It’s always important to know where you stand in relation to your competition. You can learn what to do from them, what not to do, and most importantly, how you can differentiate yourself from your fellow ecommerce competition and carve out your own niche.
Spying on your competitors can and should be done in the planning stages and once the business is launched. Making it a monthly or quarterly habit is not a bad idea either.
There are many ways to spy on your online competition. Some obvious and some less obvious.
Before I wrote this article, I asked my Facebook friends what tools they used for spying online, an old friend commented “Blogs has served useful. You would be shocked to see what people sometimes write about what they are working on.”
This reminded me of the first muse I started, I came across another person targeting the same niche as me with the same product and were keeping a close record of the progress of the business as they were getting it up and running. I was still in the stage of finding a manufacture and they were a few months ahead of us. They already had they product and packaging, and were working on they website and early marketing.
By following their blog (and the owners Facebook profile that wasn’t completely locked down), we gained a wealth in information about their product quality, packaging, e-commerce host, and marketing strategy. Because we were tailing them by a few months and even past the launch, we are able to learn from them as to what was working and what wasn’t. In the whole scheme of things, it didn’t change much of what we were already planning on doing, but we definitely learned a few things along the way from their mistakes and was able to avoid some of the same pitfalls.
How to Start
Identify Your Ecommerce Competition
Before you begin, open an Incognito browser window (Private Browsing) and make sure you are signed out of any Google Accounts you might be logged into to ensure Google doesn’t dish up results specific to you.
If you are doing an investigation before you have launched your business, a good place to start is by entering relevant keywords and phrases into Google. What will your potential customer be searching for? Enter a few into Google and see what comes up. Start building your list based on first page results. Once you have a list, try narrowing it down to the top 3-5 competitors based on product offering, their target market etc.
Now that you have a list of your top competitors, start browsing their website. Look for some key information, I pulled a great list of what to look for from the Shopify blog post 8 Tools to Research Your Competition below:
- How do they emphasis their value proposition?
- What are their prices like compared to yours?
- What is their product photography like, and how are their product descriptions?
- What are their shipping options and prices like?
- Where are their call to actions, and how obvious are they?
- Are they trying to build an email list?
- Is their site optimized for mobile?
Their Social Media
Where do they stand in social media presence? Are they active? How do they speak with their customers, what do they post? Make sure you check out all their profiles, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Tumblr + Other Social Networks.
The Owners/Founders Social Media/Blogs
Don’t just follow the companies social media, follow the founders social networks too. Remember, a companies social media posts are usually PR washed, but less so of the founders and employees. Read the next point below to figure out who the owner of a site is.
Every website is registered with the Whois Database. Type in the domain of your competitors and you can get information who registered it, office/home address and more. Depending on how the domain was registered, some of this information may be masked.
Compete tracks web traffic to websites. This is a good quick way to get a measure of your competitions traffic. Note that it only works for websites with a decent amount of traffic. Many new and smaller sites aren’t indexed.
The Google Keyword Tool can help you estimate how much your competition of paying for online ads as well as search volume for particular keywords.
The Wayback Manchine allows you to visit your competitors website they way it existed in the last. This can allow you to understand design, pricing and positioning changes.
A standard for monitoring your brand online but you should expand that to your competitors and your industry. Google Alerts allows to you enter your business name/competitors or any keywords relevant to you and it will email you when those words/names are mentioned online.
Price: $79 per month
Spyfu allows you to see how your competitors Adwords campaigns have done. Not only does it show you the keywords they used, but it shows you what worked and what didn’t work. It’s a pretty brilliant tool that can save you a lot of time and money and avoid the pitfalls your competitors have already made.
Price: FREE/$99 per month
Open Site Explorer will show you limited stats on domain/page authority, linking root domains and total inbound links for free. With the pro version you get a few more things including social stats. Open site allows you to easily see who is linking to your domain and their authority it also allows you to see the overall impact to your SEO from their inbound links.
Do you feel like James Bond 007 yet? By now you should have a good idea of your competition and where they stand. Make sure you learn as much as you can from your competition to avoid pitfalls and setbacks.
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