As search marketers, your job is to generate traffic. More traffic means more sales. As we become more wise to the math of conversion, we begin to realize that it may make sense to shift some attention away from the unending search for higher click-through rates and toward getting higher conversion rates on our sites.
If you have gone to bat for adding some serious conversion optimization to your search campaigns, you know that it isn’t an easy sell.
We tell the powers-that-be how higher conversion rates effectively reduce the cost of the search marketing by lowering acquisition costs. We explain the wisdom of micro-conversions that charge an email list, effectively storing search dollars for later. We show the data, the charts, the graphs.
All to little avail.
In my years selling conversion services to businesses, I’ve found one thing that ensures I will have a prospect’s focused attention. It isn’t the data, the math or the potential increases in revenue. To the contrary, it’s something that works almost completely on emotion.
If there’s one thing people hate more than losing money, it’s having money taken from them. That is why it is so powerful to have an arch nemesis to fight against.
The Power Of An Enemy
The greatest heroes of literature, comics and movies are defined by a powerful counter force. Our celluloid mythologies are driven by the battle between an oppressed, innocent victim, and a highly competent force for darkness. Every Bond film dug up a well-funded genius when mining for bad guys. The agents in the Matrix were free to move about the world at will, and were unbeatable.
If your business has competitors (and who doesn’t) I recommend looking for the Blofeld of the bunch. If such a competitor exists, and you can demonstrate some level of evil genius in their ways, you may have an easier time getting your conversion optimization project going.
The Components Of Your Story
For a competitor to truly qualify as an arch nemesis, their story has to include some important plot elements.
First, they have to have unlimited means at their disposal. Big public companies can often be dismissed as bumbling and wasteful. The Evil Empire from the Star Wars movies built another Death Star after the rebels blew up their first one. This shows a distinct lack of imagination. You have to show your competitors as having resources or insights that threaten to take over the industry.
Second, they must be smart. What are they doing that your business is not? Where are they investing that you are not?
Finally, they must have an evil plan to take over your industry and keep businesses like yours struggling.
Just as “Q” used to equip James Bond with the trinkets and toys that he would need to get out of dastardly traps, you have some spy equipment with which to expose your competition.
Understanding what search keywords they are bidding on is one way to indicate how smart they are. Search marketers have a tendency to dismiss competing strategies. This doesn’t make your competition look smart enough.
Instead, look for things they are doing that are either smart or evil. Are they bidding on your brand names? That may be both smart and evil.
You can reinforce their unlimited resources. While their search tactics may be sloppy, they can rule the world if they put enough spend behind them.
The service SpyFu is one source for competitive keyword intelligence, and it’s reasonably priced.
Are They Optimizing For Conversions?
Another way to show your competitor as smart is to discover testing software on their site. A handy little browser plugin called Ghostery does a great job of uncovering their evil plan to take money out of your pockets.
Ghostery will show you the tell-tale signs of an online business that has their act together:
- An analytics package such as Google Analytics
- Click trackers such as CrazyEgg or Click Tales
- Testing packages, such as Adobe Test and Target, Visual Website Optimizer or Optimizely
If they’ve got tools like this installed on their site, they start to look pretty smart – and dangerous.
There are some other “conversion accelerators” you can look for with your spy equipment
- Who are they using for ratings and reviews?
- What recommendation engine are they using?
- What video player are they using?
This information tells you just how focused your competitors are about taking your online business.
Catch Them Monologuing
In the animated film The Incredibles, evil villain Syndrome missed opportunities to finish of Mr. Incredible by “monologuing.” When the bad guy lays out his evil plan, you should listen.
Bragging In Press Releases
Sometimes you can catch competitors monologuing in their press releases and interviews. When your competitors are doing well, they will want to brag. This is your chance to catch some good information, like the conversion rates disclosed by 1-800-PetMeds.
Membership Has Its Downside
When a competitor wants to be part of the “in-crowd,” they may fill out an application that becomes published data.
For example, one company published their Internet Retailer Top 500 statistics right on their website. This details their history, revenues, traffic sources, visits and visitors, and the features of their website.
This image was found with a simple search.
Public Company Disclosures
Public companies have to publish a lot of juicy information. It’s SEC-mandated monologuing.
Cast Them In Their Best Light
Finally, you can compare a competing site to yours using the same tools we use to tear apart analyze websites.
Two page analyzers we use are AttentionWizard and Feng-Gui. Eyequant is a new entrant. These services analyze a screen capture and tell you where your visitors eye is likely to fall when they first arrive. It simulates an eye-tracking study.
Run your important pages through one of these and do the same with the equivalent page from your competitor’s site. You may learn that they are directing the eye more effectively.
In this example, the category page for a competitor (left) gets more attention on their products than the one on the right, where several products get ignored. This should cause some indigestion with management.
That is the power of a villainous competitor.
With a little research, you can clearly draw a picture of your competition as an evil genius, working to take food from the mouths of your children. You can develop the story of the powerful competitor using some spy equipment, their public “bragging,” and some page analysis tools. This will make your conversion project seem more critical to the survival of your business.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.