Competitor 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.
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 .
“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:
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.