Competitors' websites, if analyzed properly, can give you all sorts of information that you can use to increase the traffic and the popularity of your site. Here is an article on how to analyze a competitor's website.
Identifying the Leaders
Start off by identifying the major players. A good place to do this is Yahoo’s directory. It is good to view the major players in similar fields to your own so that you have a better view of your web site as perceived by others. You may want to print out the directory to take a closer look. Check some of the bigger companies and find out some of the innovative approaches and new products offered.
Sites like Media Metrix 500 can tell you which companies get the most traffic, and you can learn about the relative traffic by using Alexa. It is a free add-on to your browser that ranks the traffic for each site you visit and informing you whether it is in the top 100 or top 1000 ranking. This gives you a rough idea of where your competitors are in the ranking order.
Scrutinize the Leaders
The next step is to study the top 5 or 10 competitors very closely. There is a lot that can be learned by looking at competitors' web sites and analyzing them. These are the things that you should look for:
1. Make sure you check to see what products or services competitors offer, and note anything that’s different from your own offerings.
2. Look for gaps that you could fill.
3. Think about the look, feel and functionality of the competitors' web sites.
4. Check the advertising campaigns and offers they are running.
5. Look at their strengths and weaknesses, from the customer’s point of view.
6. See if you can figure out their strategy.
If you are dealing with a public company then you can get detailed information from proper sources and write down the names of their key players. Then it is possible to look for any interviews, articles or speeches they might have made about relating to their web site.
Look for Strengths, Vulnerabilities, and Gaps
Now summarize the information you have found into few sentences for each competitor, highlighting the strengths and weaknesses of each one. Note down the strategies to be followed to counter your competitor’s offering.
With this research, you can create or modify your marketing plan. Be sure to include how you intend to deal with competition, and what steps you think you would require getting top rankings in the search engines. On the basis of your research on your competitors' websites, you need to make a decision of either to compete with your competitor or walk out of the competition and focus on other areas.
Don’t get frightened away prematurely, though – make sure you know what you are getting into before you start, and don’t let big companies intimidate you. Remember that you can move faster than your competitors if you have confidence in your abilities. All you need to do is offer your customers things that they cannot find anywhere else.