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AdWords Competitor Targeting: What You Need to Know Before Starting

Targeting the competition is an advertising tactic that’s been around since the Mad Men days, and it’s evolved into bidding on competitor keywords in AdWords. This tactic has its benefits because your competitors are attracting prospects via Search that would surely make a good fit for your business, and in some cases they may already be solution aware. In short, they might be primed and ready to find a product or service (that’s you!).

Sneaky as this tactic may seem, online advertising is still a far cry from those “10X better than the leading brand” television ads that are plaguing primetime to this day.

Targeting your competitor’s brand terms on AdWords might seem like a no brainer. And—if it were simple—perhaps we’d all be creating a list of our competitors’ names and calling out their flaws in our ad copy. After all, with a few clicks you could be stealing their traffic and their business, right?

Not so fast. The rules of AdWords competitor targeting can be tricky to navigate, and there’s a lot to consider before deciding if it’s right for you and your brand—including rules from Google. So how do you know if it’s right for you, and how do you do it well?

Proceed with Caution

Targeting competitor keywords might be common, but it’s best to get your ducks in a row before you jump straight in. After all, just because Brand X is doing this, doesn’t mean it’s right for you.

The number one thing you need to keep in mind about competitor targeting in AdWords is that it’s competitive. Before you tell your boss or your client that you’re launching a competitor campaign, check if your competitors have already done the same.

First Stop: Auction Insights

To know who’s bidding on your branded terms (and how well they’re doing it), click into your Campaigns (in the new AdWords experience), then navigate to the Auction Insights tab and filter for your branded campaigns.

Click the image above for larger view.

If you’re not seeing any suspects, hurrah! You now have a decision to make: whether or not you want to risk starting a trend by being the first to target your competitors’ terms. If they catch on, they could return the favor by coming after your terms and potentially driving up your cost-per-click. Even in the Search world, you can’t have your cake and eat it, too.  

Seeing some familiar names in the list? If competitors are already bidding on your branded terms, it’s fair game for you to enter the ring. After doing your homework, of course.

Next Stop: Ad Preview

Knowing you’re being targeted is a start, but if you’re entering the ring it’s time to check out your competitors’ ad copy. Seeing how your competitors position themselves against your own brand will give you an idea of what you’re up against.

By looking up what your competitors are saying in their ads targeting your terms, you’ll be better equipped to tweak your own. For this you can, of course, do a simple Google search, but it’s better to use the Ad Preview and Diagnosis Tool to test search queries in different countries and locations of your choosing.

You’ll still get an idea of who’s winning auctions for your precious keywords — and how they’re positioning themselves.

In this quick search for travel comparison website Trivago, we can see that KAYAK — a similar comparison site — is showing up in position two. This is a not-so-sneaky example of competitor bidding in action. Luckily, Trivago is still capturing that top spot with their own term, otherwise KAYAK would be appearing just above their organic results.

Get to Know the Landscape

It’s unlikely that all of your competitors are targeting your key terms, if any. But, if you don’t have a clue who your competitors are, this is where you need to start before you even think about launching a competitor campaign (seriously, stop reading this blog post right now and do that instead). Put your keyword research chops to use and try to build a comprehensive list of the competitors in your space.

After the ‘Who’: Go Beyond Brand Name

Once you have a list of your competitors, it’s time to go a level deeper. You can spend some time on your competitor websites and expand your key terms list to include distinct brand terms like a specific product, slogan, recurring event, webinar series, anything you find that can be relevant to a search.

Craft Ad Copy Around Weaknesses

What you’re not going to find on your competitor’s website is a list of their downfalls. If you don’t already have this kind of competitive research in your marketing arsenal, you can go straight to the source: competitor’s customers. I like to sift through customer reviews — these could be from Amazon, Facebook, or other review sites — and see what customers are saying.

That is—what are their strengths that you can avoid in ad copy, and what are some pain points that you can help solve? For instance, if your competitor is a clothing retailer, do customers complain about the quality of fabric? This will help guide your ad copy and make it a lot easier for you to swoop in on that traffic.

One thing that stands out in the KAYAK example is that the ad copy is almost identical. They both focus on plentiful hotel options, comparing multiple websites, and getting a good deal. What they’re not doing is setting themselves apart and explaining why they’re better than Trivago. For instance, KAYAK users can save time by booking discounted flights alongside their hotels, whereas Trivago compares hotels only.

Let’s look at another example. In this ad, BMO — a major bank here in Canada — is targeting Wealthsimple, a large Canadian robo-advisor. In the copy, BMO directly addresses one of the pains of robo advising: The lack of human interaction. The copy states, “we provide expert oversight of your investments so you’re not investing alone.”

They then carry the “you’re not alone” theme straight into the ad’s landing page. They’re speaking to Wealthsimple’s digital-first audience and showing that they too have online investing and low fees, but also one other thing that Wealthsimple is missing: A dedicated, human advisor.

Overall, BMO have clearly done their homework on the messaging they want to carry from ad to landing page based on what their competitors are offering, and you can do the same copy-wise.

Whatever You Do, Follow Google’s Rules

One of the trickiest things about AdWords competitor targeting is Google’s policy around the use of Trademarks. It’s the reason why the KAYAK ad in the example doesn’t mention Trivago anywhere in the copy. Using another brand’s trademarked terms is an easy way to get your ad disapproved, or worse, reported by the trademark owner.

There are two exceptions to this rule: one for what Google calls “information sites” and one for resellers using the brand name or terms to “describe products.” This allows businesses like department stores to advertise Nike shoes even though they’re not Nike. If you’re reading this, you most likely don’t fall into either of those exceptions.

Remember when your mom told you to treat others as you’d like to be treated? The same thing applies in advertising. Rules or no rules, playing nice with your competitors is always a good practice.

Not on AdWords to make friends? Don’t think you can get around this policy by using Dynamic Keyword Insertion, because yes, they thought of that!

Protect Your Brand

While you’re a considerate fellow marketer, someone else might not be. If you notice your trademarked term slip into the search results, you can always file a complaint. And don’t forget to take a screenshot! If you haven’t trademarked your branded term, or haven’t trademarked it in some countries, you might want to look into going through the process if you’re facing tough competition.

Defend Your Position

You might think you have a right to Position One for your branded terms. But the truth is, if you’ve been sloppy with your copy and resulting landing page experience, and your bids are low, you could be outbid by a competitor. If the thought of this happening keeps you up at night, one option is to use the Target Outranking Share automated bid strategy.

This gives you the option of automatically raising your bids when your chosen keywords are competing against another bidder in the AdWords auction. Of course, this comes at the cost of a higher bid.

What happens if both you and your competitor use Target Outranking Share on the same keyword? According to Google, “the strategies will increase each domain’s bid until one of [you] reaches [your] maximum bid limit. The participant with the best bid and Quality Score will earn the higher ad rank.” In other words, be prepared to pay!

Get Subtle with Display

If your competitors aren’t yet bidding on you and you’re not comfortable kickstarting a keyword battle, you can still target your foes in a more subtle manner. Introduced last year, Custom Intent Audiences allow you to create custom audiences for Display campaigns based on “keywords and URLs related to products and services this audience is actively researching.”

Although Google does not explicitly state that this will target visitors to those URLs, it’s worth testing a custom list made up of your competitors’ websites and key terms. Bonus: Competitors won’t be able to see that you’ve added their URL to a list.

Watch Your CPC – the Downside to AdWords Competitor Targeting

One of the biggest downsides to competitor targeting on Search is that it can open you up to a bidding war and cause some serious cost-per-click inflation. Remember: If you invite competitors to bid on your branded terms (and they’re not already), the competition for your keywords will increase, driving up your cost.

Branded search is most likely a source of cheap clicks in your account. Over the long term, branded terms likely bring you more volume — and at a lower cost — than competitor traffic ever could. One reason for this is that you’re likely to have a higher ad relevance and landing page experience (and thus a higher ad rank and Quality Score) when your branded keywords match the branded experience on your ad and landing page. If you’ve been noticing the cost of your branded search terms creep up, competitor targeting is a likely culprit. That being said, if your goal is to grow your business at all costs, then go forth and target!

Consider a Truce

Maybe you’ve just discovered that your competitors have been eating your lunch. Or, maybe you unknowingly started a first-page battle and are hoping this blog post has some advice to help you cool off your CPC. Whatever it is, there is an option that could help you end it once and for all — but it’s not guaranteed.

If you’re not already frienemies with the competitor in question, it’s worthwhile to reach out and see if you can reach an agreement that prevents either of you from bidding on the other’s branded terms. If you’re feeling down about your CPC reaching new heights, chances are they’re feeling the same way.

Still Not Scared?

You’ve done the research, you’ve identified the competition, and you’re confident about jumping in (cautiously, of course) to bid on some branded keywords. Go for it! Play nice, craft creative copy, and always keep an eye out on your own terms. You never know who might be after them.

What are your thoughts on bidding on competitor terms in AdWords? Let us know in the comments if you’ve given this a try, or if you never would and why.

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About Daniel Rodgers

A lot of news that you will not see in the paper. A lot of technology that is coming out that will not see in the paper.

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5 SEO Mistakes Killing Your Content Performance and a Fix for Each

Common SEO Mistakes

Common SEO Mistakes

Even the most seasoned content marketers make mistakes. In the world of SEO-driven content, with constant algorithm tweaks and changing search patterns, it’s nearly unavoidable. However, those same mistakes can often lead to discoveries that enable even better content performance.

The key is being able to recognize those easy-to-fix SEO mistakes and address them. As a result, your content will become an optimized, integrated network of metaphorical highways, leading searchers to best-answer content in a strategic and purposeful way.

So, what are the most common SEO mistakes, and how can they be addressed? Below, I’ve singled out the ‘usual suspects’ along with guidance on how to fix them while setting yourself up for long-term SEO success.

SEO Mistake #1 - Choosing Target Keywords Based on Volume vs. Relevance

How Keywords Affect Content Marketers: Great content isn't great unless people see it. But when content marketers overemphasize high-volume keywords, they miss out on meaningful engagement.

It’s tempting to plug into your keyword research tool of choice and select keywords with the highest search volume as your focuses for new content. But if the content you’re creating doesn’t match the search intent for that high-volume keyword, it’s unlikely to perform to your expectations.

The Fix: Google it! All jokes aside, evaluating the first ten search results for your target keywords can help you understand what searchers are trying to find, and what supporting content you should provide to truly be the best answer for that query.

While you’re analyzing those top results, pay attention to key factors that will shape your content creation and promotion strategy:

  1. What type of information is NOT included in top content, but is topically related? This can help you inform how you differentiate your content.
  2. What’s the content demand for that keyword? For example, are mostly top of funnel blog posts ranking, or are you seeing mostly product or service pages?
  3. How many backlinks and referring domains are pointing to the top search results? This can help you understand how competitive the first page of results is, and whether or not ongoing link building should be part of your content promotion strategy.
  4. How long is the top-ranking content for that keyword? This will help you determine ideal content length for your own post.

SEO Mistake #2 - Targeting the Same Keyword with Multiple Pages or Posts

How Same-Topic Targeting Affects Content Marketers: Pressure to create comprehensive content on a topic can actually result in dilution within search.

The conventional wisdom that more is better doesn’t apply universally — especially when it comes to SEO-driven content. Creating multiple pieces of content that target the exact same keyword is a surefire way to stand in your own way of success. There’s enough competition out there for B2B marketers without having to compete with your own content.

For example, a B2B technology company that wants to rank for B2B software consulting should optimize their service page for that term based on what is currently being served in search results. But, if they also create a series of blogs or resources that are targeting that specific term, search engine bots will be confused about which page is the best answer for that query. This could result in none of the content appearing in the top 10 results, in favor of competing sites with a more clear ‘answer’ to that query.

The Fix: Determine which of your pages or posts is the best answer for that particular query by analyzing ranking and analytics data. Which post or page sees the greatest amount of engaged organic traffic for your target keyword, and most closely matches the associated search intent?

Once you’ve determined your target page, it’s time to evaluate the remaining content targeting that keyword. Look for opportunities to:

  1. Remove or prune low-value or outdated content. Is there a blog post full of stats from 2009 that’s hindering your priority page’s chances of ranking? It might be time to consider removing that post and implementing the proper redirects.
  2. Optimize existing content for related, but different, keyword targets. For example, if you have a priority post for Chocolate Chip Cookies, and another post that more closely relates to ‘Crunchy Chocolate Chip Cookies’, consider optimizing that post for the latter and implementing internal links back to your priority cookies post.
  3. Combine closely related content. For example, if you have several blog posts around your targeted keyword(s), consider combining those posts into a longer, more robust piece of content.

SEO Mistake #3 - Ignoring Internal Link Structure

How Internal Linking Affects Content Marketers: Links are like electricity on the web, lighting up content for people and search engines alike.

Content is discovered by links. Your site’s internal linking structure tells bots (and users) which pages are most important, and which pages are most relevant to specific keywords. If you link to several pages from the same anchor text, for example, there will be some confusion about which page is truly ‘about’ that topic. Other times, you could have pages or posts on your site that are orphaned, with no internal links directing users or bots their way. This can confuse your site users, search engine bots, and even your own team. Confusion is not a ranking factor!

The Fix: Make sure you develop and continue to update your site’s keyword map. It can be as simple as a spreadsheet that lists your page’s URL and associated target keyword(s). This keyword map will help you determine what anchor text should be used to link to your target pages.

Next, conduct a site audit to determine:

  1. If there are orphaned pages that need internal links
  2. If you are linking to multiple pages with the same keyword-rich anchor text
  3. Where there are opportunities to create additional supporting content
  4. Where you might have opportunities to reduce and prune existing supporting content

Next, you’re going to want to crawl your site to find any orphaned pages. Then, map those into your overall keyword strategy and implement internal links.

SEO Mistake #4 - Ignoring Data from Other Digital Tactics

How Marketing Data Affects Content Marketers: Inspiration often drives ideation for many content marketers, but data drives optimization for ideal content performance. Marketing performance data can provide both.

Any data you can collect about how your audience engages with your content has the potential to be an SEO gold mine. For example, analyzing the keywords from your paid search campaigns can give you insight into which keywords are your best converters, and what content best suits searchers for those terms. Social posts that get the greatest amount of engagement can tell you which topics your audience is most interested in. Ignoring data from your other marketing and sales channels means missing out on an opportunity to better engage your prospects.

The Fix: Meet with different teams or departments to find out what kind of content performs best on their channels. Look at the data each platform or channel provides and compare that with your site analytics data for a full picture. And, be sure to share your channel performance data with the rest of your marketing team. The more information available related to content and marketing performance, the better equipped you are to optimize.

SEO Mistake #5 - Giving Up

How Persistence Affects Content Marketers: Content performance in search is a long game and persistence is essential for success.

SEO is a marathon, not a sprint. Sometimes a lack of results can feel demoralizing, but giving up is simply not an option. You wouldn’t stop building your house just because the nearest lumber yard ran out of wood, right? You’d find another lumber yard and keep plugging along.

The Fix: Take a step back. Re-evaluate the search landscape, your competitor’s organic presence, and your site’s overall health. Being able to remove yourself from the frustration can help you find opportunities you may have missed and additional whitespace to tackle.

Next, seek out advice from other SEOs. Ask questions on social media, in specific groups or forums, or send a question to your favorite SEO blog. If budget permits, enlist the help of a consultant or SEO agency that can help you break through your roadblocks.

Finally, we have two big SEO bummers that are tougher to fix, but absolutely necessary to address.

Bonus SEO Mistake: Migrating Your Site with No SEO Plan

How Migrating Without a Plan Affects Content Marketers: A bad migration can effectively undo your hard work, reducing content visibility and creating more user friction.

If you listen closely, you can hear the sound of SEOs cringing around the globe. A botched site migration can wreak havoc on your organic positioning and torpedo your results. It can take months, even years to recuperate organic visibility to pre-migration levels.

The Fix: Always, always consult your in-house SEO team or SEO agency when you’re considering a website migration. Before you move forward, it’s imperative you have a plan for technical, on-page, and off-page factors.

If you’ve already migrated your site and have experienced a loss of organic traffic and rankings, start with a site audit. Check for the basics, like whether or not your site is being indexed, first. Then start to evaluate technical factors like broken links, crawl errors, and duplicate content.

When in doubt, don’t hesitate to reach out for help. Recovering from a site migration is a challenge for even the best of SEOs, and sometimes those big challenges call for a little teamwork.

Bonus SEO Mistake: Not Optimizing for Mobile

How Not Optimizing for Mobile Affects Content Marketers: Even the greatest content can’t stand up to a bad mobile experience. Users will bounce, reducing engagement and sending negative signals to search engines.

Mobile accounts for about half of web traffic worldwide. Knowing this, in March 2018 Google started migrating sites to mobile-first indexing. Providing a seamless mobile experience is no longer optional, especially when you’re living in the wild world of search.

Sites that didn’t properly prepare for this can and will likely see some declines in organic search traffic and rankings as a result. And, as more sites follow mobile best practices, more users will notice and become frustrated by poor mobile experiences. This leads to declines in other pivotal ranking factors like on-page engagement. In short, if not properly addressed, a poor mobile experience can wreak havoc on your search visibility.

The Fix: The first thing to do is to conduct a mobile audit on your site. Understanding your site’s mobile performance is step one toward making improvements. Look for things like:

  1. Mobile site speed. A couple great tools for this are Google Page Speed Insights and Pingdom. These tools can tell you where to look for issues like slow-loading code, images that aren’t optimized, and other technical issues.
  2. Mobile experience. Visit your site on your phone. Ask someone who doesn’t use your site regularly to do the same. Record your experience, take notes on where you get stuck and why. Click on everything. Turn your phone into horizontal mode. Try to think of every single way a user could browse your site. And, don’t forget to try a site search on mobile.
  3. Look at mobile analytics. This will tell you key metrics like mobile bounce rate, mobile time on page and pages per session.

These steps will help you build a hypothesis to test against. Is your mobile bounce rate crazy high? Does your site take a long time to load? Is your time on page way out of line with desktop traffic? Then, use A/B testing to root out the discrepancy. Use these same metrics to test if the fix is working. Then, repeat with another element.

So, What Does This All Mean for You?

Ultimately, following SEO best practices as a content marketer can reduce performance-related headaches and set you up for long-term success.

For example, when Innovatech Labs decided it was time to make major changes to their website, they worked with our team at TopRank Marketing to implement a safe website transition strategy, minimizing their risk of reduced content visibility on Google. This assessment involved avoiding many of the big risks mentioned above, including linking, use of data and keyword research which allowed us to act quickly post-migration to combat organic traffic declines. The result? Double- and triple-digit increases in organic traffic (and increased conversions, too!).

A best-answer content strategy focused on creating content with the most relevance to their audience was the ticket to better marketing performance for a martech SaaS company. Working with the team at TopRank Marketing, long-tail and hyper-relevant keywords were researched for a comprehensive content strategy to help the brand content become the best answer for those queries. The “best answer” approach and topics were applied across organic and paid efforts. As a result, the volume of both paid and organic MQLs increased, leading to better content performance and spontaneous proclamations of love from the client’s sales team.

Fixing these big SEO mistakes aren’t only for short-term wins. Our longtime partner Antea Group USA has achieved amazing triple-digit growth over three years by avoiding these big mistakes and implementing an ongoing commitment to SEO-driven, best answer content.

As I mentioned earlier, even the most experienced content marketers can make these common SEO mistakes. But, with the right SEO strategy driven by diligent execution and monitoring of results, you can get back on track. The key is to be intentional about your site’s architecture, as well as the content you create, and to never, ever give up.

Still feeling stuck? Or maybe your team doesn’t have the resources to take on this battle alone? Check out our SEO services, tweet us your thoughts @toprank, or drop me a line in the comments. We are here to help!

The post 5 SEO Mistakes Killing Your Content Performance and a Fix for Each appeared first on Online Marketing Blog - TopRank®.

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