Building new websites – Where to start
Google that phrase and you’ll get all the help you need. All the options and sales pitches are right there offering “how to build a website for free”, “How to build a website – you don’t have to be a tech geek” and “How to build your website in minutes”.
The advice and offerings are endless.
It’s a Rabbit hole of mind-boggling proportions. Believe me. I’ve been there.
Here’s what that line of enquiry doesn’t always tell you: It “starts” with understanding your current position.
“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?” “That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.” “I don’t much care where –” “Then it doesn’t matter which way you go.” Lewis Carroll - Alice in WonderlandIn other words, you need to have a baseline. A means of evaluating your online offering compared with the online competition. And believe me, you have competition. Whether you know it or not, there is another website out there that is peddling the same market you are. Starting to build a web presence not knowing your competitor’s strengths and weaknesses is a colossal mistake.
Every one of those Google results above was served in response to an enquiry. Pulled from 695 000 000 web pages. The ones you see at the top – or the first page, which in my opinion is the only results that matter (and your potential customers agree too).
The first step in building a website is understanding your competitive environment.
Undertaking an Online Competitive Analysis is your best investment. Before one word gets written. Before one image gets created.
Here’s what a Competitive Analysis should reveal: Hard Facts 90% – Opinion 10%
Cold Hard Facts – Let the Numbers talk
- Competitive Keyword Analysis – The internet runs on words. Your customers will find you with words. Or not. Knowing what keywords your competitors are using on their websites will reveal their current strengths or weaknesses. There may be massive missed opportunities you could cash in on.
- Social footprint – the numbers on followers. This enquiry should reveal the score of your competitor’s social effectiveness and scope of their reach.
- Technical Score – reveals the methods and best (or worst) practices employed in building a website.
The Analysis of these areas are sourced using well-known tools (albeit expensive) and all sources are quoted and shared. I don’t make these numbers up. Never trust an analysis that does not quote sources or share the information.
- My method to evaluate a website’s design aesthetics does use a scoring system – and I list it under “Opinion” because the same tool when used by somebody else may reveal a very different score. For example, when scoring “design”, I have a very particular design sensibility compared with someone else. Thankfully, the “design” part of the scoring system is a very small part of the exercise. The rest looks at user experience (UX) and other factors that are designed to inform you whether a competitor is employing best practices.
Imagine that you have built your website, gone live, only to discover (in retrospect) that your investment is not reaping the rewards you know you should be getting. I find it extremely helpful being armed with facts before building new websites. Or even refreshing old websites. The CA informs for both instances.
I recently got a call asking me to quote on a complete overhaul of an existing website. Would I please “quote accordingly”. In Response, the first line item on my quote (standard modus operandi here at Fractal Marketing) was “Competitor Analysis”. A charge of $500 (about R6000). Others charge up to R15 000 for a CA. The resulting feedback was “my client doesn’t have much competition, why should I pay for a CA?”.
Consider this: The internet has no borders. Anyone can shop from anywhere. Your competition could easily ship to your customers from elsewhere, and own the first page of google results in your territory even if their operation is based in another country. I often buy online – from elsewhere. This particular client has a line of products aimed at industrial markets, but wants to expand into the consumer market. I undertook a quick stab, and the competition in the consumer market is much fiercer than he realises.
Why is an Online Competitor Analysis so “expensive”? It takes time and money to undergo a an online competitor analysis. The online tools I use are not cheap (although these tools do have “free-to-use” options – they are extremely limiting).
And if you are spending money on building a website, also not a cheap exercise nowadays, then getting as much information about your online competitors is the sane approach. Know why. Be informed. It’s a small price to pay. That Rabbit hole is too deep and too dark to go down without a map and a torch.