Gaining competitive intelligence through the websites of your competitors
According to Crayon's 2021 State of Competitive Intelligence Report, 99% of survey respondents found value in monitoring their competitors' website changes. Between messaging and team changes, pricing and product updates, and myriad other insights, your competitors' websites are gold mines of actionable intel. Specifically, competitor website analysis enables you to:
- Better understand your target market
- Identify problems you might have otherwise missed
- See what your audience responds well to—and what they don’t
- Fine-tune your company's branding
- Identify new opportunities and potential market gaps
In this blog, we will explore the process and questions you should ask to identify website changes, discover the why behind your rivals’ updates, and utilize those insights to better position your company's solution.
Identify the breadth & depth of updates
The first step to a successful website analysis is to identify what has changed. Take a look at the copy, design, and audience segment to better understand the breadth and what areas need analyzing. For example, say your competitor in the food retail industry changes its homepage headline from “Your Favorite Local Grocery Store” to “Your Favorite Grocery Store Now Shipping Worldwide.” This is a clear shift in direction for the company, showing its efforts to expand globally and reach a new customer base. Recognizing key messaging changes like this one can help you better understand your company’s positioning in comparison to competitors.
Understanding the depth of these changes is critical as well. A couple of minor edits are likely nothing to sweat over, but a complete website overhaul is a tell-tale sign that a branding pivot is in play. After you’ve noted exactly what changed and its scope, you can start analyzing to more deeply understand your competitor.
Now, let’s dive into some specific examples of things to look out for.
Research job changes
When jobs are added to or removed from a website, this could be an indicator that the company is growing their team, has granted an employee a promotion, has terminated an employee, or is expanding into new verticals or product lines. These changes shed light on what particular department the company is focusing on—and how extensive their budget is.
For some insight on hiring, check out team pages, office/contact pages, and general career pages as they can be very revealing.
More specifically, determining any management changes via the leadership page is one of the most important places to gather valuable insight of all. Often, a change in command on the executive team means some updates are afoot, and it can provide intel into where resources are being allocated. For example, a new head of product marketing almost always guarantees a refresh to messaging and positioning. Likewise, a new head of sales or product often puts their stamp or spin on the business’s core offering, translating to site updates.
After investigating, if there was an addition to the leadership team, determine where they came from—LinkedIn is a helpful tool for discovering this. Did they hire someone from B2B or B2C? Do they have mostly Fortune 500 experience? Are they an industry expert? This background can help you predict positioning changes your rival might take based upon their new leaders’ experience.
Pinpoint product or feature upgrades
Being fluent in your competitors’ solutions and features is key, especially for product marketers and sales teams. Below is a specific list of elements to keep in mind when scoping out their offerings:
- Product name changes
- Supporting image or screenshot updates
- Specific features or benefits listed
- Pricing (if available)
- Videos and demos
- Free trial or freemium offering (SaaS only)
Step one is checking the company’s homepage. Ask yourself—what are they featuring? Do they display all their products equally, or are they pushing one solution in particular? The homepage can teach you what they find most important in their services at that particular moment.
Next, navigate over to the press/media section to determine any recent announcements such as new products, features, or partnerships. This page can be an indicator of how big of a splash they are trying to make and how important this change is to the organization.
The third step is (you named it!) diving into the product and offerings page. This is where you can explore this checklist in more detail and evaluate the entire scope of services.
If you notice a product name change, for example, take a look at what part of it changed. While it may seem minute at a glance, it can be pretty telling of what the company wants to emphasize. Did they add more actionability to the name to create a sense of urgency? Was an adjective descriptor added, signifying there was confusion previously that needed clarification? Are they incorporating more marketing buzzwords? Answering these questions will help you understand where their strengths and weaknesses lie when it comes to conveying their product offering to their target audience.
When scanning the images and videos on that page, take note of how the product is displayed differently. Do the images and videos show more details or fewer now? Did they incorporate more customer case studies or partner with a company on a video? If screenshots of the actual product are available, be sure to share them with your product team.
Detail modifications can signal product changes as well. Was the website previously feature driven as opposed to benefit focused? Are they listing specific use cases now that weren’t previously shown? This subtly communicates that the product marketing team felt that there was an ambiguity that needed clearing up.
Analyze messaging & positioning modifications
Be sure to take a holistic approach when reviewing the site, noting all product marketing messaging updates. While these changes may sometimes be harder to spot, use the following checklist as a guide to where these edits may have manifested:
- Has the primary audience changed?
- Are they speaking to multiple industries/verticals or new ones?
- Does their messaging target buyers and decision-makers or end-users?
- Who might their ICP be and has it changed?
- Has the tone changed to be more formal, casual, or bold?
- Are they speaking in benefits, use cases, or features?
- What are their calls-to-action?
Once these questions are answered, you will have gathered great intel into how the company is trying to position itself and who exactly they are trying to appeal to. Messaging is truly the key to all brands’ identities and missions.
Utilize your new insight
With all the insight you’ve gained, compare your company's website performance and pages to your competitors’, noting all strengths and weaknesses. Use the competitive analysis as motivation to improve your site, add new features or details, and deliver a better overall user experience.
For those who enjoy gathering analytics and technical data, your research may have even sparked ideas on how to improve your company’s UX Design, keyword optimization, and more. No matter which way you cut it, this insight is another tool in your competitive intelligence toolbox to help your business succeed.
Always be in the know
Positioning and promoting your company's solution without considering the competition can only get you so far. By staying in tune with your competitors’ site changes, you will have a much deeper understanding of their priorities, targets, and overall direction. Not only does this insight help your company better position itself in the market, but it allows you to deduce your competitors’ next moves—keeping you one step ahead.
Take your time when scrolling through your rivals’ sites, remember to bring your newfound competitive intelligence back to your team, and be sure to have this guide open to assist you along the way—it’s here to lend a helping hand!
Author: Mackenzie Colcord