Whether you’re trying to improve your search engine ranking, improve your website’s navigation, or get an idea of how you want your site to look, analyzing a successful competitor’s website is a good place to start.
However, it’s easy to get stuck in the weeds with this task. Instead of going in blind, write out your goals beforehand. Are you trying to improve your search engine rankings? Improve navigation?
Once you’ve got a goal in mind, let’s get cracking spy— I mean “researching” those industry competitors.
How to find your competitor’s website
Some of you may already know who your competition is. It’s a little easier when they’re local. You can start searching the products and/or services you provide in Google and include your city and state in the query. You should see any local competition in what Google calls the Local Pack, which is this section here:
If you don’t see something like that, you can go through the rest of the search rankings and begin looking through their site to see if they serve your area. Of course, you may have a product or service that can be provided by any business nationally. In that case, where they’re located obviously doesn’t matter.
Once you identify a competitor, start a spreadsheet or other document and begin compiling a few URLs. This not only helps you keep tabs one your top competitors, but providing this list to your marketing agency — if you choose to work with one — will help them get a better idea of what you’re both up against. Also, if there are things you like about the competition’s brand, they’ll be able to see it firsthand.
Analyze your competitor’s website content
Google says it ranks pages based on how well they answer the query entered into the search bar. So, what are the pages on your competitor’s website talking about? Is there anything you could add that they don’t currently have? Could you better explain your product? A common SEO (search engine optimization) mistake people make is not changing the page title or meta descriptions for their pages.
You can find out if your competitor is optimizing these by searching your competitor’s website in Google like this: site:competitorsitename.com.
If their home page title is still “Home | Competitor Name” or something similar with no keywords, they’re probably not doing any SEO.
Also, check if they have a blog. Sometimes it’s hidden on the bottom of the home page. See what they’re writing about. Is it helpful for people searching for your products or services? If so, keep tabs on that blog so you have an idea for what to write about and, ideally, improve upon.
By doing this research, you’ll get a better grasp on what you need to do to for your SEO. Or find gaps in their strategy so you can try to leapfrog them on search engine results pages.
Analyzing your competitor’s website navigation
Another commonly ignored aspect of a website is the navigation. It’s so much more than just a ton of buttons at the top of a website.
Navigation can affect your search rankings and especially your conversions.
Your navigation bar should contain descriptive labels that ideally are also industry-specific keywords. A common pitfall is having a single page titled “products” or “services” that lists all of your products or services. When a visitor lands on your website and it’s not easy to get to where they need to go, they’re less likely to convert. And Google rarely places a page like that on their first page of results because of that. It also has a hard time deciding what the page should rank for because of all of the competing keywords and a title that no one is actually searching for.
Checking your competitor’s site (and yours) for accessibility
ADA (American’s with Disabilities Act) compliance for websites is no longer an afterthought. Lawsuits for non-compliance have been on the rise and, while you may think you’re not in the crosshairs, there’s actually benefits to being compliant.
Google also checks for ADA accessibility and uses it as a factor in its rankings. Further, it helps your reputation and allows disabled folks to navigate your website, increasing your audience.
A free automated service called Accessibility Checker is a quick and easy way to see how your website fares. It will scan your website, tell you the issues, and even provide instructions on how to fix the issues.
So, you should make sure you’re at least compliant. However, if your competitors have a better compliance score than you, you can try to improve upon your score if you are trailing them in search rankings.
How to find out the technical things
If you’re more familiar with things like servers, hosting, and plugins, there are a couple of free tools you can use to uncover that information about your competitors.
ICANN‘s registration data lookup tool gives you the ability to find the current registration data for domain names, the IP address, root servers and more.
Built With is a helpful, free software that will tell you what tools and plugins your competitor used to build their website. If you notice several competitors using the same tools, it might point you in the right direction for what you use. Or maybe you can use that information to find something better.
At any rate, if you choose to use an agency to build your website, this information will be incredibly useful to them.
Now that you’ve analyzed your competitors’ websites and have a good idea of how you stack up, you can begin making any improvements you deem necessary. If you’re not sure how to do any of this work, feel free to contact 2oddballs Creative to get a quote on the work. We can even provide references to help you feel comfortable we’ll get the job done right!