Learn from your competition

arm-wrestling-1020224_1920One of the ways that your website can improve is by taking a look at what your direct competitors are doing with their online presence. This review can provide vital clues, particularly from larger competitors who have been online for longer than your business has and know more than you do.

There will also be some smaller businesses who have younger staff that are more internet savvy and could well be innovating with new approaches that even the major competitors haven’t instigated yet. For that reason, don’t only look at the big competitors either.

It will not always be the case that every successful company will have a well positioned website, but there are usually good and bad points that can be gleaned. These can then either be avoided in your own business site or included, as the case may be.

Site Structure

Each website has its own site structure. This is the way that the website is put together from the home page down to inner pages. A website can focus on different areas of business with each section treated as its own silo. This is pretty typical with larger businesses that have many divisions which operate almost completely separate from each other.

Alternatively, smaller businesses may only have a website with a home page and just a few inner pages, rather than representing more extensive online presences.

In terms of site structure, it needs to be easy enough to understand for the layperson. Excessive use of industry jargon in the page names and navigational cues can be a problem for people who are looking to purchase a product or service from the company for the first time. Even the larger competitors will often make this mistake, because they are too much in the head of their own industry and not thinking about customers who don’t work in the industry necessarily at all.

Keeping things simple with site navigation is important, but also maintaining an eye on the future is helpful, to avoid needing to completely overhaul the navigation with each new design version of a site.

Also, with pages that get relocated in a design overhaul, make sure that visitors are redirected from the old page location to the new one to avoid losing traffic.

design-1210160_1920Website Design

Website design needs to be something that fits the niche or sector that the business operates in. It is also important to keep the design clean, particularly with business-oriented websites, rather than looking to impress visitors with the latest web technologies. Conversely, using Flash, an older technology, is not advisable and any sites still using Flash content for video or animation need to be redesigned. Flash can cause web browsers to crash or become unstable and is generally avoided by good web designers now.

Outbound Linking

Successful websites often link out to other authority sites, which provide quality information sources to visitors. The companies do not take the view that they are necessarily losing the site visitor when linking out, because people are perfectly capable of opening a new tab in their web browser to the new site, rather than navigating away from the site completely.

Outbound linking to respected sources of information is also seen by Google as a good thing. It represents your site well and is seen as a net positive, which can affect Google ranking positively. Therefore, visitors who exit the site through an outbound link may often be replaced with an increase in traffic, from a higher position in Google search results, when including vetted websites as additional sources.

organic-seo-business

Inbound Linking

The types of inbound links that are pointing at the home page and other pages of a competitor’s site can be equally important. The current high-ranked position of a competitor’s site can be associated, in part, to the links pointing back to their site. If the originating site is respected by Google, then the link will have more value. If the originating site is related to the same industry or niche, then it carries even more relevance and ultimately, weight on the ranking position.

Off The Peg Design can provide an assessment of existing inbound links of competitors’ websites, which will indicate their source of linking success. Plans can then be made for a planned, sustained SEO campaign to obtain similar links of equal or higher value. This can help replicate the higher ranking position of the competitor for important “buyer keywords” used by people searching for solutions using Google.

communication-1297544_1280Social Media Accounts

It should go without saying that every website should link out to their own social media accounts. This includes social accounts for Facebook and Twitter, and perhaps ones for Pinterest, LinkedIn, and a few other social media sites depending on the industry operated in.

Social Media Activity

Social media activity is a difficult subject for small businesses that often feel that social media is more trouble than its worth. However, companies need to meet potential and existing customers where they are and many of those are hanging out on social media now.

To get a good idea how to manage social media accounts in your industry, take a look at the number of active subscribers for competitors. This will provide some insight into how many of their customers are following their posts and comments.

Then, look at their posting frequency, the type of content being posted to each social media site, and how customers are responding to it with comments, sharing with others, liking it, and more. This provides some insight into what traction a competitor is actually getting from their focus on social.

Conclusion

Learning from your competitors is an important part of keeping up with industry developments and not being left behind. What are competitors doing better than your company online? How are customers responding to their new products or services? Do they do an effective job managing customer complaints posted on social media? There’s much than can be learned from the websites and online activities of your competitors. You can bet that they’re watching you; you should do the same.

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