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by Mike Fleming

Let’s say your site contains iphone app reviews.  Your goal for the
4th quarter of 2011 was to increase your website traffic and conversions
by 8% compared to the third quarter.  The results?  +10%.  Time to do
the happy dance?  Not so fast, my friend! Just take a look at overall web search interest in this market in the graph below… This is a common point of failure of many site owners. They analyze their data in the silo of their Web analytics tool. This can cause you to misjudge what is truly going on because you are lacking the context of your industry ecosystem.
The free and easily-accessible tool that I used above hints that your
industry may have grown by about +20% in the fourth quarter. And it just
may be that your #1 competitor increased +30% during that period. So,
you’re doing the happy dance when you really need a tissue. This is where competitive intelligence analysis needs to enter into your Web marketing strategy.
If all you do is analyze your own data, you have an incomplete picture.
Now that’s no way to make decisions, is it? What about that site or
keyword that is sending all of that valuable traffic to your
competitor’s site, the one where you are invisible or don’t know about
or are unwillingly to raise your paid search budget
for?  What about that keyword that is quickly rising in interest among
searchers that you have no target page for in your SEO campaign?  What
about the fact that your industry is really on the rise in Canada and
your competitors don’t know that?  This is where knowing what’s really
happening on the Web in your industry as a whole is golden. Thankfully, we are given many free and paid tools to get our hands on this valuable data. From Google Trends for Websites, Insights for Search and Ad Planner to Compete and Hitwise,
there is an ever-increasing arsenal of competitive intelligence tools
from which to choose from that enable you to do valuable research like
the following… Traffic Analysis Valuable
information about site and industry traffic that can contain insights
to inform your marketing strategy, including other sites that visitors
to your site visited, the sites they went to after visiting your site,
the search terms that visitors to competitors’ sites use and the
websites that send your competitors traffic. Why might information like
this be helpful?  Well, you may make some interesting observations with
things like your audience, their experience with your site, the language
they are using to navigate and sites that you may be missing valuable
traffic. They can inform your marketing strategy in ways that only you are savvy enough to find out. Search and Keyword Analysis In
the hands of the right analyst, you can get some insights that will
keep you steps ahead of your competition. You can compare your brand
name to your competitor’s and see locations where you are and/or aren’t
more popular.  Maybe your industry is on the rise in a particular
state.  Who’s taking advantage of that more? If you know what’s going
on, you can be the “first-mover.” Yes,
I know you’re buying your main keywords in the paid search auctions,
but are you covering the whole keyword landscape that would be
profitable for your business? Are your competitors? How about the
fastest-rising searches? There may be new or trending interests that you
don’t yet know about among your prospects that can give you insights on
where to direct your efforts. You can use this data to tap into the minds and hearts of your target prospects and come up with questions, observations and ideas to test for growing your business. Audience Analysis Why
spend money finding irrelevant sites with your media campaigns? Tools
like Hitwise and Ad Planner give you the ability to identify websites
used by the audience you’re interested in and find out which audiences
are using certain websites. You will find insights when comparing and
contrasting these audiences.  Then for your ads, you can just match
them, place them and test them where your desired audience is most
likely to see them. Conclusion It’s great to know how your business has changed, but it’s even better to know how it’s changed in light of your industry landscape and compared to your competitors. This
will give you knowledge to see where you are or could be ahead or
behind, and give you valuable advantages over your competition.

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Original source article: Search Engine Guide