One term that gets thrown around a good deal in the SEO community is “competitive research”. Nearly every SEO website, request for proposal (RFP), and outline for optimization services speaks to the valuable task of researching your competition – but what does this really mean?
Traditionally, it’s been about identifying the companies you compete with and trying to reverse engineer their marketing and advertising strategies to your benefit. But more often, what SEO’s are referring to is your competition in search engine results. These may not be the same companies you’ve gone head-to-head with for the past 20 years. In fact, many aren’t companies at all – but rather websites and web pages that simply outrank yours for valuable keyword searches.
Here’s an example. Let’s say you either sell insurance or handle the marketing for an insurance agency in Des Moines. Everyone knows how extremely competitive the car, home, life, business and health insurance industry can be - and you are always trying to stay one step ahead of other local agents and agencies. They are your competition. Day in and day out, it is you against them in making the sale – and seldom does your phone ring because a complete stranger wants to buy insurance.
Now, you understand that someone who heads over to Google.com and searches for “buy insurance in Des Moines” would be a fairly hot lead (to say the least) – wouldn’t you agree? What you might not know is that most of the individuals and companies you’ve been competing with for that potential customer are nowhere to be found in Google’s search results. One might say, they aren’t even your competition…at least not online. Do the search yourself and you will find you’ve got an entire new group of so-called rivals. Wikipedia, Superpages, Virginia.edu (say what?), Kiplinger, Arizona.edu (spammers), KCCI, Des Moines Register, city-data…where are the insurance agents you so politely wave to at the local coffee shop?
From an SEO standpoint, all of the above mentioned websites are your “new competition” and figuring out how to move your agency or webpage ahead of theirs is the task at hand. None of the results I just mentioned seem like a good place to buy auto insurance, so the searcher is left with clicking on a paid advertisement or trying another related search. Imagine the delight had that person found your agency website in the top listings – something like DesMoinesInsuranceExperts.com (note – as of this writing that site doesn’t exist). And imagine your excitement when you answered that phone call and heard, “Yes, may I speak to someone about buying car insurance?”.
The point is, you have competitors both online and offline. If you’ve been in business more than a few months, you likely know who you have to outsell on the street. Now it may be time you did some competitive research online to figure out who’s getting in front of all the locals who are shopping via the web. Often times, getting a leg up on your hidden competitors can have an even larger impact on your company’s bottom line. Happy research!