Oct 1, 2014 113 reads by Navneet Kaushal

Marketers engaged in SEM need to understand what their competitors are up to. The session dealt with time-tested techniques of competitive intelligence.

Moderator: Brad Geddes, Founder, Certified Knowledge (@bgTheory)

Q&A Coordinator: Julie Friedman Bacchini, President, Neptune Moon (@NeptuneMoon)


Christi Olson, Sr Manager of Online Partner Marketing, Expedia (@christijolson)

Matt Van Wagner, President, Find Me Faster (@mvanwagner)

Purna Virji, Director of Communications, Petplan Pet Insurance (@purnavirji)

Christi Olson

Christi Olson’s take on competitive analysis was insightful.

Tear down competition

As a marketer, do not become insights’ island. Rather, encourage others to tear down competitive sites.

She advised to engage members related to varied fields like engineering, product, marketing and finance outside your organization. Bring a few examples of competitors’ landing pages, develop themes and have team competition.

Matt Van Wagner

Matt Van Wagner could not attend the session, so Brad Geddes presented his representation.

Competitive analysis

The first step you need to take is competitive analysis. Study them; understand their weaknesses and strengths, and their lunch before they eat yours. Analyze what they are doing now, what they are likely to do and when they will likely do it.

Use can use free as well paid tools for the analysis. Focus on display ads while researching other places as well. Take into account ethical considerations.

Things marketers need to know

Wagner segregated the analysis into four points:

What they say

– assess competitors’ content and determine how it needs to be countered

What they pay

– is their marketing budget more or less than you

– are they increasing or decreasing budget

Where they play

– places where their content is appearing: search, display, TV, print, radio

What they’ll do after today

– try to get their insight into their marketing plans

Go beyond the obvious

Rather than spending time on obvious questions such as the keywords they are buying or the budget of bidding, try to get answers of strategic questions. These could be like:

  • How big is opportunity?
  • What they are up to?
  • How profitable the competitors are?

Using competitive analysis

It can be used for:

  • benchmarking
  • forecasting
  • forensics

Drill in deep

Using the example of lobstergram.com Wagner advised to drill in deep for specific site and publishers. Research ads; spend data and trends for display advertisers.

Research hard for specific pages that can be helpful for tactical discovery of new placements for GDN, or provide opportunities for direct buys.

Compare competitors’ success in various display networks

You need to find about the advertisers’ success in various display networks. Using an example, he showed that an enterprise was spending $3587 for a direct buy and about the same amount on GDN.

Bad behavior by advertisers

Advertisers may use unethical and unapproved means like:

  • Ad double serving
  • Not adhering to rules
  • Illegal trademark use
  • Duplicating content
  • Quality score sniffing

Tools and resources

He suggested resources such as

  • DomainTools.com
  • Adobe Acrobat Reader (snapshot of sites)
  • Link analysis tools like MOZ, SEMRush, Majestic, etc.
  • Screaming From to spider through sites

Analyze domain portfolios

Wagner advised to get a snapshot of current online presence and follow it buy buying a domain report and doing a link analysis.

Marketers must keep a close watch on portfolio changes. He suggested to:

  • Look at newly acquired domains by competitors as these may drop hints about new product launches.
  • Conclude where they will launch new products via TLDs (.com, .de, .au).
  • Ping frequently as new domains may be parked or have inactive status until launch.
  • Set up twitter and news alerts on new product names.
  • Check USPTO.gov for related trademark applications.

Domain registered by competitors for longer periods may indicate about the product, services and sites central to their long term online strategy.

Some domains that you did not know may exist as well. These may be used for offline purposes as well as for lead fulfilment for direct mail, TV, radio and other media.

Free Research Methods

Wagner came up with free research methods

  • Search on competitor’s URL and terms
  • Set an eye on twitter
  • Set mews alerts on competitors’ name
  • Conference Presentations
  • Read SEC fillings

Digging out interesting things

While engaged in research, you may also discover interesting information that may come handy. It may include:

  • Profitability on paid search (press releases)
  • Competitor developing whole new site (link analysis)
  • Corporate priorities and investment (SEC 8K/10 Filings)
  • Buzz about board room romances and double crossing

Wrapping up

Wagner concluded by advising people to be sensible, be aware of intelligence limitations and doing things in ethical manner. Marketers must not be obsessive about competitors and spend more time on improving themselves.

Digital intelligence has blind spots and marketers may be forced to do manual searches on keywords and do geographic ad presentation.

Golden rule of marketing is to keep to ethical way of doing things and resist the temptation on clicking on other people’s ads.

Purna Virji

Purna came up with sample questions on keywords and CPC’s of competitors:

  • What keywords are they bidding on?
  • Are there longer tail keywords you are missing?
  • What is their average CTC and budget?
  • Do they bid on competitors’ keywords?

Top level overview

  • Spans large number of competitors
  • Easy to read and digest

Drilled down view

  • Delve deeper into select competitors
  • Closely examine their strategy

Discover trends

Run CI reports frequently as it is the best way to discover trends.

Purna tried to take home the point with a few examples.

You find non-direct competitors using review extensions which no one in your space is using. These can be worth testing.

Some competitors may be offering free trials in peak months. You may consider implementing to stay competitive.

If you don’t target several keywords bid on competitors, you may decide to expand your reach.

If competitors are the only ones with a strong mobile presence, you may tailor mobile ads to compete.


You need to prioritize action items for testing. She suggested AdAlysis for testing.

Q & A

Christie came up with four tips for landing page teardowns and competitive intelligence:

Select a few relevant competitors.

Understand your and competitors’ value proposition.

Decide what elements and at stage of the funnel to test.

Develop user focused scenarios.

She also advised marketers to start with researching a few core competitors and expand as bandwidth allows.

Marketers must consider who they think their competitors are to who they are competing within the auction.

You have to decide where to optimize. It could be home page, category page, search results page, product page and check out.

Price sensitive consumers want to see the discount clearly called out on the website. By calling out the before and after sale price with the discount percentage, the marketer may get an x% increase in conversion.

Competitive Research For SEM: #SMX New York 2014, Day 1!, 4.0 out of 5 based on 4 ratings
Navneet Kaushal
Navneet Kaushal is the Editor-in-Chief of PageTraffic Buzz. A leading search strategist, Navneet helps clients maintain an edge in search engines and the online media. Navneet's expertise has established PageTraffic Buzz as one of the well know digital marketing blog.
Navneet Kaushal
Navneet Kaushal
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