If you are striving for prodigious business results you can’t steer clear of competitor research – an indispensable process which can sufficiently affect your further business development. In fact, competitors are your best stimulus to conquer new horizons, and you should know how to make their pluses and minuses work for you.
There is no doubt that the quantity of competitors you have may reach various numbers but your task is to concentrate on the top five – the more successful a competitor is, the more you can learn from it. In order to find representatives of this upper class you can use a common Google search and some research tools which we’ll describe later. The main issues to be taken into consideration while studying your competitors’ business include various spheres of their functioning and here is a list of those we highly recommend not to ignore.
Creating your own content requires a thorough analysis of core and secondary messages of competitors’ business. Looking through the blog and social media posts, videos and infographics is also important. All this will give you an opportunity not just to get the key principles of their content strategies, but also to see the frequency of their content posting and determine the one which is best namely for you. Besides, don’t forget to note “call to actions” in each type of content and analyze the level of their effectiveness before selecting your own.
Social media choice
The place where the content is put plays a great part, too. Each channel of social media has got its peculiarities which must be noted and then used for the good of your online store. Basing on competitor research, learn what to post using this or that social networking service and how often it must be done. Besides, you can also follow them and be aware of all changes they make. Monitoring of competitors’ behavior is necessary for making savvy steps at the ever-changing market.
Setting prices is the next question to be studied. It’s impossible to establish your pricing strategy if you’ve got poor knowledge of your competitors’ pricing plans. What principles are they guided by and how do they influence yours? Answers to these questions will lead you to the correct choice of your own pricing policy.
Good website structure increases your chances for good Google ranking, and in order to get it you must remember that website architecture isn’t just a set of attractive pages. Note that those online-stores which have SEO friendly sites are more likely to succeed. So why not to follow their principles, too?
Best practices to follow in websites’ structure:
- Use flat architecture (homepage-category-product)
- Avoid infinite scroll issues. As crawlers can’t scroll down your page, it’s recommended to create a series of pages that go along with the infinite scroll page.
- Use SEO friendly URLs. Use keywords in URLs and make the meaningful.
- Add sitemap
- Use Micro formats (Schema.org markup)
- Use 301 and 302 redirects if needed
- Avoid duplicate content
Whatever piece of information you can draw from the items mentioned above it won’t be enough to get the whole picture you need. Customers themselves are the best judges of all pros and cons your competitors have got. Talk to them and find out what they like and dislike about other representatives of eCommerce. You can use a short questionnaire to get a clear idea why clients choose you and leave their previous providers, or v.v. why they prefer other online stores to yours.
Strange as it may seem but watching who your competitors are hiring can inform you about their present state or even plans for the future. Pay attention to their requirements and you can learn what techniques they use or what company policy they follow. Positions at what competitors are hiring new employees hide some secrets, too. For example, if they are seeking for new specialists it can mean they are getting ready for some expansion.
Obviously, while conducting a survey on your competitors you will need some help to get a nice report on each of them. Nowadays there is a wide range of tools which provide technical and analytical support, making the whole research process much faster and easier. We would like to pinpoint your attention to some of them which can be rather useful.
Google AdWords Keyword Tool
Using this tool you can carry analysis of the keywords and traffic generated for them. Moreover, you’ll manage to find out the price your competitors pay for their adverts. If you’re eager to learn the estimated number of ad clicks and prices for each of them then make use of Google Keyword Planner.
This service makes it possible to conduct a sufficient research on how effectively your competitors use AdWords. You will be able to get such information about competitors like used keywords, adverts variations and ranking. Such data is great for deep competitor analysis basing on which you will manage to improve your own ranks. The prices for this service vary from $49 up to $999 per month depending on the plan and time frame you choose.
Alexa is good for competitor research, too. It has got such services as Keyword Difficulty Tool and Competitive Intelligence Tool. With the first one you can get some good keyword ideas for your website, which are relevant to your target audience and topics you’re ranking for. The second one studies competitors’ traffic volume, websites’ quality and marketing channels. The audience and their demographic data is not an exception, too. To use this tool you will need to spend $9.99 per month but you will also have a chance for a 7-day free trial. Moreover there’s offered a free option which allows a general site overview, namely seeing its traffic rank, audience geography, searching traffic etc.
With SEMrush you will manage to carry research on competitors’ business strategies and build your own one. Its will help you to check competitors’ keyword ranking and find keywords with less competition. Domain vc. Domain Tool allows to set site-by-site domains comparisons what is also useful. Other options like discovering new competitors and researching their ad strategies and best-performing PLAs are also available. However be ready to spend a pretty penny on SEMrush in case you are eager to use its services.
Another tool to inform you about your status among competitors in various fields of ecommerce battle is Ahrefs. This one is used to study competitors’ backlinks, search traffic, information about their keywords and content. It’s necessary to underline that the data produced by Ahrefs is accurate enough to count on, and logically, you have to pay for it.
Open Site Explorer
Using this tool you will be able to get your online store compared to competitors (up to 4) in page and domain authority, linking root domains, total links and social media use. With Open Site Explorer you can find out new link-building opportunities and those which are potentially damaging. What you will really like about this tool is a whole month of a free trial.
You can also carry your competitor research with SEO Book. This service offers various tools by means of which your survey will run faster and will be more productive. SEO Book offers such options as finding the most effective keywords, comparing domains titles, meta information, common phrases of your competitors’ homepages and other data. It’s like a big storage of tools you can use for a really sufficient competitor research and get short reports what this or that tool is aimed at.
As we see such process as competitor research requires a smart approach and must be always incisive in order to get worthwhile results. Your main task is to stay objective and use all analytical skills you possess. If you can, involve in this process a neutral player who is able to give an accurate account. Finally, you’ll see there are things you like about your competitors and they are examples to follow, and some things to be avoided. In any case, competitor research must always be a breath of inspiration which encourages improving your online business.
If you have any questions about anything I’ve mentioned in this blog post or anything else related to Magento, please feel free to drop me a message via this form. I am on the team performing Magento SEO audits for large Magento projects.