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Outperforming Your Competitor Using Ranking Data – Tyson Stockton // Searchmetrics

Episode Overview: Ranking data is integral to every SEOs’ everyday tasks and initiatives, and knowing how to use it correctly guarantees success in your campaigns. Join host Ben as he continues Market Insights Week with Searchmetrics’ VP of Client Services Tyson Stockton discussing how you can best utilize your ranking data to outperform your competitors.

Summary

  • Ranking data provides more information than just which companies own respective shares of their search markets.
  • Competitor term rankings will vary depending on the category and what stage of the marketing funnel your customers and buyers are currently.

GUESTS & RESOURCES

Ben:                  Welcome to Market Insights Week on the Voices of Search podcast. I’m your host, Benjamin Shapiro. And this week we’re going to publish an episode every day covering how you can use search data to impact your business outside of SEO. Joining us for Market Insights Week is Tyson Stockton, who is the vice president of client services at Searchmetrics. Tyson manages Searchmetrics’ SEO content and client success organizations. And outside of shepherding their largest and most strategic clients to SEO success, he’s joining us today to talk about what search data is relevant for mining market insights. 

Ben:                  So far this week, Tyson and I have talked about how and why you should be using search data to mine for market insights. We talked a little bit about understanding the demand for your products and services using search volume, how you can understand your industry’s historical trends using keyword data. And today we’re going to talk about how you can outperform your competitors using ranking data. Here’s the fourth installment of Market Insights Week with Tyson Stockton, Searchmetrics’ vice president of client services. Tyson, welcome back to Market Insights Week on the Voices of Search podcast. 

Tyson:             Thank you, man. Day four, let’s go.

Ben:                  Excited to have you back on the show. Honestly, today’s topic where we start talking about competition is the area where I think most people feel comfortable looking to search data as opposed to understanding historical trends or figuring out your total addressable market, looking at where you stand compared to your competitors. When you think about understanding your competitive set and figuring out where you stand, what goes through your head? 

Tyson:               Yeah, so I think you hit on a good point where I would say it is in the more comfort zone of it. And the previous couple of topics that we had, we’re talking more on a macro lens demands. I think the connection to larger business decisions is a bit easier there. But I’d say the competitor data, it’s a great tool for understanding market potential and what you can achieve within your segment. And so, by segmenting out the competitors of who owns what within that and where you can realistically compete is going to be a great way to build into your forecast when you’re doing your SEO roadmap and understanding, okay, what kind of list can I get from these by understanding the domains that own what percent of the market and what traffic they’re estimated to be bringing in, that’s going to be a great lever. And it’s really going to be almost the tipping point where you’re able to use that data both for managing up in the organization, but then you’re also able to use that data and starting to get more tactical. because you’re starting to get more of what can I realistically capture within this segment or within this category. 

Ben:                    So, here’s my big concern with using search data to understand the competitive balance in your industry. My fear is that companies are going to look at, “Well, Nike has this much search traffic and Adidas has that much search traffic to their domain, so Nike must be bigger than Adidas or Adidas must be bigger than Nike.” And to me, that only really tells you, A, how good an SEO works in-house, how much they’ve invested in content, and how much people value their brand. When you think about understanding what the true demand is for a company and when you’re actually thinking about ranking the importance of organizations, how do you filter out for this brand has a better SEO than that brand? 

Tyson:              And I think this is why this topic is more in the hybrid area is because, to your point, yeah, like the first previous topics, that’s going to give you more of the market potential and interest from the consumer standpoint. But when you get to competitors, I think the biggest kind of missed or oftentimes missed opportunity is people treat it as like a one size of just who owns what the market share. But really where you can drive a lot more value is start creating buckets within that. 

Tyson:            And if you have something more of a direct competitor bucket, or say you’re a manufacturer, you’re going to have potentially four buckets. You’re going to have, these are my direct competitors, these are maybe retailers selling my product also, maybe these are retailers not selling my product, and these are editorial informational sites which may be an opportunity for more partnerships like affiliates, whatever. But I think the opportunity within the competitor set is moving beyond just who owns what percent of the overall and starting to move towards how that compares to your business. And that’s going to be different for a B2B company, a B2C kind of like direct consumer, or maybe someone that’s a manufacturer that’s going to have both this branding play, but then also this direct B2C transactional play because they’re selling products as well. 

Ben:                I think that there’s some nuance here in that for a competitive analysis, you can’t necessarily just look at the overall search volume. You have to think of it in a couple of different categories. You’re looking at the amount of brand search that’s happening, I think that’s a good way to understand the competitive landscape, the total amount of content that one brand has compared to the others, and obviously how those brands rank, how Google thinks about them as well. Are there any other factors that you consider when you’re doing your competitive analysis? 

Tyson:            I think taking elements from the previous topics as well is understanding within the categories how far down in the buying process are they. And if you’re talking about a head term or a parent category, you’re oftentimes going to have a very different portfolio of competitors than when you’re looking at something like product pages when you’re getting to that transactional element. I would also cluster these in parts of the site or stages of the buying cycle, because that’s going to give you a different set of competitors. And oftentimes it’s going to drive different kinds of strategies or tactics that you’re going to want to work with. 

Ben:                  I think the playbook here is that you think about brand search, right? Understand how much consumers are looking for the specific brands, and then you have to break up the overall keyword set into how much is this brand taking in terms of research, product consideration, and then the conversion page. And breaking down where the consumers are in the buying journey will help you not only understand the volume of searches that your competitors are getting, but also where customers are engaging with your competitors. 

Ben:                  When you start thinking about not only your direct competitors, but also some of the tangential competitors. We talked about Nike versus Adidas as an example before. But the competitors in running shoes are also Amazon and eBay. How do you start to think about the overlap for non-direct competitors, and how do you evaluate their impact on market share? 

Tyson:              Yeah, I think that’s where you start to apply your unique business elements to it. I think the most obvious or action-oriented one could be in the sense of the informational queries, because that’s where you’re going to see the broadest array of types of websites ranking. So, it’s like the competitors of who’s selling the same product, that one’s relatively straightforward. But when you get to the more informational head terms, that’s where you’re going to identify potentially new partners, people that may be taking up space in the SERP, or may not be like a direct threat to your business. And that’s where I think having that segmentation of both stage also what the business type is, that’s really going to help differentiate. 

Tyson:               And I think, one, you take the lens of … And we could even peel this back further. And let’s say we’re working with more of a core sports specialty site. So, it’s someone that sells only a specific category within one of these larger brands. They might not be competing as much head to head with someone like Amazon, but they have their own core competitors, Amazon creeps in in the area of terms. And they know that in those cases, they’re probably going to be smaller and more niche. So, for them, looking more downstream and more of someone that’s like very specific in their products, probably going to be more of an opportunity for them. Whereas if someone that’s hitting across a very broad array of topics, they’re going to have to move up a bit more in the funnel and to have a more diverse spread of where they’re ranking. 

Ben:                   I think that’s an important point, that when you’re doing your competitive analysis and your understanding where there’s overlap between your keywords and your competitors, they’re not actually all competitors. It does help you understand potential collaborations, the other brands that are relevant in your space and business partners. The example of Adidas and Nike for running shoes and Amazon is obviously going to be a competitor there as well. Well, that’s a potential marketing and business partner for those brands. Tyson, any other words about the utility or the datasets you can use to understand your competitive landscape? 

Tyson:               Yeah, I think within the competitor area, it’s interesting to look at a few different layers to it. So, understanding things like number of ranking keywords, number of ranking URLs, also what kind of market share, what traffic of the overall pie that they’re capturing. And so, I think that’s another interesting layer to who owns what is breaking it out further into being like, okay, if they own more keywords, are they driving more traffic? And then also are they competing more in the top funnel or more in the lower funnel? So, it’s similar to what we were saying of how you can segment out your competitors. Segmenting out also different KPIs of the competitors is a really helpful way to understand where additional opportunities might exist. 

Ben:                  Okay. Understanding your competitors is obviously an important part of your business. It’s also important to understand your consumers, the people that you’re competing for. So, to wrap up Market Insights Week, we’re going to dive into that topic how you can better understand your consumers tomorrow. 

Ben:                  So, that wraps up this episode of the Voices of Search podcast. Thanks for listening to my conversation with Tyson Stockton, vice president of client services at Searchmetrics. We’d love to continue the conversation with you. So, if you’re interested in contacting Tyson, you can find a link to his LinkedIn profile in our show notes. You can contact him on Twitter where his handle is tyson_stockton, or you could visit his company’s website, which is searchmetrics.com. 

Ben:                 Just one more link in our show notes I’d like to tell you about. If you didn’t have a chance to take notes while you were listening to this podcast, head over to the voicesofsearch.com where we have summaries of all of our episodes and contact information for our guests. You can also send us your topic suggestions or your SEO questions. You can even apply to be a guest speaker on the Voices of Search podcast. 

Ben:                Of course, you can always reach out on social media. Our handle is Voices of Search on Twitter, and my personal handle is Ben J Shap, B-E-N J S-H-A-P. And if you haven’t subscribed yet, and you want a daily stream of SEO and content marketing insights in your podcast feed, we’re going to publish an episode every day during the work week. So, hit the subscribe button in your podcast app, and we’ll be back in your feed tomorrow morning to talk about how to understand consumer intent using SERP data. All right. That’s it for today. But until next time, remember the answers are always in the data.