The analysis of online competitors is fundamental for eCommerce, local marketing, hotel sites and for every other company that works on the web and is the basis for a correct web marketing strategy. On the contrary, it is too often overlooked during the initial briefings. For the hurry to start the project or for lack of resources we tend to skip this phase, which is really important.
What is primarily needed is a basic analysis effort, followed by constant monitoring. Once the beginnings are over, this activity – if set up correctly – will not take much time; the qualitative improvement in the strategies for promoting one’s online business, however, will largely repay the one spent.
Let’s try to see together what are the essential steps to set up a correct analysis and monitoring strategy for competitors on the web …
1) Define the market niche
Defining the right market niche is the first goal for a digital marketing strategy. First of all it is advisable to brainstorm with the whole work team in order to identify the right keywords to start the search. This step is very important especially for elaborate sites such as the generalist eCommerce, or those with very different product categories and which need to position themselves on more markets.
At this stage, two search and keyword analysis tools can be useful as we have already explained in a previous article (Keyword tool: AdWords vs Semrush). I advise you not to dwell on words that are too general because from an SEO point of view they are less effective and more difficult for positioning. Work rather on the long tail keywords, these are the words that will help us find the real competitors.
Typing generic keywords almost certainly the first page will be occupied by big players like Amazon, Ebay or Booking, which are NOT your competitors! The long tail keywords instead will help you define niches and find those sites that are trying to carve out market slices.
2) Create a Keyword strategy
After selecting the keywords it becomes very important to categorize them and sort them by priority. Positioning yourself for the correct keywords will avoid so many SEO problems on your site. An example: have you ever heard of bounce rate and Pogo Sticking? At this stage we recommend using specific tools, Semrush on all, but Excel can also help us. The important thing about the keyword strategy is constant monitoring. This strategy must shape itself with our business objective. We try to ask ourselves questions like …
- Which keywords are generating the most traffic?
- Which ones have the highest CTR?
- On what words are we positioning ourselves with greater ease?
- What are the emerging search queries?
Semrush or Google Search console can help us in these analyzes, in identifying new keywords that can become part of our strategy.
3) Set up KPIs
Setting goals allows you to monitor activities, identify corrective actions of the strategy and motivate the work team. The KPIs are like a compass that must guide us in our actions, for this reason it is important to define them at the start of each project. Here is an example that can work very well for an eCommerce …
1) Quality of visits: Among the most important factors that influence the positioning of a site on search engines are the CTR, the duration of visits and the pages viewed for each session. All elements that lead back to the concept of quality of visits: for this reason, identifying indicators that help us monitor it can be of great help. Here are some indicators …
- Number of sessions (from Google Analytics)
- Bounce rate (from Google Analytics)
- User involvement (from Google Analytics) calculated as the number of sessions lasting more than 60 seconds
2) Positioning on Google: To monitor positioning on search engines we use Google Search console and Semrush. Important indicators can be …
- Number of organic impressions (from Search Console)
- CTR (from Search Console)
- Keywords placed in the top ten or on the first page of Google (from Semrush)
3) Brand Awareness: The popularity of a brand is fundamental both for positioning on Google and for its ease in generating conversions. A user acquires more easily if he knows the brand, it is out of the question. Working on authority and popularity is therefore never wasted time. Here are some indicators that can help us understand if our brand is gaining popularity …
- Branded impression (from Search console) understood as all the queries containing a word of brand and which generated views on Google
- Organic Clicks (from Search Console)
- Direct traffic (from Google Analytics)
4) Conversions: Sales are clearly the first goal for an eCommerce. This is true especially for eCommerce already started, it is not true for eCommerce in Start-up where instead the KPIs of the previous points assume greater importance. Very useful indicators in terms of conversions can be:
- Number of orders
- Average cart value
- Conversion rate
4) Define the actions
After defining the competitors, created the Keyword strategy and set the correct KPIs, all that remains is to start getting your hands dirty with the actions. Everything is based on resources and it is therefore useless to create super-elaborated action plans if the resources available are limited. Today it is important to create a strategy and actions that work on multiple levels: new content must be both useful for users and optimized for SEO, an event in a physical store must be useful for branding but also for awareness on social media and on Google. Generally the macro-areas of action are the following …
- On-Page: This area includes activities related to the optimization of site content in terms of SEO (e.g. product pages and category pages), the creation of new quality content but also technical SEO activities (site performance monitoring) and usability. A key page with a high bounce rate may need to take action. Likewise, a conversion rate below 1% may mean that users cannot find what they are looking for easily, do not have a correct browsing experience, or maybe that the products we sell are not as attractive.
- Off-Page: By offsite we mean not only SEO and Link building activities but also Local marketing actions such as in retail stores and physical stores. A well-designed plan will bring us useful results on the brand’s popularity and keyword positioning
- Social media: Facebook, Instagram and Co today must be increasingly integrated into web marketing strategies. Think of the new Facebook implementations that practically allow us to directly purchase the products of an Ecommerce or to promote a service to perfection. Social media helps a lot in the promotion of a brand and therefore in the SEO of a project.
- Email marketing: It is one of the great classics among web marketing activities. Until a few years ago it was the main way to get in touch with users and encourage them to take action on the site. Even today it is the most used channel in the world in the digital marketing field and underestimating it would be a mistake. The main reason is that email marketing intervenes directly on users who have already had contact with the company (signing up for a newsletter, purchasing on the site, obtaining coupon codes, etc.), so the real potential is linked to the ‘customer acquisition, and not the single sale as happens for example for Pay per click campaigns. A newsletter, therefore, can help companies create a relationship with their audience, and convey not only information produced, but also corporate identity, values and perspectives and,
- PPC: We talk not only about Google AdWords, but also about Facebook campaigns, remarketing, price comparators, AdWords Express. It is not necessary to have millionaire budgets but we believe it is important to envisage advertising investments in a web marketing project.
5) Set up a monitoring plan
As for monitoring, the use of professional tools is very important. The aforementioned Google Analytics, Search Console, Semrush and Screaming Frog can be sufficient for all small and medium businesses. However, monitoring acquires meaning if done in an integrated way: it is of little importance to monitor the positioning of a keyword only if it does not also look at traffic data coming from that keyword and the conversions they generated. A well-designed monitoring plan will give us invaluable information about the corrective actions to be implemented in our digital marketing strategy.