Competitive Research

Competitive Research

From SES NYC 2005 | Return to Table of Contents

The competitive research session is on the subject of how to seek out your competitors’ listings, understand their methodology for success and leverage it for your own efforts.Moderator Detlev Johnson takes us all back with a description of the old “leapfrog technique” used to rank higher at Infoseek’s search engine back in 1995. He then introduces the four panel members; Alan Dick of Vintage Bath & Tubs, David Williams from 360i, Cam Baizer from Performics.com and Bill Tancer of Hitwise.


Alan Dick, the founder of Vintage Bath & Tubs, begins the session by discussing his company’s background and success online. He makes several well-received jokes about “selling crappers” when his mother wanted him to be a lawyer, then goes into his slides on competitive research techniques.

He mentions:

  • Alexa – The “people also visit” list of websites
  • Fagan Finder and Copyscape – Used to prevent content plagiarism
  • Archive.org – To look at the old snapshots of your competitors’ sites, sales, etc.
  • PPC Ads – To see how much they are paying for which terms, ad copy, etc.
  • Froogle Feed – To price and product compare
  • DMOZ – To see what sites are listed in your category
  • MarketLeap – Link Analysis Tool
  • Ebay – Feedback from Users to judge how many sales are made; recommends a 1 to 2 ratio to find # of sales. So for each piece of feedback, you can surmise that the seller made 2 additional sales. This can also be used to see what their customers are saying about their products.
  • CareerBuilder – To check what types of HR acquisitions competitors are making
  • Feedster – See what they are saying and have said through the company blog

Next up is David Williams of 360i. David has a short introduction piece, then jumps right in to his slides on research tactics.

He discusses:

  • Hitwise – as a research tool
  • Looking at competitors’ sites to see if they are “SEO Challenged” or “Conversion Challenged”
  • Check the average number of page views per visitor (available through Hitwise on sites they monitor). David notes that this is a strong metric for e-commerce.
  • Suggests the OptiLink Tool for SEO
  • Different Types of Search Terms – “Awareness”, “Shop”, “Purchase”
  • Notes there is a “50/50” split between paid and organic (I’m confused and am not sure to what he is referring)
  • Says that vertical engines – shopping portals, specifically, can boost organic SEO
  • Mentions he very much likes SearchIgnite & Atlas 1-Point as campaign management tools
  • Also describes Spannerworks/SEOtoolkit.com as search tools

In the Q+A, David mentions that having DMOZ editor privileges can help to get your site listed and recommends using that to leverage getting into the directory.


Next up is Cam Baizer from Performics.com. Cam mentions that Performics is now owned by DoubleClick (an acquisition that was made last year). The company currently has 170 employees based in Chicago and serves 125 brands. Cam touches on the subject of keyword “inflation” being a relative myth and notes that his firm has found that keyword prices have reached a stable level over the last 12 months, and that in many sectors they monitor, even declined.

Cam Discusses:

  • Passive Intelligence – used to ID competition
  • The creation of a keyword matrix to have a better grasp on all of the competitive items you need to monitor
  • Active Intelligence – obtained from third-party tools
  • Comscore – Qsearch to provide research
  • AdGooroo.com’s Adwords monitoring service – Cam notes that this helps to figure out how much competitors are spending (CPCs, impressions, click-throughs)
  • Notes some figures: 3.5% of searchers click on 1 st paid position, 1.5% for positions 2-4 and 0.75% or lower for positions 5+
  • Cam shows a formula used to measure performance: (Clicks x CR x AOS)/Spend = Estimated Return on Ad Spend
  • Discusses the difference between a strict ROI campaign vs. an awareness or branding campaign in PPC
  • Cam talks on running “controlled” bid run-ups (artificially) simply to test the aggressiveness of competitors

During the Q+A, Cam mentions that no PPC campaign receives a “rebate” from the search companies and he assures the audience that even when you spend 100mil+, you pay the full CPC each time.


Gavin Appel from Hitwise speaks on his company’s product, a monitoring service for 25 mil+ users over 160 industries at the network level. Hitwise conducts time analysis of traffic levels to see where increases have come from (links, search, etc.) – for example, he mentions a Google algo shift (update). Gavin also discusses using a competitive analysis to show terms where you are not competing (where your market share is low). Hitwise has its own built-in search term research term as well (sources are unclear) and a success rate tool that is built in.

Gavin also touches on some of the new tools from Hitwise. For example, he shows a system whereby a researcher can see what percentage of searches for a particular term are done on Google and who in the sector is most successful in generating traffic – you can use this to ID affiliates, competitors, link partners, etc.


Last up is Bill Tancer (also of Hitwise), who talks a little about some of the major search engines. He mentions that while Google is still the fastest growing service overall, MSN has seen a 14% growth rate over the last 4 months. Bill brings up some numbers and metrics; first, that Google still accounts for 55.5% of US searches, and that many Yahoo! & MSN searchers do so out of convenience (I infer he means ignorance – those who don’t know how to change their homepage, etc.) Bill goes on and shows some demographics:

  • Demographics – differences are subtle:
  • MSN – Skews female and slightly older
  • Yahoo! – Skews lower income (the “shotguns & pickups”), notes that many of these searchers look specifically for WWF, Nascar & Britesmile terms!
  • Google – Skews male, higher income & urban
  • Desktop Search – Very much used by “mature years” group – 55+ and notes the popularity of Yahoo! When Bill asked his mother, she noted that older people “forget stuff” and therefore are more likely to need desktop search.
  • Verticalization
    • 45% of Health & Medical visitors used search
    • 25% of Travel visitors used search
    • Google Clickstream – 10.23% go directly to shopping/classified sites
    • The shopping category had 14% growth last year

That wraps up competitive research. I did not differentiate between the presentation and Q+A period in these notes, so they are included above.