Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Competitive intelligence for free: a practical example

Competitive intelligence is an important element of any ideal analytical framework. While measuring and benchmarking your online performances is a must-do, your website is part of an ecosystem. It is not just about you and the customers but you, the customers and competitors! So it is important to understand how you are performing against the competition.

Competitive intelligence is also usually one of the most difficult or expensive data to obtain. For a long time, it has been mainly limited to the Northern American market or to specific industries. Until Google introduced services like Google Trends, Google Trends for websites or Google Insights for Search. Basic competitive intelligence for all and for free!

Avinash Kaushik wrote a very good serie of posts on these services - definitely recommended reading (see related resources at the end of this post). Here is a practical example I made - inspired by a conversation I had with a friend about the Toyota Prius and the Honda Insight.

Toyota Prius vs. Honda Insight
Toyota Prius vs. Honda InsightNo need to present the Toyota Prius, the "most-famous-best-selling" hybrid car in the world. The Prius has contributed a lot to Toyota brand image and popular success in a context where the "green" factor has become critical for a majority of car buyers(1). In 2009, Toyota launched the 3rd generation Prius. The Toyota Prius had no real contender until recently when Honda launched a new hybrid model, the Honda Insight - a Prius look-alike for few thousands Euro's/dollars less. The fight has begun! (here's where you insert the "Rocky" movie theme :-)) Will the Honda Insight put an end to Prius supremacy? What is the interest in the new Honda? Does it equal or surpass interest in the Toyota hybrid?

Understanding customer interest
Interest can be measured based on related search volume. And who is best placed to provide you with insight about search? Our good ol' friend Google of course and in particular Google Insights for Search. It is really a great tool as you can easily get actionable data out of it and more important - some competitive intelligence. "Yes, you can!"

Google Insight for Search - comparing productsFor my example, I will take the French market (I working in Europe and I am French speaking :-)) and I will compare following terms "toyota prius" and "honda insight". Let's start to look at the last 12 months. Here is what Google Insight for Search returned:

First, let's have a look at the interest trends and see what we can learn from these:

Look at peaks during key events or following product launch
  • Trends clearly shows the impact of key motor shows on customer interest: Paris Motor show in October (with the reveal of the Honda Insight), Detroit in January (with the reveal of Prius 3rd generation and official launch of the Insight) and Geneva in March. Clear peaks are visible at these times and one can see how the event influenced search activity.
  • The graph also shows that interest in the Honda model increased over time to get closer to the level of interest in the Toyota Prius. Good for Honda. Not that good for Toyota.
  • The other thing this graph can show us is the impact of advertising or media campaigns: in April, the Honda Insight curve jumped as major advertising campaign started in France for the launch of the new hybrid car. It even surpassed temporarily interest in the Toyota Prius before settling down.
So you see how you can use interest trends to compare your products against the competition but also to see the impacts of external factors like advertising campaigns, press & media coverage or events.

Now, you can drilldown to look into more details when exactly peaks occured by using smaller time range (last month, last 90 days...). For example, we can see a rising peak in May for the Prius - so let's look at last month trends.
Drilldown to see exactly when peaks happenedSee that peak that started around the 18th-19th? Is it a coincidence that it happened after the official launch of the new Prius in Japan and after the coverage of the news in the French media (like this article)?

You get the idea and you see how it can be used to get insights from the interest trends. Want more? Want "actionable" insights? Good because there is more you can get from Google Insights for Search.

Finding out customer "carewords"
I will not spend time on the regional interest - up to you to see if it can be of any value for your business - and I will jump to the last section of the page: related terms & rising terms.

Related & rising search terms - Toyota Prius - France - last 12 monthsThis section is fantastic as you can see most popular related terms used by your customers - not the one you may think they should use :-) The rising terms give you indications about "hot" terms and trends.

(Tip: Only the top 10 terms are displayed on the screen but you can get more if you download all figures and terms in CSV format. All you need is a Google account and to log in)

Looking at a wide time range (e.g. last 12 months) gives you a snapshot of the main trends. In the above results, we can see that new Prius is part of the rising terms with terms like "Prius 2009", "Prius 3" and variants. Note also the presence of the "Honda Insight" in the rising terms. The presence of competitors in the list is an important information.

The great thing is that Google Insight for Search allows you to see the same list for the other terms. For "Honda Insight", this is what we get:

Related & rising search terms - Honda Insight - France - last 12 monthsHere we can see that people where also looking for prices and reviews ("essai" in French) on the new Honda hybrid. And here again, "Prius" related terms are among top related & rising terms - showing how these two models are competing each against the other.

What you should do with this information? Well, first thing is to check your search engine ranking for these "customer" words and then use these as input for SEO and/or SEA (if you can not achieve a good organic ranking). Adapt your content and adword copytext so they include these terms! You can also check competitors ranking for their own terms to see if they do a better / worse job than you do and possibly use this info to convince your boss about the necessity of improving organic ranking and paid search investments.

I also advise here again to drilldown to smaller time period (last 3 months, last month) to detect specific recent hot trends for search terms. However the inconvenient is that you may not get enough search volume and the result list may be quite short if not empty.

Conclusion
Free competitive tools are often underutilized while they can sometimes provide insightful information, depending on context. It is not because they are free that it means you can not do anything valuable with it. The problem is that most the time, people ignore that such competitive information exists and is available.

The main inconvenient of Google Insights for search is that it is not always usable. It will provide information only if there are significant search volumes. Also the level of details will vary according to the market/region you look at.

But still it worth the try - you never know what you could learn or discover. And it is free so what are you waiting for?

What do you think? Did I make sense? And you, how do you use such tool? Or others you may suggest?

Related resources:

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Next Web Analytics Wednesday @ TheseDays (Antwerp): Understanding the value of social media!

Web Analytics Wednesday is back to AntwerpI am pleased to finally confirm that 3rd Belgian Web Analytics Wednesday will be held in June. For the occasion, WAW will go back to where it started this year. The event will be hosted by These Days. The event will take place in Antwerp at These Days office on the 3rd of June 2009, starting at 18:30.

WebTrends, the Analytics advisor, is generously sponsoring this WAW edition.
Host:
Sponsor:
WebTrends - Your trusted Analytics Advisor
Social media: "Are you listening"?
I am really excited to announce that the main theme of this Web Analytics Wednesday will be all about "social media: listen, measure and engage!". Highly recommended to Web Analysts, marketing managers, online marketeers, media specialists, communication managers or anyone interested in leveraging the value of social media.

Bart De Waele from Talking HeadsIn the first session, Bart De Waele from Talking Heads, a company specialized in starting “conversations” on the social web will explain what can be the “value or ROI” of social conversations, why listening to these conversations is critical nowadays and how these can be measurable.


Radian6 - Social Media monitoring, measurement and engagementThe second session will focus on practical social media monitoring & measurement. It will start with practical presentation of Radian6 measurement solution with a real-case demonstration (by Siegert Dierickx from These Days). Maarten Sambre from WebTrends will then explain WebTrends new partnership with Radian6, why WebTrends & Radian6 are a perfect match and explore a bit WebTrends specific features.

The event will close with the traditional drinks and snacks where you will have the opportunity to network with peers, share ideas & experience about social media, web analytics, online marketing or whatever pleases you.

Agenda
18:00: Venue opens & welcome
18:30: "The value or ROI of social conversations" by Bart De Waele from Talking Heads
19:45: "Listen, Measure, engage - Radian6 & WebTrends Social Measurement solution" by Siegert Dierickx from These Days and Maarten Sambre from WebTrends.
20:30: Networking, free drinks and snacks offered by WebTrends

(all presentations are held in English)

Do I still need to mention that this event like all Web Analytics Wednesdays is 100% free events?

You have NO excuse: register now!
The event is free by we invite you to register in advance. You can register here on the official WAW worldwide site (yes, Web Analytics Wednesdays are worldwide events, doh!).
Register to Web Analytics Wednesday in Antwerp @ These Days
The event is opened to anyone who has an interest in online marketing and communications. See below for summaries from previous events.

These Days and I hope to see you there on the 3rd of June!


Summaries from previous WAW's:

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Coming speaking engagements: Amsterdam (NL) & Lille (FR)

The San Jose eMetrics summit took place this week in California. It is THE event of the year (with the Washington DC edition) and if you were not there (like me), you may have heard about all great presentations & announcements on Twitter or various WA blogs. eMetrics are really great event. I already attended past editions of the London eMetrics summit so I know how it tastes (by the way, I highly recommend this event to all European practioners - really worth it). Unfortunately for me, due to the current recession, I will not be able to attend this year edition. So sad... Still, I will have the great honour to speak at other "European" analytics event!

Web Analytics Congres in Amsterdam, Netherlands - 28th of May
The canals of Amsterdam, by night - such a special atmosphereFor few years, the WebAnalytics Congres is taking place each year the Netherlands, an European country where Web Analytics practices are quite developed and mature. This year edition will take place on the 28th of May at the Hotel Okura in the superb city of Amsterdam. While most cases are Dutch cases, they usually invite "international" speakers, whether industry leaders like Dennis R. Mortensen from Yahoo Insights (who will be this year international keynote speaker) or simple practioners...like me.

Indeed, I have been invited by WebTrends, one of the main sponsors of the event, to present a practioner case on Toyota Motor Europe. I will explain- as first case of the day - examples on how Toyota Motor Europe use Web Analytics in Pan European context to improve online business performances and online media efficiency but also key future challenges. You can find the full program here.

Web Analytics Wednesday @ Lille, France - 17th of June
Lille and the place RihourEarlier this year, Nicolas Malo organized the first Web Analytics Wednesday (WAW) in Northern France area in order to promote Web Analytics in the region. The event was quite a success with more than 60 attendees.

For the second Northern France WAW that will be held on the 17th of June at the Espace Tween in center of Lille, I have been invited as guest speaker to share my experience in deploying Web Analytics in a Pan-European context. The other speaker of the day will be Julien Coquet (WAA country manage - France and moderator of the French WA forum analyse.fr among others). I am really pleased by the invitation and I am looking forward for going back to this very nice city where I worked for a year few years ago. You can find the agenda here (French only) and register on the official International WAW page. Note that all sessions are held in French.

Web Analytics Wednesday - the world's largest social event for Web Analytics professionals

I am really excited by this two coming events - not only because I will be there as a speaker - but mainly because I think such events are really great places to live our Web Analytics passion, to meet peers and to exchange experience & ideas. It may be not eMetrics summit but I am sure these will be great and quality events. After all, size doesn't matter :-)

So why won't you join me there? I hope to see you either in Amsterdam or in Lille!

Cheers.

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