Part of a marketing strategy is researching and evaluating the competition. Have you looked at your competitor’s websites lately and done a comparison with your own website?
Looking at what other nearby schools or enrichment programs are doing can give you ideas for content, keywords and other elements you can consider for your website and social media. Doing competitor mapping can also help confirm that what you are doing is in line with the market, or highlight the fact that your website is amazing compared to your competition!
Spying on your competition doesn’t have to be hard. There are some simple things you can do, starting with finding your company or school’s competitors, and looking at their websites.
Google “Schools Near Me” or “Preschools Near Me,” “Private Schools Near Me,” etc.
Use an “incognito” or “private” window to minimize the bias Google of knowing you have been on your website and other searches you have done.
Where does your website show up and what information is shown? What schools or websites show above and just below yours? Make a list of the top sites that come up (we use a spreadsheet), with links to the school websites.
It is likely you will find the top search results are not actually schools, but directory and review sites, like Yelp, Private Schools Review and Niche.com. Check to see where/if your site is included in these listings and what kind of information and ratings you have. Add the other schools you see to your competitor list.
Scan Other School Websites
Once your list has a number of competitors on it, set aside some time to take a look at a handful and do some website comparisons. At first glance, what catches your eye on other websites? Is there a message that resonates with you and that impresses you? Are they doing or saying something that would be relevant and effective on your website?
Look at the website structure, the navigation and pages on other sites. Do you see some content that your does not have, but would be helpful to include? What systems are they using for registration/applications? Do they have a calendar of events? What social media channels are they on?
It can also be helpful to take some screenshots and save them in a folder on your computer so you can easily refer back to things you liked.
Dig Deeper: Analyze Some Data
There are some free and paid tools you can use to get a more detailed idea of what your competition is doing, and why they may be ranking above you.
What software are they using for their website?
There are many school-specific website platforms, the most popular being Finalsite. After you have looked at a number of Finalsite websites, you can often identify a Finalsite website at first glance. Many larger schools use Finalsite, and they have a powerful system to help schools create and manage effective websites. Usually Finaliste websites, or sites built with other proprietary software, like CampusSuite and Edlio have a mention and link to the software website in the footer area. If there is no mention of the software company in the footer, you can use a Chrome extension called BuiltWith to help determine what is being used on the site. If it is WordPress, this will show in the BuiltWith tool, along with the theme the site is using.
Free SEO and keyword information
Mangools has a free SEO Chrome Extension (with a paid version that offers more features). This tool evaluates several SEO elements on any website, including on-page SEO, keywords, and backlinks.
Alexa is a really amazing tool that will show you not only keywords your site and your competition are ranking for, but also shows you keyword opportunities, including keywords gaps and easy to rank keywords based on your website content. The free version will allow you to enter in your website url, or your competitor’s website, and it will list for you similar websites and keyword suggestions.
iSpionage is also a free tool that will show you keywords that your competition is ranking for, and can compare your site to a number of competitors. It also shows the meta description for organic listings and associated keywords, as well as the page rank and estimated search volume. This allows you to see keywords your competition is using in their meta descriptions and content, and may give you ideas on how to improve the content on your website. An added bonus is that this tool also lists results for Bing/Yahoo, which is often overlooked.
SpyFu has a free and paid version which will show you who your competitors are, and can list organic and paid search for their websites. It will also give you ranking history and link information.
Premium tools for SEO analysis
There are a number of elaborate, expensive paid tools for SEO. The paid version of Alexa, mentioned above, is $149 a month and gives a lot of information. Moz, aHrefs and SEM Rush are the most commonly used. We use SEM Rush, so will review the features of this platform here, Moz and aHrefs offer similar features for analyzing SEO on any website, including you competition. While SEM Rush is quite expensive, you can use it free for limited searches and features.
SEM Rush specializes in competitor data. You can visit the Dashboard and type in a competitor’s website and get information regarding organic keywords and rank, ad keywords, and traffic. SEM Rush shows this data in an easy to digest, graphic format.
Putting all your competitive research together
We love spreadsheets! Spreadsheets are essential to SEO research and comparison of websites , including competitive analysis. Whether you keep notes in a notebook, in a spreadsheet or another document, being organized with your competitive research is important. You can create your own format for tracking information about your competition, but we recommend you keep your competitive review handy and refer back to it and check it periodically to help keep your website fresh and competitive.