This post comes courtesy of Barry Moltz, small business expert and host of the Small Business Radio Show.
Keeping an eye on the competition is good for business. By staying on top of the market, you can ensure that you’re providing what your customers want. The easiest way to learn from your competitors is to suss out their websites.
To find competitors, start with a simple internet search using keywords, which are the words or phrases on your website that make it possible for customers to find you online. Conduct this search in a private browsing window so that your past searches don’t influence the results. Websites that are listed ahead of your company in the search results are competing for the same online audience. If some of these companies aren’t directly competing for customers due to geography or specialty, you can still learn from them.
Another way to identify competitors is to ask your prospects and customers what keywords they searched to find your business. Ask if they came across any similar companies before landing on your website.
Now that you’ve found the competition, it’s time to look at how they approach storytelling and community building, design and user experience, and search engine optimization. The more you know, the better equipped you’ll be to upgrade your website.
Storytelling and community-building are powerful tools you can use to improve your web properties and grow your business because decision-making is largely driven by emotion, not necessarily logic. The story you tell about your business and the community you build around your company are both opportunities to connect with your customers on an emotional level.
Stories are important. Narratives count. One study showed that powerful storytelling can increase the value of a product twenty-fold. When you first look at your competitor’s website, what story are they telling prospective customers? How does the narrative on your website compare? Pay attention to what words are frequently used to tell this story. Honing in on keywords will help you determine the type of prospect they are trying to attract and help you decide how to differentiate from the competition.
Creating content is another storytelling opportunity for many companies. BuzzSumo is a tool that figures out what topics and competitor content perform best so that you don’t have to learn the hard way with trial and error. Understanding what kind of content is popular with customers and influencers will help you when you create a content calendar or brainstorm ideas for your blog.
What people say about a company can attract or repel customers. Testimonials are one way that prospective customers can compare you to the competition. How is customer proof featured on the websites of your competitors? Do they share text or video testimonials? Do they list their star ratings on review websites? What are customers saying about the quality of their experience with a product or service? Consider how you can integrate testimonials on your website to cover what your competitors don’t address.
Like testimonials, comments are another way for potential customers to evaluate your offering. Positive comments online can establish a community that encourages sales and repeat business. Comments can also provide insight into who competitor customers really are and what they think of other company’s offerings. Look at the comments that customers leave on competitor websites and analyze company replies to determine how you can offer an improved customer experience.
According to a Stanford University study, 75% of consumers judge a company’s credibility on their website’s design. The design and underlying user experience of your website may determine whether or not a prospect decides to buy from you.
Web Page Layout
The modern website is one long landing page that can be navigated by scrolling down or using the site navigation at the top of the page. Beth Thouin, Web.com’s Vice President of Digital Marketing, says it is critical to pay attention to the space above the fold on your landing page. “Think about the top section of the website (commonly called a hero panel) as your 10-second opportunity for the visitor to understand what you do and like it enough to keep scrolling,” she explains.
When it comes to layout, how does your company website stack up to the competition? You can review how specific pages match those of your competitors by using the WebPage Similarity Comparison Tool. It will compare page title, meta description tag, keywords and word count for multiple websites.
And don’t forget to check out how your website and competitor sites display on mobile. After all, smartphones were used in one-third of retail sales in 2018, according to research from Forrester.
A call-to-action is normally a button with a short phrase on it that invites the customer to take that next step. “Get Started” is one of the CTAs that we use on Web.com, but “Sign Up Now” and “Learn More” are other common CTAs that you’ll see online. What are competitor websites asking prospective customers to do?
Not everyone online is ready to buy, but websites need to act as a lead generation tool. How can you stay in contact with that prospect so you’re there when they are ready to buy? Many companies ask prospective customers to sign up for their email mailing list in exchange for free information. Other CTAs might offer a free trial.
Number of Web Pages
There isn’t a magic number of web pages you should have on your website. However, counting the web pages on a competitor’s website will give you an idea of the content and keyword footprint you are up against.
You can also check out how often your competitors are posting new content; frequent posting can improve search ranking. Think about how you can introduce more web pages to increase your online presence, but be careful to maintain high design quality and user experience across all your properties.
Nobody likes waiting. If a page loads quickly, then you’re more likely to retain that prospect. The Web Page Test tool can determine how you measure up against your competitors. After running it on your website, use Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool to get recommendations on how to increase your page speed.
There are many ways you can modify your website to increase the visibility of your company online. This process is known as search engine optimization, and it’s vital if you want to rank above the competition in search results.
The technology used to construct a website will determine if that website can be easily crawled and indexed by online search engines. Built With can determine the web server, hosting provider, SSL certificate and content management system (CMS) that are being used by a website. Use this tool to find out how competitors might be ranking higher in search results.
How do you and your competitors compare when it comes to keywords? You can use SimilarWeb for keyword analysis or SEMRush to track the effectiveness of search engine advertising. You can also monitor keywords informally by opening up a private Incognito window on your Chrome browser and searching popular keywords to see what companies rank at the top.
Backlink and Traffic Analysis
Backlinks and website traffic are both key metrics for determining search engine ranking. Use Monitor Backlinks to reverse engineer competitors’ backlinking strategies. Try WooRank to analyze where online traffic to competitor websites comes from; it can also serve as a tool for monitoring social media.
Social Media Reach
Social media presence is also important when it comes to search engine ranking. Sprout Social, like WooRank, is an option for analyzing competitors’ social reach.
Want to consider multiple elements that contribute to rank at the same time? Try a competitor analysis scorecard to see how competitors rank against your website. You can also ask your customers to use the same scorecard to get their feedback on your competitor’s website.
Competitor websites present a free learning opportunity for businesses who want to improve their online presence. By considering how the competition uses storytelling and community, design and user experience, and search engine optimization to attract customers to their websites, you can improve weak spots in your own strategy and identify ways to differentiate from other popular offerings.
Feature Image: Unsplash / Brooke Cagle
All screenshots taken by the author, July 2019.
Image 1: via BuzzSumo
Image 2: via Buffer
Image 3: via Tumi Restaurant Facebook Page
Image 4: via Web.com
Image 5: via Evernote
Image 6: via Google
Image 7: via Vertical Measure Google Sheet