If you want to create a successful small business website that ranks well in search engines, you will need to know who your competition is, what they are selling, and how they sell their products and services. Here are 4 small business web design tips for conducting online competitive research.
Step 1 – Discover Your Competitors
The obvious way to start researching your competitors is to do a Google search for your top keywords. Who is listed on the first page? Which websites are advertising their services in the sponsored listings? Create a list of your top competitors so you can keep track of them.
Step 2 – Research Your Competitors
Once you know who your top competitors are, it’s time analyze their websites and traffic. Here are a few tools you can use to monitor the success of your competition.
- Open Site Explorer – Find out who links to any website with Open Site Explorer. The tool is part of Seomoz.org’s collection of SEO tools, but you can run up to three reports each day for free, and even compare up to 5 sites. In addition to who’s linking to any website, the tool also will give you an estimation of the site’s authority – that is, how well it may rank in search engines based.
- Alexa – Amazon’s Alexa rank isn’t incredibly accurate but it will give you a high-level overview of how a website’s traffic is trending. Alexa will also show any user-submitted reviews for the website, major keywords it is ranked for, and a general overview of site visitors’ demographics.
- Spyfu – Spyfu allows you to see which keywords your competitors are buying pay-per-click ads for and how much they spend on advertising. It will also show you how they rank in the organic and sponsored listings. Spyfu offers both a free and a more comprehensive paid service.
Step 3 – How to Analyze Competitors
The best way to analyze your competitors’ sites is to put yourself in your prospects’ shoes – what are they looking for? Now, with that perspective, here are a few tips to evaluate how good your competitors are at helping your target market achieve their goals. Specifically, look at:
- How does the website look? Is the text legible? Is it easy to scan and pick up the basic message? Do the graphics enhance the site’s content?
- How easy is it to navigate? Will they understand where to click to find information?
- How useful is the site? Can they do what they need to do?
- How convincing is it? Would they want to join the mailing list, buy a product, or request a consultation?
Once you’ve made note of the good and bad points of each site, review what your business objectives are and what your target audience will be looking for. From that, come up with a list of features you’d like to include on your site. Stick to the essentials rather than getting caught up in all the bells and whistles. Good sites are practical and functional at their core.
Step 4 – Monitor Your Competitors
Once you’ve analyzed your competitors, the final step to competitive research is to track and monitor what they are doing over time. Ideally, you want to keep track of which keywords they continue to bid on, what their Adwords ads say, and where they continue to rank in search results.
A general rule of thumb is that if your competitors are at all savvy about marketing, they will be monitoring their advertising campaigns so the ads they continue to run should make the most money while the ads they stop running are not profitable. This isn’t always the case – many small businesses don’t have the time to monitor their advertising, so they lump everything together and wouldn’t be able to tell you what is profitable and what isn’t, but generally speaking, if they are making money through their advertising, they will continue to advertise.
In addition, one of the best ways to monitor what people are saying about your competitors is to use Google Alerts. You can sign up for a free account to monitor any keywords, competitor names, and even the names of articles or videos you submit to directories. Google Alerts makes it easy to track virtually anything.
By studying your competitors and following these 4 small business web design tips, you can uncover what works and doesn’t work for them – thus learning from their mistakes without wasting lots of money in the process.