FOUND Friday

A weekly Google Hangout dedicated to discussing content marketing, search marketing, SEO and more.


Topic: How to Find Competitors and Outrank Them

Find all the competitors who are stealing traffic from you and make sure you can outrank them.

Erin O’Brien, COO at GinzaMetrics
Karen Scates, Manager Marketing and PR


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Karen: Happy Friday, everyone. Welcome to today’s episode of FOUND Friday, a web series where we discuss all things SEO, content marketing, and digital strategy. I’m Karen.


Erin: And I’m Erin.


Karen: Today we’re going to be talking about finding competitors and making sure you can outrank them. Beating the competition, catching the competition, and analyzing the competition are common goals associated with competitor intelligence. What’s missing for many organizations is the ability to identify and discover all the content that may be taking their traffic. In that sense, let’s start by defining competitors in relation to search engines and content.


Erin: When we’re talking about what a competitor is, I think that there’s probably a little bit of miscommunication about competition in terms of what we’re talking about for content-specific things and ranking-wise. A lot of times, people consider competition to be things that are more direct. Essentially, like exact products and features that people would purchase instead of you.


But when we’re talking about ranking, content, and overall findability, what we’re really talking about is anything that could take traffic away from what you’ve created and anything that could take rank away from your content and site pages. That could include things like blogs, new sites, and peripheral competitors. We’ll talk a little bit more about that, but they’re things that are adjacent to your market but may not be a direct competitor to you in terms of actual products.


These are all things that you have to actually be aware of and watch out for because it makes it harder to actually find your product, your service, your features even when we’re talking about these competing content creation things that aren’t necessarily other brands. I think that too often people are only focused on just specific other brands that may be competing with them.


Karen: I sometimes think we almost need a different term. We need something else besides the word “competitor” because competitor is too often just associated with another brand that’s competing with your sales team. So I don’t know. We’ll have to think of something.


Erin: Maybe that’s the distinction because it is all competition, it’s sales competition and it’s content competition. There’s a difference between those things where when somebody actually makes a final purchasing choice versus when they’re doing research mode or looking into it.


For example, an article about top ten SEO tools to use may or may not include us but if it ranks above our website or content that we’ve created and people see that before they actually see us, then they’re getting information about tools and things like that without ever considering even looking at our content. So you really have to make sure that what you’re looking at is this full spectrum of content that is relevant to your audience and to your industry.


Karen: How do you go about discovering those new competitors?


Erin: This is one of the tricks. Everybody says, “That sounds great but that also sounds really time consuming.” It’s a little different for everyone in terms of what that exact mix will look like but we created Competitor Discovery here a little over a year ago in order to actually go out and do that. There are a couple of really important pieces to that.


The first is having a clearly defined group of keywords. You need to know what keywords and topics are relevant to your industry. This goes beyond necessarily just the stuff that you’re already tracking. I’ll talk a little bit about the fact that the sister tool to Competitor Discovery is Keyword Discovery, which is figuring out what could be driving traffic to your content, what could be driving traffic to competitor content, and then making sure that you’re tracking all those topics.


From having a good list of keywords, I’ll go back to my favorite phrase which is keyword groups and content groups. You need to create groups that are based on actual things that are relevant to your brand. Whether that is features, product lines, persona types, geographies, or all of those things because keywords can belong to multiple groups, once you create these groups, it helps you actually narrow down what you’re finding for competition.


If we’re talking about specifically feature-based things, this may actually yield more direct competitors. Whereas if we’re talking about something a little bit more broad, general product-related, this may actually yield a lot more industry-relevant publications and terms. It will really depend based on what you’re doing in terms of B2B or B2C. That’s one really important thing.


Another important thing to note when you’re grouping content and you understand what kinds of content is being created is that you’re going to want to look at what actual types of content there are. Are you looking at videos? Are you looking at slide decks? Are you looking at landing pages? Are you looking at blog posts, etc? There’s a really big difference a lot of times in the way that ranking and findability works for video versus a blog. We have the really cool thing about video SEO best practices but a lot of times you’ll get different results. So sometimes you can even group content by content type and then you can actually filter out things a little bit easier from there, as well.


Karen: Of course, we haven’t said yet in this show but that goes back to measuring by the medium, the method, and the message. We have a lot of content on that. You can go into the GinzaMetrics Academy and get all the information you need about that. But I want to focus right now on how to use targeted keywords to discover competitors.


Erin: When we’re talking about using targeted keywords to actually discover potential competitors, what we’re hoping to do here is take the keywords and topics that you’re targeting or that you are monitoring and discover anything else that is ranking highly for those targeted keywords. Then what we want to do is we want to put them into buckets. Again, that’s by keyword group.


When you actually start bucketing it out these groups of competitors, what you can do from there in the Keyword Discovery tool – or on your own but you’ll need a pretty massive spreadsheet because the way you would do this manually would be to look up every single keyword and then pull in everything that’s actually taking traffic. One of the ways we do it is actually by the number of keywords that they’re overlapping with you for.


Consider it almost like your competitor Venn diagram. How entrenched in the same situation are they with you versus you may not want to spend a ton of time fighting with somebody who only has one overlapping keyword unless they’re ranking number one or have a lot of content in that particular keyword and it’s something that you’re really focused on. Where you may want to focus your effort instead is on those competitors that have 15, 20, 30, 100 of the same keywords that you’re targeting are things that they’re targeting. Again, this can be stuff like new sites, blogs, etc.


Once you discover and start tracking all these, one of the things that I’d like to do that we offer in the tools, you can actually dive in and look at the specific list of keywords and the specific content that they’re creating that’s taking traffic from you. Then what you do is look and say, “Do we have anything that’s even comparable on our site? Do we have something that’s comparable that maybe we actually haven’t added these keywords into or haven’t updated our keywords in a while? Do we have existing content that hasn’t been refreshed lately?”


There’s a lot of stuff and we can talk about that in a little bit. But there are a lot of things you can do once you get this information.


Karen: We have talked about that a little bit in the past. If they have a blog that has some keywords that they’re competing with you, you might not want to write a blog for those same keywords. Maybe you want to produce a video or you want to do a podcast or you want to do a SlideShare or something. Again, I’ll have material on that. Those are some other conversations we’ve had.


How do you think social media plays into finding new competing content?


Erin: One of the cool things about almost triangulating discovery from search results as well as adding in social media factors is that social is going to really show you what people are considering to be something that is interesting that they think their audience will also be interested in that they think friends and colleagues will also want to know about.


A lot of times people define sharable content differently but what we do see a lot of obviously is stuff like videos, SlideShares, blog posts, and a lot of image-heavy things being shared more frequently and it’s something like a product overview or a one pager or a case study necessarily, which is one of the reasons that – this is a good time to mention that – I think that visual case studies and video case studies and things like that are a really good idea. Why wouldn’t you interview your customers and try to do a video case study or try to make it more of a visual slide presentation as opposed to just a giant long text document that somebody asked to download as a PDF that has not a lot of fun sharability to it.


One of the things that we did when we did Competitor Discovery (and we do competitor monitoring) is you can actually go in for all of your targeted competitors or the people who you decide to do competitor monitoring for. You can get a fully-indexed list of all their content as well as all their social signals for that content. So you can see what’s being shared. You can click and see a little bit more information about how and what’s going on in terms of sharability.


This gives you an idea in terms of prioritization. Maybe you found somebody who has a bunch of content that’s overlapping with you but it’s not really being shared anywhere, it’s getting great ranking. But maybe you find somebody who has some keywords overlapping with you, has great rank, and is being shared a ton – that may be where you decide to actually start your focus. A lot of this is about your own selection of prioritization.


Karen: What do we need to know about competing content that will help us keep or improve our ranking position?


Erin: Here’s where the suggestions come in. When you’re talking about competing content, you are looking at things that when people are doing searches that they’re finding instead of you. If you are concerned about that or if you’re at the top and you just want to make sure you stay there, keep an eye not just on Competitor Discovery but really keep an eye on Keyword Discovery and what’s relevant to your market right now and what could be driving traffic, what is driving traffic to similar pieces of content, etc.


Keep an eye on social signals as we just talked about. This is a really great way to understand what people are actually liking and sharing that’s relevant which does play a factor in SEO and continues to grow and evolve its role in SEO. You need to make sure you do that.


Another thing is make sure that you go back and update evergreen content. I feel like this is one of the things that’s a big missed opportunity. People have created over the course of time tons of content, typically. At some point, you created content about a feature or a product or a service or something or there are really good reviews and you’re not leveraging them on your site all these different areas. And that’s part of local. I think we’re going to get into some stuff about local in a different episode in terms of local and competition.


What I want to make sure that we touch on here is if you have reviews and they’re old but they’re really, really good, consider grabbing them and making them little testimonials. Make a little testimonials page. Do all these different things. Figure out ways to interweave these things or go back and ask somebody who will review back in 2009 to update their review.


There are all kinds of ways that you can update content, not just updating landing pages or static site pages but dynamic site content. If you wrote a blog back in 2013 and that post is still getting really good content, consider doing a follow-up piece. Consider updating it with new and important information. Don’t update the old blog necessarily. Consider doing a follow-up piece and linking back to that. There are all these different ways that you can refresh it.


Another cool idea is if you decide to go and do an updated version of a blog post, maybe don’t write a new blog post. Maybe make that old blog post into a SlideShare. Maybe make that old blog post into a video. There are tons of different ways that you can stay relevant if what you already have is a good targeted list of keywords and some keyword groups and what you’re really focused on is: how do I create content that’s going to stay up at the top and how do I build up enough domain authority about this? One really good way to build domain authority is a variety of types of content.


I would say start there. As you mentioned, we’ve got tons of resources on the site about how to do a lot of this stuff and we’re always here to answer questions. I would say start there.


Karen: Going back to social, sometimes if there’s a topic and you realize, “A couple of months ago we wrote a blog post or we put together a SlideShare on this very topic, we share it.” Just put it back out in social. Sometimes that will just give you the little boost and people will re-engage with that content instead of just having it leave there static on your site.


Erin: I think that the important thing when you say, “Re-share it on social,” a lot of people do that and they’re like, “We’ve got a thing set up.” Automatically scheduled shares and they just go out. It’s kind of spraying.


I think that the right way to actually do this is to look at what is getting the highest rank or change in rank for keywords that week and say, “Hey, this topic is really popping off right now. Now is the right time to share this particular type of content.” This is back to content groups. Say you have a group of content that maps back to feature types and the keywords in that feature group are really exploding that week. You have a group of content already defined for that specific thing. Start re-sharing that because it’s already in a group. Why not use it? It’s already there.


That’s one of the things – I know I rant about this every week… maybe not every week but often enough to have people know – all this setup time on the front end of creating your keyword groups, creating your content groups, doing these things, it seems cumbersome and it seems like the kind of thing you’re like, “Ugh it’s going to take forever. I just want to get into the tool and use it.” Well, you’re not going to get into the tool and really use it if you didn’t set it up right.


That’s one of the reasons that we created the Keyword Group and the Content Group Wizards, so that you can do this really quickly and easily as opposed to having to go in and manually create all of these groups. You just simply type in matching rules and we sort it for you. Even though it may not be the perfect end result, it’s a first pass that takes a lot of the initial onus off of you to have to go in and do some of this stuff. But again, I feel like if you just spend a day or two concentrating on getting set up correctly, then the payoff is going to be so much exponentially greater than if you are in a hurry to just get in and use the tool.


Karen: Exactly. Speaking of using tools, one of the tools a lot of people use – I use it – is Google Alerts. It’s just a way to be informed daily about what’s out there in your basic subject areas, topic areas, and to keep an eye on the competitors you know. What would you say are some of the benefits or what are some of the issues with maybe just using something like Google Alerts?


Erin: I’m going to start off with saying I use Google Alerts too and I love Google Alerts. Thank you so much, Google. Super awesome. Also thank you for this lovely Hangout that we use every week. I love you.


The reason I don’t like to use Google Alerts as a standalone competitor tracking tool is because a lot of what it’s showing is going to be things like news-related stuff – press releases, offsite content – but it’s not necessarily going to alert you to (1) new website published content or (2) changes in rank for existing content. So you’re not going to get this idea of they have this content, it has been out for a couple of weeks but now it’s really rising in rank now that it has been crawled a few times, now that they’ve thrown some e-mail and social love and all these things behind it. Maybe they added something into old content that has been helping old content improve in rank.


Google Alerts is amazing for understanding when something new is happening or if you do it for industry terms. I always have Google Alert set up for actual competitor names and variations of their names and set up for industry terms. For us, it may be like SEO, enterprise SEO, or content marketing tool or whatever. I have a lot of those set up and they’re in buckets. That’s great for when people may publish something about that and I just want to get an industry feed of what Google has recently crawled that is new to the market. Where I overlay that is what this data and information about the keywords and the topics that people actually find relevant. Because somebody may publish something to the web and it may be seven pages deep, which nobody is ever going to find. It may be seven pages deep and only two people may ever read it. But I have a Google Alert about it so that doesn’t tell me anything about how important it is or how people perceive it so you’re like, “That’s where ranking data comes in.”


Google Alerts – again, a really cool tool, great first step in terms of making sure you’re keeping a general eye on things but it doesn’t have a lot of help with tracking of existing stuff or change in importance over time. It also depends on when you set up this Google Alert. Let’s say I set up one today and somebody had released some really awesome content yesterday, not showing up in my Google Alert. Google Alerts are only as good as the time that you had set them up in terms of newness. It has to be almost like a legacy kind of a thing. So if you’re going to do it, do it now because every day that you don’t, you’re missing out.


Karen: It’s really nice to keep up with what topics or trending people are writing about. But again, it’s really published content. It’s what’s showing up in the larger publications and stuff and not necessarily maybe what your competitors are ranking for for your keywords or in your specific industry on their own websites.


Erin: Google Alerts are funny too because what happens with a lot of people with Google Alerts is they’ll start out with really good intentions but they’ll set up 700 Google Alerts or 50 Google Alerts, and then they’ll say, “I want information as it happens.” No, you don’t. Unless you are actively monitoring the newsfeed and like a PR type of a thing where it’s your job to constantly know this exact thing is happening – unless that’s your function, chances are you’re not going to stop whatever you’re doing and read what the Google Alerts says for every single word or for every single alert that you’ve set up if you set up 5 or 10. You’d be surprised just how overwhelming even 7 or 8 Google Alerts can be if you click that “As it Happens” button.


A tip would be set up an As it Happens for your brand name and some of your stuff or if you have key products and things so that you’ll know if somebody says something or if something gets published where you get mentioned. Obviously, you do that with social media mentions too. But everything else needs to go into a weekly digest. What you need to do is if you’re not setting up time to actually go through them and look at them every now and then or read them, consider scaling back to the point where you can actually start a practice of reading them, how many can you feasibly read in a week.


One of the things that I always like to try to do is start my week with some of that. Sometimes it’s a good idea to block off Monday morning. I know that everybody says that Monday morning is terrible because you get in, you have to read all these e-mails, you’re trying to catch back up. Set up an hour on Monday mornings or even 30 minutes and just scan through it. While what you’re doing when you’re going through all your e-mails for Monday morning is getting prepared to handle your day, what you’re doing by reading the latest news and understanding what has been going on in your industry is you’re getting prepared to handle your week with some real intelligence about what’s being said in your industry and in your market. To me, that’s a pretty integral part about being strategic in your job. So block that time off on your calendar and just say, “This is my alert time.”


Karen: I kind of bookend it. I start out the week by going through them and then I end the week when you’re trying to clean up your inbox.


Erin: You’re better at it than me then because usually by Friday afternoon, if I have to read a bunch of articles, I’m just like poof.


Karen: Well, I think that’s all we have for today. If you have questions or comments, you can always e-mail us at or Join in the conversation on Twitter at #FOUNDFriday. We’re always looking for new topics and guests. So, hey, if you’d like to be on our FOUND Friday, let us know and we’ll find a topic of interest for both of us and we’ll get it rolling.


Until then, have a great weekend and we’ll see you next week.


Erin: Bye.


Karen: Bye, Erin.

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