It’s All Relative: Competitive Measurement of SEO for eCommerce

Ron Dodby Ron Dod

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When it comes to crafting a dynamic and effective SEO strategy, a brand’s competition proves to be a rich well of information for enhancing efforts and generating organic traffic.

Researching business competitors’ SEO performance enables eCommerce retailers to better understand—with less of the pain that comes from trial and error—which techniques work within their niche, how strong their rivals are, which tactics can be co-opted and where their strategies are flawed and can be improved.

This valuable data enables merchants to not only comprehend the difficulty level in outperforming adversarial brands, but it also allows them to formulate a practical and prioritized strategy to implement.

To help retailers assimilate the lessons offered by those vying for the same traffic and dollars, we have assembled a pragmatic plan for conducting competitive eCommerce research.

Ready to go behind enemy lines and uncover the secrets that will help dominate the SERPs? Here’s your guide to competitive analysis for obtaining better SEO performance.

Establish Search Competitors

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While merchants are likely aware who some of the most prominent players in their niches are, they may not be wholly cognizant of their top SEO rivals as these folks can be different. In fact, it is possible for a retailer to have SEO competitors who aren’t even in their industry or niche but, nonetheless, outrank them.

For instance, if a retailer sells smartwatches or similar electronics, there is a good chance they will compete for the same real estate as related sellers. However, there is also a good possibility that they will go head-to-head with electronics blogs in the SERPs.

Therefore, a brand’s SEO competitors are those who rank in the first positions for the targeted keyword (or, truly, any position above the site’s current spot), no matter the site’s industry or niche.

While this seems as if it could complicate matters, establishing a brand’s SEO competition is rather easy. Simply enter the targeted keywords into Google and document the sites that outperform the desired pages. Alternatively, business owners can utilize a competitive analysis tool such as Ahrefs, SEMrush or Spyfu to gain more comprehensive data with less effort.

Moreover, be sure not to ignore any local results or pages that populate Google’s coveted answer box.

Analyze Keyword Difficulty

Before exploring the competition’s on-page SEO elements, content tactics or link building strategies, it’s wise to analyze the overall landscape first to determine the difficulty of the task at hand. After all, merchants likely aren’t to topple sites like Nike or Amazon for any short-head keywords or many long-tail ones, either.

However, this doesn’t mean that there aren’t opportunities on which to capitalize.

Using a competitive analysis platform, assess the competition’s toughness by examining indicators such as domain authority, country and age. Moreover, retailers should also scrutinize competitor features like:

  • Alexa rank
  • Backlink profile
  • Traffic volume
  • Indexing information
  • Social signals
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Seek to expose any weaknesses in the competition’s SEO strategy to use as a springboard in the SERPs. However, the more potent the competition’s implementations, the more challenging the task ahead. Therefore, it is wise for retailers to focus on rivals who are performing well for niche terms but can still be viably overtaken.

Uncover Keyword Opportunities

After exploring keyword difficulties and identifying terms that are good to increase rankings for, it is time to start digging into the competition’s content implementation techniques regarding keywords.

Here, the objective is to analyze the existing content on a competitor’s website through the term frequency-inverse document frequency (TF-IDF) analysis framework.

While this concept is a bit complicated, it is a vital one to absorb as search engines use a variation of this system to score and rank content concerning a given query.

TF-IDF analysis is defined as: “a statistical measure used to evaluate how important a word is to a document in a collection or corpus.” This end is achieved by analyzing how often a keyword emerges in pieces of content and multiplying that figure by the weight of the keyword as defined by the inverse document frequency (IDF). The IDF is found by taking the number of documents to be analyzed and dividing that by the amount in which the keyword appears.

Therefore, this modality is quite useful for enhancing a brand’s content offerings through uncovering valuable keywords and their usage frequency on similar websites and then better optimizing a business’s on-site content to outrank rival pages. 

When conducting a TF-IDF analysis, it is likely that retailers will uncover that top-ranked pages use many of the same keywords and phrases. If these terms are not integrated into a retailer’s strategy and on-site copy, massive opportunities are missed.

Study On-Site Optimization Tactics

Using a competitive analysis tool to dig into the competition’s content and on-site strategies is sure to uncover a treasure trove of data to utilize in enhancing SEO efforts. Through such mechanisms, brands can unearth information regarding how often their competitors are publishing new content, the topics they cover and for which keywords they are attempting to rank.

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However, it is also vital to explore some of the finer details such as the type of content generated, article length and comprehensiveness, headline characteristics such as length and keyword implementation, title tags and metadata information and linking strategies such as which sites they point to, which internal pages they aim to elevate and how they employ anchor text.

By establishing the exact tactics used by competitors, retailers can then turn around and augment that same ploy.

Probe Backlink Profiles

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Backlinks are at the bedrock of great SEO. Therefore, analyzing a competitor’s backlink profile is one of the most vital and fruitful aspects of conducting competitive analysis. By digging into this data, retailers can uncover where opponents are earning their backlinks from and use that information to collect high-quality links of their own.

By spying on competitor backlinks, retailers can understand which pieces of content outside sources are linking to, and then generate materials that improve upon the linked-to assets. From there, sellers can conduct an outreach campaign to earn similar links or even try to steal links from their competitors with their top-notch content offerings.

Scan Site Structure and UX Design

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Developing an outstanding user experience has become a significantly important element in climbing the SERPs. In fact, a variety of Google algorithm updates over the last several years have focused squarely on UX.

Given that Google wants to provide its users with the best encounter possible, it expects the sites it ranks to do the same.

With the spotlight on UX optimization, retailers must ensure that they provide the best experience when stacked up with the competition. This means that eCommerce sites must be faster, more streamlined and intuitive, more aesthetically pleasing and engaging than what rivals offer.

To ensure that merchants meet this end, it is essential to concentrate on improving a site’s speed, navigational elements, internal linking and click depth, checkout process, product pages, CTAs and all other potentially un-optimized on-site elements that hinder conversions or the experience overall.

If the competition’s UX design has any of the aforementioned faults, this is a prime opportunity to capitalize and gain some ground.

Scrutinize Social Media Strategies

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The links between social media usage and SEO performance are widely debated. However contested the matter may be, what is inarguable is that social media is an essential element for most business’s marketing efforts, thereby playing into SEO strategies, at least indirectly.

For eCommerce retailers to properly spy on the competition’s social media activity, a social listening tool such as Mention is essential. This type of service enables sellers to easily monitor the frequency with which various competitors publish new posts or curated content, which types of posts receive the most engagement, how they engage with their audiences and similar elements that drive traffic, breed loyalty and contribute to a brand’s online existence. 

Using social listening tools, merchants can uncover what consumers like about rival products, what types of content perform best and the general sentiment surrounding other businesses. From there, retailers can begin to devise strategies that incorporate the best elements of their rival’s social interaction and fill in the gaps to better their own performance.

Pierce PPC Performance

The secret to search engine success is using PPC and SEO together to bolster one another. Therefore, spying on rival search campaigns can be a valuable resource for establishing the kinds of ads, messaging and landing pages they are pushing. PPC campaigns can help brands generate traffic and sales, which can lead to increased rankings.

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Try to get a scope of where competitor ads are appearing across various search engines and social platforms to gain something of an understanding of how sizable of a PPC budget these competitors tout. Doing so will not only help brands to develop better ads and messaging, but it will also help to establish if a PPC campaign is a viable route to increasing rankings and topping rival sites in the SERPs.

Competitive SEO analysis is a vital part of improving one’s rankings and online performance. Be sure to employ the strategy outlined above to help rank valuable pages above those of direct or indirect competitors.

Moreover, if your brand has hit a wall and requires some assistance in outranking rival sites, reach out to our team of SEO specialists, and we can help you devise a plan that aids your brand to beat the best of them.

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