Posted June 25, 2009 3:15 pm by with 14 comments

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By Anthony Verre

If You’re Not An 800 lb Gorilla, You’re Guerrilla

It’s no big secret: PPC is competitive. And any advantage you can get is always an edge. The hardest part is finding the edge you can leverage effectively, efficiently, and strike a resonating blow. It sounds like war because it is. Pay-Per-Click generals need to find and exploit the weaknesses of competition.

Small businesses face a number of challenges in the PPC battleground, chief among them being that they have small-ish/smaller budgets than their larger counterparts. Meaning, for highly competitive and general keywords within your vertical, it’s difficult to compete. As such, brute force click-bids are impossible leverage because your competition will effectively price you out. Therefore, small businesses must leverage the one strength that a majority of them possess: small guerrilla marketing.

Exploiting the Competitor’s Strategy: Research

You know what your business-centric keywords are. You dredged your analytics for the keywords driving traffic and conversions. You’ve got your negative keywords in place to guard against unqualified click traffic. Whatever words you’ve found, you can bet your competitors found too. Here’s where your research skills come in.

Who Your Competition Really Is

Take a handful of keywords you’ve found and search them. You’ll be looking at company names you’ve never heard of before. That’s your market share competition now; those are companies you need to research and create a PPC strategy around.

To keep trying to outmaneuver Company X because for years it has always been Company X eating up market share, is to waste your online marketing effort and money. Your competitors are those that are competing for your keywords.

Tools to Find Your Competitors’ Mid-Tail and Long-Tail Keywords

Now that you’ve isolated the top competitors for each of your keywords, it’s time to find out what other keywords they bid on. And what they don’t. Drop in your competitor’s URLs and/or keywords and get tons of valuable information. From ads to ad spend trend lines to a fairly complete list of keywords each competitor is paying for.

You can find out where you overlap in keywords, especially on larger terms, but more importantly, you can find out what keywords they’re NOT buying. You can adjust your strategy to take advantage and leverage the mid-tail and long-tail keywords your competition may be under-bidding and/or ignoring all together. Additionally, you can adjust your strategy to hone in on the more general keywords you can’t live without.

Your Secret Weapon: Hubris

Fortunately for you, most businesses have a major chink in their armor: hubris. It’s something most businesses never protect because their egos won’t let them, or they haven’t actually thought about it: their brand name.

You can create a competitor campaign that targets the competitors’ brand name. The objective with this type of campaign is simply to draft traffic away and conversions from brands when users/consumers search them and to simultaneously create brand recognition. “18.1% – 28.5% of searchers looked for brand names…only when consumers are close to making a final purchase decision that they enter brand names into search engines.” [Jim Hedger, “Consumers Search Before Buying”]

Take these examples:

  1. Starbucks
  2. CocoKey Water Resort
  3. Edward Jones

Bending the Consumer Purchase Funnel

Since there are no viable competitors, in the examples above, on these brand name keywords, the clicks will be inexpensive with possibility of a huge payoff (it might not be a bad idea to guard your own brand name while you’re at it). At one of the most crucial times in the consumer purchase funnel you have the opportunity to help change their minds and move them in a different direction. And, even if you don’t persuade them, you’ve given yourself brand recognition and the consumer an alternative if they don’t find what they need.

Ready for Battle?

This is an entry to Marketing Pilgrim’s 4th Annual SEM Scholarship contest.