Why Competitive Keyword Research is Key to Understanding Your Market

Underinvestment in competitive keyword research is a mistake, but you’ll only find that out after it’s too late (unless you read this article).

Do you know the difference between an inch and a millimeter?

Of course you do.

Apparently, NASA (yes, that NASA) struggled to tell the difference between the metric and the English systems of measurement. It wound up costing them $125M in 1999 when they lost the Mars Climate Orbiter as a result of poor planning and communication between NASA and Lockheed Martin.

Metric, English, Whatever…
During the design and build phase of the orbiter, Lockheed Martin engineers expressed measurement in pounds instead of the standard metric units of measurement, “newtons per square meter”. This caused the spaceship’s thrusters to push it too close to Mars’ orbit, the ship burned up in the atmosphere and what was left plummeted to the planet’s surface.

Is your project going to plummet to Mars?
NASA could have realized the mistake any time prior to launch. Lack of planning, communication, and a thorough quality assurance checklist cost NASA a $125 million spaceship, and several years of building (not to mention the 10 months of waiting for the orbiter to reach Mars after launch) before they realized the mistake.

Differentiate By Copying Your Competition?

The cost of not investing
Competitive keyword research probably isn’t going to cost your business $125,000,000, nor will your organization face the ridicule of the world wondering why your engineers don’t know the metric system decades later, but keyword research can be your competitive advantage.

Before we go any further, let me address the elephant in the room. There are thousands of articles written about keyword research and even more about SEO strategy. Some of them are great, most of them stink. Even with the load of content, tools, and marketers, big brands STILL short shrift the quality and depth of their keyword research!

The reason you do keyword research is to build you master plan from a data driven perspective. Want to win and not get in a paid bidding war? Start with keyword research. Want to find niche ways to drive sales and win? Start with keyword research. Want to acquire new customers organically? Start with keyword research.

If you want to win a new category land grab online, or you need to beat a Goliath in your marketplace, or maintain your position as a leader then you better be dialed on a data driven content and SEO strategy. That process starts with quality competitive keyword research.

Don’t Underinvest in Understanding Your Competition

Why are brands terrible at keyword research?
After consulting for many big brands over the last 15 years (Paypal, Brilliant Earth, Healthcare.gov) and having led growth marketing at several others (Ironclad, GoFundMe) it’s clear there is something missing the keyword research process.

In 2018, as the VP of Marketing at YouCaring, we sold our company to a near billion dollar household brand (GoFundMe) because our SEM and SEO programs were rapidly taking market share from them

Are you investing in ignorance or understanding?
We had less than 50 total employees, they had over 400. Our strategic advantage was we’d invested in a keyword strategy and build a content machine to execute upon it, as a result we built almost 4x the amount of SEO authority through developing content our customers wanted to see.

Despite having significantly more resources, GoFundMe didn’t have a keyword strategy or SEO strategy in place — they were also missing a fundamental piece in understanding their marketplace, their competitors, and what their users were searching for. Size doesn’t matter to a smaller brand with a solid keyword strategy and the execution plan to back it up.

Proof of the importance of competitive keyword research.
YouCaring’s keyword themes aggregated. For nearly 4 years the keyword strategy didn’t change much. By the time we sold to GoFundMe we had over 3X the SEO visibility.

It’s Simple But Not Easy

How do I do this?
If you’ve been in business online for any amount of time you’ve certainly been exposed to some processes and tools around keyword research. There are hundreds of SEO tools you can use, from completely free to $1000s of dollars per month. They all claim to make the research process easy, but is it really as easy as the tools claim?

It’s Not Easy, Anymore
In the early 2010’s you’d do some keyword research, you’d write some articles, publish them to your blog, and you’d receive free traffic from Google. The more content you published the more you’d rank, the more keywords you use the more keywords you’d rank for.

But Google engineers got wise to people gaming the system and thought, “maybe serving terrible content to our customers isn’t the best idea? Let’s create an algorithm that targets the bad content.”

Size may not matter, but critical thinking and structure does
A solid keyword strategy translates into much more than just SEO success. A fully fleshed out strategy is close to a comprehensive understanding of your brand’s digital marketing universe.

Understanding where your competitors have focused their energy, resources, and time is integral to building a competitive strategy. If you do your keyword research the right way, you will understand your competitive landscape. With this understanding, you’re able to figure out ways to bend time and space.

Understand the True Power of Intent

What is the critical mistake most brands make?
Before doing anything, you must understand who your competitors are first. Start small. Make no assumptions. Quantify as much data as you can about those who deliver similar products, experience, and content as you.

There’s a single concept that summarizes how your company should to start its competitive keyword research.

Understanding what people want should be the main focus of all the content you’re delivering to your prospects online. Understanding what content your competitors rank for gives your brand a huge head start to build a solid launching pad to slingshot past them (isn’t this better than a fistfight?).

First, focus on understanding what people are searching for, second, create great content that people want. Rinse, repeat… put your orbiter in orbit.

keyword research and how to nail searcher intent
What does Google want from your brand’s content? It wants an answer that reflects the counter point of searcher intent. i.e. the best answer available online.

Rule #1: Understand What People Want

How to deliver content people are searching for
We must figure out who our real competition is. Start with a single keyword is the best way to uncover all your competitors (both those you know and those you don’t). If your could boil down your business to a single keyword phrase, what would it be? This is your White Whale Keyword.

Click for an in-depth review of the competitive analysis tools we use.

Got your core keyword?

Great, that’s all you need to get started slingshotting past your competitors into orbit.