Competitor research – learning about the businesses trying to capture the same customers and market as your company – is an invaluable part of developing your ecommerce success strategy.
But for many brands with an ecommerce presence, their competitors aren’t who they think they are.
Most businesses are aware of their industry competitors: brands with similar positioning, offerings and prices. But in a world where 89% of consumers report use search engines to make purchasing decisions, forward-thinking brands need to be aware of and design a strategy to adapt to a new challenger: the SEO competitor.
Let’s take a deeper look at the difference between industry competitors and SEO competitors. Then we’ll dive into the ways your SEO competitors can help improve your organic traffic and sales.
The difference between industry competitors and SEO competitors
Industry competitors produce similar products for an industry or vertical, but differentiate themselves with branding and pricing, not product line offerings. Some use positioning and pricing that appeals to savvy bargain shoppers who love the thrill of the hunt, while others draw in luxury shoppers with messaging and price points that promote exclusivity.
Examples of industry competitors include Wal-Mart and Target, J. Crew and Banana Republic, PetSmart and Petco, Lululemon and Athleta.
SEO competitors are the businesses that show up in search results for your top keywords.
These companies are competing on a product level, not a branding or pricing level. They look at the search terms consumers are using to find products and incorporate those keywords into their product and collection pages.
Depending on the product, you could have many different SEO competitors across your product line. And they may not be the same as your industry competitors.
To illustrate, let’s look at a search for keywords Lululemon might be targeting: women’s black yoga legging pants sheer.
Notice the results. Athleta, an industry competitor, doesn’t even feature in the top results. But Victoria’s Secret, Nordstrom and Amazon do. These are the SEO competitors for Lululemon or any brand that’s trying to target women’s black yoga legging pants sheer in their product catalogue.
So, how can this knowledge help improve your company’s organic traffic and sales?
The benefits of knowing your SEO competitors
Identifying your SEO competitors and analyzing the strategies they’re using to attract visitors to their sites is crucial for the long-term success of your business. It provides data-backed insights about what’s working in your vertical, so you can funnel your resources into tactics that earn more organic traffic.
- Find new ways to speak your customer’s language Keywords are the cornerstone of a successful SEO strategy so it’s worthwhile to see what keywords your SEO competitors are targeting and how they’ve incorporated them into their product and collection pages.Not only can you uncover some valuable insights on how your target audience is searching for products, it’s a great opportunity to see how other businesses have optimized their page. Are the keywords relevant to the product description? Do they highlight any trends in how people are searching for a product?Don’t stop at your competitor’s keyword optimization strategies. Look at the keywords your competitors are targeting in their paid campaigns for ideas on traffic-generating content to create around those topics.After all, if a competitor is investing in a PPC ad, there’s probably value in the keywords they’re targeting. By creating relevant, high-quality content around those topics, you can drive more visitors to your site through organic search.
- Brainstorm better content ideas Want to build quality content that drives visitors to your site, but not sure where to start? Look to your competitors for inspiration.Examining your competitors’ content can be the perfect way to jumpstart your creative process. Whether you’ve been on a regular publishing schedule for years or are just getting started with content marketing, it can be tricky to come up with fresh, relevant ideas on a consistent basis.Consider these questions:Did they leave something out or miss an interesting angle? Is there a way to repackage the idea in a different format – think look books, micro videos, how-to posts and beyond? How can you take their idea and do it better?Steer clear of copying competitor content but DO use it as brainstorming starting point for your next round of content.
- Identify link building opportunities Wish you could get your hands on the competition’s strategy? With backlink analysis, you practically can.Analyzing the sites that are linking to your competitors shows you the quantity and quality of their link building efforts, giving you an idea of where and how you can outshine them.If your competitors are relying on a large number of backlinks on questionable sites, that leaves space for you to leapfrog them with quality link building on high authority sites – think guest posts, influencer mentions, etc.And if your competitors are building high quality links, they’ve already done the legwork for you. Use the sites that are linking to them to find ‘mirror’ backlink opportunities – similar types of sites with similar audiences – or if the site has featured several of your competitors, consider reaching out to them to find out how your company can earn a backlink.
- Build relationships with the right influencers According to Nielsen, 83% of consumers trust recommendations from friends and family over any other form of advertising.That’s why the most powerful place to reach your target audience isn’t always through your platforms – it’s through the platforms of people they trust, aka ‘influencers.’Influencers have built a name, reputation and following based on the ideas they embrace and promote. A partnership with a handful of carefully selected influencers could get you in front of thousands of your ideal customers.As with the content ideas and link building opportunities, if you’re not sure where to find the best influencers for your brand, just check out the competition. Who have they partnered with? Does it make sense to connect with them? Or are there similar influencers you can reach out to?
Don’t wait to analyze your SEO competitors
The online world is constantly shifting. That’s why we believe SEO competitor analysis isn’t a one-time step in mapping out your SEO and digital marketing strategy. You should be researching your SEO competitors on a regular basis—at Fire&Spark, we do a quarterly review for all of our clients, and monthly reviews for those in faster-changing areas of ecommerce.
Always approach your SEO competitor research with a detective’s mindset. Just because your competitor is publishing a certain type of content or partnering with a particular influencer doesn’t mean it’s a successful strategy that’s earning organic traffic and sales.
By identifying and researching the strategies your SEO competitors are using to perform well in organic search, your brand will be better positioned to adapt to changes and step into opportunities.