Websites: Undertaking Competitor Analysis

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Websites: Undertaking Competitor Analysis

In this week’s instalment of Words that Bite, I look at the murky task of researching and analysing competitor websites.


Make sure you research your competitors’ websites

A lot of people might feel uncomfortable with the idea of conducting competitor research. Even contemplating it might make you feel a little like the person in the photograph above. It might seem much easier to put your blinkers on and politely continue doing your own thing.

The question you need to ask yourself is ‘Is this smart?’.

The answer is a resounding ‘No’.

There is nothing wrong with becoming familiar with what your competitors are doing online. You can’t run a business effectively by burying your head in the sand. Unfortunately, however, a lot of business owners do just this, and it means that their marketing strategy ends up operating in an imaginary world instead of in the real one. The results can be disastrous.

Every business owner needs to conduct competitor research because it ensures you don’t operate in a void, and forces you to refine and update your marketing strategy. It also assists you to expand your customer base by providing a better online resource.

How to find your competitors

The best way to find your competitors is to look at three main criteria:

  1. Businesses you consider to be competitors (from your personal knowledge).
  2. Businesses you find in the natural/paid results for the same searches that apply to you, or using the keywords you have chosen for your business.
  3. Businesses your customers and clients, and potential customers and clients, consider to be competitors.

So that the task does not become too overwhelming or time-consuming, I suggest you start working with five carefully selected competitors.

How to analyse your competitors’ websites

There are almost endless possibilities when it comes to creating a research methodology for analysing competitors. Lengthy textbooks, guaranteed to make your head spin, have been written on the subject.

I’ve tried here to simplify the process into something that can be applied by the average small-business owner who is pressed for time but needs to obtain a clear picture of what their competitors are doing in cyberspace.

Here are 20 criteria you can use to examine a competitor’s website:

  1. Branding
  2. Design
  3. Usability
  4. Information architecture
  5. Business purpose
  6. Point of difference (POD)
  7. Is there a ‘call to action’ on the home page?
  8. Is there a ‘call to action’ on other pages?
  9. Does the home page include an ‘offer’?
  10. Content
  11. Blog
  12. Downloads
  13. eNewsletter
  14. Social media
  15. Keywords
  16. Page rank
  17. Estimated traffic
  18. Links
  19. Page speed
  20. Sales

You might come up with some additional criteria that are specific to your industry or service.

How to set up your competitor analysis table

The next step is to set up a competitor analysis table. It is not as technical as it sounds: simply create a table in MS Word or Excel. I suggest you have your competitors’ names running across the top of the table and the criteria you are going to use to assess their websites running down the side.

Don’t forget to include your own website. You should try to be objective about its performance.

Your competitor analysis table might look something like this:

Competitor Analysis Table

How to analyse your competitors using this criteria

The next step is to undertake an analysis of each of your competitors’ websites, according to the criteria listed above.

I suggest you create two identical tables.

In the first one, take notes on each of these criteria for each competitor.

In the other, use a scale of 1-5 (with 5 being the highest score and 1 being the lowest) to rank each competitor in each category. There’s nothing more exciting than adding up the scores and finding you have trumped someone else! More importantly, it will give you an idea of where your own website might be lacking.

Question 1: How would you rate your competitor’s branding?

  • Does it involve a strong or a weak concept?
  • Does it suit the product or service being offered?
  • Is it memorable?
  • How important is the brand in marketing the product or service offered?

Question 2: How would you rate the design of the website?

Obviously, this is subjective. However, I still think it is important to decide whether or not you think a given website is pleasing to look at.

  • Is it boring?
  • Is is visually overbearing?
  • Is it cluttered?
  • Are there too many irrelevant images?
  • Does it look old-fashioned?

Question 3: How would you rate the usability of the website?

The question of usability overlaps with that of design. This is where you need to explore how user-friendly the website is. The most important thing is to put yourself in the shoes of someone who has never used the website, rather than those of someone who knows a lot about the particular industry it relates to.

  • How easy is it to navigate the site? Can a customer or client easily find what they are looking for?
  • If you are dealing with an online store, how easy is it to find products or use the shopping cart?

Question 4: How would you rate the information architecture?

Just as the question of usability overlaps with design, both these criteria overlap with information architecture.

Here, you need to look at the structure of the site:

  • How well is the material organised?
  • Have they paid attention to all the layers of the website?
  • Has more attention been paid to the top layers, leading to those further down being neglected?

Question 5: Has your competitor stated its business purpose clearly on its ‘home’ page?

Look at your competitor’s home page and analyse whether the purpose of the website is clearly stated.

As a visitor to the website who knows little about the product or service being sold or offered, do I know exactly what this business is offering its customers or clients?

Question 6: Has the competitor identified its ‘point of difference’ (POD)?

Has your competitor identified what makes it different from other businesses selling similar products or services?

  • How effectively does it do this?
  • How likely is the POD to persuade a customer or client to use this business rather than someone else’s?

Question 7: Has the competitor included a ‘call to action’ on the home page?

Is it clear on the home page what the customer or client who is interested in the product or service should do once they have entered the website?

  • Call to make an appointment?
  • Add something to a shopping cart?
  • Subscribe to an eNewsletter?

Question 8: Has the competitor included a ‘call to action’ on the other pages?

If so, are these ‘calls to action’ likely to inspire anyone to act?

Question 9: Does your competitor have an ‘offer’ on its home page?

A useful marketing strategy is to have an ‘offer’ on the home page.

  • Does your competitor use ‘offers’?
  • If so, how effectively?

Question 10: How would you rate the quality of your competitor’s content?

Examine the content. How would you rate its quality?

  • Is it easy to understand?
  • Is it well-written?
  • Is it riddled with typographical errors?
  • It is attention-grabbing?

Question 11: Does your competitor have a blog?

If your competitor has a blog:

  • How relevant is it?
  • How often is it updated?

Question 12: Does your competitor include any downloads?

If your competitor includes downloads:

  • How useful would they be to potential customers or clients?

Question 13: Does your competitor have an eNewsletter?

Check whether your competitor’s website includes an eNewsletter to which potential customers or clients can subscribe, so that it can build a database of potential clients.

Question 14: Does your competitor use social media?

If your competitor uses social media:

  • Which forms? Facebook? Twitter? Pinterest? Instagram? YouTube? Google+?
  • How effectively do they use these tools to market their business?

Question 15: How well do your competitors rank for their chosen keywords?

Obviously, the first step is to identify competitors who use the same keywords as you.

  • How effectively do these competitors rank on both the organic and paid search results in Google?
  • If you have identified a competitor who uses slightly different keywords, how well do they rank for these keywords?

A useful tool for seeing which keywords a competitor may be ranking in is Search Metrics.

Question 16: What is your competitor’s website page rank?

Page rank is also a useful measure for assessing a website. While not foolproof, it is straightforward, easily understood and gives you a good idea of potential website reach. Obviously, though, websites for small local businesses aren’t going to do well on their page rank score.

A useful tool for checking page rank is PR Checker.

Question 17: What is the estimated traffic to your competitor’s website?

It is always helpful to get a sense of how much traffic your competitors are receiving.

A valuable tool for estimating traffic is Google Ad Planner.

Question 18: How well does your competitor do with links?

Analysing links is tricky because, these days, it isn’t about their quantity, but their quality.

A useful tool for analysing links is the Open Site Explorer Tool from Moz. Another option is Majestic SEO.

Question 19: How fast does your competitor’s website page load?

The speed at which a site loads is an important factor to consider when doing competitor analysis because it is a good indication of how easy a site is to access. It is also a ranking factor used by Google.

A useful tool for analysing site speed is Google Page Speed Insights.

Question 20: How successful is your competitor’s website in pushing customers or clients through its sales conversion funnel?

This is a tricky question and you probably won’t be able to find out the exact answer. Check whether there are any articles on the business either in the press or online. What’s the word on the street? In the end, for this particular criterion, you may have to take an educated guess.

To summarise

Researching and analysing what your competitors are doing online is a vital part of any business strategy. It may involve quite a bit work, but it will tell you a great deal not only about their businesses, but yours as well. All in all, you may also be surprised how much you learn and how much it helps you improve and refine your website’s performance in the dog-eat-dog world of SEO.

In the next instalment of Words that Bite, I will look at how to approach another important aspect of SEO – link building.

Are you too busy running your business to look after your SEO? Would you like someone to look after it for you? If so, call the Pink Rottweiler on +61 (0)409 609 903 or email me at info@pinkrottweilercopywriting.com.au.

Who is the Pink Rottweiler? The Pink Rottweiler is Genevieve Burnett – a copywriter who can come up with the smart words to sell your product or service.

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