Episode #99 of the B2B Market Research Podcast – Predicting Competitor Growth – 3 Tools for Analyzing the Buyer’s Journey.
- Competitive intelligence tools for analyzing relative search engine rankings and web traffic data.
- How the B2B buyer’s journey is rapidly changing.
- Why it is imperative to leverage the predictive capabilities of competitive intelligence tools.
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Sean Campbell – CEO of Cascade Insights
In this episode we’re going to talk about a few different tools that you can use to predict competitor growth and in essence analyze the front-end of the B2B buyers’ journey.
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I recently gave a presentation at the SCIP International Conference in Atlanta, where I shared a number of different tools that organizations and competitive intelligence professionals can use to analyze the B2B buyer’s journey.
I also discussed how important it is to understand how the buyer’s journey is changing. In fact, it’s changing dramatically in terms of how customers buy. I’ll be addressing this as well in today’s podcast.
Competitive Intelligence Analytics Tools: Search Ranking & Web Traffic
With competitive intelligence tools, you can analyze metrics such as the search position and traffic volume of competitors’ websites. These insights truly matter. In fact, the CI analytical tools I’ll be discussing are even somewhat predictive.
For example, if traffic is increasing to a competitor’s website that’s 5x your traffic, and the sales cycle is six to 12 months or 12 to 18 months, you can almost guarantee that there’s going to be an increase in sales for that competitor at some point down the line. So the tools I’ll be talking about here are, in many ways, simply predictors of next fiscal year’s success for your competitor — even more so than they are focused on this year’s performance.
Why Positioning for Long Tail Keyphrases Is Important
Positionly is a great competitive intelligence tool for analyzing relative search rankings, and not only because it’s relatively inexpensive (we’re talking about plans that start at five bucks a month). Positionly excels in clearly showing where competitors rank – or position — in a given search engine.
So what do I mean by that?
Let’s take an example from the data analytics and data visualization space. While there’s a bunch of different players in this space, for a concrete example I’ll use Tableau, Qlik, and Birst.
Assume you wanted to know “Where do all these companies rank when a user types the phrase ‘visualization software’ or ‘data visualization software’ in Google?” or more specifically, “Where does Tableau show up? How many links down are they? Are they the second link, the third link, or the 33rd link (meaning they’re on page three in Google’s search results.)?”
Positionly makes this very easy to do.
First, you’d simply list the competitor web domains you want to track, then specify the keywords you want to track. Positionly will immediately tell you that Tableau is going to position as the third link in the search results for “visualization software,” the 12th link for “data visualization,” and the 15th for “business dashboard tools.”
Meanwhile, a competitor of theirs, Qlik, is going to rank as the 29th link for “business dashboard tools” versus Tableau’s 15th position. It’ll be at a distant 47th (fourth page) ranking for “visualization software,” and for “data virtualization” it won’t even be listed in the top hundred search result links, compared to Tableau’s 12th ranking.
These are essential competitive intelligence insights, especially given that B2B buyers are increasingly using web search at the start of their purchase decisions. Today, the marketing funnel is really the front end of the sales cycle, as people filter out the vendors they’ll select and the organizations they’re going to have deeper conversations with beginning with a web-based search.
It’s crucial to leverage a tool that tells you where you rank for those long tail keywords — those problem statements that customers are trying to solve for — relative to your competitors.
Therefore it’s crucial to leverage a tool that tells you where you rank for those long tail keywords — those problem statements that customers are trying to solve for — relative to your competitors.
Using the example of “data virtualization software,” you’d need to determine where you position for that keyphrase versus your competitors, because the problem may have more to do with marketing than sales or product performance. But you won’t have any sense of that unless you put a competitive lens on things with tools like Positionly.
How To Analyze Competitor Web Traffic Volume
Another comparative metric to consider is the relative amount of web traffic that is going to competitors’ sites. For this type of analysis, you can use tools like SimilarWeb.
SimilarWeb does a great job of actually giving you some broad traffic statistics that you can readily graph. You can put two competitors next to each other in the tool (for free on the basic site), and it will show you statistics and traffic between, let’s say, Tableau.com and Qlik.com. So if you were to run that report, it would make it pretty obvious that Tableau is getting more traffic.
An important thing to keep in mind is that having the right taxonomy and the right domains matter. For example, if you were to analyze Tableau.com with SimilarWeb, it would seem as if they were getting no traffic roughly about a year or a year and a half ago, but if you were to put in tableausoftware.com it would look like that all of their traffic had effectively started about a year and a half ago.
All you’re really seeing there is a change in the domain name (from tableausoftware.com to Tableau.com) in terms of where the bulk of their marketing efforts and web traffic were going. They obviously were able to get the shorter domain name — Tableau.com — and they directed users there. This is a good example of why you need to make sure that you’re looking at the results holistically.
Another feature of SimilarWeb (given the product’s a little more expensive than Positionly) is that you can use their widget tool to graph three competitors at the same time. That is available for free, but obviously you’ll receive a lot more competitive intelligence capabilities if you purchase the product.
Another tool to consider is Follow.net. Follow.net is much less expensive than SimilarWeb. And while it’s a little more expensive than Positionly’s base plan, Follow.net will actually pull in traffic reports from places like Compete.com and Alexa which allows you a slightly more comprehensive view of the competitive landscape.
Follow.net will also give you some information on what keywords were driving traffic to your competitors’ sites, which is something you would want to review to see what problem statements (long tail keywords) B2B buyers are using in their search queries, and then who is getting that traffic. You can even access some display advertising data, such as what kind of ads competitors’ are running and related intel.
If you’re not analyzing where you position versus your competitors, and determining the volume and type of traffic they’re generating, then you’re missing out on statistics that in many ways can be very predictive.
In closing, if you’re not using any of these tools (or tools like these) as a competitive intelligence professional, you’re missing out on what is essentially the front end of the sales cycle today. And we all know this to be true. We know that almost everything we buy these days (whether B2B or B2C) starts with some type of web search.
Hence if you’re not analyzing where you position versus your competitors, and determining the volume and type of traffic they’re generating, then you’re missing out on statistics that in many ways can be very predictive. And given prediction is the hallmark of an excellent competitive intelligence professional, you don’t want to miss out on that.
Thanks for listening, and again, don’t forget to check out the free resources available to you and subscribe to our newsletter.