Understanding your competition can help your business in many ways. A relatively easy method for learning more about your competition is to scour their websites.
But what do you get out of investing time in website competitive analysis? Is it really worth it? Does it really help you improve your business and make more money?
The answers are yes, yes and yes. In fact, the following are just a few of the many benefits of website competitive analysis:
Benefits of Website Competitive Analysis
- Identify products and services offered by your competition that you do not offer. Assess whether you should add any of these to your portfolio. Assess how you can improve upon these in creating a unique market offering.
- Learn ways that your competition is better than your company. Are their offerings more innovative than yours? Higher quality than yours? Offered in a greater variety of styles? Delivered at a cheaper price? Distributed in a broader geographical range?
- Assess their weaknesses. Where can you beat the competition on a consistent basis? How can you strengthen this advantage even more? Do your prospective customers realize these strengths? How can you promote these strengths even more effectively?
- Spot opportunities that no one has yet captured. Are you in a position to be the first out of the gate in seizing the market?
- Determine ways to improve your own website. On the web, it is extremely easy for your site visitors to check out not only your website, but competitors as well and then to comparison shop. Therefore, it is especially critical that your website outshine the competition’s.
- Identify your competitors’ partners. What can you learn from the types of partnerships that they have established? Can you think of a partnership that would give you a competitive advantage in a given market, or with a given audience segment, or in a given geographical area?
- Define your Unique Value Proposition (UVP) in your market. Your UVP is what sets you apart from your competitors. It should be clear why someone would want to purchase from you rather than your competition.
So, let’s assume that by now you are fired up and ready to scour the competition’s websites to identify how you are going to crush them. Sounds great, but where do you begin? What exactly are you supposed to look for?
A simple and easy way to get started is to follow the following 5 steps:
Step One: Identify competitors
First, identify a number of competitors to monitor. This should include traditional, or obvious, competitors. Beyond that, though, you should also be sure to identify your main online competitors (those companies that may be competing directly against you online, regardless of whether you have ever heard of them or whether you compete against them in an offline setting).
Keep the number manageable. Define a list of up to 5 competitors you will analyze and monitor. Anything larger than this may be unwieldy and you may start to experience diminishing returns on the additional time and effort required.
Step Two: Evaluate the competition
Create a matrix to evaluate different aspects of your competition’s websites in comparison to your own. Include elements such as design, messaging, ease-of-use, engagement and usefulness.
Create another matrix to evaluate the products and services of your competition in comparison to your own. How are the products/services different? How are the target audiences different? How about quality? How about price? Are there any gaps in the marketplace?
Step Three: Check out competitors' stats
If certain websites attract a great deal of traffic, try to figure out the underlying reasons. Is it purely their advertising, PR or other forms or marketing? Or is there something unique, useful or amazing about the website itself that is drawing the crowds.
Step Four: Review competitors' websites yourself
Review your competitors’ websites by putting yourself in your customers’ shoes. Write up a few customer scenarios, detailing the customer profile as well as the corresponding needs for your products/services. Create detailed objectives for each customer scenario, and visit each of your competitor’s websites. Then, grade them on how well each competitor site meets your prospective customer’s objectives.
The bottom line is, if you were the ideal prospective customer, who would you buy from? And why?
Step Five: Automate intelligence gathering
Automate competitive intelligence gathering as much as possible. Some useful free tools you can use include:
- Google Alerts , which notifies you when keywords you identify (including competitor names) appear in new web pages or blogs.
- Technorati watchlists, which notifies you when keywords you identify appear in blogs.
- BlogPulse , which provides you with comparisons of popularity of keywords within the blogosphere, and also provides you with tracking of online discussion threads among multiple blogs.
And once you have all this data, it is critical to spend the time analyzing it on a regular basis, whether monthly or quarterly, to ensure that you are positioning your company and your website in the most competitively effective manner possible.