As well as carrying out an audit of your own site every once in a while, it’s important to see how you’re faring against the competition. In this blog post, we explain which areas you should be looking at when carrying out a website comparison study.
Search engine performance
Where your competitors appear in the ranking status is going to be something of particular interest and is one of your top comparison metrics. Luckily, there are plenty of online tools around that can help you analyse and compare statistics such as average visitor times on site, bounce rates, referral traffic, top keywords and even AdWords advertising budgets.
Here are just a few of the most popular and user-friendly tools for carrying out statistical website comparisons:
This is an intuitive and easy-to-use site where you can find great graphical representations of a variety of data, including referring pages and domains, backlinks, site issues, organic searches and social data. Since a site with more links will likely outrank you on Google search results, it’s important to look in detail at this.
Here you can easily and logically benchmark against your competitors in terms of keywords, including projected and historical traffic reports for domains and keywords, keyword research and keyword ranking reports. There are also features for social visibility, backlinks, traffic reports and so on. Unlike the other products listed here, this one isn’t free, but it’s useful for finding top phrases to use on your own site.
A very fast and simple tool for comparing the number of shares your content and that of your competitors gets, across most social media networks. Definitely useful for planning social media strategies and campaigns.
This is a great little tool for smaller businesses which gives you a quick score out of 100, based on SEO, lead generation, mobile optimisation, social media and content (including blogging, forms, ebooks and online offers). Just enter your website URL or that of a competitor and let it do the hard work for you.
A PPC-oriented site that offers keyword and domain research, a keyword monitor and a PPC campaign builder. Like other sites, they provide statistics such as average rank, ad budget and SEO traffic volume, but they also overlap keywords between Yahoo and Google for each domain, which is an interesting feature.
Of course, once you start to see which sites are performing well in terms of search engine rankings, you usually don’t have to look too far beneath the surface to find out why.
The following areas are those which directly affect SEO and user experience, and are the elements of a website you should look to when carrying out a comparative analysis.
It’s all well and good driving traffic to your site, but if they are met with poor-quality, uninspiring content when they get there, they’re soon going to click away and find something more interesting to do with their time. When analysing your competitors’ websites, make sure you take note of:
- The overall style and tone of their brand voice.
- The regularity, tone and style of their blog, if they have one.
- Whether they have any additional articles, reports or whitepapers and how these are used.
- Any calls to action and whether these are subtle or attention-grabbing.
- Use of humour or clever word-play.
- The amount of text and length of sentences.
When comparing websites, consider:
- Number of social media buttons.
- Type of social media buttons (shares, follows etc.).
- Placement of social media buttons.
- Live links to social media threads.
- Comments and replies, e.g. on blog posts within a site.
- Any promotions, e.g. competitions requiring a share or a like.
You might want to go across to your competitors’ social media pages and get a general feel for what’s going on there too – the more information you have, the better you can apply your knowledge to your own website. Some of the tools listed above will give you social media statistics, including number of shares, likes, follows, comments and so on.
Generally speaking, the greater interaction and engagement a site is providing, the greater it will rank in search engine results.
Design and user Interface
Last but by no means least, it’s essential to look at the user interface and design of the websites itself.
From layout, images and typography to navigation and usability, there are many factors that affect visitor behaviour and length of stay on a site, so take a close look at what your competitors are doing and you might learn a trick or two, both from what they’re doing right and from what they’re doing wrong.
- What is the overall layout of the site? Is it simple, complex, grid-based, structured or free-flowing? Does each page have the same layout?
- What kind of typographical style is used in terms of typescript combinations, size and colour?
- What type of navigation tools are used? Are standard horizontal or vertical navigation menus more common or are there examples of more unusual elements?
- What type of images are used? Where are images placed and how are they combined with text?
- Does the site use videos? If so what is the length, style and subject matter?
- How easy is the site to use?
This blog post has covered a few of the areas you might want to consider when carrying out a website comparison analysis, but is by no means exhaustive. Other elements to consider might include:
- Mobile/responsive design – Are the websites optimised for mobile use?
- Email marketing – Are the websites clearly looking to build their email mailing lists?
- Prices – Where it is possible to tell, how do the products or services the websites are offering compare with each other?
The important thing is to set out exactly what you want to compare at the start of your study, and to apply what you have learnt to your own website.
Hopefully as well as picking up some ideas for improvement, you will find some areas in which your own website is excelling, so give yourself a pat on the back before getting stuck into tweaking your own site.
Carried out annually, a comparative review can certainly be a useful analysis and improvement tool and help to keep you one step ahead of the competition.