Evaluating Your Competitor’s Websites
With so many businesses on the Internet actively engaging in search engine marketing, social media promotion, and other online marketing tactics, it is becoming increasingly necessary to evaluate your competitor’s websites on a regular basis. Chances are, your competitors will be targeting many of the same keyword phrases you are and keeping track of their online marketing strategies can make a significant difference in the success of your Internet marketing campaign.
Collecting Some Basic Information
When evaluating a competitor’s website, it is usually best to start off by developing a basic excel file so that you can gather some of the most pertinent data and easily compare it to your top competitors. Here is a very basic example of an excel file I use to just get a quick idea of my top competitors. Click here if you would like to download this excel file for your own competitor evaluation.
Compete.com Traffic Data
To begin, I like to get a quick idea of how much traffic my website is getting in comparison to my competition. For a ballpark monthly traffic number, I like to use Compete. You will need to register for a free account to use many of the features offered by this site. Compete.com allows you to enter up to five websites at one time and provides you with an overall site visitor comparison. You can quickly get an idea of how many total visits your competitors are getting every month as well as how many unique visitors this includes. You can also look at monthly traffic trends over the course of the past year. This allows you to determine how far ahead, or behind, your competitors are when it comes to site traffic. Additionally, how are your competitor’s traffic trends; are they fairly consistent or is your competitor’s traffic on an upward (or downward) swing?
Using the SEO Quake Toolbar to Gather Data
Now that we have a good idea of monthly traffic for the sites we are comparing, it is time to dig a bit deeper. For the next step, you should install the SEO Quake Toolbar which will provide us with some basic website data to start comparing. Once you have successfully installed the toolbar, you can set which pieces of data are displayed under the ‘preferences’ tab of the toolbar. The following are some of the primary pieces of information that I look at when comparing my website to my competitor’s websites.
Domain Age: Domain age plays an important role in how the search engines will rank websites in search results. Generally, older domains will tend to be trusted more by the search engines than newer domains (although this is not always true). While this is something that cannot be changed, you should be aware of it when comparing websites. If your competitors all have domains from 1998 and your website is brand new, you will have to look at other ways you can quickly build up trust in the eyes of the search engines.
Inbound Links: The number of links pointing towards a website has always, and will continue to be a major factor in determining how much authority a website has. In general, the higher number of quality links pointing towards a website the better. If your website has about 1,000 links pointing towards it and your competitors all have 10,000 links, you will need to do some serious link building if you want to compete with them in search engine rankings. You will notice that by default, SEO Quake will display two link numbers on the toolbar. The first stat will display the number of links pointing at that specific page on the website and the second stat shows the number of links pointing towards the domain as a whole. While getting an overall number of links for a website is helpful, you really need to look into this number in greater detail.
Looking at those two different numbers, how many links are pointing towards the homepage versus the rest of the website. If you see a website with 1000 links and 975 of them point to the homepage, this is generally not a good thing. Search engines would much rather see a website that has a deeper link structure with links pointing to a wide variety of different pages.
To take this quick and dirty link profile analysis to deeper level, you can click on the “LD:” number, which will take you to the Yahoo Site Explorer page showing the details of each link and where the link is coming from. This will give you a really solid idea of the types of links your competitors have and if they are high quality links or not. If you would like to view additional information in Yahoo Site Explorer such as the anchor text of the link or whether or not it is passing along any link juice, download this handy Firefox extension.
Alexa Rank: A website’s Alexa Rank is primarily determined by how much traffic a website gets. When comparing the Alexa Rank of two different websites, the lower the number the better, with a rank of #1 being the most visited site on the Internet. How does your Alexa Rank stack up against your competitors?
Indexed Pages: The number of pages being indexed by Google and the other two major search engines is a very important metric to look into. The more pages you have out there in the search results, the more organic traffic you are likely to receive. If your competition has a significantly higher number of pages being indexed than you do, it is time you think about adding some unique and valuable content to your site. If you are not blogging regularly on your website, it is time to start.
Page Rank: I do think that Page Rank is worth looking at, but I would not put a whole lot of stock into this number. While Page Rank can be a good indication of a website’s authority, I have pretty mixed feelings about it. I have seen very high quality websites with only a PR 3 and conversely I have also seen very low quality, and even spammy, websites with a PR 5. Regardless of this, I would take Page Rank into consideration, but not as a primary factor as many people mistakenly do.
Last Cache Date: When comparing websites, I also like to look at the last date that Google crawled the website; how many days ago was the site cached? Generally, the more frequently a website publishes new content, the more frequently Google will crawl the site. Search engines seem to favor websites that are frequently updated with new, unique, and high quality content. If you notice that your website has not been crawled for a month, and your competitors sites are getting crawled weekly, you may need to start making regular content additions to your site through a blog or some other means.
Social Media Presence
The SEO Quake toolbar also reports some quick stats on a websites social media presence which can be quite important when evaluating your competition. If your competitors are hitting stories on the front page of social media websites, it is practically guaranteed they will rank higher than your website in search engine results. Social media marketing can drive very high levels of traffic to the site, increase backlinks, and ultimately build up the authority of the site. This, in turn, will help the site rank better for their targeted keyword terms in the search engines. Take a look at the following two stats on your toolbar…
Delicious Bookmarks: How many people are bookmarking your website versus your competitor’s sites? This is a good indication of how social communities are accepting your website.
Digg Index: With Digg being one of the most authoritative social media sites on the Internet, this is a very important stat to look at. If you click on the Digg index number on the toolbar, it will take you to the Digg page for that site. Here you can see how many stories and how often your competitors are submitting to Digg. Additionally, you should look at how many diggs they are getting; do they have any stories with over 100 diggs?
To take this a step further, I would recommend doing a quick search on StumbleUpon, Reddit, and some of the other major social media websites to see if they are promoting any articles on these sites. You should also look around for some industry specific social media sites to see if they have any presence. For example, a finance or business website may be gaining a lot of popularity on something like Tipd.com.
While there are plenty of additional details you should analyze when evaluating a competitor’s website, the above method will give you a quick idea of what level your website is on versus your top competitors. What other aspects of a website do you look at when evaluating your competition? Please let us know by leaving a comment below.