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Competitive Intelligence: Using KOB Analysis for Planning SEO Campaigns

Online marketing information can change quickly This article is 3 years and 179 days old, and the facts and opinions contained in it may be out of date.

KOB Analysis stands for Keyword Opposition to Benefit Analysis. It’s the process I’ve used for the past several years to determine which projects have the most opportunity. It helps to determine which keywords to target so that resources will be used most efficiently for maximum benefit. KOB analysis is essentially a way of creating a cost benefit analysis on a specific keyword (or set of keywords). It is designed to answer the most important questions in any search marketing campaign:

—What is the opposition?
(how strong is the SERP competition?)

—What is the benefit?
(how much new business can we generate?)

Teaching at MarketMotive has forced me to take a look at how I conducted my research in several years as a search marketing consultant, and document a formal process that could be taught to someone.  It made me realize that to effectively judge the potential of a SEO campaign — you really have to do your keyword research and competitive analysis in unison.

The idea of KOB Analysis originally started in the form of a morphing powerpoint and outline, the way I often suss out my ideas these days. (Which is very similar to Rand’s process).  KOB Analysis stands for Keyword Opposition to Benefit Analysis (or ratio).  This ratio provides us with the “sweet spot" for conducting an SEO campaign based on the allocated resources (labor, existing links, budget, etc.).

It’s certainly not an exact science, but the tools to evaluate the value and opposition of specific keyword results are evolving quickly. (As a quick aside, if you are developing competitive analysis tools, I will gladly give you my algorithm and methodology for "The KOB Tool" in return for a link and credit for the term – drop me a line)

The “low hanging fruit”

low hanging fruitSEO folks have always looked for the mythical “low hanging fruit”, It seems the barrier to entry in most industries and keyword sets is rising by the day, and the fruit is growing much higher on the trees these days.  Fortunately, our tools for establishing the best opportunities are improving as well. The KOB tool will exist shortly from someone – and some variation is no doubt available in some of the high end agency toolsets.

KOB analysis allows you to find the best opportunities for conducting an SEO campaign, and thus allocate your resources in an efficient manner.  Aaron has a somewhat similar idea built into his competitive analysis tool (one of my VERY favorite tools of all time), which he deems “upside potential” that helps you to choose which keywords potentially offer the most return for the least amount of effort.  Upside potential doesn’t take into account opposition score, but it does look at the opportunity posed by marginal improvements in existing ranking. 

 

So how do we calculate KOB Analysis?

KOB Analysis - Keyword Opposition to Benefit RatioKeyword opposition refers to the competition level of a search result.  In the past, wordtracker had used KEI (or keyword effectiveness index) as a similar metric to KOB, but it was flawed by the way the opposition levels are calculated (by number of competing pages).  Rand talks about the flaws in their opposition score here, and how it’s being changed. The number of pages doesn’t matter nearly as much as the overall strength of the sites in the top 10 spots (where you need to be to receive the valuable search traffic).

Opposition can be calculated with a few factors:

  1. Age
  2. Anchor text
  3. Onpage optimization (several sub factors)
  4. Global link popularity
  5. Local Set links
  6. Unique linking domains
  7. Exact match bonus
  8. Social signals

In very rudimentary fashion — we can assign a 1-10 score to each of these areas, and weight them to come up with an opposition score similar to what SEOMoz provides with their keyword difficulty tool (based on some different factors). This could be done much more scientifically with the right program and algorithm (again – tool providers please ping me).

Benefit is much more simple to calculate.  Instead of just using search volume, we are able to get a more meaningful figure for benefit by multiplying search volume times benefit.  While this figure for benefit is not always completely accurate based on adwords projections — it does give us some better insights into which terms have the highest volume AND commercial value. 

High cost per click search queries are currently the best predictive indicator of the commercial intent (and therefore transaction value) of a potential customer arriving from search.  Therefore, combining cost per click and search volume gives us a more meaningful number for the overall benefit to a company’s bottom line revenues.  Taking this idea a bit further – You can easily see how specifically targeting relevant messages to these beneficial visitors arriving from organic search with referral targeting would likely be a very good idea as well.

SEO (campaign planning) is a Moving Target

SEO is a moving target

Creating SEO projections is like shooting at a moving target (in a hurricane). I’ve almost never found projections of anyone with the exception of a select few in house experts to be even remotely reasonable.  Despite the flaws, Projections and budgeting are mandatory for acquiring corporate budgets for actually doing the work. Perhaps this helps to explain the disconnect in PPC and SEO spending.

KOB analysis assists in these projections, and helps to set more reasonable expectations.  As any good SEO consultant will tell you — the key to successful client relationships all starts with setting these reasonable expectations (the same can be said for the success of your career if you’re working as an in-house SEO person). The tools for calculating TRUE benefit (and overall value) of organic search traffic are still just evolving (SEMRush and Spyfu lead the charge). The best tool at this point is an understanding of concepts used to create projections.

KOB Analysis in some form is always the foundation for any successful SEO campaign. Unfortunately, SEO is not conducted in a vacuum. There are lots of moving parts involved, and your best competitors are always improving as well. They are learning about how to attract links better. They understand linkbaiting, creating infographics, hiring link ninjas, and they’ve been buying links under the radar for years. They had their onpage optimization tweaked over 5 years ago. They live on the bleeding edge just like you do. They’ll have many more links and a lot more content in 6 months. You need to consider the timeline and moving parts when creating your projections. In some keyword sets it’s just not realistic to expect you will EVER compete in the top

  • Regardless of your mega-budget – the return will not justify the spend for your one-word vanity phrase (why not spend it on some longer tail phrases that offer more benefit?).

    When you determine the resources that you need to rank for a given term, you also have to consider the timeline involved. If you’re shooting at a target 3 months, 6 months, or a year out, you have to budget for your competitors growth as well. If you don’t, you’re going to be very disappointed when you reach some of your link goals and still fall on your face with your ranking and traffic goals. BE CONSERVATIVE with your projections, and always focus on managing expectations when you’re dealing with lots of unknown variables. You’ll be able to better understand your competitors growth patterns with tools like Majestic SEO that show historical data on their link graph growth over time. Don’t underestimate the competition – UNDERSTAND them with KOB and you’ll have better understanding and more respect for the folks you compete with, and more realistic expectations to set for the people around you.

     I think many search marketing folks use similar process for conducting cost benefit analysis for their campaigns, but I haven’t really seen much common language used to describe it.  If you know of any great competitive analysis tools, or similar methodologies to run cost/benefit analysis for organic search, I would definitely be interested in checking them out. Want to see examples in action? Well, we have that available over at Market Motive. I’ll also be presenting on KOB analysis (including a case study) on a competitive analysis panel with John Andrews at SEMPDX on Feb. 23rd.

    Some other competitive analysis resources and tools:

    Learn more about KOB Analysis at Market Motive

    Tools

    **My personal favorites

    Resources

  • More information about Todd Malicoat aka stuntdubl.

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    • http://rockfi.sh steveplunkett

      awesome article..

      SEO Big Leagues = “Despite the flaws, Projections and budgeting are mandatory for acquiring corporate budgets for actually doing the work. ”

      was a hard lesson i had to learn after job change.

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    • http://nicoroddz.com Nico Roddz Analista web

      Good approach but if you focus on hundreds (or maybe thousands) of keywords, (IMHO) is a really time consuming process.

      Some advice on automation?

      Cheers,

      Nico

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    • http://www.caliberi.com Jonny Scott

      Nice post Todd. These days things are fairly do or die in terms of performance based deals catching the lions share of clicks.

      At Caliber UK we use two key processes to do this for global multi vertical domains and travel accounts of at typically at least 10,000 KWs.

      The first is a KWOP – keyword opportunity matrix. This system scores each current ranking position against a points system which mimics click through rate data, the points scale gives weight to positions which are closer to the click stream — the top 5 positions in Google — and extra weight to those positions which closest to rank 1. Using this data we are able to determine the low hanging fruit and develop a strategy using a phased approach which ensures progression, and indicates likely return on investment.

      Crucially key phrases are grouped into sets (rather like Google Adwords) (@nico) these become the “head” terms upon which we concentrate our initial efforts, we then use referral information analytics providers to broaden these phrases using a considerable range of key phrases as anchor text to vary the link profile and maintain a natural appearance. Generic key phrases are always likely to come out top by sheer volume, so having broken those down we considered what can be achieved within a realistic budget, and recommend taking a “stepping stone” approach to generic phrases, optimising for a second level terms and leveraging success to achieve the generic phrases.

      The second element, a Domain Link Profile (DLP) – provides a link diagnosis both historic and temporally; a review of existing links, reasons for linking, and identifies potentials area to build on.

      Tying these together and incorporating budgets always requires some to normalise the scale, which requires experience, however re-evaluating the KWOP and DLP every quarter. The key tools we use for this our Excel, Raven, Majestic, SEOMoz, SeoBook, GA GWT and Cemper.

      I have tried to mathematically express functions that cover this in more detail. I failed!

      As soon as this type of work seems to become more standardised, will be sure to release what we do to the masses before it becomes old hat.

      My final piece of advice would be to consider Traction Tests for different link building initiatives, as even a detailed Domain Link Profile can miss out on toxic or historical elements that really effect your domain and page level link building initiatives.

    • Ned

      Hi Todd, excellent write-up of the KOB process & score.

      Regards,
      Ned

    • http://www.bedouininteractive.com Cory

      Great article, todd. I’ve been using a variation of your KOB analysis for the past few months and it has been amazing.

    • http://www.duran-seo.co.il Duran

      we teach SEO courses for over 2 years. it’s nice to see that you describe a very similar analysis that we make on class.

      KEI is just another factor to keep in mind,
      we don’t call it KOB but SEO LADDER.

      which typically means the same thing,
      we check all of these criteria and more and create a grade for each competitor.

      This is how we find “loop holes” which are weaker sites on the first page that we can overcome.

    • Prabal Chowdhury

      I appreciate your saying about planning SEO campaigns. Nice to know some important things here in your blog. I would like to suggest my best tool for ranking your website. It’s the best SEO monitoring tool for you all. You can try ColibriTool for daily SEO works. As SEO is not a one time work, we need to perform it continuously. This ColibriTool is build for this purpose. You can find ColibriTool here (http://colibritool.com)

    • تور چین

      Thanks for the post. I found the information informative and useful.کرکره برقیدوربین مدار بستهدرب اتوماتیک

    • http://www.allmoh.in/ SEO Services

      Thanks for this Todd Malicoat – I haven’t been enjoying the new keyword planner at all. I feel like its really limited and clunky. I’ve been looking at alternatives and WordStream’s tools have been particularly useful. Thanks again for this list.
      seo services in Hyderabad

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