Practical Ecommerce

Research Your Competitors with These Three Steps

Competitive research is necessary for many ecommerce businesses. Larger companies reportedly employ many people to research and analyze what their competitors are up to. Below is a list of three steps to help research your competitors.

Step 1: Identify Competitors and Industry-relevant Sites

Compile a list of direct competitors by searching for your main keywords in Google, Yahoo!, and Bing. Many online business owners fail to keep track of ongoing competition. A few things to review on competitor sites:

  • Promotions. This can include free shipping, free gift cards, and various discounts.
  • Top selling items. Ensure you’re not missing out on potential top sellers.
  • Conversion flows. Such as required registration versus no registration.
  • Reliability icons. Examples are BBB logo, McAfee logos, and various security logos.
  • Prices. Includes both product pricing and shipping prices.
  • Payment options. Note credit card options, Google Checkout, BillMeLater, PayPal and others.

Also compile a list of informational sites your customers like to browse. While these sites may not directly compete with you, there is a pretty high probability that you’re indirectly encountering them in either organic-search-results placements or paid-keyword placements. A couple of good tools to use for this are:

Look for articles and reviews posted by review sites. Take time to read users’ comments if the review site is in the blog format. Regardless of the commercial nature of these sites (i.e., affiliate sites), there is plenty useful content, including product and promotional information.

Step 2: Identify Top Competitor Keywords

Most competitor keyword tools are not completely free. Nonetheless, there is plenty of information you can gather from free versions of them. Here are four keyword research tools that I recommend:

Look for the following in all these tools:

  • Keyword themes you may be missing out on;
  • Estimated number of keywords in your competitor’s account;
  • Types of ad copy used by competitor;
  • Budget levels.

This data should give you some insight into available opportunities on the three main search engines, Google, Yahoo! and Bing.

Step 3: Review Competitor Backlinks

Backlink reports are very helpful for identifying possible opportunities on blogs and media portals. SEOTool, for example, does a great job at producing an easy-to read-report on this. The purpose of this exercise is not link building. You’re looking for media acquisition opportunities, such as:

  • Industry review sites that may be running link/sponsorship campaigns;
  • Affiliate blogs;
  • Comparison sites;
  • Product review sites.

Greg Laptevsky

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  1. Elizabeth Ball July 14, 2009 Reply

    Thanks Greg – I didn’t know about these competitor keyword websites before – very handy!