Doing some surveillance on the enemy is good for you. In fact, your competition is probably returning the favor. So, get out a pen and paper and jot down the things they’re doing that could possibly give you some competitive advantage. Are they paying for a ton of ad-words or maybe doing some lead capture techniques of their own? Click through their website and develop a competitive gameplan for your redesign.
* Just because your competition does something, doesn’t always mean you should too. We like to think of this illustrated by the phrase, “if your friend jumped off a cliff, would you follow?” Don’t let your competition have so much influence over you that you lose the ability to think for yourself.
Now that you have a concept of what you’ll be doing, how would you like a plan? Let’s get started.
Tip 2 of 10: Learning from your competitors before starting a website redesign.
First thing you could do is visit the competitions social network profiles. Create a list of social sites that they use for networking and go see with whom they’ve been networking. This could be learning what LinkedIn groups they’ve created or joined, people they follow on twitter, twitter hash tags they participate most with or even how many fans they have on facebook. Once you know where they are, figure out if they really have a strategy or if they only sometimes participate. Typing their twitter name into Klout for example will give you a quick analysis of their influence in social media.
Be careful with this not to assume that the twitter account you find is necessarily their only or perhaps ‘most active’ account. More active accounts naturally receive better scores. As you are learning about your competitor(s), do your brand a favor and grade yourself.
Perhaps once the social sites have been covered, find out how much of the competitions’ website is being indexed. What does that mean? Go read tip 1 in this series, Performing Search Engine Surveillance and apply the technique to your competitions’ websites instead. If they’ve done a little SEO, the titles of the pages will be related to the content seen by visiting the URL. This will give you some ideas of content you could begin writing for yourself as well as potential titles you could use to rank even higher. If the technique doesn’t return many results, try doing a few keyword searches yourself. See what is coming up when you search phrases related to your products or services. If you sell garage doors in Germantown, WI you might search ‘garage doors’, ‘garage doors germantown’, ‘best garage door’, ‘garage door types’, and so on. You might discover new competitors in your market. Knowing what you’re up against is very important before you begin a redesign.
Having a hard time with keywords? You could try a couple free websites to get the ball rolling. Both Spyfu.com and KeywordSpy.com offer similar free search options.
Basically, you type in a domain name and they tell you what keywords that domain ranks for (basically) or what keywords that domain is purchasing (generally) through PPC “pay-per-click”. You can also switch it up and type the keyword phrase and see what domains pop-up. Just remember the free tools are basic and shouldn’t be taken as 100% accurate, in fact the paid tools shouldn’t be considered infallible either, though they are typically more accurate than the free stuff.
Lastly, go to their websites! Visit every page if you have the time (assuming their site isn’t a corporate giant and/or library full of info) & learn how they interact with the visitor. Do they ask for email or phone number when they provide valuable information? Do they even provide valuable information? Browse through the site and dissect their content, does it sound copied or borrowed from a trade site somewhere else? It’s important to know what’s being written but to practice some self-control here too. It may be tempting to use a competitors well written original content on your own site… Don’t do it. I won’t get into the legal perspective on the matter, I’ll just warn you from a search ranking perspective, this could prove nightmarish if you try it. In some cases where sites copy a majority of their content from others sources it’s better for them to start over completely to correct the negative impact it can have.
In recap I’ll leave you with this, there are many ways to learn from the competition. I said it earlier and I think it’s worth saying again, you DO NOT need to re-create everything they do. Learn from it, develop better ways to engage the visitor and create content that the competitor would want to steal. Really. You can’t control what your competition tries to rip-off from your site. You can control who benefits from it though. If you create quality content on a regular basis, you’ll win, period.
Hope this was helpful. If you have questions please add them as comments below, I’ll do my best to help.
Stay tuned for tip 3: Understanding your visitor before doing a website redesign.