Competitor Benchmarking – How to Compare Competitors Online

Comparing competitor websitesCompetitor analysis is an integral part of any business planning. In a previous blog ‘Getting To know Your Competitors’ we discussed the importance of competitor analysis and how gathering insightful competitor intelligence leaves you better equipped to shape your own business strategy and plans.

In this post we will give some tips on how to conduct an online competitor benchmarking exercise, by comparing key competitor websites against your own. This is a particularly useful exercise for small business and start-ups as it is something you can undertake yourself with little cost. A bit of time spent researching competitor websites can provide you with some really valuable information and gives you a real feel for what your competitors are focusing on.

What competitors should you  include?

The first place to start is deciding which competitor websites you are going to examine. It is probably both unrealistic and counterproductive to include your whole competitor landscape. Instead carefully select who you consider to be your top one to three direct competitors alongside perhaps an indirect competitor that you could gain some interesting ideas from.  Think about using some of the criteria below to put together a meaningful competitor list:

  • From your own knowledge – who you believe to be your key direct competitors
  • Who poses the greatest potential threat
  • Other businesses who appear close to you in search engine ranking pages (SERPS) or who have a high page rank with the keywords you would like to be associated with.
  • New entrants to the market that you need to understand better
  • More indirect competitors that could provide you with some interesting ideas to help you move  your business forward

Online Competitor Benchmarking Table

Start by creating a simple comparison table of your chosen competitors. Put your measurements down the left and side and your competitors across the top.

Online competitor benchmarking table

Measurements – what should you be comparing?

Spend a bit of  time thinking about what measurements are going to be the most useful to your business. For example only comparing measurements in areas that you know you excel in isn’t really going to be of much value to you. To get you started, outlined below is a list of standard online comparison measurements you may wish to include .

1. Usability

“Don’t make me think.”  Steve Krug

Site usability is all about the user’s experience. Does  the website work well? Can an average visitor use the site and find what they are looking for without getting frustrated and leaving? Are the pages intuitive and self-explanatory?  A user shouldn’t have to think too hard about how to get the information they need.

Think about navigation. How easy is it for a user to navigate around the site? Are pages accessible within a few clicks? If a user gets lost is it easy to click back to the home page? Is there a site map or site directory?

2.  Brand Image & Credibility

Is the look, feel and content  of the website consistent with the brand image. Does the site reflect the values its brand conveys?  Does the practical experience on the website match up with the users brand expectations?

How credible are the websites and how do they establish their credibility? Do they use testimonials,  product reviews or client lists?

3. Brand extensions

Have the websites introduced any brand extensions? Have they used their brand to extend into other products or services? Are there any ideas or opportunities that could be used in your future business planning?

4. General Accessibility

Are the sites easy to load (you can see average page speed by checking out https://developers.google.com/speed/pagespeed/insights  ) Are the websites multi-device friendly? Do they meet Web content accessibility guidelines?

5. Levels of interaction

What are the levels of interaction with the customer?  Do they have a blog or community discussion forum?

What sort of social media engagement do they have.  What is their comparable use of social networks such as Twitter, Facebook, Google + ?

What devices or communications do they use to engage and convert their customers? Special offers and promotions, free trials, webinars, email newsletters.

6. Site content

What is presented to the user in terms of graphics, images, text and audio? Is the content up-to-date and time sensitive (offers, promotions and so on). Is there a good balance between information, products and services? What functions are available – is there a blog, discussion forum, news articles, search facility?

7. Search metrics

There  are number of free tools available that can help you put together a list of comparable metrics for yourself and you competitors.  Spend a bit of time getting to know how the tools work and what they can offer and you’ll be able to include interesting analytics in your comparison chart – such as page rank, traffic estimates, link analysis, website page speed, bounce rate and competitor keyword research.

Free tools for metrics:

https://adwords.google.com

http://moz.com/tools

http://www.alexa.com/

http://www.smartinsights.com/search-engine-optimisation-seo/link-building/best-link-analysis-tools-for-seo-and-online-pr/

Hopefully this gives you a good starting point for creating your own online competitor comparison table. Just remember to:

  • Choose your competitors carefully
  • Think about using measurements that are going to help inform your business and marketing strategy
  • Continue to review and monitor competitor websites at regular intervals.
Advertisements

Getting To Know Your Competitors

Competition in Business

Getting to know your competitors is essential for any business – whether big or small, an established brand or new start-up. Love your competition because not only does it keep you on your toes and motivate you, but knowledge is power and understanding your competition provides you with lots of interesting information that can be used to mould your business and shape your marketing strategy.

I have always loved the competitive forces in this business. You know I certainly have meeting where I spur people on by saying “Hey, we can do better than this. How come we are not out ahead on that?” That’s what keeps my job one of the most interesting in the world. Bill Gates

Competitor Analysis

Competitor analysis is simply the process of monitoring and reviewing your competition, the products and services they offer and their adoption by their customers. Through this gathering of ‘competitor intelligence’ you can gain real insight that can be used to feed into your business strategy and marketing plans.

When undertaking competitor analysis keep in mind that your overall goal is to collate useful information that puts your business in a better position and gives you a competitive advantage over other companies in your industry.

The competitor landscape

There are a number of questions you should think about being able to answer from the competitor research you undertake. Beginning with a good understanding of who your competitors are.  Your competitor landscape is made up of both direct and indirect competitors. For example in the world of film magazines, Empire probably considers Total Film its most direct competitor, however its competitor landscape would include film bloggers, Guardian film online and even other interest magazines that may get chosen by a potential customer as an alternative reading choice that day.

Identify who your key competitors are but keep in mind the wider competitive environment and don’t forget to include international competitors if they are relevant. Remember if your selection of competitors to research is too narrow or excessively large you will struggle to get meaningful results.

Competitor SWOTCompetitor SWOT analysis

Carry out a competitor SWOT analysis on each of your chosen key competitors. What are their strengths and weaknesses – what do they excel at and what could they improve on? Are they doing anything that could be a threat to you?  For example have they just launched special price promotion,  new product or brand extension? What are they not doing (or doing) that provides a potential opportunity for your business?

When researching and comparing your competition,here are some questions you might find useful to think about including in your analysis:

  1. Where are you in position to your competitors? Who are the major players and who is the market leader. Where does your business fit in? Are you competitors growing  or shrinking?
  2. The four P’s. How do your basic four P’s (product, place, price and promotion) compare to those of your competitors.
  3. What are they doing well and what could they improve? How do your products or services compare with those of your key competitors – for example on quality, price and customer service.
  4. What is your USP and your competitors USP? What might make a customer choose your product or service over your competitors’ offerings?
  5. What partners and affiliations do they have? Are there opportunities here for you to develop similar affiliations with suppliers or associations?
  6. Brand and reputation. How strong is their brand? What is their brand image? What is their reputation within the industry (both with consumers and trade)? How successfully are they promoting their brand?
  7. Trends. What market trends do your competitors appear to be following (or not following)?

Start by researching online

A great starting point for small business is to do some website analysis by looking at your competitor’s websites. Creating a simple comparison table and undertaking an online competitor benchmarking exercise is a good way to get the ball rolling. Think about and compare competitor websites.  From this you can get a great overview of your competitors’ online presence and start  identifying potential gaps, opportunities and areas in which you could improve your own site.

And don’t forget, any kind of  competitor analysis should be continuously reviewed and monitored at regular intervals. Enjoy getting to know your competitors, and remember the better armed you are with valuable information the stronger position you are in for being both reactive and proactive in your business planning.