Competitive intelligence has always been important, particularly in retail sales. Years ago, it was done by checking out your rival’s window display, or maybe sending a friend around to see what they were up to.
Of course, e-commerce changes all that… or does it?
Isn’t your competitor’s website the new “window display”? Isn’t browsing around about the same as poking about on the shelves of a brick-and-mortar store? In fact, the internet enables us to do much more poking around — and from the comfort of a recliner.
Let’s take a look at the competition metrics that are easiest to uncover, and result in the greatest amount of actionable information.
Don’t Overlook The Basics
There are quick and easy ways to get an overview of activity in your market. No, it’s not strictly “SEO”, but it can provide important insight into what your competitors are doing. For a quick overall snapshot, set up Google Alerts. You can do it for a market segment or individual company names. It’s free, it takes moments, and you’ll get daily snippets that you can delve into if you want.
If you want something more specific, search for relevant blogs. An excellent example of a monthly feature covering global business operations is called Global Connection. Forbes.com, Entrepreneur.com, and Inc.com are excellent sources for entrepreneur-related issues. Whether you’re in a global market or not, there are likely to be many suitable blogs for your niche or industry. This allows you to stay informed without spending much time.
As important and insightful as blogs are, SEO metrics and competitive analysis are what really makes a difference.So how do you get that information?
Inbound links are currently a hot topic. They can build you up and they can knock you down. They will also reveal a lot about who visits your rivals. It used to be that any links to your site were fine. Unfortunately, abuse of the idea led Google and the other search engines to change the rules.
Now, some links can actually harm your ranking – so it’s worth checking not just your competitors but also your own. You can use various free tools to do this, though if you use Google’s Webmaster Tools you can also ask for links you don’t like to be removed. As for finding and analyzing your competitors’ links, you’ll find this list of SEO tools valuable for a variety of tasks.
You probably know who your main rivals are, but are there others that attract significant business in smaller niches? Searching the web yourself is often ineffective.
There are free keyword services (or free trials), but valuable long-term reporting and analysis will require a subscription. You’ll want to consider this seriously. Keywords play an enormous part in SEO ranking strategy. In e-commerce they not only reveal which products are getting attention but also where opportunities exist.
PPC Budgets & Targets
Organic ranking using keyword targeting can be highly effective, but the major search engines have a habit of changing the way they evaluate sites from time to time. The impact on e-commerce can be devastating.
One common solution is PPC (pay-per-click) advertising. Although arguably not as effective as it once was, it still allows for highly targeted ad placement. Knowing what your competitors are spending, and what they’re targeting, can be very valuable. You might choose to outbid them for specific keywords, or you might notice gaps in their strategies that can be exploited.
Looking Beyond The Storefront
Carefully targeted SEO metrics can give you remarkable insight into what your e-commerce rivals are doing.
It undoubtedly requires extra effort, but delivers increasingly valuable intelligence in a rapidly changing market. Right now, many of your competitors probably aren’t putting in the necessary hours. If you do, it could earn your company a tremendous advantage.
Any proper SEO campaign should begin with competitive analysis. After all, if you don’t know what your competitors are doing, how can you craft a superior strategy to theirs? Use these metrics and tools to get you started.
Do you have other ways to research your competitors? Let us know in the comments!
Image credit: atg.wa.gov (public domain)
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