaches, but don’t be too quick to abandon ones that don’t show immediate results. Some investments require time to show their return.
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.
Estimated Costs: Creating content to adequately target specific keywords will require varying amounts of time, money, and effort. In some situations, you might find that targeting a certain keyword also allows you to SEO your landing page at the same time. So be on the lookout for shortcuts that might make ranking for a keyword more cost-efficient than it would otherwise be. That’s how you can find real money-makers!
To determine your company's market share on a percentage basis, thefollowing 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:
It simplified the ways that an organization can compete into four: cost leadership, differentiation, the focus on cost, and the focus on differentiation. Since the inception of Five Forces there has been a lot of discussion about how helpful the categories are, but it seems to be part of everyone’s strategy and competitive toolbox, especially for MBAs.
Annual ReportsIf your competitor is a publicly-held company, many of its reports to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission are available on the SEC-Edgar Web site. Annual reports provide financial information, including sales volume, revenue increases, and their total market share. 10-K reports provide still more detail, and are supplemented by the quarterly 10-Qs. 8-Ks show significant events such as acquisitions and board membership changes when they occur between 10-K and 10-Q filings. Annual reports from privately-held corporations are sometimes available through friends, relatives, and business acquaintances who own stock in a competitor's company.
Volume. The number of searches for that phrase each month. What's a decent volume? It depends on your industry. If you're in a niche industry, like compliance, 100 monthly searches might be as good as it gets. If you offer something with more broad appeal, like furniture, you could expect to see hundreds of thousands of searches each month. Whatever the case, aim for higher volumes, but know that the higher the volume, the more difficult it will likely be to stand out among your competitors. Which brings us to the next number...
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).
No matter how marketing-savvy your company may be, you can always learn more about your customers, especially when it comes to personalizing your advertising. That’s where geotargeting can again be beneficial. The information received from geolocation can help a brand determine where a consumer is looking so it can better tailor events, products, and services to those consumer interests in the near future.
People are no longer shocked to find elements of personalization embedded into various aspects of advertising, and in fact, have even come to expect it. Think about it this way: When it comes to marketing emails, which are you more likely to open and read—the one addressed to “Dear Customer” featuring generic copy on topics that aren’t relevant to you? Or are you more likely to engage with the email addressed to your name that includes links to blog posts relevant to the industry you work in, as well as items you might like based on your previous purchases? That’s right—you’re going to open and read the email that’s tailored to you.
If your competitors are using a social network that you may not be on, it's worth learning more about how that platform may be able to help your business, too. To determine if a new social media platform is worth your time, check your competitor's engagement rates on those sites. First, visit the following sites to see if your competition has an account on these platforms:
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.
3. Mapping keywords to the right landing pages. One way to insure you get the best results from your keyword campaigns is to make sure there is very high relevance between the keywords you use and the associated landing pages. This is a very important principle. What happens when you click on an organic listing or a PPC add from a SERP (search engine results page) and the content has little to zero keywords on that page that you used to search on? Right, you bolt and head back and click on another link. Make sure your landing pages are optimized to handle your keyword traffic to make them relevant.
Geographic targeting allows your ads to appear in the locations that you choose: country, city, areas within a country or city, a radius around a location, or location groups. Geo targeting helps you focus your ad campaign on the locations where you’ll find the right customers, and restrict it in locations where you don’t, which could help increase your ROI. Right geographic region can significantly help you optimize your campaign for better results. Identify countries, states, regions, or areas where your ad campaign can perform well.
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.
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.
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:
Remember: The idea of a competitive analysis isn't to overly focus on the competition but to understand where your company stands in the marketplace and identify opportunities to further differentiate. At the end of the day, a focus on the customer will serve your company far more than a focus on the competition. Done well, a competitive analysis can help you find ways to outplay the competition by better serving customers — theirs and yours.
In this example, competitor #1 is rated higher than competitor #2 on product innovation ability (7 out of 10, compared to 4 out of 10) and distribution networks (6 out of 10), but competitor #2 is rated higher on customer focus (5 out of 10). Overall, competitor #1 is rated slightly higher than competitor #2 (20 out of 40 compared to 15 out of 40). When the success factors are weighted according to their importance, competitor #1 gets a far better rating (4.9 compared to 3.7).
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.
It works like this – if there is an IP address the company wants to locate, they ping it from a few of their servers, for which they already know the location. A ping is just a way to test if a computer can connect, and how long it takes to do so, but doesn’t transmit any meaningful data. Then, by looking at the time it takes each server to connect, it can establish a shared point or origin, and thereby physically locate the user. It uses the public IP locations to validate their approach and check for anomalies in network latency which would lead to bad data.
"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.
Ad text plays an important role in the success of your ads. It is the form of marketing communication that advertisers can use to promote their product or service on search platforms. An effective ad text consists at least one of your core keyword, attractive discounts and promotion and a call to action. The quality score of your ad depends on multiple factors and your ad text is one of them. Your ad text should be unique and appealing. Include discount amount in your ad copy and also add a strong call to action that can compel searchers to click on your ads. Use action words like buy now, order now, resister today or sign up here. Include one of your keyword in your ad text and match your ad to your landing page.
Some examples of typical insights from this document would be the average number of referring domains that our competitors have and how that relates to our own backlink profile. If we are ahead of our competitors regarding backlinks, content creation might be the focal point of the campaign. If we are behind our competitors in regards to backlinks, we know that we need to start a link building campaign as soon as possible.