Archive | November, 2012

Ranking eTail & eCommerce Partners — and Competitors

17 Nov

Ranking eTail & e-Commerce Partners — and Competitors

In our 2011 survey of US apparel brands, we found a surprisingly high percentage of sites in the Top 20 search results for the brands’ names were not owned by official retail partners or re-sellers at all but by unauthorised resellers, discounters or brandjackers. In our study of 14 brand name manufacturers, one popular niche outdoor brand surrendered 100% of the value of the Top 20 search positions for its own name and the keyword modifier “hiking shoes” — with over 94 percent being claimed by companies in groups 4 – 7 below. Another, a long established outdoor brand, gave up 100% of the value of the Top 20 search positions for its own name and the keyword modifier “adventure” — with over 91 percent being taken by companies in groups 4 – 7 below.

The penetration was, unsurprisingly, higher (on average around 60 percent) for non-branded keyword searches (e.g. “footwear” or “running shoes”), which yielded many discounters and others not authorised to sell the branded products they were touting. But even for brand- and product- name searches, the penetration averaged 20 percent.

There was a low cross-penetration of search results by major brand online retail stores into each others’ search results for branded and non-branded keywords. But there was a very high cross-penetration from eTail-only brands, virtual storefronts on community sites or blogs, virtual malls and price comparison agents.

What this indicates is that these manufactuers — most of them household names, the remainder hip niche brands — are neither taking control of their own search results visibility nor scoring their official re-sellers’ search performance. In some cases, they aren’t policing the Web for sites jacking their brand names or keywords.

Scoring eTail, eCommerce Partners and Competitors’ Search performance

Companies that have active online re-seller and e-Commerce partnerships may find it pays dividends to rank and score the owners of the Top 20 search positions for their branded and non-branded keywords. A useful classification for websites, blogs and social profiles in the Top 20 would encompass:

  1. Company owned
  2. Official partner/re-seller
  3. Affiliate
  4. Unofficial re-seller/discounter
  5. Price comparison/agent
  6. Competitor
  7. Brandjacker
  8. Online marketplaces & exchanges (B2B)

Under RankTank’s normal classification system, 1 – 3 would be classified as ECR (because they’re controlled or controllable by the Enterprise), and 4 – 8 would be OCR (in the Other catch-all bucket after Consumer and Media). But a more granular, custom classification makes sense for those focused on online retail and e-Commerce.

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Limitations of SERP and KW position checker tools

2 Nov

Limitations of SERP and KW position checker tools

SERP and KW position checker tools are designed for tracking where individual website pages appear in the search results for specific keywords. There are several small issues and two big ones associated with how they go about this.

  • they check for the position of a site or page for a KW query, so you have to enter a URL AND KW (they can’t check for just a KW, or just a site). That’s inflexible.
  • on many of them, you have to do your checks one at a time, on a new interface for each. That’s time consuming.
  • only a few give you downloadable files (you then have to merge all those files, when you can get them). Most return your results on html or dynamic pages (copy and paste). That’s unwieldy.
  • they vary in the number of maximum positions considered. Some show 100, some more, some less; and they are often out of date. That’s unreliable.

Turning to the bigger issues, most crucially, SERP and KW position checker tools don’t tell you how they generate their results, or how fresh they are.

Data pulled from an API is only as good as the API itself. Our experiments with an API were not encouraging (which was why we dumped it a while ago): It gave lower lower counts than browser based counts — it showed on average 30% and sometimes 90% fewer pages indexed than a browser search; and it was less accurate than browser search results — the API SERPs failed to match browser SERPs by on average 10% and sometimes as much as 90%. You cannot statistically compensate for errors of this magnitude in both quantity and quality, even with sophisticated mathematical optimization routines.

Another common method, scraping, has problems of its own: The rotating IP proxies necessary to carry it out will skew the results because each successive query will be seen to originate from a different location than the last one — a different city, sometimes a different continent. That’s useless if you’re running more than one KW for a brand.

Finally, SERP and KW position checkers show the numeric position of a page returned for a specific query in the search results. There are two limitations to this:

  • Consumers search for brand names and/or keywords (which they enter into the search bar), they do not enter website addresses into the search bar (if they know the URL, they enter it straight into the URL bar, bypassing the search function).
  • Knowing the numeric position of a particular page is tactically useful but is not strategically insightful. It doesn’t give you a snapshot of who claims the Top 20 results for your brand name and keywords, nor a measure of your overall online strength.

With RankTank, you can check and track your SERPs while aslo scoring and ranking them.