Practical Ecommerce

How to Gather Intelligence on Your Competitors

Tracking the competition is something every e-tailer should do. In addition to helping you better understand your market and industry, tracking competitors can also assist you when generating ideas for marketing campaigns. And it allows you to better differentiate your business from everyone else.

If you’re looking to keep tabs on your competitors, the following tips may help.

SEO

Monitor the competitors’ search-engine-optimization efforts to find out how many backlinks they have and which sites are linking to them. Once you have that information, you can use that link data to increase the number of backlinks to your own store by approaching the sites linking to your competitors.

Alex Juel is content marketing specialist with Inflow, an Internet marketing firm. When looking to get more links for his clients, Juel first analyzes links to his clients’ competitors. He said, “I search Google to find websites that compete with my clients in search results and I also use SimilarWeb to find other related websites. I then use Open Site Explorer to compile a list of sites that are linking to competitors,” he says.

After collecting the data, Juel reaches out to the sites linking to his clients’ competitors and requests them to link back to his clients. “Since those sites are linking to my client’s competitors, it’s likely that they’ll link to my client’s site as well.”

SimilarWeb.com helps to locate potential competitor websites.

SimilarWeb.com helps to locate potential competitor websites.

Social Media

You could also watch your competitors on social media to gain valuable insights into their followers and content strategy.

Use Followerwonk to see who’s following your competitors and determine how your Twitter account measures up against theirs. Followerwonk even shows who is following just you, just your competitors, or both you and your competitors — a feature that is especially useful when you want to figure out whom to follow or reach out to.

Say a particular user is following you and two of your competitors. This could mean that person is a potential customer or is involved in your industry, and therefore is someone worth connecting with.

You can also use social analytics to get more information on the content strategy of competing businesses. One useful web application for this is BuzzSumo, which lets you see the most shared pages or articles on competing websites.

At BuzzSumo, type in your competitor’s URL, and take note of the most popular topics it has. You should then use that data to brainstorm ideas for your own site.

On the User Experience

Evaluate the user experience on competing sites and use the information to improve your own systems and processes. The most effective way to do this is by going through the process yourself.

Complete a purchase in a competitor’s online store and take note of the shopping and checkout experience. Was the process user friendly? How many steps did it take to checkout? How easy was it to navigate the site and find the products you needed?

Do the same thing when you’re evaluating your competitors’ customer service. Contact them as a consumer and evaluate their response, support quality, competency, and more.

Compare these experiences with your own site and systems, use the information to identify your strengths and shortcomings, and then find ways to make your shoppers’ experiences better.

You can also gather additional information by looking at customer reviews. To do this, consider using Trustpilot, a review-driven community and platform for ecommerce. Run a search for competing sites on Trustpilot and take note of what people are saying about them.

Trustpilot can help determine what consumers think of competitors' sites and products.

Trustpilot can help determine what consumers think of competitors’ sites and products.

On Sales and Marketing

Pay attention to the sales and marketing efforts of your competitors and use them for inspiration or to distinguish your own campaigns and practices.

One approach is to subscribe to competitors’ newsletters and updates to learn more about their offers and promos.

You can also create private Twitter lists for your competitors and use Google Alerts to track any new mentions. These steps will allow you to keep tabs on them in real time.

You can monitor your competitor’s efforts offline, too. For example, at the recent Shop.org conference, my team and I made a point of paying close attention to what our competitors were doing on the trade show floor. We asked attendees for their opinions and found out that a lot of them couldn’t really tell companies apart.

This feedback, along with our own observations, gave us insights into what buzzwords or gimmicks to avoid, and we used the information to make our company stand out.

Jerry Jao

Jerry Jao

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Comments ( 3 )

  1. Sadia Hanif October 17, 2014 Reply

    Hi – I really enjoyed reading this article. It has some really useful information on tools that can be used to monitor competitors online marketing strategies. This was a very useful article.

    • Jerry Jao October 20, 2014 Reply

      Thanks Sadia, for reading, and especially, for taking the time to share your feedback with us. At Practical Ecommerce, we take pride in providing good quality content that hopefully will enable you to do your business better too! Best of luck with you. Sincerely, Jerry

  2. Philip Frikke October 26, 2014 Reply

    A very interesting blog. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and knowledge on useful tools.