With the search engine marketing (SEM) industry at its peak, various search engine optimization techniques and software have been developed. Among other search engine optimization techniques, organic search is still the most popular form of SEM. Research suggests that almost 75% of advertisers use this method, with paid ad placement at second with 71%. Even if this is the case, the total spending for paid ad placement was greater in 2008, accounting for 86% for total site optimization and marketing spending, at $8 billion.
Competition in the SEM industry is formidable as agencies tap new revenue channels by adding search engine optimization and marketing services and companies bring more search marketing in-house. In a competitive market, where main competitors have SEM experts and companies constantly updating their website optimization software and working on valuable key-phrases, then to some degree, ongoing and long-term marketing is needed to sustain and maintain site traffic volume and page ranking.
Each target market segment has its own level of competitiveness. Website optimization techniques are a dynamic and moving target which implies that there is no one search engine ranking tool or website optimization software that produce the same results for multiple websites.
In analyzing search engine ranking competition there are three types of competitors SEM specialists review: Those naturally ranked in the search results, those dominating the paid ad results, and those that are offline but targeting the same audience. Aside from these factors, search-referred traffic is also considered. Most of the time, SEM specialists use a ranking software to get a good idea of the competitor’s page ranking by entering their domain and a generic keyword related to their service. A ranking tool generates a report about the estimated amount of traffic the competitor received for that query, as well as displaying some other relevant keyword search queries and analyses.
Among the different search engine optimization techniques, competitor analysis is the most tedious yet the most rewarding strategy. Competitor analysis involves observations on site structures, URL strings, depth & freshness of content, various on-page strategies, quality & quantity of back links, and sources of back-links. It’s important for SEM specialists to not only find common threads among highly visible competitors that one can leverage, but more importantly, in areas where it can differentiate itself and stand apart in the eyes of search engines. Mirroring a successful competitor has its limitations so websites need to separate themselves from the pack. Taking the approach of a SWOT analysis is ideal and something that can be used in a variety of business functions including search engine optimization.