Analyze Competitor Websites: The Definitive Guide

Analyze competitor websites to get more engagement with your brand, grow organic traffic, and win higher-paying clients with a website that builds authority.

Analyze Competitors Website Blog Post Nov21

Do you want more people to engage with your website?

Do you want to grow organic traffic? Or maybe you would like to win higher-paying clients and contracts with a website that builds authority?

If you said yes, to any of these, then this post was written for you.


Introduction

Most businesses have a website. But only a tiny portion of them have a website that builds authority and trust, enhances brand value, and generates more engagement with a qualified target audience.

You may wonder if a website can do all those things. It can.

The secret to developing a website like the one I have described here is much like auto racing.

I have used cars and auto racing many times to illustrate web design and traffic strategy because it is such a good analogy.

You can’t win a race if you don’t know what—or who—you are competing against.

Think about it. There is no way to know how fast your car must be to win a race unless you know how fast the other cars run. Likewise, you must understand the dynamics of the track, conditions, and so on.

This illustration of competition is the foundation of competitor website analysis. The website is the car, the Internet is the track, and your competitors’ websites are like the other cars in the race.

You can access a cache of invaluable information by analyzing competitor websites. Then, you can leverage everything you learn to supercharge your website—like a car running on rocket fuel.

Who Are Your Competitors?

In today’s market environment, most companies compete on a global scale.

This is a reality for your business, too—whether you know it or not.

Your customers shop online for the products and services you sell. Even if they plan to buy from you, they use online pricing to help them determine what they should pay. They read posts and watch videos to learn more about the product or service, which helps them make a good buying decision.

What your customers discover about your products and services online impacts your bottom line.

But it is often challenging to determine who your competitors are because there are so many of them. Even if you want to analyze competitor websites, whose sites do you study?

When you finish reading this post, you will know how to:

  • Choose the right competitor websites for analysis
  • Set website analysis goals
  • Properly analyze competitor websites
  • Improve the competitiveness of your website

Which Competitor Websites Should You Analyze?

The number of competitors you should analyze varies and depends on your market category. But you should study at least five competitor sites to get useful results. The ideal number is ten.

Most local businesses know who their competitors are. They are down the street, across town, or perhaps a hundred or so miles away.

For most regional—and all national—companies, identifying competitors may be more challenging.

A practical approach is to simply use your search engine of choice to find companies that sell your product or service. It is best to try multiple searches and look for the businesses that come up most often. Use specific search terms to get the most accurate results.

As a guide, think of five keyword search terms related to your business and enter that into Google, Bing, or whatever search engine you prefer. Then, make a list of the top ten results.

As you make this list, ignore ads that have been placed in the search results.

Why?

Because those sites are paying money to get higher ranking placement and may not be good models for analysis. Sites that advertise will change constantly. So, the websites on page one of the search results via advertising will likely change from day to day.

Another way to find your competitors is to use an online SEO tool. One of my favorites is Ubersuggest—a keyword research tool that allows you to find relevant online competitors.

To get started, go to Ubersuggest.

Ubersuggest keyword tool by neil patel

Next, type in your website domain (i.e., yourcompany.com) and hit enter.

Under the “keywords” section on the left-hand side, you will see an option called “Competing Domains”, as seen in the image below:

Competitor analysis from ubersuggest

From the Competing Domains report, you can view a list of relevant competitors.

This report will show you how much traffic each competitor website receives, which will also help you determine which ones to analyze. Website traffic levels are crucial because they indicate which websites are thriving online and which are not.

Keep in mind that you can learn a lot from a competitor’s website even if it doesn’t get much traffic. Many businesses have a great website but don’t know how to get exposure. If you know for certain a competitor is relevant but their website does not get traffic, I recommend analyzing it anyway.

When in doubt about which sites to analyze, use your best judgment.

Ubersuggest (or any other online SEO tool for that matter) cannot provide a list of competitors if your website does not have enough traffic data. If your website has no traffic, then you will have to use the manual search approach above.

Find out how to get a website that builds authority for your brand and generates traffic.

Competitive Website Analysis Goals

Each competitor’s website will reveal nuggets of valuable data you can use to improve your site. But to extract this information, you must know what to look for.

So, let’s start by identifying goals for your competitor website analysis project. I will dive deeper into each one later in this post, but let’s start with a summary of the most important ones.

Target Audience and Segments

The purpose of a business’s website is to reach the target audience—that is, the group (or groups) of people the company serves. Segments are niches within a broader audience.

To illustrate how important it is to identify segments, let’s assume your broad target audience is “wealth management teams”. Insurance agents, financial advisors, some accountants, and even attorneys work in the wealth management space. Each of these represents smaller audience segments. so you may be more successful in marketing to each segment instead of targeting them as a group.

Throughout your competitor website analysis, look for specific targeted market segments. Could you add any of these segments to your brand marketing strategy?

Brand Differentiation

One of the primary reasons for analyzing competitor websites is to create differentiation for your brand.

What can you do to exploit your competitors’ weaknesses? What have they forgotten or omitted that you can include?

During analysis, take note of each competitor’s brand position. A brand position reflects how the audience perceives the business when compared to the competition.

Companies often employ a strategy to position themselves intentionally. However, you may find that many of your competitors aren’t implementing a positioning strategy at all. If you find that to be the case, leverage their oversight to your advantage.

Here are some examples of brand positioning:

  • Luxury or premium
  • Economy or affordable
  • Innovative
  • “Style on a budget”

Does the competitor attempt to position itself? If so, how?

Other factors play a role in brand differentiation. Here are a few components to consider as you analyze competitor websites:

  • Brand colors and typography
  • Benefit claims
  • Pricing structures

Social Media

Social media should be included in your competitor website analysis project because social media plays a vital role in developing an organization’s online reputation. Though it does not directly improve a website’s search engine rankings, social media positively impacts the brand’s authority when used effectively.

First, social media content can be used to send traffic to the organization’s website (via links). Second, social media increases a company’s reach because it provides more opportunities for people to find them. Finally, active social media profiles add credibility psychologically.

Your competitors’ social media content will give you insight into how that company is trying to reach the target audience. Some are better at it than others. Regardless, you will find out what is working for them, what isn’t, and how to improve your website messaging and social media content.

Organic Traffic

Getting organic (free) traffic is mandatory for any business that wants to build a strong online brand. But while it is challenging to get organic traffic, it is even more difficult to acquire quality traffic. Analyzing competitor website traffic levels helps you determine how to tap into the most valuable traffic sources.

I covered organic traffic analysis in a section above, but as you study competitor website traffic levels, look for trends. These trends will provide insight into what type of content you can create to generate traffic. They also clue you in to other products or services you could offer to increase revenue.

Getting Started With Competitor Website Analysis

To get the most value from your competitor website analysis project, start with at least five but no more than ten websites. Fewer than five may not provide enough depth and more than ten can make the process confusing or overbearing.

All of the websites you choose to analyze should belong to direct competitors. A direct competitor is a business that sells the same products or services you do and to the same target audience.

In addition, you should also study a few indirect competitors. An indirect competitor does not sell the same product or service but offers an alternative solution to your target audience.

How to Analyze Competitor Websites

Once you have compiled a list of competitor websites to analyze, it is time to get started. But just what details are you supposed to look for? How do you collect the most valuable information from each site?

Follow this process:

Step 1: Scan the Design

Most website visitors scan the layout, content, and design features when they land on the home page. So, it makes sense to start your analysis by doing the same.

What is the first thing you notice? Why did that particular element grab your attention?

Perhaps it was the color of a section, a headline, or an image that stood out to you. Whatever the element was, make a note of it and why you noticed it first.

After you have taken inventory of initial impressions, study the home page layout. Look over each section carefully. Then, in your notes, document the information contained in each section along with details.

The top section of a website is known as the “hero”. This is usually the first section visitors see when they land on the site. Whatever is in the hero section—i.e., images and content—should grab attention, communicate the company’s value, and keep the visitor on the page.

Here is an example:

Mailerlite her section

This is a screenshot of MailerLite’s home page hero section. The headline is bold and makes a clear value statement. The sentences underneath the headline tell the user what MailerLite is all about.

The images on the right-hand side of the screen show a happy customer and text blocks with services listed.

So, without moving the mouse, MailerLite’s website tells us they are an email marketing company that helps entrepreneurs sell digital products, create websites, and develop email campaigns.

As you scroll down the home page, every following section should support the previous one, reinforcing how the business serves its audience.

However, you may find that this is not always the case. Many times, a competitor’s website will not provide clear or valuable information or follow the pattern I have described. This is good news for you because it means that you have found an opportunity to exploit a competitive weakness.

Step 2: Site Structure

One of the most important, and often overlooked, elements of a successful website is its structure. Visitors who can easily find the content they want and need are more likely to stay on the site and engage in some way.

A website’s structure is also critical for performance on search engines. Well-organized websites are easier for search engines to index. A site with a solid structure is also more likely to get ranked higher in search results.

To assess site structure, look at the navigation (menu), usually located at the top of the website. Observe the order of web pages.

Top-level pages are the primary pages of a website that are the most obvious and easiest to locate. The home and about pages are the most popular examples of top-level pages.

Critical content should be available and accessible—no more than one click away. Click through each web page to see what information is included and how easy it is to find.

Step 3: User Experience

Have you ever landed on a website and become annoyed because you couldn’t find what you were looking for? No one likes a website that is confusing, difficult to navigate, or doesn’t give them what they want.

Your website visitors feel the same way.

In this step, we will assess each competitor’s site to determine how easy or difficult it is to use.

The goals in this part of the process are simple. If you find any portion of a competitor’s website difficult to use, avoid making that mistake on yours. Likewise, if you notice something that makes a website interesting or engaging, consider implementing the feature or function.

Here are some website elements that enhance or detract from the user experience:

Load Speed

Websites that don’t load quickly are dead in an on-demand world. Google, the largest of all search engines, prioritizes load speed. Google recommends that all websites load in two and a half seconds or less.

And that baseline will continue to drop as technology advances.

Use Google Page Speed Insights to check the load speed of your competitors’ websites. Then, test your own and compare.

How does your website perform compared to competitors? Does it meet Google’s recommendations? If not, execute the steps provided by Page Speed Insights to improve your site load speed or get help from a professional designer.

Click this link if you need help optimizing your website for online performance.

Calls-to-Action

A call to action (CTA) is usually a button or link that takes the visitor to a blog post, free download, paid content, or to a product or service purchase page. All CTAs should be in prominent locations throughout the website. They should also contain a clear, definitive action statement, such as “get the free info” or “buy the book”.

Most website calls to action are generic. Terms like “click here” or “learn more” are fine, but descriptive calls to action have higher conversion rates.

What CTAs do your competitors use on their websites?

Click through each call to action to see where it takes you. The ideal CTAs take the user straight to the relevant content. Users are less likely to follow through after one or two clicks.

Trust Signals

When you land on a competitor’s website, do you feel that you can trust the company? If you do, then the target audience probably does too.

To communicate trustworthiness, you must provide users with specific information (stated and implied) that will reduce the trust barrier. The website’s overall design, resources, testimonials, case studies, organization badges, and educational content all serve as trust signals.

Visual trust signals are as important as stated ones, perhaps more. For example, websites with poor formatting, misspelled words, and low-quality images do not communicate trust.

Take a look at the two examples below. Which one looks trustworthy?

This one:

Bad webste design

Or this one:

Good website

As you analyze competitor websites, assess the overall trustworthiness of each. For simplicity, score each one on a scale of one to five.

Who comes out on top? Why?

Though the definition of trust is based on individual perception, use your best judgment. If you think a site looks bad, ask why—then make sure your site does not make the same trust-damaging mistakes.

Step 4: Assess Content

In this step, you will explore the competitor’s website content. Here are a few items to look for:

  • Do they have a blog? If so, what topics do they cover?
  • Do they offer resources? Are they free to download, or must a visitor buy them?
  • How much product or service information do they provide?

Your content survey should be as in-depth as possible. For example, read a few blog posts, research the archives, and click through all service or product pages. The more information you assess, the easier it will be to improve your website content.

Step 5: Brand Strength

A branded website makes a strong impression and generates more engagement from the audience.

Here is how to evaluate the strength of each competitor brand:

  • Is the logo professionally designed, or does it look like a stock design template?
  • Are the web page images clear and in hi-definition, or are they blurry and hard to see?
  • Do the images blend with the website’s color palette or conflict with it?
  • Does the website’s color palette align with the brand persona?
  • Do the fonts blend and make content enjoyable, or harder to read?
  • Is the brand identity consistent throughout the website?
  • Is the brand messaging clear and compelling?

Each of these brand elements works together to improve or damage the website’s appeal.

Step 6: Site Engagement

The goal of every website is to create an opportunity for engagement with visitors. Engagement can be accomplished in many ways. Quizzes, resources, giveaways, and inquiries for quotes or consultations are examples.

As you analyze each competitor’s website, note the tools they use to create engagement opportunities. You may find some good ideas for your website.

Step 7: Features and Benefits

In this step of competitor website analysis, it’s time to dive into the features and benefit claims. Features refer to specific product or service traits. Benefit claims speak to the problems the product or service solves on a functional and emotional level.

Many businesses try to sell the same product benefits. For example, they make statements such as “we offer great service” and “take care of our customers”. But these aren’t going to motivate anyone to buy your product.

What features and benefits do your competitors use? How are they trying to grab the audience’s attention?

To uncover trends, make a list of features and benefits you find on competitor sites. Don’t worry about separating them. Then, once you have them listed, break them into categories (functional and emotional).

This will help you strengthen the benefit claims on your website.

Click here to learn more about the different types of benefits and how they can help you generate more interest in products and services.

Step 8: Traffic Strategy

Some of your competitors’ websites get a lot of traffic. Others get a little or none at all. To successfully analyze competitor websites, you must know what each one is doing to get traffic.

Website traffic analysis is an in-depth process. It requires an online tool that will help you analyze and evaluate competitor website traffic. I will use Ubersuggest to analyze website traffic in the following example.

With this tool, you can enter your competitor’s website into the search bar and find out how much organic traffic that site receives and what generates it.

As an example, let’s examine Fidelity Investment’s website traffic. Fidelity is a large, well-known investment company in America. I will use Ubersuggest to generate a traffic report for Fidelity.

Fidelity website traffic

You can see the top four pages that account for most of Fidelity’s organic website traffic in the image above. The home page gets the most. This isn’t surprising, considering that Fidelity is a well-known brand.

However, the third page in the queue is a blog post entitled, “How Much Do I Need to Retire?”. The post gets over 41,000 monthly visitors.

Now, let’s assume Fidelity was one of your competitors. The website traffic report reveals that creating a blog post teaching people how to calculate retirement funds might help you build web traffic too.

Follow this step for each competitor’s website.

Conclusion

Competitor website analysis is a complex process, but what you learn is invaluable. If you need help, please contact me personally at chris@goldenvineyardbranding.com.

I’m happy to answer any questions you have.

Until next time,

Chris

Avatar of chris fulmer

Chris Fulmer

Director, The Golden Vineyard Branding Company

Learn more about brand strategy.

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