How to scope out the competition

When we think of competitors, we tend to get squidgy. Something in our heads might say—Competition? Oh no! Somebody’s going to take my projects away. It doesn’t have to be that way. There are plenty of fish in the sea and plenty of clients to go around! Think about it…there’s tons of bad design in the world, right? Not only is there enough work to go around, there’s also plenty to be learned from our “competitors.”

So now that we’ve addressed the squidginess, it’s time to hop back on board and Get Your Website Done: 12 Actionable Steps for Designers. Let’s figure out who your competitors are so we can be sure our new website is up to par.

Step #3: Determine your competitors.

Everyone has competitors—even you! Who are they? Here are 3 ways to figure it out.

  1. Who potential clients are considering along with you. One way to know this is to ask your clients. Who else were you considering before awarding me this project? Or ask the people who don’t give you the project. Who did you end up giving the project to? Don’t be afraid to ask!
  2. People who come up in the same Google searches as you. When prospective clients are searching for a term that you do, or want to, show up for—the people who also show up are your competitors.
  3. People in your personal network who provide similar services to you. Whether they’re in your online or in-person network, turning these “competitors” into “partners” is one of the smartest things you can do.

So who are my competitors? In my free guide, I suggest listing at least 3 competitors and what you like and dislike about each one. Today I’m going to share my competitor research with you—I came up with 5—from each category listed above.

People who clients are considering along with me

Competitor #1

Likes:

  • Colorful and friendly site with photos
  • Call to action to schedule a consultation extremely prominent
  • Before & After website images with testimonials
  • Portfolio projects fade in as you scroll

Dislikes:

  • Services pages are very text heavy
  • Portfolio images link directly to client website, not the project description

Competitor #2

Likes:

  • Very personable with beautiful imagery
  • Work With Me page easily explains packages
  • Dedicated Who I Work With page with descriptions of each category of client
  • Portfolio images fade in on scroll

Dislikes:

  • Blog design is too simplistic
  • Newsletter sign-up areas don’t have a consistent look and feel

Competitor #3

Likes:

  • About the author section after each blog post
  • Clever attribution line in footer
  • Detailed list of services rendered on individual project pages

Dislikes:

  • Site design is outdate
  • Images are pixelated on high-pixel density displays

Google competitors

When people search for “WordPress Developer Atlanta” or“WordPress Designer Atlanta” my site consistently ranks highly alongside a few others. (Check out my handy SEO tips here.) I’m looking at two companies that rank alongside me for both of these phrases.

Competitor #4

Likes:

  • Recent blog posts on home page with images and excerpt
  • Services page does a good job at listing benefits + skills
  • About page nicely describes design process

Dislikes:

  • Very text heavy; more visuals would help break up the content
  • Portfolio links to Behance
  • Newsletter sign-up is very basic
  • No headshot

Competitor #5

Likes:

  • Content fades in as you scroll
  • Minimal parallax implementation
  • Who We Help section on home page is very informative
  • Latest posts on home page show image + excerpt
  • Layout of posts on blog page (date, author, and categories are set apart)

Dislikes:

  • Several items on main navigation link to sections on home page vs. unique pages
  • Generic design, not personable

People in my network

In my monthly accountability group, the Designers Roundtable, several other designers do similar work to me. By thinking of them as partners, I can learn from them, be inspired by them, refer work back and forth, bounce ideas off them, etc…

Competitor #6

Likes:

  • Clean design with pops of color
  • Services pages use icons and grid layout to nicely break up text and call-out main points
  • Creative Process defined and explained

Dislikes:

  • Too many calls to action in footer
  • Not a fan of portfolio thumbnail images showing multi-devices

My Takeaways

Based on my competitor research above, here are the items I want to add/update on my current site:

  • Include recent blog posts with image + excerpt on home page (need to rearrange footer layout)
  • Include section on Services page about creative process
  • Use fade-in of images/content when scrolling
  • Include Who I Help section either on home page or Services page
  • Consider calling the Services page “Work With Me” instead
  • Add About the Author section at the bottom of each blog post
  • Include a fun attribution line in the footer, such as “Proudly crafted in Dallas, GA by Jill Anderson”

The idea of this step is to see what’s happening out there. By “comparing” ourselves, we can figure out how to stand apart. We can also learn A LOT. Maybe they’re doing something cool that we never considered? It’s all information—and knowledge is power. And who knows—maybe if we all get better/refine our markets, there will be less bad design in the world someday. Here’s to hoping!

 

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