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Search Engine Optimization
Find out How Well Your Competitor's SEO is working, by Spying on Their Order Volume!
February 6, 2012

It's quite simple really. Assuming your competitor has a shopping cart, you first need to do some reverse engineering. Sure you can use tools like Alexa and Compete and guesstimate at their traffic, but we want to know how many orders they are averaging. This is what you do. Place a small order on your competitor's website and pay close attention to the URL. Copy and paste the URL to a document and save that  document. The next day, around the same time as the first order you had placed, clear your computer's cookies and place another small order from your competitor's website. Again, copy and paste the URL to a document. You should be able to see some numbers at the end of the URL. That number can represent the following:  {store ID}, {some number of zeros}, {order number}. Your job is to compare the first URL to the second URL and check for consistency. Towards the end of the URL, any group of numbers that is consistent is your competitor's store ID. Then check for zeros, which is obvious. Whatever number comes after the zeros, assuming they have those zeros, is the order number if it increments up between your first and second orders. Now you have identified the number of orders in approximately 24 hours. 

Some basic number crunching like: orders X number of days should give you the approximate number of orders. However, that is not statistically accurate. If you want statically accurate numbers, you will need to do this same test every 14 days, each order being placed at approximately the same time. I recommend Monday 11AM. Then you will have a very good idea as to how many orders your competitor is getting.

How about how much MONEY you competitor is making? To find out how much money they are generating, you will need to do some more leg, scratch that, finger work. Assuming they sell 100 products, you can create a spreadsheet of all their products in one column, and all their corresponding prices in the next column.  Historically, cheaper items sell more, expensive items sell less. So you will need to assign different percentages in a third, fourth, fifth columns and calculate totals on different scenarios of percentages you assign in each of the percentage columns. The third percentage column should be conservative percentage assignment, fourth column should be a moderate percentage assignment, and fifth should be a liberal percentage assignment. This should give you a relatively clear picture as to how much money your competitor is potentially generating. Sure it takes time, but this is easy stuff. In fact, your competitors may be doing this to you already!

So how do you keep your competitors from doing this to you? Well, as in most things online, code is your friend. Use regex to write a formula for order incrimination. For example, increment up by server time in seconds + 61. If orders come in at the same second, before writing to the table, add an incrementally and sequentially increasing 1 through 999 to the order number, never repeating the same number. If you can get 1,000 orders a second, then you probably don't need any SEO. Happy hunting!
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