Using competitors is an intelligent way to come up to speed on the industry standards for your business. By investigating website design, keyword strategy, and content, you'll be able to flesh out your website more effectively to improve your SEO strength and drive more customers to your website.
Reaching Your Buyer Personas
When I'm doing research, some businesses will be direct, local competition; other sites I'll choose to research based on one powerful aspect of their marketing.
Say that I’m doing research for a local donut shop and there’s a breakfast diner I find on Facebook with twice the likes that my business page has. The two have similar audiences, and I’m looking to grow the fans for my donut shop’s Facebook presence. In all likelihood, the breakfast diner has been updating and refining their engagement strategy for much longer than my new donut shop client has. By understanding their voice and the information they’re sharing with their audience, I can more successfully penetrate the breakfast food industry. Maybe they rely strongly on the comment sections for photos of bacon (emphasizing interaction). Maybe they post the latest breakfast food developments, like chicken fried bacon (communicating information). Either way, imitating your competitor’s voice and style can help you become successful, more expediently.
Designing Your Website
You have many different buyer personas that are likely to tread across your website. For an online B2C business, it can be particularly difficult to identify and target specific buyer personae with your website design. When I’m thinking about design and buyer personae, I consider what the customer is expecting to see in my website design.
Different buyer personas respond well to different types of website design. What is defined as aesthetic and engaging also varies a lot by the industry. Your competitors’ websites help to bridge the gap between these two elements.
Design can be a tough thing to analyze, and it takes a lot of time and research to establish a good “feel” for what design elements are going to work effectively for your business. Pay attention to things like:
Above the Fold vs. Below the Fold design on home page
Where are their Calls-to-Action?
Where is the site most image-heavy? Text heavy?
What colors are used? How are they being used?
What’s the tone of voice in their writing? Strictly professional? Witty?
By identifying common-usage for your industry, you're going to hold your audience's attention for a little bit longer.
Using Site Rankings
For this technique, you’re going to want an SEO tool. The one I use for my research is called SEO Site Tools. This is a special app for Google Chrome that has a cool little extension on your search bar. It gives information like Google PageRank, Meta Data, missing page elements, and social engagement- and all you have to do is click the button while viewing the page you like.
Using this information is crucial for identifying top competitors and knowing what works. If you’re able to look at a page and say “Wow, I think this website looks horrible. I bet they have a terrible site ranking”, and then have that assumption proven correct, this can be an invaluable skill when marketing your business visually. It can be just as educational to say the same thing about a page, and then have your SEO tool tell you that the site is actually performing very well. This should spark you to ask “well, if I think this design sucks, what’s drawing peopleto this company?” By following the rabbit trails like this, you’ll end up learning a surprising amount about why people visit a website.
Keywords and Meta Data
This is probably a section that you’ve already read entire blog posts about. The idea of grabbing keyword suggestions and meta data voice from your competition is no new thing. But these techniques can set your website up to take some SEO steroids. Instead of spending months organically accruing a targeted keyword strategy, you can get it right from the start by analyzing your competitors.
Blog Post Inspiration
Since most all digital marketers are also content writers nowadays, finding inspiration for blog posts is a secondary process constantly running in my head. Look at your local competitors and find out what they’re writing about. I’m not saying to just write on the same subjects, but use their blog to determine new directions to take your content.
These are a few of the ways that you can use a competitor’s website and web presence to develop. While there are many others, these are some of the first ones that come to mind for me. Have any additions or questions? Leave a comment!