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Should I hire a search marketing agency that works with our competitors?

Categories: PPC, SEO

When you hire a search marketing agency, it makes sense to choose one with experience in your industry. This way, you get marketers with expertise in your field, industry insights and historical data that can be used to enhance campaign performance.

However, there’s a legitimate concern that such an agency may be working with other companies in your field – potentially rivals that you’re competing against in search. So how do you choose an agency with specialist knowledge in your industry without having any conflicts of interest?

Can agencies work for multiple companies in the same industry?

Any agency with proven expertise in, say, travel marketing needs to work with multiple companies in the industry, over an extended period of time, to build experience, compile data and adapt to industry changes.

The obvious concern is that you could be paying an agency that’s also helping your direct rivals compete against you in the SERPs. Any marketer or business owner is going to feel uneasy about directing money towards an agency that’s helping out the competition but let’s put pride and emotion aside for one moment.

The first thing to remember is that an agency working with multiple clients needs them all to thrive. It’s not in their interests to have you competing with your direct rivals on every front and essentially cancelling each other out.

Any agency that specialises in specific industries or has multiple clients in the same field needs to find a way for each client to hit their targets. So, the question we need to answer in this article is: how does one marketing agency find unique opportunities for multiple clients in the same industry so they can all achieve growth?

How agencies find unique opportunities for similar brands

To answer this question, we asked some of the best minds at Vertical Leap. There are three crucial principles that allow us to pinpoint search space for similar companies and find room to grow without neutralising each other.

  1. Knowing what makes you different: Every company is different (locations, target audiences, brand stories, goals, budgets, etc.) and this is crucial for finding the opportunities that are unique to your brand.
  2. Goal-driven marketing: By putting brand differentiation and unique opportunities at the centre of your marketing efforts, every campaign works towards fulfilling these goals.
  3. Finding opportunities first: Our intelligent automation platform, Apollo Insights, uses big data and machine learning to find new opportunities first – so you can capitalise on them while they’re still unique.

For the rest of this article, we’re going to take a look at each of these principles in more detail and explain how they help us get results for multiple clients in the same industry – with input from some of our top search experts.

Knowing what makes you different

The most important factor in finding unique opportunities for a business is understanding what makes them different from all of the other companies in the same industry. It doesn’t matter whether your agency works with similar brands or not; the SERPs are filled with businesses in your field competing for space and differentiation is crucial to any search marketing strategy.

As Ben Jayston, SEO specialist at Vertical Leap, explains:

All companies are different. They use different platforms, create different content, have different business models, different locales, etc. As such, each company ought to be dealt with using different personalised strategies, so even though they might share the same keywords, the ad copy and page content can be very different.

Ben Jayston
Ben Jayston – SEO Specialist

Every business is different and it’s the agency’s role to understand what sets you apart from the other companies in your industry and your target audiences compared to theirs. These differences unveil unique keyword opportunities that other businesses may not be interested in. And, in cases where you are competing with similar companies for the same keyword, it’s the differentiation in your content or ad copy that makes you stand out.

Ben continues:

For example, two storage companies offer the same service but one specialises in fragile goods and the other in volume. So generic storage keywords would be competitive, but longtail keywords would differ considerably for these two companies. A good question to ask is: what makes you different? Then we can sell that.

Every results page leaves similar brands competing against each other, no matter which agency they work with. The key is to find unique opportunities where they are and, when you find yourself competing for the same keywords, highlight the differences that make you stand out to your target audience.

Putting your goals at the centre of everything

Another key differentiator between businesses in the same industry is their marketing goals. Some of these are defined by ambition (eg: increasing revenue by $100,000 this year) while others are set by the characteristics of a brand, such as location, manufacturing capacity, budget, etc.

Lee Wilson, Head of SEO at Vertical Leap, explains:

Objectives are often very different, even for companies that appear quite similar. Their services can differ, they’ll have different key ROI products to prioritise or they’ll sell in different locations with different USPs and target audiences – all creating unique goals vs the competition.

Lee Wilson
Lee Wilson – Head of Services

The more calculated and specific your marketing objectives are, the more distinct they become from other brands, even in the same industry. One example Lee points to is high ROI products and services, which can vary from one business to another. Every business wants to prioritise these in their search marketing efforts, investing more in these ads, finding more longtail keywords, creating more content and earning more links for those pages.

By placing your goals at the centre of your search marketing strategy and prioritising campaigns, you differentiate further and reduce any overlap with your competitors. And, as Lee explains, there are plenty of opportunities out there for brands that understand how to differentiate themselves.

The search opportunities generally are vast, so in many cases, real world overlap is often very limited.

Finding opportunities first with real-time data

New opportunities are emerging every day with Google alone saying 15% of new queries typed in every day have never been searched before. Combine this with industry trends, changing technologies, shifting consumer habits, etc. and you’ve got a business landscape that’s constantly coming up with new chances for brands to seize.

The thing with new opportunities is they have a limited shelf life and diminishing returns as more and more businesses catch on. Generally speaking, the brands that get there first get the prize share while latecomers are left fighting it out for scraps.

In today’s marketing world, companies with the most data tend to find and seize new opportunities first. This is one of the key strengths of agencies with specialist industry experience, as they’re able to build up a history of relevant data that can not only improve your campaign performance but predict future outcomes.

Mel Soutar, Senior Business Development Manager at Vertical Leap, says:

We’ve had instances where different clients compete for the same keywords, but the reality is both brands benefit from our experience and the wealth of industry data we build.

Mel Soutar
Mel Soutar – Business Development Manager

Where competition exists, we’re able to give both clients the best chance against other rivals in the industry while also making the most of opportunities unique to each individual brand. It’s not only a question of keywords, either. We look at factors like mobile optimisation and loading times for every client and this benefits them all equally.

However, we also place a big focus on differentiation and have the data and technology to find unique opportunities for individual clients.

The benefits of hiring an agency that works with other companies in your industry

We’ve touched on some of the benefits of hiring a search marketing agency that works with other companies in your industry. Above all, you’re getting specialist expertise and marketers with experience in making things happen for brands like yours – professionals who understand the industry, how it’s changed in recent years and where it’s headed.

Data-driven agencies like ourselves that specialise in specific industries will have a solid history of data that can be used to optimise your campaigns, predict future outcomes and identify opportunities.

Meanwhile, an agency with no industry knowledge is starting from scratch on all accounts.

Also, keep in mind that you’re always going to compete against other companies for every search – no matter which agency they work with. In some ways, it even makes life easier if your agency works with your direct rivals because they can ensure there’s enough campaign differentiation for everyone to hit their targets.

Need help with your search marketing?

Over the past 20 years we’ve been in business, we’ve developed specialisms in several industries, successfully working with many customers who compete in the same industries. If you need help with your search marketing, talk to us today on 02392 830281 or email info@vertical-leap.uk.

Michelle joined Vertical Leap’s Portsmouth office in 2011 as Marketing Manager, having spent the previous 15 years of her marketing career in the recruitment, leisure and printing industries. Her passions include dogs, yoga, walking, the beach, mountains and nice food.

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