Let's say your site contains iphone app reviews.  Your goal for the 4th quarter of 2011 was to increase your website traffic and conversions by 8% compared to the third quarter.  The results?  +10%.  Time to do the happy dance?  Not so fast, my friend!

Just take a look at overall web search interest in this market in the graph below...

iphone app reviews.png

This is a common point of failure of many site owners. They analyze their data in the silo of their Web analytics tool. This can cause you to misjudge what is truly going on because you are lacking the context of your industry ecosystem. The free and easily-accessible tool that I used above hints that your industry may have grown by about +20% in the fourth quarter. And it just may be that your #1 competitor increased +30% during that period. So, you're doing the happy dance when you really need a tissue.

This is where competitive intelligence analysis needs to enter into your Web marketing strategy. If all you do is analyze your own data, you have an incomplete picture. Now that's no way to make decisions, is it? What about that site or keyword that is sending all of that valuable traffic to your competitor's site, the one where you are invisible or don't know about or are unwillingly to raise your paid search budget for?  What about that keyword that is quickly rising in interest among searchers that you have no target page for in your SEO campaign?  What about the fact that your industry is really on the rise in Canada and your competitors don't know that?  This is where knowing what's really happening on the Web in your industry as a whole is golden.

Thankfully, we are given many free and paid tools to get our hands on this valuable data. From Google Trends for Websites, Insights for Search and Ad Planner to Compete and Hitwise, there is an ever-increasing arsenal of competitive intelligence tools from which to choose from that enable you to do valuable research like the following...

Traffic Analysis

Valuable information about site and industry traffic that can contain insights to inform your marketing strategy, including other sites that visitors to your site visited, the sites they went to after visiting your site, the search terms that visitors to competitors' sites use and the websites that send your competitors traffic. Why might information like this be helpful?  Well, you may make some interesting observations with things like your audience, their experience with your site, the language they are using to navigate and sites that you may be missing valuable traffic. They can inform your marketing strategy in ways that only you are savvy enough to find out.

Search and Keyword Analysis

In the hands of the right analyst, you can get some insights that will keep you steps ahead of your competition. You can compare your brand name to your competitor's and see locations where you are and/or aren't more popular.  Maybe your industry is on the rise in a particular state.  Who's taking advantage of that more? If you know what's going on, you can be the "first-mover."

Yes, I know you're buying your main keywords in the paid search auctions, but are you covering the whole keyword landscape that would be profitable for your business? Are your competitors? How about the fastest-rising searches? There may be new or trending interests that you don't yet know about among your prospects that can give you insights on where to direct your efforts. You can use this data to tap into the minds and hearts of your target prospects and come up with questions, observations and ideas to test for growing your business.

Audience Analysis

Why spend money finding irrelevant sites with your media campaigns? Tools like Hitwise and Ad Planner give you the ability to identify websites used by the audience you're interested in and find out which audiences are using certain websites. You will find insights when comparing and contrasting these audiences.  Then for your ads, you can just match them, place them and test them where your desired audience is most likely to see them.


It's great to know how your business has changed, but it's even better to know how it's changed in light of your industry landscape and compared to your competitors. This will give you knowledge to see where you are or could be ahead or behind, and give you valuable advantages over your competition.

March 31, 2012

Mike Fleming specializes in Analytics and Paid Search for Pole Position Marketing, a leading search engine optimization and marketing firm helping businesses grow since 1998. You can follow Mike on Twitter at @SEMFlem. Mike enjoys playing, writing and recording music along with playing basketball to get his workout in. He resides in Canton, Ohio with a girl who threw a snowball at him one day…then married him.

Mike and the team at Pole Position are available to help clients expand their online presence and grow their businesses. Contact them via their site or by phone at 866-685-3374.


"it's even better to know how it's changed in light of your industry landscape and compared to your competitors. "

"There may be new or trending interests that you don't yet know about among your prospects that can give you insights on where to direct your efforts."

Great point! If you can stay ahead of the curve your website is more likely to "own" up and coming keywords. This gives you the opportunity to reach prospects first.

I've been suspicious of this for a while. I usually judge my traffic off of the amount of phone calls I get. It doesn't make sense for traffic to go up and phone calls to go down.

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