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The Competitor Audit: Tracking Your Peers to Stay on Top

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Your organization likely has a few competitors in the industry, and that’s a good thing! Mission-driven organizations are plentiful, and they’re doing important work to move the needle to improve lives. It also means your efforts are at play in a saturated ecosystem. Donors with an affinity for a cause may have multiple nonprofits doing similar work to choose from. Potential members for your association may have a handful of industry or trade-related organizations to consider. Universities across the globe are vying to recruit from the same pool of students year to year.

Your website doesn’t exist in a void. One commonality in this digital age is that virtually everyone is looking at your website—and your competitors—before making the decision to engage with your organization. The actions you want your users to take (donating, joining, volunteering, etc.) are all emotional decisions—and their experience on your website can dictate their willingness to take the next step.

The best thing you can do for your organization is to create the best user experience (UX) possible on your website. In that process, it’s always a good idea to have a pulse on what your peers and competitors are doing online, too.

Why Audit Your Competitors’ Websites?

A competitor audit should accomplish one main goal: identifying the strengths and weaknesses of your peers. The audit will give you insights into how your website stacks up against the competition, and where you need to make improvements to keep up with industry standards. If you’re in the middle of designing (or redesigning) your website, the competitor audit should be completed early in the process. After completion, your audit should remain a living document within your organization that is constantly revisited.

Choosing Your Competitors

An effective way to look at your audit is through the lens of the work you do. What problem(s) do you solve? Who else is operating in that space? You can choose to focus on one main competitor in-depth (especially if they’re in the same industry and market as you), or you can focus on 3-5 organizations to get a big-picture view of their strengths and weaknesses. If your review involves multiple organizations, you’ll want to create a matrix or chart with key attributes (listed below) so they can be easily compared.

If you’re having trouble identifying who to audit, consider both direct competitors and indirect competitors. Your indirect competitors are solving the same problems you are, but through different offerings and services. Search engines are your friend here—Google some of your services or related keywords and see who is ranking high.

What Are You Looking For?

Before you start your audit, it’s helpful to define which attributes you’ll include. Here’s a non-exhaustive list to consider:

  • Similar tasks: Imagine yourself in their users’ shoes and work through key website tasks your sites share in common. Examples: the join or membership process, finding an academic degree or program, event registration, etc.—try to work through these and make note of what works well (and not so well).
  • Content: What does their content look like? What is their tone and voice as an organization? How well does their content make the case for their organization?
  • Design: How visually appealing is their website? How does the website look? Pay attention to how your competitor uses images and other design elements to reinforce their brand.
  • Usability: How easy is it to get around? Does the navigation make sense? Is the website accessible to those who may have visual or other impairments?
  • Interactivity: Don’t be afraid to click around—try to break your competitor’s site! What happens as you scroll through or filter information?
  • Functionality: What features do they have beyond simply displaying information? How do they utilize features such as chat or personalization to enhance the experience?
  • Search: Where are they ranking for the most relevant keywords?
  • Social media: What does their social media presence look like? Do they have high engagement? What are they posting?

As you identify good techniques, keep in mind that they might not always be the best solution for your organization. Your site design, architecture, and content should be crafted to serve your particular users’ needs, behaviors, and contexts. Your competitor’s user base may be completely different, which is why the audit should be just one tool in a larger plan that includes other types of audience and user research.

Audit Early and Often

Your competitors are always looking to improve, just like you. If you’re only taking a look at what they’re doing once a year, you could miss big updates that prevent you from having an edge. Track your competitors on a set schedule and use your living audit document to note how they change over time. If you notice a competitor has refreshed their webpage or added new content and features, note exactly what they did (and why).

Mighty Citizen Can Help

Let us show you how you stack up. Our UX experts can conduct a comprehensive audit to give you the lay of the land on your competition, and recommendations for improvements to your website. We can even make those improvements, too. Reach out and let us know how we can be a partner.

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