If you really want to outperform you competitors, you have to be everything your competitors are and more! In this lesson you are going to learn how to use two tools that will show you exactly how your competitors have structured their websites. This information will allow you to compare the information that your competitors are offering to your own information, and ensure that your website is superior.
Aggregating Competitor Sitemaps
Step 1. PowerMapper:
PowerMapper is a visual sitemap creator. PowerMapper puts every page of any website into a visual sitemap that allows you to quickly and visually see how all of the pages of a website are structured into categories, sub-categories and supporting pages. It may even open your eyes to entire areas of content that you have not yet considered.
- To begin with go to PowerMapper.com this is a downloadable program that only works for PC. Buy, install and open the program. There is no other program like it. Believe me, we are always checking for this kind of stuff. If you find one comparable, please email and let us know.
- Run the program. It can take a while for very large sites. Once it is done you can save the file and view it in a variety of visual formats.
- Export as Excel Site Tree.csv
- Format Report by making each of the columns an appropriate width and freezing the header row for easy scrolling by selecting the cell just under the header in column A, then go to the Window menu and click “Freeze Panes”. Once you have make each column an appropriate width you will see a great visual site map that instantly tells you exactly how your competitors have structured their information.
- Go through your competitors sitemap and add any categories, sections or pages that fit your product or service offerings to the Aggregated Sitemap tab in the Sitemap Workbook. Even if you decide later not to add the pages to your site, add them to the sitemap now so that you can get a good sense of every way that the rest of your industry is presenting information to your target audience.
Once you have used PowerMapper to map a competitors website and you have exported and formatted the report, copy and paste the entire report into the Competitor 1 Sitemap tab in the Sitemap Workbook. Continue doing this for at least two more competitors, and if you’d like to add more simply add more tabs to the workbook. It really helps to have all of these reports in one workbook for easy reference as you move forward.
You may find that for some competitors, the PowerMapper tool does not pull accurate page names. This may be because your competitor does not have a very good information architecture on their own site. In this case you can always reference the URL structure of the page, visit the page yourself and give it the eyeball test, or use the next tool, ScreamingFrog SEO Spider.
Step 2. ScreamingFrog SEO Spider:
This incredible tool actually crawls any website much like a search engine spider, and gives you the following information about every single page on that site:
- Address: The URL of every page on the site
- Content: The type of content that is found at that URL
- Status Code: If the page is valid and live, being redirected, a broken / error page, etc…
- Status: Status of the page
- Title 1: The content of the title tag for the page
- Title 1 Length: The number of characters in the title tag.
- Title 1 Pixel Length: How many pixels wide the title will be in Google’s SERP.
- Meta Description: The content of the description tag for the page.
- Meta Description Length: The number of characters in the meta description.
- Meta Description Pixel Length: How many pixels wide the description will be in Google’s SERP.
- Meta Keyword 1: The keywords in the meta keyword tag for the page.
- H1: The contents of the H1 tags for the page.
- H2: The contents of the H2 tags for the page.
- Meta Data: Any additional meta data instructions on the page.
- Canonical Link Element: The canonical URL for the page
- Size: The file size of the page.
- Word Count: The word count for the content of the page.
- Level: The number of clicks you must go through to get from the homepage to each page.
- Inlinks: The number of links pointing into the page.
- Outlinks: The number of links pointing out from the page.
- External Outlinks: The number of links on the page that point to other websites.
This data gives you so much of the essential information about your competitors site that it is essential to run against any site that you are directly and specifically competing against. There is both a free version and a paid version of the tool. I strongly prefer the paid version because it crawls deeper and gives you more information, but even the free version is incredibly valuable and an absolute must have. The free version only crawls up to 500 pages and will follow any instructions in the Robots.txt file and robots header tags, which may keep you in the dark about some sections of your competitors site. However, the paid version will crawl an unlimited number of pages and can be set to ignore any “no crawl, no index” instructions, along with crawling all sub-domains. This can end up giving you an incredible wealth of deep information about your competitor.
Here is how you do it:
- Download the ScreamingFrog SEO Spider Tool: http://www.screamingfrog.co.uk/seo-spider/
- Install and open the program on your computer.
- Crawl competitors site
- Export the Report
- Format Report. To make the report easy to read and work with, it helps to format it as follows:
- Delete any unnecessary information.
- Make the header row bold and highlighted.
- Freeze the panes for easy scrolling by selecting the cell just under the header in column A, then go to the Window menu and click “Freeze Panes”
- Make each column an appropriate width and format the columns for the Title, Description, H1 and H2 tags to “wrap” from the Format > Cells > Alignment menu.
- Copy and paste the sheet into a new workbook called Competitor Site Crawls.
- Repeat for each competitor.
These site crawls will give you tons of great information about how your competitors have structured their sites. Use that information to continue to fill out your Aggregated Sitemap.