The next session I attended was the Competitive Research. I was getting a little tired of all SEM and SEO related topics, so why did I attend this conference? :) Anyway this topic seems to be on how to use the search engines to learn information on your competition. Curious as to what they might say that is worthy of its own session.
First speaker up was Allan Dick, General Manager, Vintage Tub & Bath to speak on competitive research. He covered, (1) who is your competitors online (2) links (3) Google searches and (4) EBay information. He looks first at alexa.com. He then looks at PPC ads, Organic listings and Froogle results to see who is out there. DMOZ or Yahoo directories provide this information as well. Once he finds his competitors he goes to market leap and uses the tools there to compare his competitors versus him. He then jumps over the competitors Web site and reads up on their corporate information and other pages. He also looks up newspaper articles and the company's distributors information. Find out who supplies your competition. 4 Quick Google searches, he selected these search queries to really narrow down his searches. (1) insite (use this to search the content within your competitors site), intitle (this restricts just to see what your competitors are putting in their titles), phone number search and by name. Now Ebay, he called it the forgotten search engine. His company started on EBay, so he researched what his other competitors were doing on EBay. The most interesting part of information is the feedback section. You can see what time and day people left feedback. His rule is about 30% of people leave feedback, so multiple that percentage to figure out the number of sales. So you can then see which items were being sold, and why they are buying it.
Next up, David Williams, Chief Strategist and Co-Founder, 360i - the company that does SEM for Vintage Tub & Bath. Allan came to 360i after the Florida update, he was affected. He then critiqued his clients site. They do very comprehensive keyword research and then optimized the pages to help increase rankings. They then looked at the internal and external links. On topic links and the anchor text in the links. He looks at who is linking to the competitor, which URLs and which IP addresses. Its important to see the anchor text that these external links have as well. He also looks at what it costs to rank well for certain paid listings.
Cam Balzer, Director of Search Strategy, Performics, Inc. focused on the PPC method of learning about your competitors. First thing you need to do is identify the search savvy competitors. Expropriate their keywords from your competitors pages, look at the titles and anchor text (etc). Do the same for PPC and look at the links they are actually using (the link will show you the exact keyword they are bidding for). Based on this information, you can guess how much they are spending on PPC. Then estimate Google CPC. Then you need to figure out how well they are doing in terms of conversion rates and average order value, which gives you an estimate on their ROi. This information gives you data on if they are a savvy competitor, are they focused on ROI. You can then see what it will take to compete.
Bill Tancer, VP Research, of Hitwise went through his product, they monitor the largest worldwide sample of the Internet. They do online competitive intelligence service. I am not going to pitch the product, just check it out at http://www.hitwise.com/. He did a case study on Vintage Tub, so it was interesting. This tool is extremely powerful, data on your competitors that you thought you can never obtain is not obtainable.