No matter the products you sell or the brand you create, every ecommerce store has its competitors. This is especially true when it comes to SEO, when you’re competing on a range of different terms and doing all you can to climb search engine rankings. In order to know how best to compete, it always helps to understand your competition - what are they doing right? What could you do to capitalize on their shortcomings? Knowing the answers to these questions is invaluable to your SEO strategy, and can help you push your pages to the top of SERPs.
Why you should conduct competitor analysis
Understanding your competitors is a huge part of running an ecommerce store. You’ll likely conduct research when developing your new products or social media content, and use your competitors as a benchmark. The same goes for your SEO strategy - without something to benchmark against, you won’t know if your strategy is successful or what your competitors may be doing better than you.
Discover content you didn’t know was ranking
Despite all your planning and strategy building, you may discover through your competitor analysis that there are in fact pages on your store that are ranking and you didn’t even know it. There may be a product that’s ranking for a keyword that you weren’t aware of, or a different page is ranking for a keyword in your strategy than you’d originally planned. As much as competitor analysis gives you a better understanding of your industry peers, it can also help you better understand your own SEO standing.
Identify where you or your competitors are falling behind
By looking at what content your competitors are creating, they’re position in SERPs, and how their store’s are set up in general, you’ll be able to build a clear picture of what your store could do to better its SEO strategy. Taking a critical eye on the content that’s ranking will tell you what content you should write, what pages you should rank for different keywords, and other technical SEO aspects you could capitalize on. Not only that, but it will also show you where your strategy is succeeding already and what more you can do to keep the momentum going.
3 easy steps to start your competitor analysis
We now know where competitive analysis will benefit our SEO strategy, now it’s time to get started. The following steps will give you a good starting point for conducting your own research, and can all be made more in-depth with the addition of different SEO tools.
#1 - Identify competitors
First and foremost, you need to know who your SEO competitors are. Notice we’re specifying SEO - that’s because there is a key distinction between your market competitors, and your SEO competitors. Your market competitors won’t necessarily always be those who you are in competition with on SERPs. The other brands on the SERPs for keywords you want to rank for are your SEO competitors.
There are a few questions we want to answer by looking at our competitors:
- Which brands and size of brands are appearing in SERPs?
- Which brands come up most often for my target keywords?
- Which brands consistently outrank my pages?
How we find those can be done through using a SEO tool, or simply searching your most valuable keywords. Let’s say, for example, we have a Shopify store that sells candles, and we want to rank for “cedarwood soy candles”. Searching that term will show you which sites and which types of content is ranking for that keyword, and you can then determine if it’s a keyword you’ll be able to compete on. For example, if the search results are mostly news and blog articles, it shows that you probably won’t be able to rank a product page. Or if you narrow the search term down and add in qualifiers that show intent such as “buy” or “where to buy” then you can start to see what kind of content and pages and brands are ranking for those terms.
It also helps to look at the "People Also Ask" and "Related Search" sections of an SERP for your target keywords, in order to learn what search users with different types of intent are looking for around that keyword. To use a previous example, they might be searching "What do cedarwood candles smell like?", and from there you can see what sort of pages and sites are ranking for it. This gives you additional clues if you start to spot the same sites popping up, and you can more clearly identify competitors who are consistently ranking for keywords you want to compete for.
#2 - Analyze their website and identify strengths/weaknesses
Now that you have a list of competitors, it’s time to analyze their stores. Look at the page that’s ranking, as well as analyzing their site performance and content overall. This will give you a wider picture of their strategy, rather than just looking at each individual page as its own self-contained entity.
There are a few key elements you want to look at:
- What content is on the page? i.e. written vs visual content
- Where do keywords appear?
- What details do they include on product pages? E.g. links to additional information, reviews.
- How is their overall user experience? Is their site easy to navigate and use?
- If it’s a product page, how is the page information structured?
- What is the mobile experience like for their ranking pages?
- Is the page optimized for accessibility?
- What is their site’s architecture? Is it easy to navigate?
- How does your site compare to theirs in terms of key ranking factors such as speed?
- How are they making use of meta information and header tags?
The answers to these questions will help you to see both what they’re doing well and also any opportunity gaps there are which you can capitalize on. For example a competitor may be ranking due to the quality of the content and your content is equally high-quality, however their site architecture isn’t optimized or their page speed could be better. These are factors that you can then take and implement in your own strategy to rank higher.
#3 - Review your strategy
By this stage, you’ll have identified which keywords you can compete on, which competitors are ranking for keywords you want to rank for, and what their strengths and weaknesses are. From here, you want to review your own strategy and work out which areas you could better optimize to start ranking ahead of your competitors:
- What content is currently on your product pages? What additional content could you add? E.g. more in-depth product descriptions, detailed specifications, reviews, video etc.
Where are your target keywords currently placed? Where could they be added to improve ranking for this page?
Is your site architecture optimized for an easy user experience?
Could you make further optimizations to key landing pages for speed?
- What other content could you produce to rank for keywords? E.g. Blogs.
You’ll also want to analyze the pages you may have identified that you weren’t aware were ranking as highly. These will give you key clues as to why they may be ranking, and what you could do to improve other pages on your store.
To get ahead of your competition, you need to first understand it. By conducting SEO competitor research, you’ll be able to spot opportunities, improve your existing content, and start to climb ahead of your competitors on SERPs.