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Smarter Online Marketing Requires Intelligence: Opportunity Research Basics

Posted on Nov 26th, 2012
Written by Lee Odden
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  • Smarter Online Marketing Requires Intelligence: Opportunity Research Basics
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    online marketing auditsLong before an army goes into battle, intelligence organizations have been busy collecting and analyzing information about the opposing threat. The right information and insight could lead to a much more advantageous outcome. Inaccurate information or an absence of competitive research can lead to disaster.

    In the competitive world of content marketing and optimization, it’s essential for companies of all sizes and industries to understand their online marketplace in order to gain a business advantage.

    Developing a competitive strategy is essential in today’s dynamic search and social web and an effective approach starts by understanding both the broader Search Landscape and internal Website SEO Readiness.

    The approach to competitive search and social media research can vary widely by situation because no business is the same. It’s essentially always going to involve some kind of information capture, assessment and comparison.

    A new business entering a competitive market with companies that have mature Internet marketing programs may need to uncover key weaknesses in their competitor’s marketing efforts in order to compete “David and Goliath” style.  In a situation with companies that have very similar levels of Internet marketing resources and effort, competitive research may uncover weaknesses or unrealized opportunities that can create advantage.

    In all cases, an understanding of the competitive search and social media landscape will help content marketers differentiate to better attract and engage with customers.

    For example, one entrepreneur in the self-help area of memory and IQ improvement wanted an online marketing program that would help achieve top visibility on Google for the word “brain.  With a new website and nearly 700 million competing search results for the search term, a first glance evaluation indicated the outcome to be unlikely with any reasonable budget and time frame.

    Further research into the search landscape to identify competitors did not reveal the list of online puzzle and learning websites the entrepreneur considered “competition”, but a mix of Wikipedia, University (Harvard), industry publication and resource websites with large numbers of web pages and a long history of search relevance for the topic.

    In the search and social media marketing world, the competition isn’t always who you think.  What companies need to understand is that online competition isn’t just businesses competing for market share in the business world, but information and content published from a variety of sources that compete for search engine and social media users’ attention.

    In the case of the “brain” customer, thoughtful analysis of the search and social media landscape revealed popular forums and social networking groups focused on topics related to what the target website visitor would find useful. A more diverse, yet relevant keyword mix proved to be more attainable and more importantly, a better reflection of the interests amongst the target community.

    A larger group of keyword targets promoted through the optimization of content and social media channels resulted in the entrepreneur’s website reaching over 300,000 unique visitors per month and a decision to change the business model to advertising over product sales because of the volume of traffic. Had the entrepreneur focused only on “brain” without conducting competitive and marketplace research, they might still be selling just a few learning games per month instead of a thriving website supported by an active community and strong search engine traffic.

    Of course, the research that goes into developing an aggressive search and online marketing strategy goes beyond these basics. There are 5 audits we use for developing a more effective approach to dominating the search and social web including: topic/keywords audit, technical SEO audit, on/off site content audit, social media audit and a linking audit. More on those in my next post.

    Excerpt with permission from Optimize: How to Attract and Engage More Customers by Integrating SEO, Social Media and Content Marketing, published by Wiley.