When you’re starting a new training regime, you probably have a goal in mind. Maybe you want to lose a certain number of pounds, or inches off your waistline. Or perhaps you just want to look as good as your sibling, your best friend, or just what you imagine your fellow beachgoers will look like.
Although we don’t always like to admit it, we often make our decisions to improve ourselves only after we look at others and realize how inadequate we really are. When it comes to improving your website, it helps to take the same approach. Here are some steps you should follow to figure out what type of website, from speed to setup, you should try to emulate as you build a better site.
Know the Competition
If you run a brick-and-mortar business, it’s pretty easy to size up the competition. Say you run a restaurant. First, you’re competing with other restaurants on your block. You want your place to be more inviting than the neighboring restaurants, coffee shops, and other businesses. Then, you’re competing with other restaurants in the area that offer a similar cuisine, so it matters if you’re the best pizza place in town, or just an average one. Finally, if you’re really ambitious, you’re competing with restaurants in your region, or even nationally.
With a brick-and-mortar business, it’s not hard to figure out who’s doing well. You can look down the street and see who’s getting the most traffic. You can try all the pizza places in town and see how yours measures up. You can even read foodie magazines and online reviews and determine who’s doing interesting things in your region, or even nationally.
For a web site, defining your competition is a bit trickier. Of course, you need to know who else is selling similar products. But you need to take a more refined approach to determining your competition. Here are some tips:
- Stay within your weight-class—When you’re doing research on your competitors, you don’t want to focus on the biggest companies in your industry. We all compete with Amazon, but there are few businesses that can actually deploy strategies that will let them really compete. Instead, you want to pick web sites who are playing, roughly, at the same level as you. Don’t be afraid to punch a little above your weight, but don’t waste your times trying to ape the billion-dollar companies and the million-visitor sites.
- Go beyond your direct competition—While looking at your direct competitors is an obvious thing to do, you should also consider looking at the best websites in any category. If you sell computer equipment, look at websites that sell shoes. If you’re running a blog, consider sites that focus on video. Good ideas can come from anywhere, so you don’t want to ignore a site just because it’s reaching out to a slightly different audience.
- Ask around—While we don’t expect you to do a full market research survey, you should ask your friends, Twitter followers, and any one else what websites they use, and like. Sometimes, a site with a good reputation will win customers even though a competitor has better offerings. Find out what these sites do to win over their customers.
Once you’ve finished identifying your competitors, you need to consider what’s good about these other websites. Consider making a spreadsheet that lists a handful—no more than a dozen—of websites that are particularly compelling. For each website, investigate the following information:
- Speed-Using the same tools suggested in the previous post, determine just how fast your competitors’ sites are running. You might consider several factors, from initial load time to shopping cart activity, depending on your needs.
- Read the source code—With a few clicks, you can use your web browser to peek behinds the scenes and see what your competitors to get their top results. Are your competitors using WordPress too, but are getting better results? Or are they trying an e-Commerce platform that you haven’t tried yet.
As you conduct your research, make a list of site speeds, CMSs, and other tools they use to improve their performance. At the end of your search, you’ll have a great list of tools to investigate to make your own site perform more quickly and effectively. While you might not ever measure up to the performance of your ideal site, aspiring to get there will improve your site considerably.
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Photo by Jeramey Jannene