Competitive SERP analysis (including our recently launched Competitive Analysis Suite) is — by design — based on understanding the broader ecosystems of your ranking keywords. This is great if you’re an established business, but what if you’ve got a brand new site or are still developing your SEO strategy and aren’t ranking for many keywords?
Consider, for example, the fictional site, Dice-E-Shop.com (shh.. just let me have this one). We plug it into True Competitor, wait for some magic to happen, and voila!
Look at all the time you saved!
Okay, it’s not ideal, but there is a solution, and I call it “Aspirational Analysis”. The basic idea is simple — find a few aspirational but realistic keywords (ones that you can hope to compete for in the mid-term), use those SERPs to find aspirational competitors, and analyze those competitors to chart your competitive course.
1. Aspirational keywords
Let’s assume that you don’t know your competitive SEO landscape very well or that you want a fresh perspective on it. What you do know, hopefully, is the general topic and keyword space you want to compete in.
Let’s take our fictional business, Dice-E-Shop.com, and let’s pretend that it’s an online store specializing in handmade tabletop gaming dice. The key to step one is being aspirational but realistic — no vanity keywords allowed.
I’m not trying to make you feel bad. This is purely pragmatic. For example, let’s plug the keyword “dice” into our Keyword Explorer tool. You should get something like this:
That volume may look nice, but not only is the Keyword Difficulty pretty high, but look at that estimated CTR. Let’s take a quick look at the SERP itself …
The #1 organic position is occupied by a job search brand called Dice.com, which also has expanded sitelinks and other brand-specific rankings (such as their LinkedIn page). That brand is going to soak up most of the clicks on page one. This is neither a realistic nor desirable keyword.
I’m going to simplify this process to keep the workflow reasonable, but the next step is a blend of SERP analysis and intuition. We could go down many descriptive paths (“wooden dice”, “DnD dice”, “artisan dice”, etc.), but let’s try out “handmade dice”:
Don’t get hung up on the volume — our aspirational keyword(s) is all about finding a relevant, realistic competitor. It’s not about building a target keyword list. In this case, just by moving to a two-word phrase, we’re in a more reasonable Keyword Difficulty range with a much more attractive potential for organic clicks. In a more competitive market, we might need to reach deeper into the long tail of search, but “handmade dice” will do nicely for now.
2. Aspirational competitors
Let’s dig into the SERP for “handmade dice” a bit. The #1 result is for Etsy, but while they’re probably a good source of competitive intelligence for our new shop, they’re obviously not a realistic SEO competitor.
Here are the next three organic results. I’ve turned on the MozBar Chrome extension to quickly gain some additional insight:
The #2 site has a pretty low Domain Authority (13), and might not have a lot of ranking data. Honestly, though, as a marketer, I’m stuck on the #4 site because of this:
Love it or hate it, that’s certainly a unique selling proposition. What’s great about this analysis is that you can’t really pick the wrong site. This is an exploration of the competition, and you can always loop back and take another path and journey.
So, let’s go back over to True Competitor and plug in ArtisanDice.com. You’ll get back something like this (edited for size):
Due to a high keyword overlap (at 22%), Etsy scores high on our Rivalry metric, but, as previously discussed, is out of reach. Immediately after, though, we get a number of sites that look pretty viable, and we could easily visit those sites or research them in Keyword Explorer to learn more. Even the site that doesn’t look relevant at first glance (Help-action.com) turns out to be a blog for Dungeon Master resources and might have useful content ideas.
3. Aspirational analysis
I’d argue that we’ve already unearthed some pretty interesting information, but let’s take it a step further. I’m going to plug those top three aspirational competitors (after Etsy) into our new Keyword Gap tool. Here’s a sampling of the competitive keyword gap:
Note that, because we’re using an aspirational competitor (and not our own site), the “Traffic Lift” and “Your Rank” data have to be interpreted differently. This report is from the perspective of our aspirational competitor (ArtisanDice.com).
That said, we’ve got a solid start to finding opportunities in the space and keywords our soon-to-be competitors are targeting. We can easily start to piece together themes, like popular materials, which may even inform our product decisions.
The “Top Competing Content” report gives us a glimpse at some of the most effective content from our aspirational competitors, including a sampling of ranking keywords. I’ve edited this list down to show a few patterns, including pages themed around stone dice and d20s:
Now, we can explore these pages directly for inspiration. We could even put these pages back into our “Explore by Site” tool in Keyword Explorer and get keywords for the exact URL:
This niche page (targeting oversized d20s) ranks for 43 keywords in our data, including:
large 20 sided dice
jumbo 20 sided dice
oversized d20 dice
huge 20 sided dice
giant d20 die
Even a sampling of this list is rich with synonyms and the kind of natural-language terms you should consider when building content around this niche.
4. Aspirational automation
While I’ve written this workflow around Moz tools, there are many ways to go about it, including manually using the SERPs themselves. There are two benefits to automation, though, and why I hope our Competitive Analysis suite can empower you to do better work faster.
First, even knowing very little about this space (other than being an occasional gamer and owning a few d20s in my time), the analysis in this post took less than an hour. If I were building a business in this space, I’d have been able to get at critical insights quickly.
Second, automation allows us to quickly branch and iterate. Let’s say that, after this first analysis, we decided to focus on stone dice or specifically on the DnD market — we could easily repeat this analysis to find niche competitors, keywords, and content. We could even start over with an entirely new aspirational keyword — as many times as it was useful. We could separately analyze product and content competitors, providing future direction for both our shopping pages and blog/marketing pages.
One last thing: aspirational analysis isn’t just for new sites. Sometimes, we all need to escape our own biases, and performing competitive analysis on other, diverse sites in our industry can open up new insights or areas we may be missing entirely.
The author’s views are entirely his or her own (excluding the unlikely event of hypnosis) and may not always reflect the views of Moz.
A happy and lucky St. Patrick’s day to all my readers! I’ve seen it again and again that small and local businesses became successful due to a great inspiration and some little happenstance bit of luck that got them noticed. Today, I’d like to celebrate with you by offering a shamrock of three ideas I’ve seen taking off in my mother country of Ireland. You may not replicate the exact business model, but do take away the underlying concepts which I strongly believe could succeed in the US. I’ll also point out how you can help luck along with a little creative marketing. Share this article with your team for brainstorming new campaigns, or with anyone in your life who wishes they could start a small business
Finding the “grá”
Ever wondered how to say “I love you” in Irish? One way is “tá grá agam duit” (taw graw ah-gum duts/ditch). It’s not uncommon to hear Irish folk saying they have a “grá” for something when speaking English, and to me, the word not only conveys love but a kind of longing. When people have a “grá”for some really good bread, or a trip to the seaside, or a warm coat they saw in a shop window, it’s what we might call “consumer demand” in American marketing lingo. Pay attention right now, and you may be starting to notice people in the US and elsewhere expressing a special kind of “grá“ for a different life. Recently, such a thread stood out to me on Twitter, started by author and founder Dave Gerhardt.
Software, of course, isn’t going anywhere any time soon, and the more we see of the current state of AI chat, the less many analysts are convinced that it’s going to be a major disruptor at present, but what I observe in this tweet and the replies to it is that people are starting to get tired of the one-dimensional confines of too much screen time. Wanting a satisfying local life and community “IRL” is a great “grá“ statement. Americans are deeply attached to our tech, but more and more, I’m running across peers talking about having an “analog life”, wishing their kids would become “luddites”, or wondering how an off-grid life would feel for their families. More simply put, many people would like to experience more satisfaction in what is right around them.
This dynamic is, in fact, tailor-made for small business entrepreneurs, so let’s look at these three aspirational concepts to see if you or your clients have got a “grá” tugging at you for any of them.
1. Be about life
Within living memory, it was the mark of respectability to have your little weedless patch of green lawn. You constantly cut the grass to keep it under tight control. You yanked out every dandelion – or worse – poisoned your own nest with herbicides. Think things never change for the better? I hear you, but check out TheIrishGardener because now, instead of rolling out bundles of monocrop sod, the Irish are carpeting the outdoors with native wildflower matts. One dimension isn’t enough anymore – folk want flowers and bees and moths and butterflies and bugs and more of everything alive. Yard by yard, they are reinvigorating essential ecosystems. Clever wildflower seed sellers are now marketing their products like seed matts and seed bombs not just to homeowners but as wedding favors, holiday gifts, classroom projects, and more.
There’s been such a base trend in US marketing in which we try to sell things to our neighbors by scaring them. Our ads are full of guns, screaming, threats, panic, anxiety, and danger and it’s very weird contrasting this with the ads I listen to on Irish media which seem to be largely focused on green energy, eating nice things, and enjoying the arts.
Could your great small business reject fear-and-shock-based marketing and instead hinge on beauty and satisfaction in life? We do have that old adage of drawing more flies with honey than vinegar, and if you can align your business with the very strong yearning for life to be abundant, varied, diverse, interesting, healthy, and fun, I think you’re moving away from the old lifeless lawns to the new thriving garden.
2. Be about locality
There’s only one place you can get real Irish seaweed – from the coasts of the country, of course! WildIrishSeaWeeds.com is one of those rare businesses that has seen the potential in a gift of nature that many might pass by without noticing. Seaweed is practically a miracle – you can eat it, bathe in it, and use it as a very carbon-friendly fertilizer that elders have always sworn by. What was once mainly a snack remembered fondly by children is now becoming a serious green industry in Ireland, and not far from where I live, I see a Californian company testing whether they can latch onto a similar demand in the US.
What is overlooked where you live? Is it something that can only be gotten in your local area? Something people used to love but are forgetting about now? Maybe it’s a local food source that’s starting to disappear because no one is using it anymore, or maybe its a skilled craft like basketmaking in a local style, baking or brewing a regional speciality, knitting or sewing a heritage garment, compounding an old-time remedy. Maybe it’s reviving a tradition that used to anchor your community. Could your great small business idea simply be about reconnecting neighbors with what’s special about where you live…a place that may have started to have vanished in our collective consciousness because the screens are blocking the view?
3. Be about people’s simplest pleasures
Our SEO lives may be consumed with ChatGPT right now, or GA4, or what will happen next on or to Twitter, but Padraic Óg Gallagher is up on the balcony of his restaurant, growing real Irish potatoes for his Boxty House in Dublin. If you’ve never had the luck to eat boxty, it’s a delicious potato cake, beloved enough in Ireland to be the inspiration behind a restaurant that’s seen such success, it was able to open a second location. Boxty is not fancy. It’s something your mother would make you from leftovers, something treasured from childhood, the memory of which warms your very soul.
If we look again at Dave Gerhardt’s Twitter thread, he’s not longing for a yacht, nor a manion, nor a pot of gold. He just wants the simple pleasure you get from “building in your community.” Most of us can be plenty happy with just enough, and rather than creating a business idea around elite luxury, consider what you might offer that actually delivers human contentment to the most people. A basic kitchen good that isn’t made well any more? A handcrafted walking stick? A cozy bookshop, a guided tour for visitors, your grandmother’s pecan pie, a wooden toy, a cloth doll, a sturdy garden implement, a bayberry candle, a regional herbal tea?
The simpler and better quality your idea, the more of a welcome change it could be for customers increasingly expressing fatigue from low-quality, mass-produced, and very limited options. America’s Vermont Country Store has been outstandingly successful in helping people relocate fundamental merchandise they can’t find anymore. Study their approach.
Creative marketing of your small business idea
What can you do to catch the eye of your audience? You’ve probably guessed that I’m going to say that, no matter how small your local business, you’ve got to have a website and local business listings. 30 years ago, I would have said this about the telephone book, and however much we may long for more off-screen time, we’ve got to concede that the web makes it so easy to be found! So yes, publishthe best website you can budget for, build out your Google Business Profile and other listings, and invest all you can in learning about digital reputation management. It will help you achieve your goals.
That being said, the room there is beyond the web for creative marketing could fill all the pages of the Book of Kells. If you’re starting out quite small, try these low-tech approaches to getting the word out about your new business idea in your community:
Put a sign outside your house or in the window of your apartment. No room? Ask local officials for permission to put a sign in a vacant lot or on a street corner where you’ve seen other signage posted. Be ready to sell them on how your idea benefits the community.
Research local regulations regarding hanging fliers around town.
Research whether there is an opportunity for you to be included in existing print catalogs. 90 million Americans purchase something from a catalog annually, and even as the Internet has become so established in our lives, catalog shopping has continued to trend upwards.
Found or join a local business organization for brainstorming, networking and cross-selling.
Coordinate with other micro-business entrepreneurs to host a shared party in a local park, acquainting your community with your presence and offerings.
Sponsor local teams, events, and people and be cited for it both on and offline.
If your community still has a local radio station, try to get on it, either with an ad or as a guest, to reach 82.5% of US adults.
If you live in an area favored by tourists, contact the local visitors’ center to see how to get listed in their publications.
Advertise in the mailers and bulletins of local houses of worship and schools.
If what you produce relates to any type of food, music, art, cultural, or local festival, participate in it.
I’m closing today with this famous Irish proverb, because it seems right for this moment in America, where the myth of endless growth and the dangers of an unchecked appetite for luxury have done no favors to the economy or environment our whole people must live in. The Irish phrase, “Cé gur beag díol, caithfidh sé a sholáthar,” has traditionally been used to remind us that even the small wren has to work hard to provide for itself – a scenario every small business owner and local business marketer will easily relate to.
But I’m starting to see a double-meaning in this phrase, and new business trends in Ireland are helping me to see it: a more sustainable way to found a venture may be in asking not how much you want, but how little you actually need to be satisfied. SEOs everywhere already know it’s a best practice to get clients to define what success looks like before a project begins so that all parties can see when a goal has been attained. For most small business owners not seeking to become big business owners, achievement will simply mean something along the lines of being able to pay themselves and their staff enough to have a modest, good life. To me, this recognition matters right now, because most customers are in search of the same thing – having just enough.
Although often underrated or reduced to a “networking platform,” LinkedIn has the potential to help you drive traffic to your website, increase brand awareness, and boost your revenue. How? Through LinkedIn sponsored updates or ads.
Salesforce has announced an integration between Salesforce Commerce Cloud and Google Merchant Center to help merchants highlight the availability of products in stores. The move builds on Salesforce data that suggests both the widespread use of online search in advance of brick and mortar store visits, and an increased likelihood of shopping trips when consumers can see that a store has an item in stock.
Using this new integration, merchants using Commerce Cloud will be able to turn local inventory data into local product listings on Google Search and Google Maps and in the Shopping tab.
Why we care. The distinction between digital and real-world commerce continues to collapse. Those online shopping behaviors that exploded during the pandemic will be with us for the foreseeable future, but it doesn’t mean store visits are a thing of the past.
Rather, consumers are looking for seamless connections between an online product discovery experience and in-person purchases. This integration seeks to support that aim at a granular local level.
The Salesforce data that supports the move can be found here.
Embedding commerce in discovery. The integration also braids together online discovery and the commerce experience. Just as many merchants now seek to provide a frictionless transition from finding a product online to making a digital purchase, this sees the opportunity to link discovery with in-person shopping.
This move pairs with the recent announcement of Salesforce’s Einstein GPT for Commerce that combines proprietary and generative AI models with real-time data such as customer demographic data and shopping history, to automate and tailor shopper recommendations in Commerce Cloud.
Kim Davis is the Editorial Director of MarTech. Born in London, but a New Yorker for over two decades, Kim started covering enterprise software ten years ago. His experience encompasses SaaS for the enterprise, digital- ad data-driven urban planning, and applications of SaaS, digital technology, and data in the marketing space.
He first wrote about marketing technology as editor of Haymarket’s The Hub, a dedicated marketing tech website, which subsequently became a channel on the established direct marketing brand DMN. Kim joined DMN proper in 2016, as a senior editor, becoming Executive Editor, then Editor-in-Chief a position he held until January 2020.
Prior to working in tech journalism, Kim was Associate Editor at a New York Times hyper-local news site, The Local: East Village, and has previously worked as an editor of an academic publication, and as a music journalist. He has written hundreds of New York restaurant reviews for a personal blog, and has been an occasional guest contributor to Eater.