Find SEO Ideas Without Competitor Research





Blog Date

June 2, 2024


UK, Manchester

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Find SEO Ideas Without Competitor Research

Find SEO Ideas Without Competitor Research

Alright, let’s talk about SEO and competitor research. If you Google “SEO competitor analysis,” you’ll see the usual suspects – Semrush, Moz, Backlinko, Ahrefs, and Neil Patel – all giving you the same old advice. It’s like searching for “tech companies” and seeing Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix, and Google (or whatever they’re calling themselves these days).

These SEO tools and consultants have perfected the art of out-SEO-ing everyone else to show up in the search results and teach you how to do SEO. And you know what they all say, more or less? “Go analyze your competitors, see what they’re doing, and then try to outdo them.” Personally, I think we just discovered the platonic ideal of whatever the exact opposite of strategy is.

But here’s the thing – your competitors’ SEO tactics only matter insofar as the odds of them annoying us while we try to achieve our goals together. And that’s where Hit Subscribe’s approach differs from the SEO titans. We don’t believe in the traditional “slug it out with your competitors over the same keywords” approach. Because who do you think wins in that scenario? Semrush, Moz, Backlinko, Ahrefs, and Neil Patel. That’s who.

Think about what they’re encouraging you to do – see what your competitors are doing, and then try to outdo them, even though they’re ahead of you. I doubt Sun Tzu would be remembered today if his Art of War had included the advice “Wait for the enemy to identify the most defensible hills, then incur catastrophic losses as you displace them.” Sun Tzu didn’t give that advice, but contemporary catapult and coffin vendors probably did.

Forget Competitor Research, Let’s Talk About Your Funnel

Before we even look at what your competitors are up to, we need to decide what you want to do in terms of generating leads. We’re really talking about constructing an acquisition funnel and, broadly, your go-to-market approach. At its core, SEO is simply a content distribution tactic that exists alongside many other such tactics. Granted, it’s a highly predictable, highly repeatable, and cost-effective tactic and channel. But it’s just that – a tactic and channel – so we need to resist the impulse to let your competitors’ keywords and SEO consultants and tools become the tail that wags the dog of your marketing spend (to which they’ll happily help themselves).

Defining Your Ideal Funnel

Without doing any keyword research or SEO-y things, let’s start by laying out some loose funnels that are compatible with SEO distribution. For example, let’s say you’re selling a commercial service on top of an open-source Python ORM. Creating a bunch of Python tutorials related to using databases makes sense, because you know anyone reading is both a Python and database user, and thus a qualified lead for the open-source ORM, if not the commercial offering. That’s pretty good segmentation.

Now, this is the moment when keyword research becomes relevant. We want to see if the search terms corresponding to these tutorials will be winnable. And that’s also when competitor research finally becomes relevant. Because along with stats about the keywords, you want to have a sense of who might barge into the SERPs who isn’t there already.

Let’s consider two kinds of competitors at this point: business competitors and SERP competitors. In our example, business competitors would include other ORM vendors or perhaps databases. But SERP competitors might be broader. They could include a dev blogger that just loves to write about Python ORMs or maybe a bunch of Python tutorials from the Python language site.

Conducting Competitor Research the Right Way

Tactically speaking, here’s how we at MCR SEO conduct competitor research against an SEO campaign:

  1. Identify Campaigns: Once we have one or more campaigns in hand, we can identify the competitors that might have something to say about them.
  2. SWOT Analysis: We’ll conduct a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, threats, opportunities) analysis on those competitors. This helps us answer questions like:
  3. Can we outperform them on the keywords we want to target?
  4. Do they have any unique angles or content formats that could be threats?
  5. Are there any gaps in their content or link profile that we can exploit?
  6. Should we scrap this campaign idea entirely and go a different direction?

With the exception of that last concern, all they’ll really make us do is slightly adjust tactics or prioritize slightly different flavors of spending on the channel. The nuclear option of scrapping a campaign idea is something we rarely need to do, because brands and SEOs tend to enlist a very simplistic flavor of keyword research.

I’d summarize it as yellow-pages searches: “You should rank for your offering!” For instance, take our hypothetical Python ORM vendor. SEO consultants would tell them that they need to rank for “Python ORM,” and other Python ORMs have SEO consultants telling them the same thing. That kicks off a competitor arms race, with all of them looking at each other’s backlinks and word counts and domain authority and dispatching flaming dump trucks full of money in a quixotic effort to win.

Don’t Bother With That

You don’t need to rank for “Python ORM” to sell Python ORMs, and treating your competitors as ideation sources will just create the misapprehension that you do. Our methodology will result in keywords that bring you well-segmented traffic, with people who are decently likely to buy. We’ll build a strategy together to put leads in your funnel – and you’ll only think about your competitors when we’re steering you around them.

So, in summary, forget about the SEO titans and their tired “analyze your competitors” advice. Instead, let’s focus on defining your ideal acquisition funnel and building a content strategy around that. The keyword research and competitor analysis will come later, as a means to an end, not the end itself. Sound good? Great, let’s get started!

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