I recently created a video walkthrough of our competitive research tool, which is powered by SEM Rush, and has a couple extra data points added in. It is about 8 minutes long, and should give you at least a couple good ideas for how to use competitive research tools to make more money from your websites.
I have been a big promoter of the SEM Rush service because I think it rocks. As an extension of that, I partnered with with SEM Rush to license their data and offer the organic search piece of their service as a free bonus to our SEO training & community members.
You can use it to find the most valuable or highest traffic rankings for competing sites
Page Specific Competitive Intelligence
You can use it to find the most valuable or highest traffic rankings for a specific page
Similar Keyword Audience
You can use it to find sites that have a large overlap in search rankings / audience
Easily Export Data
The columns are sortable and it is easily to export 1,000 listings in a couple of seconds.
On the competitive research tool page I list 10 high powered ways to use this tool. I would share them publicly, but if you only find one of those tips applicable to your site & situation you should still be able to make far more than $300 from it - making the cost of the subscription free.
Try it Now
If you are a subscriber try it now. If you are not a paying subscriber you may want to join. We keep trying our best to add new content and goodies each month :)
I have had a very well known SEO company dust one of best link building strategies (outing it directly to a Google engineer) because I was trusting enough to mention how effective it was inside our training program, thinking that a competitor would not out it, but I was wrong! At least I know what to expect, and can use that knowledge to mitigate future risks.
One of the common concerns about the SEO Toolbar is something along the lines of "does it phone home" or "are you spying on us" or "what data is it sending you". Some SEO companies offer a huge EULA and do spy on the people who use their toolbars, but we do not do that for a number of reasons
I felt rather angry when that well known SEO company outed my site (and haven't really trusted them since then)
I never really liked the idea of spying on customers, and going down that path could harm our perceived brand value
knowing that information is kept private adds value and builds trust
we are already under-staffed (running quite lean) and have more projects to work on than time, so we are not in need of new projects
It is pretty obvious that the trend in software (since the day I got on the web) is that open source software is commoditizing the value of most software products and tools. Providing tools that require limited maintenance costs and provide access to a best of breed collection of SEO tools makes it easy for us to evolve with the space and help our customers do so, without building up a huge cost sink that requires raising capital and having to listen to some icky investors. :)
The reason we can (and do) provide so many free SEO tools is because I feel doing so...
extends opportunity to more people around the globe (anyone who is just fresh starting out like I was ~6 years ago could use the help)
commoditizes the value of some bloated all-in-one SEO software (many of those products generally lack value and misguide people)
makes it hard for con-artists to sell hyped up junk (by commoditizing the value of their offerings to all but the most desperate of get rich quick folks)
helps to educate potential future customers (when we did a survey recently about 80% of our customers have been practicing SEO for over a year)
is an affordable distribution strategy for brand awareness
builds trust by delivering value for free (rather than trying to squeeze every penny out of potential customers)
is a big differentiator between us and most SEO websites
In addition to all the above points, most of the tools we create are tools I want to use. So the cost of building them would still be there even if we did not share them. Sharing them gets us lots of great user feedback to improve them, and does not cost us much relative to the potential upside.
Small Industry, Lightweight Strategy
Rather than centralizing things, we like to rely on a distributed software strategy which has a much lower cost structure.
That strategy allows this site (with a popular blog, an array of tools, some videos, training modules, and an active community) to run on 1 server. We find the Plenty of Fish story inspiring, though doubt we will need his distributed computing skills anytime soon given how small our industry is. After 5 years we are still millions of visitors and over a billion monthly pageviews behind Plenty of Fish :)
Though we are doing ok in our little corner of the web :)
We have analytics on our website to help us see where we are getting coverage, and to measure and improve conversions (an area ripe for opportunity given our brand exposure and site traffic). We may add relevant affiliate links and offers to some of our SEO tools to help pay for the 10s or 100s of thousands of dollars we spent developing our various tools (for example, see how we integrated a link to our Wordtracker keyword guide and the Wordtracker keyword research service in our keyword tool). But we have no need or desire to spy on users who download our tools. Spying and outing are poor strategies for professional SEOs to employ....they erode trust and value.
I thought it would be worth highlighting a few of the advanced features in the SEO Toolbar. Some of the highest value ideas do not consist of looking at one data point, or boiling things down to 1 arbitrary and meaningless number (like many "professional" SEO tools do), but consist of looking at many data points across multiple sites, and hunting for inconsistencies that help you build new profitable traffic streams. Along those lines, I thought I would run through a few ideas to get your juices flowing...there are dozens more like these :)
Earlier today I called an older version of the SEO Toolbar that does not have the update option built in it. If you downloaded it earlier today, please download again from http://tools.seobook.com/seo-toolbar/
The current version should be 1.0.1 (rather than 0.1). Sorry about the error on the updating part...but you won't have to download it again after this time...the update feature will work, and it is safe to just download it now as it will write over the earlier version of the extension.
What would happen if you smooshed together many of the best parts of Rank Checker, SEO for Firefox, the best keyword research tools across the web, a feed reader (pre-populated with many SEO feeds), a ton of competitive research tools, the ability to compare up to 5 competing sites against each other, easy data export, and boatloads of other features into 1 handy Firefox extension? Well, you would have the SEO Toolbar.
In Mike Grehan's New Signals to Search Engines he highlights how personalization, social media, and universal search may help move search beyond text and links.
Mike also contended that ranking reports are dead. While clients should see the end effect of optimization in their analytics and sales data, ranking reports still have good value to professional SEOs. Below are a couple examples of why and how ranking reports are still important, even as Google crowds the organic search results with universal search stuff.
Track Your Growth
When you build a new site from scratch you get to see how effective your link building strategies are as the site's rankings improve. You have to get in the game before you compete...ranking improvements give you an idea of how your site's trust is growing even before you rank well enough to receive much stable traffic.
This early feedback data can be used to guide further investment in link building efforts, and prioritize which websites get the most effort and investment.
Show Clients Baseline Rankings & Growth
If you sell services to clients and they have a brand new site with limited traction then a ranking report shows baseline rankings and proof of growth, even before top rankings yield lots of traffic. This helps customers have confidence in their SEO provider, even if their SEO investment loses money before making it back.
Page 2/3 Rankings
If you rank on page 2 or 3 for some high value keywords you might not see much traffic from them. But if your keyword rankings let you know that you are close to the top you can consider working on link building and altering your site structure to improve the rankings of those pages.
Services like SEMRush also help give insights into such ranking improvement opportunities.
Algorithm Changes & Penalties
How Are Search Algorithms Shifting?
Is Google putting more weight on authority sites? How much does the domain name count (if at all)? Is anchor text becoming more important or less important? How aggressive should you be with anchor text?
When major algorithm updates happen, tracking a wide array of sites and keywords can help you hypothesize what might be gaining importance and what might be losing importance.
What Happened to My Google Traffic?
Sometimes sites get filtered out of the search results due to manual penalties, automated penalties, automated filters, algorithm changes, or getting hacked. Sometimes the issues are related to particular pages, particular folders, whole sites, or keywords closely related to (or containing) another word.
Seeing a traffic drop gives you some clues that something may be wrong, but one of the easiest ways to isolate the issue and further investigate is to look at ranking reports to see what keywords and what pages were affected...then you can start thinking about if it was a glitch, something you can fix, or something you can't.
Such lists should be taken with a grain of salt, but at free one can't complain about the price. As time passes free and good enough is going to force those selling tools and information to offer something that has a sustainable advantage over free.
At the same time...
the sea of information will become increasingly hard to navigate, increasing the value of filters (particularly those built around a shared perspective or bias)
hyped up salesmen will be able to build many business models out of selling such recycled information to the uninitiated, forcing others who sell information to add even more differentiators between themselves and the competition