8 Tips to do Website Benchmarking And Convert More Visitors
[toc]Website Benchmarking? I thought that was for big corporations!
Think twice my friend…
Now, this goes without saying. The purpose of every website that wants to make money, regardless of content, is to turn more visitors into customers. And if you create a benchmark website design, this will be heck of a lot easier.
And an excellent way to ensure your conversion rate is at least average from the birth of your site is to perform website benchmarking on your competitor’s sites.
Unfortunately, even if you have a long career as a web developer, you may not understand the importance of website benchmarking. You may be asking yourself what is benchmarking and why is it necessary?
Benchmarking is a marketing process performed by companies, business man, entrepreneurs, etc. for creating new products or companies by comparing their competitor’s products, looking at their designs, performance and strategies.
So when you apply this process to creating a website or a blog, you get website benchmarking.
The construction of a benchmark website might seem like a straightforward process. You may think you should simply look at your top competitors’ websites and build one that is similar in nature, and in a basic way this is true, but there is a lot more to this process than you think.
Looking at authority sites in your industry or niche is a great starting point. However, there is much more to website benchmarking than reproducing an already existing site.
So How Do You Follow Website Benchmarking Criteria?
The following tips will get you started on your benchmark website design so you can have the traffic and followers you have always desired.
1. Research Your Top Competitors
Google is often the first step in any research. This is no different when creating a benchmark website design y doing website benchmarking. Use Google to look up the keywords most often used in your market. Look at the top 5 to 10 hits for each common keyword, if you are building a blog then make sure you only look at bloggers, duh! Research the sites’ authors and find details about the number of followers and/or fans they have, this is important to determine if they really are mass movers. Those sites that have the most repeat traffic are the ones you should study the closest.
“All successful companies are constantly benchmarking their competition. They have to know what they have to match up with day-in and day-out if their company is going to be successful.” – James Dunn
As you can see, this is no myth, study your competition closely; there’s a reason they are the leaders of your industry.
2. Figure Out How Their Sites Are Built
There are multiple platforms and content management systems employed by websites. Some perform extremely well. Others could use a lot of work. Part of understanding what makes your competitors’ websites run well is finding out what type of technology they employ. This can be as simple as using a browser extension tool that detects CMS and platforms. WordPress is arguably the most commonly used platform thanks to its ease-of-use.
Sites that use WordPress often use plugins. It is very important when doing website benchmarking for you to understand which plugins are employed by your top competitors and which are left alone. As a user, you know that some plugins can cause your entire system to crash, or, at best, slow your technology to a crawl. Once a user realizes a site causes problems, they avoid that site altogether. Top designers only use those plugins that are necessary and allow the site to run smoothly. To find out which plugins are used:
– Right click anywhere on the site (not on an image or link)
– Select “View Page Source”
– Use ctrl+a to select all text
– Copy text and paste into notepad
– Search for “/wp-content/plugins” and note the names of any plugins that appear
So Two website benchmarking tools are
a) Chrome Sniffer (chrome extension to determine CMS)
b) Notepad (to identify plugins)
3. Look at The Colors
Color is very important for conversions. Dereck Halpern from Socialtriggers explains it very well in a post about action colors and passive colors
What color schemes do your top competitors use for their sites? Do you notice a trend among the sites in a specific sector? Marketing gurus know that certain colors invoke specific feelings. Blue reflects a feeling of calm, but it is also associated with professionalism. Green is related to hunger, therefore many food-based sites use green accents.
Businesses that are at the top of their industry may spend thousands of dollars deciding which color scheme is most attractive to their viewers. When you choose to use a benchmark website design, you can learn from their research without having to spend the same capital.
4. Their Opt-In Forms
One of the best ways to get return traffic is to regularly remind visitors about your site. E-newsletters are still popular, though nearly all sites rely on Facebook and Twitter to reach out to fans on a daily basis, is not the most effective practice to get repeat visitors. Email Marketing is the best thing you can do on your site from day 1, so this is why it’s important to see at where your competitors place their opt-in forms when doing website benchmarking.
People usually hate pop-ups, but they actually work and they can increase your conversion rates by 400% as per Michael Dunlop proves with Pop-up domination. Entire tools are created to rid screens of these “annoying creatures”. The same can be said for floating bars. However, many sites continue to use them because they force viewers to look at certain ads, even if it is only for a brief time. Study the competition. If they use pop-ups, it is possible that you can too. This is a good way to generate some extra income.
6. Looking at Navigation
Navigation is key in web design. Your users must be able to get through your site to find the information they need. Part of the benchmark website design process is studying the navigation techniques used by others. Do they use simple navigation bars or ones that are loaded with information? Is navigation local or global? Does the competition use tabs, a dropdown menu, a floating menu, or something else altogether? The aim for navigation is theoretically to help users easily find their destination. However, some designs are convoluted on purpose. Top retail stores may rely on browsing to encourage users to view items they would not have otherwise purchased. This is the same technique that is used in brick-and-mortar establishments and it is equally effective online.
7. Dig Deeper
You have looked at platform, color scheme, ad placement, and so on. Now it is time to really research the structure of the web site. Look at each page and understand where information is placed and why it is arranged in this way. Don’t stop at the home page. Look at the About Us, Contact, and FAQ pages as well. How much information do they give? Are images used on subpages? If so, where are they located on the page itself? Each nuance will only serve to help as you prepare to benchmark website design.
8. Find a Common Ground
So after you determine what each of your competitors do and how their designs are built. Compare them and find where they agree, what practices they commonly use, this is the last step of a basic website benchmarking process, you can open up an excel sheet to be organized with this. So go ahead and see if they have common layouts, colors, plugins etc.
Now, I don’t want you to just read this post and do nothing. I want you to start doing website benchmarking, hit me an email or place a comment below to let me know how it’s going for you.
Share your comments below!
Sources for images: FLICKR