Competitive analyses help you evaluate your competition’s strategies to determine their strengths and weaknesses relative to your brand. When it comes to digital marketing and SEO, however, there are so many ranking factors and best practices to consider that can be hard to know where to begin. Which is why my colleague, Ben Estes, created a competitive analysis checklist (not dissimilar to his wildly popular technical audit checklist) that I’ve souped up for the Moz community.
Set priorities. Once goals are established, it’s important to determine key priorities. For instance, if the primary goal is revenue growth, the priority should be executing initiatives that drive conversions, such as keyword or audience expansion. On the other hand, if the primary goal is driving profit, then the priority should be focused on initiatives such as search query report (SQR) mining for negative keywords and other forms of optimization.
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.
Once you have determined which keywords you should focus on, use them repeatedly in your content. Use an Excel sheet to keep an organized eye on your usage by tracking how many times you use each of your selected terms in your content. Why? The latest Google algorithm update is penalizing pages whose anchor text is over-optimized, and having an updated list of the terms you have already used will help you to vary them smartly.
Competitive analysis. Sometimes, a stakeholder identifies the competition in the PPC space incorrectly. Competitive analysis helps me learn who the competition actually is and what they are doing to be successful in terms of bidding, keyword targeting and creative messaging. The competitive analysis helps me determine how aggressive I need to be in my account management policies in order to successfully compete in the marketplace.
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.
Of course you don’t have to achieve all of these things in the headline of the ad! In fact, in the case of sitelinks and ad extensions, that’s not possible by definition. There are many parts to an ad that allow you to achieve all the above tips and still be highly relevant to what the person is searching for (the keyword!). Let’s break down sections of ad copy that you can use to show off your small business and attract leads from PPC. These are the basic components of your ad copy in AdWords according to Google’s length limits.
We at SEMrush continuously monitor Google’s updates, as the search engine rarely stands still. While testing the updates that are most likely to impact advertisers, we have come to the conclusion that Google is moving in the direction of “autopiloted” campaigns. The message is clear, the more you delegate to Google Ads’ artificial mind - bids, placements, banner sizes, etc. - the more benefit you and your customers will get from the campaign.
To keep things simple, you may try IP based redirects on your server. You can setup simple redirects based on geolocation, using .htaccess or httpd.conf on your Apache server (mod_geoip). The GeoIP API (MaxMind) will enable you to quickly configure your server to divert traffic according to the originating IP. Your web analytics and optimization should do the rest. All you need to make sure it that you have a couple of landing pages to test your assumptions on.

For example, assume your search ad generated 5,000 impressions in one day, of which 100 visitors have come to your site, and three have converted for a total profit (not revenue!) of $300. In this case, a single visitor for that keyword is worth $3 to your business. Those 5,000 impressions in 24 hours could generate a click-through rate of between 18-36% with a #1 ranking (see the Slingshot SEO study for more on potential click-through rates), which would mean 900-1800 visits per day, at $3 each, or between 1 and 2 million dollars per year. No wonder businesses love search marketing!
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.
This checklist is broken out into sections that reflect key elements from our Balanced Digital Scorecard. As previously mentioned, this checklist is to help you identify opportunities (and possibly areas not worth your time and budget). But this competitive analysis is not prescriptive in and of itself. It should be used as its name suggests: to analyze what your competition’s “edge” is.
In Google Analytics you can do this by using the same path we detailed before: Traffic Sources > Search > Organic > Advanced filter. Enter a specific keyword or use the RegEx generator to cover all the possibilities that you have in mind. Make sure that you create at least two advanced filter: one that includes all your branded keywords, and another one that excludes them.
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:
The unique advantage of PPC marketing is that Google (and other ad networks) don’t just reward the highest bidders for that ad space, they reward the highest-quality ads (meaning the ads that are most popular with users). Essentially, Google rewards good performance. The better your ads, the greater your click-through rates and the lower your costs.
This section serves as a summary and analysis for all of the research you've done so far. You'll review all the aspects of your competition's business and determine whether they are strengths or weaknesses. List their strengths and advantages under "Strengths" in the worksheet. Note down how equipped you are to deal with these strengths. Can you do better than them or would it serve you better to outdo them elsewhere?
You should invest in having a well-structured filing system, both in the office and digitally. Use neatly organised folders with clear and relevant names on them for all of your documents, bills and emails. By doing this, you can free up hours of the day to work on important tasks, such as drumming up more business through a new and exciting marketing strategy. You will also be setting an example for your team by having an organised office and computer.
Then, within your campaigns, you will have your ad groups. Ad groups should be formed based on themes of keywords. For example, all keywords that relate to dark chocolate could go into one ad group (ie. Dark chocolate bars, dark chocolate for sale online, best dark chocolate shops, where to buy dark chocolate, dark chocolate with almonds etc.). Again, keep your ad groups to a minimum when you are starting. You don’t need more than 6-8 ads within each campaign. Try to limit the amount of keywords per ad group to 10 to 20 per ad group. The keywords will be the trigger for the PPC ads that will appear in searches containing those words.
The SEO Checker analyze the title, description, h1/h2/h3/h4/h5/h6 tags, their correct filling, and their relation with the content from the web page. We look at the size of all the content, and if all content files can be loaded and exist. We look for all the keywords on the page, how many times they appear, and if they appear in the title, description, or h1/h2/h3/h4/h5/h6 tags. We analyze your social media status, and look if you use the properly social media meta tags. Also we look for the site usability, site reputation, site speed, and much more.
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