How to Beat Competitors – via SEO Keywords & Free Tools!

    Say you’re an SMB (small-medium business) wanting to measure keyword demand; or, what types of content achieve the most online searches in your market. Oh – and you want it for free… Well, let’s try it. One way would be to start with Google’s Search-based keyword tool ( You type in your, or your competitor’s, URL and a list of Keyword ideas comes up. So, from the list of Google Keyword ideas, let’s say the keyword “service management” achieves 25,000 U.S. searches per month and is shown with a medium level of competition in the “Competition” column (Granted, this is PPC competition, but we’ll assume that your competitors organically optimize their websites for the same keywords they value enough to purchase. Many tools will show keyword competitiveness; e.g., ranks competitiveness with a %. shows existing site keywords and % of “Search Share”). With that many searches per month and mid-level competition you may not get very high up in organic results no matter how good your SEO. But, you go ahead and test that keyword for your direct competitors’ websites, and it appears they don’t come up in organic results on first or second pages. Interesting…

    After a couple searches with different URLs and looking at the keyword lists, some more specific (long-tail) keywords may catch your eye as fitting your industry. For example, let’s say “services management support” strikes you and fits with your offerings. It has fewer searches per month, let’s say 10,000 per month, but the Google SK Tool shows it has practically no competition. What’s more; your direct competitors don’t appear at all with such searches online. Common sense would dictate you optimize your site for this term (e.g., put the keyword in page titles, headlines and page description content) and capture web traffic in demand that your competitors aren’t currently serving. This all seems very simple, but here are some assumptions, some additional potential business benefits from this approach:

    1. Site visits. The more people searching for this keyword, the more willing they are to read your (keyword-optimized) content and spend more time on your website or blog. In this case let’s say 40% of original searchers click through (if new customers are desired, measure for unique visitors) and actually read your content (or at least more than 1 minute’s worth of time-on-site; equaling 4,000 pageviews on your landing page, after excluding, let’s say, 3,000 immediate leaves or bounces – all this visible in Google Analytics).
    2. Higher rankings. More visitor click-throughs raises your organic search results for your site overall as well as for your other keywords (including for keywords applicable to high-profit products).
    3. More leads. The more people spending time reading your content (via their search) means simultaneously the more people willing to purchase a solution to their problem in that arena (assuming you sell one). Let’s say in this case 25% of content readers would be willing (incentivized, for example, via white paper download or video demo) to talk to a company representative about a potential solution regarding their search and fill out a contact form online (1000 leads out of 4,000 content readers per month; all still visible in Google Analytics).
    4. Increased sales. More keyword-served searches = more site visits = more leads = more sales. Let’s assume 30% of the lead conversations get converted to sales. That’s 300 sales per month you didn’t have before (and 3% final sales conversion out of the initial 10,000 keyword searches per month; to be measured via CRM, SFA or from salespeople). Profit sharing, anyone?
    5. Brand positioning. As you optimize your site for this and similar keywords, you are achieving a differentiated positioning. Your content now differentiates you from competitors, yet this extends beyond your website or even the web… Consumer behavior increases in time spent online; when consumers want to know something, they “Google” it. And what do marketers always put in traditional media call-to-action messaging? “For more info, please visit us online at….” Hence, the way consumers perceive your brand or product on the web is the way they perceive you…
    6. Leading the competition. The natural argument to all of this is “As soon as my competition catches wind of all this activity, they will do the same thing.” Perhaps, assuming they are this web marketing savvy. Even if they do (and assuming they compete fiercely online with you), they are in a disadvantaged space; rather than serving their own differentiated segment, they are chasing you and yours. And this chase costs time and money. Besides, if you do a great job with your online content, you are already achieving this perceived brand space in your segment’s minds. And that brand perception can be a very hard thing for your competitors to take away…
    7. Demand-generated products. Let’s say all the stars above can align in terms of content, but not product delivery. In other words, let’s say you discover consumers are increasingly searching for a keyword in your industry, but there is no (competitive) online content to serve them. Let’s say you do some analysis of this and similar keywords, and also in Q&A industry forums and social media sites, and discover that the keywords represent an actual problem consumers are trying to solve. Why not consider being the solution to that problem? Because consumers search online for solutions, this can be a forecast for actual product demand (e.g. using a formula such as the above showing 3% sales conversions out of initial online searches)… Again, sounds simplistic enough, but here’s the big question: Are your competitors doing all this? If not, a little free analysis like the above just might turn out highly profitable.

    The Google Search-based keyword tool (SK Tool) was mentioned for this example, yet there are many great SEO/PPC tools available offering free data. Granted much of it is slanted towards PPC, but the more willing you are to pay the more data you can access. Here are some of my tool recommendations:,, (SEO Book’s toolbar is truly awesome; it aggregates many different services – including Google SK tool, SEM Rush and Compete – into one source to immediately examine your URLs); and of course Google Webmaster Tools and Google Analytics. Register, start playing and enjoy!

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    Jake Aull | Marketing Strategy | Social Media | Digital & Creative
    email | @jakeaull |