Our first article described the process of auditing and evaluating the User Experience of your website. Our second article talked about implementing some of the changes you identified in the first phase. Now we’ll take a look at your competitors and see what you can glean about how you measure up and how to capture a bigger piece of the pie.
Define the Competitive Landscape
Do you really know who your competitors are? Okay, you may have a good idea. But do you really know what competes for your customers’ attention? Every 6-12 months, you reevaluate the competitive landscape. We use the term “landscape” because it’s important to understand that many variables compete for your customer’s dollar. Ultimately, anything that interferes with converting a prospect into a customer is competition.
1. Customer Audit: Ask your customers. They can tell you why they ultimately decided to go with you.
- a. Where else did you consider taking your business?
- b. What other competitors have you done business with?
- c. What were the considerations when shopping around?
- d. Was advertising a factor?
- e. What made you choose us?
2. Who do YOU think your competitors are?
- a. Is it brick and mortar stores or businesses?
- b. Is it other web-based businesses?
- c. Is it freelancers or independent consultants?
- d. Is it a big store or a big agency?
- e. Do you know who you have lost business to?
3. What does your online competition look like?
- a. Have you done a keyword search for your primary products or services?
- b. What about a search for your own brand terms?
- c. Who is advertising on Google Adwords on those terms?
- d. What other results come up in Google or Bing: Images, News, Videos, Local?
4. What about indirect competition?
- a. Who/what competes for the attention of your target audience?
- b. What alternatives are available that might divert a prospect or lead them down a different path?
- c. What impedes your prospective customers from making a purchasing decision?
- d. Is there a wolf in Granny’s night cap that keeps gobbling up your customers before you have a chance to rescue them?
Benchmarking is a standard business term that describes the process of measuring a business against industry best practices. By adapting your site to leverage some of the effective tactics employed by other successful businesses in your space, you can reduce the competitive gap.
Take a good long look at a handful of competitors. What’s consistent across the board? By identifying and adopting common practices, you can often achieve remarkable results in a short span of time. Remember the Big Guys have probably invested extensive resources in identifying, implementing and constantly improving practices that yield the best results.
1. Call to Action:
- a. Is there a “Buy Now” or other call to action? as in “Call us for a consultation.”
- b. What color, what size, where is it located?
- c. Does it lead directly to a Shopping Cart or a Contact Form?
- d. Do they offer content or some other value “behind a curtain” – e.g. do you have to fill out a contact form in order to download something for free?
- a. How much content is there?
- b. Are there newsletters or other downloadable assets?
- c. Do they refresh content frequently?
3. Copy Density:
- a. How many words generally appear per page?
- b. Is all the important content above the fold, or do you have to scroll down to get to the good stuff?
4. Tone and Style:
- a. Is it calm and professional? Loud and boisterous? Casual and humorous?
- b. Is there a sense of urgency? “Quantities are extremely limited, so order today…”
- c. What style of imagery is used? People shots, product “beauty” shots, illustrations, diagrams?
5. Headlines: What style do their headlines take?
- a. Do their page headlines make a statement? Example: Our Shoes are Beautiful
- b. Do they ask a question? Example: Don’t you love beautiful shoes?
- c. Do they make a suggestion? Example: You deserve beautiful shoes.
- d. Or even a command? Example: Get these beautiful shoes.
- a. Are prices listed?
- b. Are discounts promoted?
- c. Is pricing alluded to but not specified?
7. SEO Elements: View the page source to look behind the curtain! See what kind of tricks they are using.
- a. H1 Headers
- b. Title Tags
- c. Keywords
- d. Meta Descriptions
- e. ALT Image Tags
So how does your site compare? What did you learn from this analysis that you can implement and test on your own site? Try to focus on things that you can easily change, tackle them in manageable chunks, and be sure to track results.
Fast forward a few months or a year. This isn’t just a checklist you can finish once, tear up and forget. The best online businesses are constantly reassessing, reinventing and improving. Start from the first phase and run through the cycle again.
And while you’re at it, be sure to request a regular Hosting Services Checkup with your hosting provider. Make sure your plan can handle seasonal and circumstantial spikes and bursts of traffic. Confirm that you have adequate security and backup services in place. Applied Innovations is committed to your long term success, so let us lend our expertise to ensure your hosting plan meets your business requirements.