Dave Chaffey - Insights Director at ClickThrough Marketing, The Search Conversion Experts

This month, Dr Dave Chaffey explains why true online competitor analysis requires a much broader approach, and how by segmenting sites appearing for your target keywords you can open up opportunities for additional, untapped traffic.
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I think there’s a tendency for blinkered thinking about online competitors. We naturally think of our ‘direct’ competitors from the offline world. From a search engine marketing perspective I think it’s important to look more broadly at all competitors within the search results pages (SERPs) who are competition for traffic.

So who are your competitors? Imagine the range of competitors within the search results page for a multichannel retailer. The competitors for search traffic may include:

  • Known direct competitors
  • Online pureplay competitors
  • Competitors in other countries
  • Review sites for products
  • Affiliate sites
  • Niche publishers
  • Informational sites e.g. Wikipedia.
  • Directories

You can use a standard ranking position tool like ‘Advanced Web Ranking’ to review your online marketplace competitors. First identify your main strategic keyphrases, then for each country you compete in, use it to compile a list of the top 10 sites in the search listings and then categorise them.

Understanding the categories of online competitors which form your online marketplace or ecosystem is essential both to compete, but also to identify opportunities. Most companies will know their own performance ranking in the SERPs, but they won’t necessarily have reviewed the other types of sites that are successful in the SERPS – it likely won’t be restricted to direct competitors.

By contacting a complementary website that also ranks for a search phrase you are targeting, you may be able to strike an advertising deal, or create a partner arrangement to extend reach and awareness of your brands. For example, if you find a review site is performing well in the SERPs there may be opportunities for advertising or remarketing through the Google Display Network if the publisher uses Google AdSense; creating an affiliate link; a sponsorship arrangement for part of the site or editorial content or tools, perhaps on their blog.

So think beyond ‘direct’ competitors when conducting your competitive intelligence audit, as it may throw up new opportunities for partnering. Perhaps this should be called a ‘co-opetition analysis’ (co-operative competition), but I don’t think that mouthful will catch on!

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About the author:

An acknowledged expert on digital marketing, Dave was recognised in 2004 by the Chartered Institute of Marketing as one of “50 marketing ‘gurus’ worldwide who have shaped the future of Marketing“. Dave is also author of five best-selling books including Internet Marketing: Strategy, Implementation and Practice; and eMarketing eXcellence.