Why Knowing Your Competitors is Key to Creating a Successful Online Business

In previous website review episodes, we've talked a lot about improving various aspects of your online business, such as creating better landing pages, paying attention to design and visual communication, looking at how small details can make a big difference and much more.

Today, we're taking a different perspective. Your website doesn't exist in a bubble. Even if you don't know your competitors very well, you can bet that many of your visitors do!

So, in today's video, we're taking a look at how you can see your website in the context of the "competitive landscape" that it sits in and how you can use this perspective to create a better business.​

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You and Your Competitors

The site featured in today's review is FlexShop.​

As you can see from the video, understanding how your website fits into the competitive landscape with its competitors is quite a complex thing. In other words, it's another one of those "marketing soft skills".​

Here are a few steps you can follow, to gain a better understanding of your competitors:

Good 'ol Google

Search for all your most important keywords and take a close look at the sites ranking at the top. Especially if you see the same sites featured again and again, for different keywords, you can assume that they are well established and are an important competitor.

It's important to make your searches specific enough to find your real competitors.​

Community Answers

​Seek out discussion boards and social media to see which brands and competitors people tend to talk about. Taking today's review site as an example, I'd look for community answers to questions like:

"What's the best place to order supplements online?"​

Find the USP

After some searching, you should have a good idea of who your competitors are. The next step is to visit their websites and look for the unique selling point of each one.

  • ​What do they do differently from anyone else?
  • What do they emphasize and brag about most?

Find the Gap(s)

Now comes the tricky part: ideally, you can find a gap in the marketplace. Something your competitors aren't serving, but for which there is demand.

As in the example in the video, this doesn't necessarily mean that you completely change your business or your offer. Often, it's simply a matter of how you frame your offer. In the case of an e-commerce store, the products may stay the same, but you ​emphasize different products or different aspects of them, to set yourself apart from competitors.

Over to You

Try applying this approach to your own business, to see where you fit into the competitive landscape. If you have difficulties with this, or any questions about how this approach applies to your specific business, please let us know by leaving a comment!

Shane

Author: Shane Melaugh

Shane Melaugh is a co-founder of Thrive Themes. When he isn't plotting new ways to create awesome WordPress themes & plugins, he likes to geek out about camera equipment and medieval swords. He also writes about productivity here.

  • Aaron Parker says:

    Hi Shane,

    Totally agree that you need to investigate your competitors in any market. In fact, you should do it BEFORE you even enter the market to ensure firstly that there is a market for YOU and secondly to highlight all the things you talked about in the video so that you build your site right the first time (or at least as best it can be for a new site). One thing I always do is closely read reviews on competitors sites to see what that competitor is doing right and wrong (1 star reviews are a goldmine of good info). Then I ensure that I don’t make the same mistakes and “find that gap” as you so rightly put it. I enjoy these website reviews. Keep them coming.

    • Shane Melaugh says:

      Thank you for your reply, Aaron! I totally agree that the best time to do this kind of research and form a USP (or several potential USPs to test) is BEFORE starting a business and building a website. 🙂

      Great tip about the 1-star reviews! For physical products, I like checking out the “highest rated negative review” on Amazon as well. A 1-star review can sometimes just be an irrational rage-fest, but a well thought-out 2 or 3 star review can be really insightful.

  • Hash says:

    Hello, I am developing a website about bitcoin news but I have a hard time appear in searches, since I registered in websearch console and try to generate only original content. Do you have any hint of what I can do to improve my performance?

    • Shane Melaugh says:

      Hello Hash,

      Thank you for your comment!

      There’s nothing I can summarize in a comment that will really give you an edge in the ever-evolving SEO game. The one thing I can say is that for a long time now, SEO has been about consistency. In your position, I’d work on a 12 to 18 month plan for content marketing and SEO.

  • david says:

    What is the best example of a website for a software company who wants people to convert and sign up for a free trial of the software solution?

    • Shane Melaugh says:

      That’s a good question, David. I don’t have an answer. With all the SaaS solutions out there that offer a free trial or free plan, I think you’re rather spoilt for choice when it comes to finding examples.

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