Search Engine Marketing Competitive Analysis - Buying A Forklift Brian Bluff Contrary to the normal first reaction, your search engine marketing competition will often not be the same companies that you sell against day-to-day. Rather your search engine competitors are those sites, images, videos, ads, and news stories that appear above you or next to you (your web content) on a search engine when prospects search for information related to the products or services you sell.An important point to consider is that as prospects move through the buying process – typically identification of need, search for solutions, evaluate vendors, purchase, and repurchase, the information they care about evolves. If you consider the process someone goes through when they buy a forklift, early on comparing brands or information related to type, load capacity, travel and lift speed and maximum loaded grade are more important than finding the right dealer.Google search results for the term “Best Forklifts”In the below image, a search for “best forklifts” returns mixed results. The paid results, in this case, are not a good match as the returned sites are all sellers of product – forklifts. These miss-matched results, if clicked on, waste the advertiser’s money and the user’s time. The organic results however, are a great match would likely provide a good user experience.Google search results for the term “Best Forklifts”. In this case the paid results are not a good match for the search term.FindTheBest.com offers users the ability to search for forklifts by type, fuel type, manufacturer and model, tire type and riding position. It’s easy to see that a user searching for “best forklifts” would value the information on this site despite having to put up with the occasional ad.After buyers have “searched for a solution” and gathered enough information, they move to the evaluate vendor phase of the buying process. Users in this phase are likely to search using terms like “forklifts Syracuse NY”. In the below image we can see that the paid results, are better suited than the above search to address the user’s information needs; although only one returned site, Buffalo Forklift, is a regional company and they are located 135 miles away.The local and organic results in this case are a good match, returning links to local company websites and Google+ local pages. It should be said though that of the local results, none of the companies returned have taken the time to fully build out their Google+ local pages. This is a mistake and something these companies should put high on their search engine marketing to do list.Who Is Your Search Engine Marketing Competition?To determine who your search engine marketing competition is, you really have to understand what terms prospects use at the different stages of the buying process. This is accomplished by doing keyword research. A search for “forklifts Syracuse NY” on Ubersuggest.org returns the below results.Using Google’s Keyword planning tools provides the below results including average monthly search volume, competition level, suggested bid and other useful information.Google Keyword Planner – Forklifts Syracuse NYGoogle Performance – Your Site Vs. The Competition123Forklift.com, per the below screen shot from SEMRush, shows that most of the traffic to this site is paid (Google AdWords) and they average about $4k per month in AdWords spend. Further, for the past three years 123Forklift has invested more heavily in paid (Google) search during Q1 and Q4; however they seemed to have pulled back a bit from this tactic last year.SEMRush data on 123forklift.comOrganically, 123Forklift’s Google traffic levels have leveled off after a period of quick growth and an equally quick decrease. If I were a betting man, I’d guess this is a concern and that they are actively working to correct this situation. If I were analyzing this site, I’d look to the reason for the quick increase in organic traffic and wonder if the SEO tactics used got them in trouble with Google. Alternatively, their site could have some technical issues which are preventing it from regaining the higher traffic levels.Looking at 123Forklift’s backlink profile, I can see that they invest in an industrial directory strategy and participate in ThomasNet and Industrial Quick Search. For a company looking to replicate their success, it might be worth speaking with these two companies.Number Of Ranking Keywords – Important Search Engine Competitive Analysis MetricMonitoring how many keywords your search engine competitors rank for is a good idea too. In the below graph, I’ve run a report on four companies selling forklifts in Syracuse, NY.I’ve hidden the names of the companies in an attempt to keep from insulting anyone. Here are a few notes:The owners of Site 1 are in real trouble and have very little search engine exposure – they rank for only a handful of keywords.The red line, Site 2, is currently the dominate player, but the wide high to low to high swings would concern me and I wonder if they have a search engine indexation issue that pops up every once in a while.The real site to watch here is Site 4. At their current rate of SEO growth, they will soon dominate the local market online. The next logical step would be to investigate what they are doing to earn this success and create a plan to replicate it. However, that’s a job for another day.