Lee Odden

Smarter Online Marketing Requires Intelligence: Opportunity Research Basics

Lee Odden     Online Marketing

online marketing auditsLong before an army goes into battle, intelligence organizations have been busy collecting and analyzing information about the opposing threat. The right information and insight could lead to a much more advantageous outcome. Inaccurate information or an absence of competitive research can lead to disaster.

In the competitive world of content marketing and optimization, it’s essential for companies of all sizes and industries to understand their online marketplace in order to gain a business advantage.

Developing a competitive strategy is essential in today’s dynamic search and social web and an effective approach starts by understanding both the broader Search Landscape and internal Website SEO Readiness.

The approach to competitive search and social media research can vary widely by situation because no business is the same. It’s essentially always going to involve some kind of information capture, assessment and comparison.

A new business entering a competitive market with companies that have mature Internet marketing programs may need to uncover key weaknesses in their competitor’s marketing efforts in order to compete “David and Goliath” style.  In a situation with companies that have very similar levels of Internet marketing resources and effort, competitive research may uncover weaknesses or unrealized opportunities that can create advantage.

In all cases, an understanding of the competitive search and social media landscape will help content marketers differentiate to better attract and engage with customers.

For example, one entrepreneur in the self-help area of memory and IQ improvement wanted an online marketing program that would help achieve top visibility on Google for the word “brain.  With a new website and nearly 700 million competing search results for the search term, a first glance evaluation indicated the outcome to be unlikely with any reasonable budget and time frame.

Further research into the search landscape to identify competitors did not reveal the list of online puzzle and learning websites the entrepreneur considered “competition”, but a mix of Wikipedia, University (Harvard), industry publication and resource websites with large numbers of web pages and a long history of search relevance for the topic.

In the search and social media marketing world, the competition isn’t always who you think.  What companies need to understand is that online competition isn’t just businesses competing for market share in the business world, but information and content published from a variety of sources that compete for search engine and social media users’ attention.

In the case of the “brain” customer, thoughtful analysis of the search and social media landscape revealed popular forums and social networking groups focused on topics related to what the target website visitor would find useful. A more diverse, yet relevant keyword mix proved to be more attainable and more importantly, a better reflection of the interests amongst the target community.

A larger group of keyword targets promoted through the optimization of content and social media channels resulted in the entrepreneur’s website reaching over 300,000 unique visitors per month and a decision to change the business model to advertising over product sales because of the volume of traffic. Had the entrepreneur focused only on “brain” without conducting competitive and marketplace research, they might still be selling just a few learning games per month instead of a thriving website supported by an active community and strong search engine traffic.

Of course, the research that goes into developing an aggressive search and online marketing strategy goes beyond these basics. There are 5 audits we use for developing a more effective approach to dominating the search and social web including: topic/keywords audit, technical SEO audit, on/off site content audit, social media audit and a linking audit. More on those in my next post.

Excerpt with permission from Optimize: How to Attract and Engage More Customers by Integrating SEO, Social Media and Content Marketing, published by Wiley.

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Lee Odden About Lee Odden

@LeeOdden is the CEO of TopRank Marketing and editor of Online Marketing Blog. Cited for his expertise by The Economist, Forbes and the Wall Street Journal, he's the author of the book Optimize and presents internationally on B2B marketing topics including content, search, social media and influencer marketing. When not at conferences, consulting, or working with his talented team, he's likely running, traveling or cooking up something new.


  1. “Your competition isn’t who you think”. Great point.. I hear startups all the time proclaim “We have no competitors” but in actuality they have millions of competitors: all the content farms, aggregators, small publishers, article directories, etc who are ranking for all their long-tail keywords.

    • Competition is whoever draws from time and attention your prospects should be spending with you. In search and social media, that could mean your own customers publishing to the web.

  2. It’s article of the best really i like it,thanks my friend.

  3. “There are 5 audits we use for developing a more effective approach to dominating the search and social web including: topic/keywords audit, technical SEO audit, on/off site content audit, social media audit and a linking audit. More on those in my next post.” Great point! These days so many people don’t realize how they can dominate on search. Ive been using these tools and they have really worked for me! Thanks.

  4. Avatar Robert Axelsen says

    What a great read, Lee! Reminds me of the Sun Tzu quote “Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer”. And competitive research is easier than people think, with so much information available if you know where to look.

    Want to find out what keywords your competitors are ranking for? 1) Go to google and indentify a competitor by searching for a in your market 2) Use the ‘Google Keyword Tool’ (google for it) and search by entering the website you found 3) A list of keywords related to the content on the website will appear

    You can even take it one step further and take keywords from the competitors and together with a tool like SEOQuake to backwards engineer where they are getting their backlinks from 🙂

  5. Great information. It’s important to remember that in internet marketing there is cake for everybody. Internet is simply huge, but we must know what we are doing, and really, like any university career out there, internet marketing requires knowledge and intelligence, strategy, patience. action.

  6. Avatar Varun Gautam says

    That was credible information. Online Marketing is something which seems to be easy to do but in really it is not so much of easy as we think. Now Digital Marketing is on its verge these days that too needs strategy, intelligence, experience etc.

  7. Thanks for the great information. I certainly agree with you in all the things that you’ve written. We may sometimes think that online marketing is a very easy task but it requires a lot of planning and marketing strategy. Good job!