In the SEO Battle, Who’s Your Real Competition?

The ClickZ Live New York event in April 2014 featured a number of interesting panels—especially the 5 Spying Strategies You Can Use Today to Dominate Your Competition event. The main point of the panel was to note that of course you have competition online, but you probably don’t have a clue who your real rivals are. Regardless of your industry, it’s crucial to understand the competitive landscape as it appears in aggregation. Forget your old competitive approaches, ditch the assumptions, and understand that your keyword competitors are probably flying under your radar.

The marketing director shouts out the windowAsk any business manager or even fledging search engine optimization (SEO) company who the keyword competitors are, and they’re probably wrong. During the panel, it was revealed that a shocking 15 percent of businesses cited Amazon as their prime competitor, Overstock came in at 11 percent and Walmart at nine percent. These are all incredibly big name retailers, but they’re probably not your main competition. This often happens with both B2C and B2B companies, because there’s a shadow cast from the brick and mortar days.

Variety is the Spice of SEO

Since you’re likely looking at competition in aggregate form for the first time, this faux pas makes sense. However, if you don’t know your competition, your competitive analysis (keyword discovery, content marketing strategy, backlinking) won’t be on track. Before designing any strategies, you need to know exactly who your competition is. This will vary business to business and product to product.

If you segment keywords by product or business line, you get better insight. For example, a big retailer that segments “groceries” into keywords can see a huge difference in competition than when they segment “shoes.” They can then fine tune their strategy.

Taking on Google

Bringing Google into the mix—as you must—further complicates things. You have “search competition,” which wasn’t the case when you had brick and mortar establishments where customers came in to make purchases. Now you have “currency in click,” where customers are either clicking links (and hopefully buying) on your site, or they’re going elsewhere.

Anything on a page that catches a customer’s eyes (and clicks) is competition. More and more, that means the direct competition is Google. You’re competing with Google for Knowledge Graph Results, news, images, videos, and you have to focus on upping the competition via SERPs. This doesn’t mean go crazy with videos for every single keyword in order to monopolize Google’s video real estate space, but you should be fluent in the competitive landscape in order to avoid missing any opportunities.

Change Your Thinking

There are over three billion online searches daily, which means a vast pool for digital marketers—but also lots of competition. Get rid of that old thinking because it doesn’t work with online competition. Who the competition includes, how you look at them, and what to do to compete needs to be digitally-focused. If you don’t start competing to rank on Google, you’re going to be left in the dust.

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