Apples & Oranges - They Don't Compare

Website competitive analysis is important, but it’s often done for the wrong reasons. In my opinion, there’s nothing better than measuring your progress against your own performance, plans or targets.

However, it’s inevitable that at some point during your marketing career you’ll be asked to complete a competitive analysis or review.

If you’ve been asked to review your website, or a client’s site then you’ll want to make sure you’re doing a good job.

Below, I’ve listed some hints and pointers for conducting a robust and efficient analysis, I hope you’ll find these useful.

Why complete a website competitive analysis?

There are a number of reasons why you’ll want to review your site against the competition. You may be planning a new site, looking to improve your performance or maybe you’re looking for additional ways to benchmark.

The main goal should be to inform your own marketing strategy and plans, there’s little point conducting an analysis just so the boss can feel good about your business. Focusing on actionable insights is vital. Ask yourself ‘what am I going to do as a result of this work?’

What should you compare in your website analysis?

This will differ from one business to the next. However, there are a number of common measurements that are relevant for most sites.

These include:

Ranking and traffic estimations

  • Which keywords are they ranking for?
  • What is their estimated traffic?

Search engine friendliness

  • What is their website speed?
  • Mobile accessibility (mobile site or responsive design?)

Site marketing performance

  • Do they have a blog?
  • Do they have downloads?
  • Do they use video?
  • What conversion points do they have (contact, live chat, email, phone etc)?

Social media performance

  • Which social networks are they on?
  • What reach do they have on the key networks for your industry?
  • What are their most shared pages?

Key calls-to-action

  • What is the key call-to-action on the homepage?
  • What are the calls-to-actions shown across the site?

Who should you compare against?

Most businesses select competitors based on personal knowledge. My recommendation is to make your selection based on three criteria:

  1. Businesses you consider to be competitors (your personal knowledge).
  2. Businesses found in the natural/paid search results for the same searches as you, or the keywords you would like to be found for.
  3. Businesses your customers and prospects consider to be competitors.

Using these three criteria provides a more balanced view of who you’re competing against. It also helps select the businesses that are most likely to be leading in your market.

How to structure your analysis spread sheet

I recommend keeping this fairly simple. I like to list the competitors along the top and then the various measures down the side. Some people will choose to write an accompanying document to give a narrative to the analysis.

I personally favour a good old fashioned face-to-face meeting, with the spreadsheet on a screen.

What tools can you use for website competitive analysis?

  • Search Metrics This tool allows you to see which keywords a competitor may be ranking for.
  • Alexa. This tool provides estimations of traffic. However, take what you see with a handful of salt (yes a handful, not a pinch), the figures aren’t always accurate (mostly due to how the data is collected). However, you can use this to see relative performance against your own site. I recommend looking at the traffic ranking and the keywords information Alexa provides.
  • PR Checker. I almost always include page rank in my competitive reviews. It’s a straightforward and easily understood measure. It’s also a pretty good reflection of potential website reach.

    The higher the page rank, the more likely the site is to rank well. My note of caution here is that my last statement isn’t always true; however page rank is still useful.

  • Majestic SEO. This tool is great for seeing a sites link portfolio. I recommend recording the number of inbound links and the number of domains these links come from.
  • Hubspot marketing grader. This tool is fantastic for gaining insights into a number of marketing elements that come together to make a successful site.
  • Google page speed insights. This tool allows you to see how fast a site loads. Load speed is a good indication of how easy the site is to access. Site speed is also a ranking factor used by Google. 

What about your business?

I’d love to hear your thoughts and advice. What do you like to measure? How do you measure? What tools do you use?