An important part of maintaining an effective business website design is keeping an eye on what your competitors are doing. Not only can you get ideas for improving your own site, but you also might discover niche opportunities that can elevate you above your competition.
What areas should you look at when you review a competitor’s site? For starters, try using the same criteria that the Web Marketing Association uses to judge entries in its WebAward Competition. Let’s take a look.
A website design isn’t everything, but how a website design looks influences a visitor’s expectations of the Web site as well as the business it represents. In a split second, a visitor makes the decision to stay or move on, and an obviously outdated website design can undermine visitor confidence that a company is dynamic, professional and serious about meeting customer needs. So, how does your competitor’s site design compare to yours? Is its design extremely outdated, about the same or more up-to-date than yours? If the latter, then you’ve got some work to do.
Website Ease of Use
How easy or difficult a Web site is to use also affects whether a visitor stays or moves on. If navigation is clumsy or difficult to figure out, visitors will give up and find another site that makes sense to them. Put on a “customer hat” and check how easy your competitor’s site is to use. Do you have to scroll down to find information or take action? Is the text too small to read easily? Is the shopping cart atypical? And most important, is your site comparable to or better than the competition?
Readability and optimized-for-search are the two most important factors to evaluate in website copywriting. To be effective, copy must resonate with existing and potential customers and enable them to find what they’re looking for from a search query.
When evaluating your competitors, use one of the online readability tools (e.g., The Readability Test Tool) to determine how readable its site is compared to yours—and most important, to your customers’ reading level. Does your competitor write directly to the customer (e.g., use second- vs. third-person language)? Does your competitor use industry jargon or the language that your customers use? How does your site website copywriting compare?
To evaluate what your competition optimizes for in search, you have a number of alternatives to use. For example, you can scan the page titles, headlines, subheads and text throughout their site to identify the keywords they’re focusing on (if any). You can also check the page source (right-click anywhere on a page and select View page source) to see what keywords they’re listing in the keywords Meta tag. And, you can use a variety of tools (e.g., WebsiteGrader, SpyFu) to see what keywords those tools identify that the company is using for organic and paid search.
In this day and age, content is king for a couple of reasons: search optimization and visitor satisfaction. Staying healthy in the search engines requires adding keyword-optimized original website content frequently, and satisfying existing and potential customers means that you need to provide valuable website content that helps them solve a problem.
Blogs, white papers, reviews, video demonstrations, audio interviews and similar content all add to the user experience and the leads that your Web site can generate. So, what is your competitor doing with respect to content? Is its site merely an online brochure? Does your competitor offer a compelling website content of articles or user-generated content that’s popular with customers? (Use Alexa to measure traffic to a particular Web page.) And most important, what content are you providing that sets you apart from the competition?
Providing easy ways for site visitors to interact with your business is increasingly important for today’s Web sites. Whether you offer a blog that lets readers comment—good or bad, a nifty application that visitors can use or a white paper or video that visitors can pass along, providing the means for existing and potential customers to engage with you is of utmost importance. What do your competitors provide? What can you do to distinguish yourself from the norm?
This factor is tricky: Incorporate too much technology and you might turn off your visitor; use too little and you risk being perceived as outdated or out-of-touch with your customer. Look at a broad set of sites in your industry and consider what they offer. For example, check out the WebAward sites to see what’s considered “state of the art” for your industry. Then, compare that use of technology with what your specific competitor—and you—are using and adjust from there.
Maybe the toughest factor to evaluate is innovation, the “wow” factor. Whether achieved through unique design, content, technology or interactivity, it’s often a difference-maker that elevates one site over another. How innovative is your competitor compared to you? Is there a way to turn your innovation into a value-add for your business that you can promote like crazy? Word-of-mouth (WOM) promotion is powerful, and offering a truly innovative feature on your Web site is one way to capitalize on WOM.
Compete and Win on the Web
Monitoring your competitors’ Web sites isn’t the be-all, end-all to an effective Web site by any means, but seeing what you’re up against will help you be more competitive in what you offer to existing and potential customers. Customer needs, design, content, personalization and “wow” all play a part in differentiating you from your competition. Make sure you keep your Web site in a position to compete and win online. ACS creative eats, breaths, and sleeps all things the web. Contact us today, let us do all the hard work for you regarding website content, website design and website copywriting .