Analyzing Your Search Engine Competitors

by : Chris Taylor

Analyzing a competitor's web site may seem like a big job. You should have the mindset that you are going to do this as a learning experience though. This will help you along your way when you may feel like giving up.

Before you even begin to analyze a competitor's web site you should make sure that you are equipped to do the job. If you do this job properly you can gain a lot of information that will help you to increase your site's traffic and popularity. These sites can also help you to analyze your own market. After all, if a web site is getting a lot of hits then it must be doing something right. If you take time to see where it is ranked, what key words are being used, how the site is formatted, and what you can do to make your site better while not violating any copyright laws then you will be well on your way to success.

The first thing that you need to do is identify who your major competitors are. The best place to do this is to look in Yahoo's directory for large companies, innovative approaches and new products. While looking through this directory you should also try to identify any niche markets that your major competitors have not yet identified and exploited. When you find these new niches you will be set for traffic. Another thing that you should do while here is try to get your site listed. Little associations like this are important if you want to start to build up your traffic so that you can conquer a niche or category. Some other associations that you can build occur when you figure out where the big sites' webmasters are hanging out and you start hanging out there too. Believe it or not, knowing the right people is going to make your business bigger and better.

If you visit Media Metrix 500 you will be able to see what companies are getting the most traffic. Alexa will also teach you about relative traffic. They offer a free browser add-on that shows you how much traffic a site is getting. This will help you to see where your competitors fall in the pecking order.

Once you have found your closest 5 or 10 competitors it is time to closely study them. You really can learn a lot by looking at and analyzing your competitors' website. The main things that you should be looking for include:

1. Take a minute to see what products or services that they are offering. Make notes of anything that is different from what you are offering. If you see any gaps in what they have to offer think about whether or not you could possibly fill these gaps.
2. Think about how their website looks, feels and functions.
3. Look at the various advertisements they are offering.
4. Act as a client for a moment and think of where their strengths and weaknesses lie.
5. Spend some time trying to figure out their strategy.

If one of your major competitors is s a publicly traded company then you can get detailed information from their SEC filings. Take a moment to jot down who their key players are so that you can read their interviews and speeches. These may also give you some insight into their website.

Once you have gathered all of this information together you need to spend some time summarizing the information for each competitor. Make sure that you highlight their strengths, weaknesses and strategies. This will be useful as you become resourceful in countering and exploiting these sites' weaknesses.

You can also use this research in order to create a marketing plan. This should include what steps you intend to take in order to deal with this competition in such a way that your website comes out on top. Of course, you are also going to decide whether it is even worth competing with these sites or if you should try to find a market that is less saturated.

Before you even get started with trying to analyze what your competitors do you should know that it might feel overwhelming when you see what the big companies online do. This should not intimidate you though. Instead it should encourage you to concentrate on customer satisfaction.