In the Art of War, Sun Tzu said “If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat.” The same can be said if you’re planning to run a successful website.
Although each of us builds our own sites, we have competitors even if we don’t think about them. Even with an increasing global population, websites face fierce competition for web traffic. Because of that, learning from top competitors needs to be part of your overall strategy to claw your way to the top.
Competitor analysis doesn’t have to be overly complex either. In some cases, it can be simplistic to the extreme.
Understanding the Concept
Although what I’ve mentioned so far may seem very basic, competitor analysis can be very time consuming because it isn’t restricted to just those things. As a whole, the entire concept is to learn from various competitors so you can observe a number of things.
For example, the variety of technologies used, pricing mechanisms and structures, updates on current trends, and more. All of this information from your competitors can play a part in helping you make better decisions in improving your own site.
Analyzing the Competition
To give you a better idea of how this works, let’s run though some of what you’ll need to do.
1. Knowing Who the Competition Is
If you’ve been in a particular niche or industry for some time, this step might not be needed. However, I still recommend you carry it out because individual points of view can sometimes be distorted. Let’s start from scratch and take a look.
First, wipe out your browser cache and then launch a private browsing window. Depending on what browser you use, this might be called different things. For example, Chrome has incognito, while Edge has InPrivate.
For example, if you are running a WordPress agency, you can do a search and the results be indicative of who else might be competing with you in the same niche.
In that window, try to do a few searches using other relevant keywords that your site is competing for. From the results, you can get a better idea of your competition – just take note of the URLs of those sites and make a list.
2. Doing the Technical Analysis
Aside from this, there are other technical aspects of the competition you need to be aware of as well. Site performance plays a part in search ranking as well, so knowing how well competing WordPress sites perform can be helpful too.
For this, I recommend going back to Google since it’s the mother of all search engines. Google has a very nifty tool called PageSpeed Insights, which lets you run a performance analysis on websites – again, all you need is a URL.
Running this tool will let you know what Google thinks of your website performance. Based on a combination of factors, it tells you in bright red bars if your website is lagging too far behind in speed. It also provides detailed breakdowns of the areas that are causing this, so you can do gradual tweaks to improve performance.
This is very important for WordPress sites. Although WordPress is extremely powerful and flexible, it isn’t the most efficient in terms of performance. Thankfully, there are many ways this can be modified to give small bumps in speed here and there.
3. Using Content Analysis Tools
WordPress sites typically rely heavily on content to compete for search ranking. For this, you’ll need to do some content analysis. Various tools are also available for this, such as Ahrefs or SEMrush.
Of course, these are typically paid services, but if you use them you will find they are more than worth the price. Ahrefs for example, lets you compare your content with a few competitors and come up with keyword gaps.
The example above shows the content gap between three WordPress development companies. The result shows keywords that rank for one website but not the other two. You can make use of this list to start developing relevant content.
Good tools can also let you discover the backlinks that your competition is getting. If you’re having trouble identifying good backlink sources, this list of information can help. Simply target the same sites that are giving links to your opponents and go after the same ones! Offering to build a guest post for a prominent site can raise your site profile with a prudently buried backlink.
You can also learn where competing sites are getting their traffic from. Even at a very rudimentary level, this can give you some ideas. For example – are they getting significant amounts of social traffic? Knowing this might inspire you to look towards other platforms to boost your traffic, such as extending your reach via YouTube or maybe even Instagram.
Knowing this information can help you modify your existing content or even build new articles that will narrow the gap between you and your competitors.
4. Experiencing Competitor Sites Personally
By this point of time you should have a better idea of who your main competitors are. While using tools for technical and keyword analysis is great, it isn’t the perfect solution. I highly suggest you visit competing sites personally and experience them.
This not only gives you a better idea of how their users experience their sites but also gives you the opportunity to note other information, such as pricing or even visual impact. Learn how they build value for their users and take note of where call-to-actions are placed.
Where most tools can only give you an analysis based on text, visual inspections help you take note of other ways competing sites are leveraging on content. One such example can be the building and dissemination of infographics, which can be very useful in link building.
Tools Can Use
Using competitor analysis tools not only will help you to speed up the process but also find information about your competitor’s website such as the technologies they are using. Here are a few tools which you can use for free:
WebPageTest is a web performance tool that enables you to test the performance of a website. You can get various performance parameters like Load time, Time to First Byte, Page Size, and more. Comparing the performance of your webpage with a few competitors can give you more ideas on how you can carry out enhancements. Other alternatives you opt for include Pingdom and GTmetrix.
Even if you’re looking at only WordPress-focused sites, there is other information that BuiltWith can help with. Enter the URL of the site you want to learn more about and it digs through and lists out whatever it can detect that is being used. Alternatives like the WHSR Tool can also detect plugins used along with other details including nameservers, or even where the site is being hosted.
Ubersuggest is a keyword tool which can help you to learn content ideas from your competitors. It works much like other paid tools such as SEMRush, Ahrefs, and Moz. Just type in a domain name to see what keywords your competitors are ranking well for and the traffic each keyword generates.
To be very honest, what I’ve discussed so far in this article barely scrapes the surface if you’re seriously looking towards competitor analysis for your WordPress site. There is so much detail and possibility that it’s unlikely you will find it all listed in a single place.
However, I hope that what I’ve covered will give you an idea of the general areas you can consider looking into. These, along with prudent use of some of the tools I’ve discussed can be a strong platform for you to build on.
Remember though, that Rome wasn’t built in a day – and neither will a complete competitor analysis strategy be. Also, this isn’t something which can be done once and then forgotten. Competitor analysis needs to be carried out periodically, and some areas such as content and traffic analysis have to be done on an ongoing basis.