My favorite thing about competitors is that you can learn from both their successes and failures. Thanks to all the free analytics tools available, this is doubly true when it comes to your website redesign.
Sometimes analyzing analyzing competitors' websites means catching up with someone who's ahead of the curve; other times it means differentiating yourself from them to earn your own piece of the market.
Regardless, there are numerous free and paid tools you can use to analyze your competition, and we'll go into all of that in a moment. But first, lets talk about what kind of information you're looking for?
What to Analyze
- The organic and PPC keywords they're targeting
- Their organic and PPC traffic (a.k.a. how effective their efforts are)
- Where most of their traffic comes from
- What sites are linking to them
- The top sites that direct traffic to the competitor's site
- Basic demographic information about their visitors
- Domain authority and page authority of important pages
And yes, you can find out all of that without any paid tools. Obviously, there's a much wider range of information available with tools like HubSpot and other paid resources, but what I've included above is a great start for the purposes of a website redesign.
The Goal of Analyzing Competitors
Why are we looking at all of this? In short, to find opportunities to improve.
Knowing the keywords your competitors are targeting and which they're ranking for informs your SEO strategy. On your new site, you might choose to strengthen a page targeting an important competitive keyword, or go for a more specific and relevant long-tail version that you might be more likely to rank for.
If a competitor gets weak traffic from a certain channel, you might amp up your efforts there and use the new website to support that. If lots of websites are linking to the competitor, maybe you need to work on producing more valuable content and build a website that supports that.
Exploring your competitors' websites yourself is an essential part of the process, but I suggest you look at the numbers first; having an objective sense of a competitor's strengths and weaknesses can help you tease out the causes.
Free Tools for Analyzing Competitors
I selected these specifically for the type of analysis that you would benefit from during a website redesign. There are lots of other tools for analyzing social media publishing, engagement, and other metrics, but that's a conversation for another time.
(Also, one quick note—obviously, you can use these tools for deeper insights into your own current website, though you have access to some of the data already through more direct means.)
SpyFu - See the organic keywords they rank for, estimated monthly organic clicks, how long they've been ranking on Google, organic vs. paid clicks, and how much PPC they're doing.
SimilarWeb - See a breakdown of traffic sources, along with other traffic stats and global rankings. SimilarWeb is great if you want to know how you're doing generally in organic search compared to a competitor or how much traffic they get for your goal setting.
SEMRush - See top organic keywords, backlinks, and their main organic competitors
Alexa - See what your competitors are ranking for, what sites link to them, upstream sites (where their visitors were before visiting their websites), basic demographics, and total inbound links.
WooRank - See detailed SEO information on individual pages, including title tag, headings, meta description, top keywords, mobile friendliness, and more. This tool is perfect for analyzing a core pages about services you both offer, for example. The free trial limits you to 10 site reviews in a 24 hours, so choose wisely.
Moz Open Site Explorer - See domain authority and page authority, as well as detailed information about their inbound links (such as rel="nofollow" tags).
Digging into User Experience
Of course, there are more nuanced elements of your competitors' web presences that you need to look at. The data tools above are great, but they have trouble capturing the user experience as a whole (though metrics like bounce rate are good indicators).
Act like a customer on your competitor’s websites. Be objective—what are they doing well? What parts of the site are difficult to use? What feels underwhelming, overwhelming, or spot on? You’re not there to copy anything; you’re there to learn more about what works and think about how you can make your own website better.
Review your own notes alongside the data from the analytics tools, and you’ll have a strong sense of the ways in which you can make your website a better resource for your current and future customers. Incorporate these lessons into the planning and design for your new website, and watch your competitive position improve.
Quick reminder—you can skip around in this series all you want. Here are the other parts if you want to explore:
Website Redesign, Step 1: Benchmark Current Performance
Website Redesign, Step 2: Clarify Your Goals
Website Redesign, Step 3: Inventory Your Assets
Website Redesign, Step 5: Incorporate Your UVP
Website Redesign, Step 6: Design for Your Ideal Customer
Website Redesign, Step 7: Optimize Your Content for SEO
Website Redesign, Step 8: Plan Your CTAs
Or, go ahead and read about the whole process at one time in our ebook on THIS VERY TOPIC! What a coincidence.