We often talk about how important it is to focus on your own project and not be distracted by what other people are doing. It is true. BUT … friendly little spies don’t hurt either, especially when it comes to your competitor’s website.
You can get ideas to try new things, to write new content, and new opportunities to steal traffic. And you can do this without spending a fortune on different tools to track competitor data.
Here are some simple and free ways to analyze your competitor’s website and get some great ideas for yourself.
What can I learn from my website competitors?
Word to the wise: Before you open up the information tree, find out what you really want to learn from the competition. If not, staying on your competitor’s website can turn into a real time waster, where you compare yourself to others and feel even more doubtful.
Start researching your competition with specific goals:
- Are you trying to increase your website traffic?
- Distinguish yourself from competition?
- Improve your search engine ranking?
- Find out where your competition is advertising?
- Improve your social media strategy?
- Knowing this will also help you effectively make use of the 7 day free trial on some of the more expensive competitor analysis software so you don’t waste time.
How do I find my website competitors?
You might already know who the competition is. Maybe you’re looking at them across the street now. But in many industries, your competition can be in your environment or on the other side of the world.
- Start by compiling 10 or more lists of websites that are comparable to yours (businesses of the same size and target audience). You can do this with free tools like SimilarWeb. Enter the URL of your own or competitor’s website that you are already familiar with, and select “Similar Sites” (Note: with the free version, you are limited to 10 results).
You can also do this the old-fashioned way by just typing a few of your top keywords into Google, and seeing which websites appear in the results. Low technology, but free and effective.
- Once you have a list of competitors, find out which website is the most successful so far. Type the URL into SimilarWeb and you will get an overview of monthly traffic and other statistics. You can also see where their traffic comes from (e.g. social media, e-mail, search engines), and where they get references.
This is a good way to get a layer of dirt and you might find that websites that you think are very popular don’t get much traffic at all (or vice versa).
So now you know who your competition is and what kind of traffic they are getting. Very nice! Now, what are some free ways to spy on a competitor’s website?
1. Evaluate the content of your competitor’s website
Just because a competitor gets a lot of traffic doesn’t mean they have won a website game. Sometimes websites get traffic for not-so-good content!
That is why it is very important to go beyond the numbers and pay close attention to what’s actually on your competition’s page. What information do they cover? Are there any clear gaps? Do they have a FAQ section? If they do, maybe it’s missing something obvious.
What you are looking for here is ideas for content that you can put on your website that is better than they have. Use BuzzSumo’s free trial to see the best-performing content, and then see if you can make something better.
2. Look carefully at their brand
Do they have a logo? What color are their brands? Do they have a “look” that they use consistently? Maybe they are trying to find a certain personality type – sophisticated, fun, expensive.
By knowing the identity of your competitors’ brands, you can imitate or make your brand different. Spending time on your own brand, including getting a logo, can give you the polish and professionalism you need to stand out.
3. Find out what website tools they use
Use a free service like Builtwith to see the tools and plugins that your competitors are running on their website. You will see where their website is hosted, what email service they use, and maybe get ideas for tools that you want to try on your own site too.
4. Monitor competitors on social media
There are many social media tracking devices out there. But beware of expensive software that will consume too much of your time.
For a basic overview of your competitors’ social media activities, you can follow them and observe what happens in their feeds. If they mostly focus on Facebook, maybe you can spend your time on different social media channels.
What posts do they have that are performing well? Are you going to do it differently? Do they post 100 times a day? What is their response time? These questions will help you develop your own social media strategy.
5. See their price page
Look at the prices of your competitors. What features do they offer? How do their prices compare to yours? Do they use discounts and promotions?
If they don’t have a pricing page, that’s a good opportunity for you. It might be scary to lurk your price if your competition doesn’t, but transparency in the real price is a good thing. Plus, you can offer features and facilities that they don’t have. Here are more tips for building your price page.
6. Get a picture of their SEO strategy and traffic
There are lots of tools out there to dig for backlinks, keywords, referrals, and many more of your competition.
If you are new to the SEO game, start with free tools like SEMRush. Type the URL for your competitor’s website and you will find keywords that bring organic traffic (traffic from search engines) to their site. (The free version of SEMRush has a limited number of searches and results, but it’s a great way to get started).
You can also try the free MozBar extension. This will give you an idea of your competitor’s “domain authority”, an indicator of how strong their performance is in search engine results.
7. Become a customer
You might hate the idea of spending money on competitors, but it’s important to swallow your self-esteem and do it. Register and make a purchase.
What is the process like? What works well and what doesn’t? Look at their checkout flow, the information they collect, what their brand’s tone is like. Are there any drawbacks that you can take advantage of (for example, maybe their delivery times are very slow)?
If they have a bulletin, register so you can keep tabs on what they are doing. Try contacting customer service with common questions and see how they respond.
Nothing is perfect, even competitor websites that look shiny and pleasant. When you are a customer, you will see where gaps (and opportunities) are.
When should I do a competitor research?
Don’t stop when looking at competition. The best time to do this is when you start a new website, consider redesigning, looking for a blog topic or something to write about, or just a few times a year as a normal household chore.
Use a competitor’s website to your advantage
Competitor websites are a tool to make your site better, not to be feared.
This free method will give you a basic picture of who your competitors are, what their traffic is like, and also gives you benchmarks and ideas to apply to your own website.
Better yet, you will begin to see several opportunities and spaces for your own website to fill.