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How Search Data Can Inform Your Competitive Strategy is part of a series on using search data to inform 5 key areas of your marketing strategy. If you haven’t already, be sure to read last week’s post on Product Strategy.

The search engine results page (SERP) is a goldmine of competitive data. Simply by performing test searches related to your product, you can identify who your online competitors are, what their value propositions are and generate ideas on how to gain an advantage.

But there is more you can do with search data to inform your competitive strategy.

 

Go on the offensive with paid search

There is a unique competitive strategy that can be employed with paid search that cannot be done with any other channel: You can advertise to potential customers as they are en route to a competitor’s online storefront.

This would be like Company A building a bridge from Company B’s store entrance right into Company A and enticing people to walk over the bridge with a sign that says, “We have everything they have but for a better price.” Of course in the physical world, brands cannot do this. But brands can ostensibly do this online by bidding on competitors’ brand terms in paid search.

Obviously, there are some risks associated with this approach. For one, you can trigger a bidding war, enticing the competition to bid on your brand terms and increasing the costs for everyone. Paid search is an auction-based system; the higher your competition bids, the more you pay just to maintain your position on the SERP.

If you’re going to go on the offensive bidding on competitor keywords, be sure to apply the same logic you would on the rest of your campaign. Remember, bidding should be optimized to achieve a desirable ROI or CPA, not to go on a vendetta against the competition. With a data-driven approach, many brands find success with competitor campaigns in paid search.

 

Finding competitive hacks with search data

One of the latest industry buzzwords to describe good quality marketing professionals is “growth marketers” who seek out “hacks” to get around the system, growing customer acquisition with non-traditional solutions. Search data can be used to find these growth hacking opportunities.

You may recall the example from last week’s post on product strategy of analyzing search query data associated with your brand to understand areas where your product can improve such as a software company with a high instance of “[brand name] download instructions” search queries. The implication of these queries is that the download process is confusing and can be improved.

Similarly, using the Google or Bing keyword tools, brands can look at suggested keywords and search volumes associated with competitor keywords to find areas of weakness to exploit.

For example I took this approach with a software client. The client discovered that a competing brand had a high instance of “uninstall [brand name]” search queries. Rather than launch a full-fledged competitor campaign and risk a bidding war, the client bid on their “uninstall” keywords. Targeting only the subset of the competitor’s customers who were unhappy meant the campaign was small, but it was efficient. The client acquired new customers it otherwise would not have reached at a low cost.

 

Your competition

Even if you don’t plan to launch a competitor campaign, it is important to monitor your own search brand terms in case someone decides to wage a bidding war on you. The simplest way to do this is to look for spikes in your brand CPC. If it jumps, you may have a new competitor in your midst.

Your competitor’s weaknesses are your opportunities. Go out there and analyze the search data so you can find ways to exploit those opportunities.

For information on how to find publicly available search query data, review last week’s post.