One of the first things an online marketing firm does when they bring you on as a client is competitive analysis. They take a look at your competitor’s website and try and figure out why they’re in the top spot. It’s a hugely valuable tool in the world of SEO but grossly overlooked when it comes to web design. It really shouldn’t be and you can learn a lot from your competitors.
So before you set up your website, blog or ecommerce store have a look at the competition and see what’s working for them.
Questions to Ask
- What’s your first impression?
Even in cyberspace first impressions matter. Functionality and good design are critical in making the right first impression. How is the site laid out? What type of content is featured on the homepage? What are they using for a call to action? What’s working and what would you improve upon?
- Is it user friendly?
Try the site out, it’s an effective way to try out some testing on a competitor’s site. Is it doing everything you would expect and is it easy to navigate and find the information you want?
- Is their website responsive or mobile?
At this point in web development this should be a no brainer. Mobile traffic now exceeds desk top traffic so not having a mobile site is just shooting yourself in the foot. Not only will Google penalize you for it, you’re losing traffic and customers.
- Is the website easy to navigate?
This is another area that should be a no brainer as well. Take a look at their site and see if navigating is simple, if it is a large site make sure search options are enabled. The fewer clicks it takes for your visitors to find what they are looking for the better. If your site is too complicate your visitor is leaving.
- Do they have a blog? Do they contribute to it regularly?
Blogging is the simplest way to add fresh content to your site regularly (Google loves fresh content). It is also the easiest way to pass on information about what’s going on in your field and to connect with your customers at the same time. People want to read articles about issues they can relate to, is the blog written for the audience?
- What are the keywords that the competitors are targeting?
Keywords are how you are found by customers using search engines. If you haven’t done detailed keyword research, it’s a guarantee that your competition has. Keyword research is the backbone of any online marketing campaign.
- How is media being used on the site?
The right images go a long way towards making a great first impression. Pictures aren’t the only thing you need; video is more engaging than a simple static site. With sites like Instagram and Pinterest people are just looking at your pictures they are sharing them too.
- What are you missing?
Pay attention to tools, features and downloads that rivals offer. Do they give their audience free resources to download? How are things laid out, ads, where is content placed…all of this will give you insight into their audience.
- What sucks?
Plenty of websites have unnecessary feature that take away from the user experience. A few years ago it was the “in thing” to put audio or video on the front page that played automatically, it was irritating and for many users they couldn’t hit the back button fast enough. Flash intros and animations were another thing that just ruins the experience. Looking at a competitor not only gives you an idea of features you want but also things you absolutely don’t want.
- How active are they on social media?
Almost every site has buttons connected to their social media accounts, click on them and discover if they are keeping them updated. It will give you an idea of their engagement and social shares.