How to Conduct a Web Site Competitive Analysis
Our first recommendation is that you identify your direct competitors on the web. This will include sites which offer similar services or products. Why? Because the web provides users with a sales environment in which:
- Finding competitors is easy.
- Comparison of product and services is easy.
- Customers tend to return to sites where the browsing is user-friendly (usability) and the information is plentiful.
Our website competitive analysis is designed to highlight the strengths and weaknesses between your website and comparable websites.
You probably have visited your competitor's websites, but do you have the tools and professional website knowledge to examine them objectively and thoroughly?
We create a customized analysis that identifies specific areas where you site exceeds or falls short compared to your competitors and related sites. Our focus is typically centered on features, functionality, tools, content, usability, design and website structure; and offers another lens for you to understand where your website stands and how effective your website and your competitors are at communicating their messages and serving the users' needs.
Let Psycray analyze competitor websites and compare them to yours. We can find out what features they have on their website that you do not. We look for best practices and advanced web capabilities - helping you identify the areas that your website could be improved to increase your overall return on investment.
Your end result? A complete report that provides you with the information you need to gain a competitive edge over your competitors. This custom report provides: key findings and suggestions, a synopsis of features, functionality, and tools for yours and other competing sites, and in depth details for each reviewed site.
We measure the usability of competitor websites. Do your competitors have sites that present customers a more user-friendly experience in finding information - and making their purchase decision?
Once the issues have been identified from these different areas, you can choose to take on the large challenge of completing the changes in-house or you can hire Psycray to administer the changes in the most timely and effective and knowledgeable manner. We help you make this decision by providing you with a focused, comprehensible report which educates you about what is at stake. Our reports provide background information to help you decide, as well as the critical details necessary for fixing problems.
Conducting a competitive analysis is an important part of our job. A good competitive analysis not only produces usability and search engine optimization metrics, it also aids decision makers in their strategic goal-setting and planning. Done right, a good competitive analysis can steer a Web development project in the right direction. We know the expectations: snoop out the competition, provide the information that will increase return on investment, and ultimately, the overall success of your website. We are up to the challenge.
Interested? Request a quote from Psycray for a Competitive Analysis.
First things first
Most of our customers consist of business specialists who know nothing about design, usability, or information architecture. They don't have a clue about labeling systems, search ergonomics, or affordance. All they want to know is what the competition is doing, and how they can do it better. Obviously, our expertise is in usability and search engine optimization, so we'll be analyzing your site based upon these two critical elements and comparing our findings to other comparable sites in your industry.
We also provide a presentation and a written report. With ample details. Expectations here? A well-organized, comprehensive report that includes everything from an executive summary to appendixes loaded with important details.
The end result of your analysis is a decision - a business decision that affects the rollout of design and development. Our recommendations could be as "small" as adding search functionality and a look-and-feel upgrade to an already crowded deployment schedule, or it could have more far-reaching ramifications, such as adding to a budget for content acquisition or a shift in messaging.
Who's the competition?
Usually we are given a list of competitors. Most companies that have a handle on their market space are already aware of main competitors and just about every company has a list of companies on their "target list" - that special subset of companies that they want to beat soundly in the marketplace. Although, Psycray has expertise in identifying competitors, so we can identify competitors for you if you have not already, and even if you already have a list of competitors, we will do research to confirm that you have identified them correctly.
Some companies fall short of identifying all relevant competitors because they often have their "business" hat on, and not their "functionality" hat on. For example, if the company we're analyzing is in the freight cargo business, likely we will get other sites belonging to companies in the same industry. However, it might be smart to add sites like Travelocity.com, which specializes in consumer travel, because their site contains functionality that might be universal to all transportation applications (i.e., departure and destination points are common to freight trucks and airline customers).
Along with a list of competitors, some customers like to send us a list of items that they want us to focus on, often an area where our clients want to do better than the opposition. For example, the company might be fixated on the number of images deployed on their own site. If Competitor X has 500 images, we want to know how many images that Competitor Y and Competitor Z have. What we hear: "How fast can we have more images?"
We will make it a point to carefully examine the area you identified as a concern. To follow our example, you might dig deeper and find out those 500 content items deployed on Competitor's X's site are outdated, badly written, and generally not useful to their audience.
If you have yet to identify competitors for your website or for a client's website, follow our helpful tip. Find out the company's Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) code and then look up other companies in that same category. Decide what exactly your company or the client's website is striving to achieve with their own web offering and identify competitors with the same services or products. Other important criteria for determining credible adversaries include geographic location, total revenues, total profits, and strong branding.
What to analyze
Now that we have a list of your competitors, we need to draw up a list of items to examine when we visit their sites. We've developed a categorized list of items over the years, which are included below:
- Home page. How informative is the home page? Does it set the proper context for visitors? Is it just an annoying splash page with multimedia? How fast does it load?
- Meta Data. What descriptions are listed beneath the website pages in the search engine? Are the descriptions weak or confusing?
- Page Titles. What page titles are listed for your web pages in the search engine results page? Are these titles unique and relevant? Do they describe the page content in a compelling and descriptive manner?
- Search Engine. Where are the website pages appearing in the search engine results page? What keywords can a user search for to find the website pages in the search engine results page?
- Keywords. Has keyword research been completed to identify the most relevant and highly searched terms in the industry? Are these keywords used in the most efficient manner possible?
- Link Popularity. How many web pages link to the website? What sources are these links coming from?
- Search Engine Saturation. How many of the pages are indexed in Google's search engine? Yahoo's? AOL's? MSN's? AllTheWeb's? etc.
- Navigation. Is the global navigation consistent from page to page? Do major sections have local navigation? Is content useful? Is there wasted space?
- Site organization. Is the site organization intuitive and easy to understand and use?
- Links and labels. Are labels on section headers and content groupings simple to understand? Are links easy to distinguish from each other? Or are they ambiguous and uninformative ("click here" or "white paper")? Are links spread out in documents, or gathered conveniently in sidebars or other groupings?
- Search and search results. Is the search engine easy to use? Are there basic and advanced search functions? What about search results? Are they structured and easy to understand? Do they give relevance weightings to provide context? Do the search results remind you what you searched for?
- Readability. Is the font easy to read? Are line lengths acceptable? Is the site easy to scan and read?
- Performance. Overall. Do pages load slowly to quickly? If present, are graphics and applications like search and multimedia presentations optimized for easy web viewing?
- Content. Is their sufficient depth and breadth of content? Does the content seem to match the mission of the organization and the needs of the audience? Is the site developing its own content or syndicating other sources? Is there a good mix of in-depth material (complete case studies, articles, and white papers) versus superficial content (press releases, marketing copy)? Is too much or too little content provided? Is the information above the fold (i.e. without having to scroll down the page) recognized as more important than content below the fold?
- Broken Links. Are all links on the website working properly?
- Contact Us Information. Where is it? Is it on every page? Is it part of the navigation? Does the contact us page include an email link?
- Products/Services. Where is the information regarding product/services located? Does the user have to explore multiple layers of the site before they find product/service information? Is it easy to purchase products/services?
- Press. Does the site contain a news/events/press page? What is it called? Is it cluttered with information? How is it linked to the homepage? Are archives of information present? Are there images or video present?
- Proper Image Text. Is there text displayed when the mouse scrolls over an image or logo? Do all images contain this text? Does this text label the image properly?
- Breadcrumbs. Does the site provide breadcrumbs for the user so that they are able to follow their path back through the site?
- Headings. Are headings identified? Are they used effectively?
- Page URLs. Are page URLs cryptic and full of unreadable letters and symbols? Or do page URLs contain keywords and a relevant description of the URL?
Conducting the analysis
Once we have a list of sites to research and a catalog of criteria to compare, we begin our analysis, making sure we conduct our analysis thoroughly and objectively.
Here are some additional guidelines we follow:
- Visit one site at a time, and take the same (or at least, similar) paths through each site. Follow the checklist of criteria.
- For each criterion, we take lots of detailed notes. We refer to these notes when we organize and write your report.
- We evaluate the competitors' sites before analyzing the clients. After visiting the company's competitors, this gives us some sense of objectivity. It also provides a good measurement comparison for our client.