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Understanding what your competitors are doing on the web and what they are offering to customers is crucial information for your business. It enables you to stay ahead of the game (or at the very least keep up). We are often asked to do this research on behalf of our clients and these are some of the key things that we look at:
The visual design – Do the colours, fonts, lines and shapes your competitors use in their designs communicate professionalism, innovation, quality, credibility or are they perceived as amateurish or outdated? Is the design consistent throughout all of their online presence? Don't try to copy your competitors but have an idea of what does and doesn't work for them.
Usability & Navigation – How is the navigation structured and labelled? Is it easy for the user to find what they are looking for? Are there any navigation standards? Can you find their content easily and in as few clicks as possible?
Content – How informative is the site? Is the content relevant in terms of the users’ needs and expectations? What is the company’s message? Does it reflect the company’s mission?
Readability – Is the content articulate? Is the text easy to read? What fonts are used?
Structure & Information architecture – How is the website organised? Is the structure clearly arranged and easy to understand?
SEO & PPC – To what extent do your competitors run PPC campaigns and make use of SEO? How search-engine-friendly are their websites? Which keywords do they use and how well do they match the content? Look at their meta keywords and see what their priorities are, this helps you create a more unique SEO keyword strategy and also helps you see your USP’s over your competitors.
Of course, before all of this we need to determine who your competitors are. This should not only include obvious ones, but also main online competition. Usually we find 3 – 5 companies to monitor, so that the analysis is representative but not so extensive that it becomes convoluted.
The next step is the analysis itself. We evaluate competitors’ websites according to the above criteria, compare them and work out which factors either make a site a joy to use or a nightmare. A crucial factor of this analysis is to view the website from the user’s point of view. This enables us to find out which websites meet customers’ expectations and how they do it.
We also analyse competitors’ marketing activities and their effectiveness by observing their PPC campaigns, their social media activity and their rating on web information sites such as Alexa.
A thorough competitor website analysis doesn’t only tell you what your competitors they are doing, but also identifies their mistakes and therefore helps you to learn from them. Moreover it helps you to detect your own company’s weaknesses as well as its strengths. You will gain knowledge about usability and functionality, find out what users expect from your website and how you can better serve your audience. Additionally a competitive website analysis enables you to determine your Unique Value Proposition (UVP), the crucial one factor that differentiates your business from others.
As the market changes over time, it is essential to keep monitoring websites in your sector. It is recommended that you do a thorough competitive analysis at least once a year and not to ignore your competitors’ performance on the web. If you do then you are missing the opportunity to find out what your strengths and weaknesses are and the chance to take further steps to develop a successful and competitive website.