Sun Tzu’s wisdom in The Art of War is as true today as it was in 500 B.C.
Competitive Intelligence is the gathering of publicly-available information about an enterprise’s competitors and the use of that information to gain a business advantage. The goals of competitive intelligence include discerning potential business risks and opportunities and enabling faster reaction to competitors’ actions and events.
If Sun Tzu were with us today, he would probably be using digital competitive intelligence tools to understand his adversaries. Which ones would he use; why and for what purpose?
Here are 10 experts giving us their best competitive intelligence tools:
GOOGLE TRENDS: Measuring individual sites (yours or competitor) is good but the real fun in this is comparing trends. That will give you the key context you need to make even more sense of this competitive data. Don’t focus on the actual numbers (you’ll notice I say this a lot in this post). You want to compare the trends and each line gives context to the other two. That is deeply meaningful. – Avinash Kaushik (Google)
COMPETE: Has a useful interface, speaks the right language (unique visitors, visits, etc.), offers the ability to compare multiple sites, and its data is easy to understand and well presented. Compete is best used for comparing competitors’ website traffic. The trends are reliable. The information could be meaningfully used to look into seasonal trends between competitors. – Sam Crocker (MOZ)
ALEXA: Has been around since 1996. It’s a (mostly) free service that will help you analyze traffic on your competitor’s ecommerce store. Type in your competitors URL and Alexa will give you their global traffic rank, number of sites linking in, search analytics, audience insight, average site load time, and a whole lot more. You can really dig deep with Alexa, but it’s important to note that there are inaccuracies with Alexa’s information, since they get their data from those who have installed their toolbar for IE and Firefox or installed their Google Chrome extension. Take the numbers with a grain of salt. – Mark Hayes (Ecommerce University)
HITWISE: An Experian product, provides excellent data and insight that no free/ low-cost alternative can rival. With Hitwise, you can build an even more accurate picture of where you are versus your competitors. Upstream and downstream reporting allows you to form an impression of the behaviour, intention and ‘mindset’ of visitors to your website. An ‘upstream’ report will show you what sites visitors have been to before visiting yours and shed light on the types of behaviour customers are displaying before they visit you. – Gavin Llewellyn (Smart Insights)
KEYWORD SPY: Offers a free Organic Competitors report that can help identify who the top competitors are for a particular keyword. Using this tool to identify competitors can not only help identify competitors you may not have known about, but also lets you see how competition differs around different keywords. – Mark Purtell (Search Engine Journal)
OPEN SITE EXPLORER: Is one of the free tools which will enable you to check link popularity, and monitor existing backlinks. If you are trying to promote your website with the help of blogs or guest blogs, you should definitely keep an eye on the links that you create. Open Site Explorer can help you predict page and domain authority, calculate total number of inbound links and determine the domain’s ranking potential (with the help of over 40 parameters). - Anna Robeson (Grow Map)
QUANTCAST: Provides “free direct audience measurement for all website owners including traffic, demographics, business, lifestyle, interests and more.” What I love most about this free tool is the amount of data it shows, in graphical form, without needing to sign up for an account. See the screenshot example below for google.com. – Amin Shawki (InfoTrust)
SEMRUSH: Lets you monitor competitors’ organic keyword positions, find relevant long tail keywords, see your competitors’ PPC ads, and more. It also includes SEO tools. There’s a wealth of data available from the free search bar on the homepage, though you will have to upgrade ($69.95 per month) for more queries and results – Chris Kilbourn (Kiss Metrics)
TOPSY: Is the tool Siltala recommends for competitive intelligence analysis because it lets you search the entire history on Twitter. He also said, “Use Circle Count for G+ to find intel about your competitors”. – Matt Siltala (Avalaunch)
MARKETING GRADER: Allows you to learn about the overall success of your competition’s SEO. With this tool, you can learn website traffic patterns and SEO data. You can also see which tactics are working and which aren’t, and you can also learn if conversions are being made. This tool will score you out of 100, and it will even provide you with suggestions on how you can improve your SEO. – Indiesilver Marketing
These are our 10 best competitive intelligence tools from 10 experts. Do they match yours? What would you add or delete?
SEO is the approach to optimizing a brand’s web presence for organic search including the website, social channels, blogs, articles and press releases. SEO in the digital marketing mix is here to stay.
Finding a good resource that achieves results is like hiring a good electrician, plumber or auto mechanic. Find the right one and and you’ve found an invaluable asset.
How do you know? One way is to ask for a proposal. Fortunately, there are ingredients that distinguish great SEO proposals.
What makes a great SEO proposal? Here are 11 ingredients to look for.
STRATEGY: SEO is a business building activity. So a strategy that spells out how business is built should be spelled out. It should be results-oriented and measurable. Here are key strategy ingredients.
DESIRED RESULTS: An increase in search rank as measured on Search Engine Rank Page (SERP) is usually the #1 result most people expect. But an increase in rank doesn’t translate to an increase in business unless specific increases in web traffic and conversions occur. A good SEO program should take into account how this is going to occur.
SITE AUDIT: To understand how to drive business, the way people use your site now should be examined. In an SEO proposal, a Site Audit should be included that evaluates: 1) Top Keywords, 2) Number of Inbound Links, 3) Unique Visitors, 4) Bounce Rate, 4) Traffic Sources (including percent of Visits from Organic Search), 5) Key Pages and 6) Conversion Activities. A Site Audit also specifies any errors or pages not found as well as if a site map is available. A Site Audit sets up activities that need to occur and benchmarks what is realistic to expect and when.
KEYWORD RESEARCH: Search engines look for a relevant match to the keywords that a consumer writes in a search query. Words are the most important ingredient in SEO. Keyword Research is a foundation to an SEO proposal. Search volumes, keyword search trends, competitiveness, CPC ((Cost Per Click) – what others pay) leading to keyword recommendations are a key phase in an SEO proposal.
COMPETITIVE ANALYSIS: Your business isn’t likely to be the only one competing for the same consumer. So an analysis of competitor’s keywords, web traffic and links should be present. A Competitive Analysis informs keyword decisions and desired results. It’s also a valuable source for ideas:
INBOUND LINK ASSESSMENT: Search engines look for other website that mention your website for a consumer’s keyword query. This occur by Inbound Links from other websites that reference your website. This has a high value to the search engine because it signals your business is an “authority” on those keywords. A Link Assessment specifies the number of links you currently have and should spell out the plan for securing more. Inbound Links are a timely topic. If done in a disreputable way, your site can get discredited. Authentic or “White Hat” ways are important to understand. HubSpot offer some sound advice.
EXECUTION: With a strategy for building business in hand, here is what should be included in the execution.
SITE ARCHITECTURE: To take advantage of priority keywords, every page should represent one. When search engine crawl your site, Site Architecture ensures a comprehensive overview of what the site is about. Search engines and visitors understand better if you focus on one keyword per page rather than put them all together in “keyword stuffing.”
OPTIMIZATION STRATEGY: There are a number of places search engine go to understand the reason for being for a website. They are: 1) URL, 2) Page Title, 3) Body Copy, 4) Meta Description and 5) Links. The proposal should specify that this work is going to be performed on every page of your site.
ON-PAGE IMPLEMENTATION: A good SEO person performs these services. However, at some organizations, there is a company webmaster or IT department that oversees website development. How the On-Page Implementation is to occur should be worked out beforehand at it can impact price and timing. There should also be a check of the activities to make sure they have occurred on site as they should.
CONTENT MARKETING PROGRAM: Reputation matters in business and in SEO. In the latter, a good reputation occurs if a website continually put out good content reinforcing the keywords and providing links to other websites (which are ofter reciprocated back). This occur through a blog, newsletter, PR releases and social media sharing. It should be specified how this occurs, how often and who does it.
MEASUREMENT AND REPORTING: Monthly reporting against the desired results should be a part of the program. The impact of SEO generally occurs in the range of 2 to 6 months. Once desired results are achieved, they generally stay with the content marketing program. The reward of a good SEO program are substantial.
PRICING: Pricing for SEO occurs on a: 1) Retained monthly amount, 2) project or 3) hourly basis. If a retainer is used, the initial months are usually higher as there is strategy and research work involved. According to MOZ in a survey of 600 agencies, Project Pricing was the most commonly used and ranged from $1,000 to $7500. Hourly costs, which are the common denominator for all types, ranged from $76/hour to $200/hour depending on who did the work and what country it was performed.
To give you an example of a great SEO proposal that follow these principles, here is one from [LINK]Caffeine.
Did this help you understand what makes a great SEO proposal? Would your business benefit from this type of SEO program?
What goes up must come down according to Sir Issac Newton. But Sir Issac never had to buy Facebook advertising.
The gravitational pull on Facebook is not quite as simple. According to Syncapse, who has measured the value of Facebook Fans since 2010, the value of a Facebook Fan went up to $174, an increase 28% in 2013 from 2010. Yet, the organic reach of Facebook went down at a greater rate to 6.53% per Fan according to TechCrunch.
To understand, you should know Facebook measures reach in the following ways;
Organic reach is the number of unique people, Fans or Non-Fans, who saw any content about your Page in their News Feed, Ticker or on your Page.
Paid reach is the number of unique people who saw an ad or Sponsored Story that pointed to your Page.
Viral reach is the number of unique people who saw this post from a story published by a friend.
If the value of Fans goes up but the ability to reach them organically goes down, it means:
Facebook is pulling back on organic reach to push paid reach for those who pay for it
There’s only so many posts and content that can go in a News Feed and it’s overloaded.
Here’s 4 reasons why value of Facebook Fans goes up but reach goes down.
$174.17 in Average Facebook Fan Value for major consumer goods brands in 2013 (+28% versus 2010)
Facebook Fans are 85% more likely to recommend their brand versus 60% for Non-Fan users
66% share information with other on social networks versus 52% for Non-Fans
43% spend more in respective categories than Non-Fans, despite not having a higher income
18% more satisfied with their brands than Non-Fans
11% more likely to continue using a brand than Non-Fans
Average spend is $255 on the brand they are a Fan versus $139 for Non-Fan users
Spend 11 hours per week on Facebook versus 6 hours for Non-Fans
CONCLUSION: Facebook Fans are more valuable consumers than Non-Fan users, not only individually but based on their value to spread the word
1,500 stories could appear in a person’s News Feed. For people with lots of friends and Page Likes, as many as 15,000 potential stories could appear (source: Facebook for Business)
Of the 1,500+ stories a person might see whenever they log onto Facebook, News Feed displays approximately 300. To choose which stories to show, News Feed ranks each possible story (from more to less important) by looking at thousands of factors relative to each person (source: Splashscore)
The total number of Pages Liked by the typical Facebook user grew more than 50% last year (source: TechCrunch)
50% more recall and 35% higher online sales lift occurs when a person see their friends like a business on Facebook (source: Facebook for Business)
Average CPM (Cost Per Thousand) on Facebook goes from about $3 in May to $10 in June 2014 (source: Splashscore)
CONCLUSION: News Feed are overloaded but Facebook Fans have high value. This justify Facebook increasing ad rates and push Paid Reach at the expense of Organic Reach for users
Does this explain what goes up and comes down on Facebook to you? Did the facts lead you the same conclusion? Does it change the way you think about Facebook advertising?
This is my 239th blogpost. That may be more than some, but not as many as other bloggers I know.
Like others, this blog began as an outlet for expression. I was starting a business. Like others who have followed this path, I said if not now, when. Only the when was in the midst of the worst recession since the great depression. This blog became a way of coping and putting values and beliefs out there when not much was coming in.
Writing helped me through hard times. Circumstances improved. Today, this blog is one of our most valuable assets for a full service digital (digital, social, mobile) consultancy and agency that build brands using proven relationship principles and ROI.
Research shows I’m not alone. How? Here are 10 studies that show writing helps health and well-being.
PUTS YOU IN TOUCH WITH YOURSELF: Scientific evidence supports that journaling provides unexpected benefits. The act of writing accesses your left brain, which is analytical and rational. While your left brain is occupied, your right brain is free to create, intuit and feel. In sum, writing removes mental blocks and allows you to use all of your brainpower to better understand yourself, others and the world around you. – PyschCentral
MAKES YOU MORE OPTIMISTIC: People in a study who expressed gratitude in writing once a week for two months were more optimistic about life (and, interestingly, exercised more), compared with people who didn’t. – Harvard Business Review
REDUCES STRESS, AIDS IMMUNITY: Writing about difficult, even traumatic, experiences appears to be good for health on several levels – raising immunity and other health measures and improving life functioning. – American Psychological Association
SPEEDS HEALING: Writing down your thoughts and feelings after a traumatic event can actually make physical wounds heal faster, according to a study from New Zealand researchers. - Scientific America
INCREASES RESILIENCE: Studies show that writing during difficult times may help you find meaning in life’s challenges and become more resilient in the face of obstacles. - University of Minnesota
HELPS YOU SLEEP BETTER: Spending just 15 minutes a night writing down what you’re thankful for could do wonders for your sleep, according to an Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being study. Researchers found that study participants who wrote down a list of things they were grateful for before bed experienced longer, and better, sleep. – Psychology Today
DECREASES ILLNESS: In one study, five months after writing, a significant interaction emerged such that writing about trauma, one’s best possible self, or both were associated with decreased illness compared with controls. – Southern Methodist University
REDUCES DEPENDENCE ON DRUGS AND DOCTORS: In a study of college students, one group wrote about personally traumatic life events for 15 minutes on four consecutive days. The other group of students wrote about trivial topics. Compared to those who wrote about trivia, the students who wrote about traumatic experiences used fewer pain relievers over the next six months. They also visited the campus health center less often. – Aetna
HELPS CANCER PATIENTS THINK DIFFERENTLY ABOUT THEIR DISEASE: A study showed that expressive writing could help cancer patients not only think about their disease in a different way, but also improve their quality of life. – The Oncologist
IMPROVES OVERALL HEALTH AND WELL-BEING: Participants who wrote about their deepest thoughts and feelings reported significant benefits in both objectively assessed and self-reported physical health 4 months later, with less frequent visits to health centers and a trend towards fewer days out of role owing to illness. - Pennebaker Study
In many of these studies, participants wrote for as little as 15 minutes a day but did it regularly. Is this investment in writing worth it for your health and well being?
Digital marketing planning is no different than any other marketing planning. In fact, companies shouldn’t separate plans for ‘digital’ and ‘offline’ since that’s not how your customers perceive your business.
But we’re often required to have plans for “digital” based on the way teams and reporting is structured within companies. A way of aligning the two needs to happen at the start. It’s likely to facilitate buy-in for both that way.
To get you going in the right direction, here are 7 core criteria when creating a digital marketing plan.
FOCUS THE PLAN AROUND CUSTOMERS, NOT PRODUCTS AND TACTICS: Always start with the customer, their characteristics, behaviors, needs and wants, often expressed through keywords. Create Buyer Personas to establish a segmentation of the people who buy your products. Buyer Personas are examples of real buyers who influence or make decisions about the products, services or solutions you market. They are a tool that builds confidence in strategies to persuade buyers to choose you rather than a competitor or the Status Quo. By focusing the plan around consumers, you bring out the best in your products.
LEARN FROM COMPETITORS: Online is a prolific place to do research on competitors. For one thing, the information is at your fingertips. For another, there are so resources to help. For information on competitor’s website usage, there is Alexa and Compete. You can compare the social media presence of your brand versus competitors in terms of Likes and Followers or engagement terms like Comments and Shares. You’re likely to gain more than a few good idea for your brand in the process.
IDENTIFY CONTENT RESOURCES: After the product or service you offer, content is a brand’s most relevant asset. In a digital marketing plan, you’re going to need a lot of content. You should not only consider the communications but the form it takes such as an email, blog, infographic, video or podcast. Know who will publish it and and how often it will go out. Make a Content Calendar a backbone of your plan.
HAVE A CLEAR VISION FOR THE YEAR; PLAN FOR 90 DAYS: Articulate the desired results, expressed by the metric that matters most to your organization – sales, revenue, profits, leads, conversions – and the reason why it will be achieved based on what your brand can stand for to its customers. Have the plan that is going to make it happen for the first 90 days but be flexible to change. Situations and plans change, especially online, so ensure plans are usable by having a clear vision for the year and keeping real detail to a shorter term.
MAKE PLANS FACT-BASED SO IT’S EASIER FOR OTHERS TO BUY INTO: 90% of consumer buying decisions begin on the internet according to Forrester Research. 87% of consumers research products online, then buy offline according to Internet Retailer. 79% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations according to Search Engine Land. These are just a few ways to gain the attention of people in your organization to support your plan. So, consider using facts throughout your digital marketing plan to win the approval of the people who may not totally understand digital but are smart business people who sign off on it.
KEEP IT JARGON LIGHT: Digital has a tendency to go into a whole new type of nomenclature. Don’t go there. Instead, use the same language as you would for traditional media channels but support it with the facts, resources and metrics that give digital an even greater credibility.
CREATE AN ACTIONABLE SCORECARD: End your digital marketing plan with a scorecard of the measurements that matter most, your Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). Show how you will source them and review them regularly to look for insights. When you review, take actions to keep your business strategy on track.
To put these guidelines into steps every company should take to achieve success in digital marketing, we follow a process of Crawl, Walk, Run and Thrive. You can learn more about it on the sidebar of this website.
Did these criteria help you in creating a digital marketing plan?