Learning from the enemy: What can you learn from competitor websites?

SEO – Competitor research and analysis

When looking at your competitor’s website, you are most likely looking at those that are atop the Search Engine Result Pages (SERPs). So in terms of SEO they must be doing something right.

Begin with looking at the keywords you are targeting and how often they appear in the content of your competition. Start off by writing them down, and seeing if the same company come up multiple times within the search results.

Think about the content that you are going to place throughout the website. In terms of SEO content is king, so the biggest factor in terms of ranking well is the content on your website. You competition or those at the top of the SERPs must be doing something right to achieve those results. Look at how they are structuring content on the website. Look at how often they are including keywords and which keywords they are using most often.

Now for some of the inner aspects of SEO. Your competition is ranking well, so not only is their content optimised but the technical aspects of the website are as well. It’s worth reviewing the page titles and meta descriptions. The best tool for that is Screaming Frog.

Remember this is research and analysis – not copy and pasting content. Your website will be penalised for duplicate content, so your content needs to be original and optimised specifically for your site. However, you can use your competition as a great starting place.

Design – Learning from their website design

When learning from a competitor’s website design, you need to start with the homepage. The homepage is the first place a visitor will land on so it is fundamental that it is well presented and conforms to the latest homepage design trends and your industry. The design needs to, not only peak a visitors interest but also keep it while providing the information they seek.

A well designed homepage needs to appeal to the intended audience as well as provoke the visitor to click through to internal pages. The homepage is the difference between a high and low bounce rate (how long people stay on your site when first visiting – low bounce rate is good!). When running SEO reports on the site, if visitors are bouncing off the homepage then the design needs to be revised immediately.

Make sure you are looking at how your competitors are appealing to customers interested in their industry and apply the same tactics to your website. Certain colours, layouts and call to actions may have a theme with your competitors in your industry. Don’t be afraid to mimic them with your own branding, etc.

A bad layout is not only ugly but it’s also picked up by search engines. Have a look at your successful competitor’s website layout and compare it to the others. You’re bound to notice a trend. Try to stick with that. If it’s working for them, it’ll probably work for you. Competitor research and analysis is vital to designing a great website layout based on audience and industry.

Think about the graphics. What graphics are your competitors using? Are they outsourcing the graphics or are the graphics very basic. For more creative businesses, you may want to focus on making the graphics look really smart whereas with trade industry websites you may want to focus more on structure and content.

Navigation is key and how it is designed will determine how easy a customer will find it to navigate around the website. Look at how your successful competitors do it. You’re bound to find that the competitors that are higher up the search engine rankings will have easy navigation and contact details readily available on every page.

In conclusion, competitor analysis and research is vital when starting a website especially when it comes to design and layout. Being different is often great but if you’re seeing a trend in the design techniques and tactics of your most successful competitors then by all means do the same.

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Sam is head of design services at bOnline. In his posts he shares tips for creating a beautiful business website and getting the most out of bOnline's website design tools.

About Sam Greensted

Sam is head of design services at bOnline. In his posts he shares tips for creating a beautiful business website and getting the most out of bOnline's website design tools.

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