Guide to Competitive Analysis for Conversion Rate Optimization

Khalid Saleh

Khalid Saleh

Khalid Saleh is CEO and co-founder of Invesp. He is the co-author of bestselling book: "Conversion Optimization: The Art and Science of Converting Visitors into Customers." Khalid is an in-demand speaker who has presented at such industry events as SMX, SES, PubCon, Emetrics, ACCM and DMA, among others.
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In today’s digital landscape, standing out from the competition is critical for any business looking to succeed online. An effective way to differentiate your website and improve conversions is through conversion rate optimization (CRO). 

At the core of any successful CRO strategy is a detailed competitive analysis. This involves thoroughly evaluating your top competitors’ websites to identify areas where you can optimize your own site to attract and better engage potential customers.

In this guide, we will explore what competitive analysis entails and why it is vital for CRO. You will learn how to select the right competitors to analyze, which aspects of their websites to assess, tools to help streamline the process, and how to effectively use your learnings to optimize your site for higher conversion rates. 

Whether you are looking to launch a new website or improve an existing one, a thoughtful competitive analysis is an invaluable first step to outperform the competition. Let’s dive in to how you can leverage competitor research to elevate your CRO strategy.

The Importance of Competitive Analysis in CRO

Performing competitive analysis is crucial for any successful conversion rate optimization program. Without analyzing what your competitors are doing, you are essentially optimizing your website in the dark. 

You could miss key opportunities to differentiate your site and improve conversions. Even worse, you could unknowingly make changes that drive customers to competitors who have implemented more appealing strategies.

Some of the main reasons competitive analysis is so vital include:

  • Identifying strengths and weaknesses – A detailed competitor analysis allows you to objectively compare your site to others to reveal both advantageous areas to double down on and weak points to improve.
  • Inspiring new optimization ideas – Studying creative optimizations competitors have implemented can spark ideas for tests and experiments you may have never considered before.
  • Providing justification for changes – Having concrete evidence of competitors’ high-performing pages, messaging, offers, etc. helps justify proposed optimization changes to stakeholders.
  • Keeping up with trends – Routine competitive research ensures you know your industry’s latest web design trends, features, and conversion tactics.
  • Gauging your performance – Conversion benchmarks gathered through competitor analysis help you realistically evaluate your site’s successes and shortcomings.

Ignoring competitive intelligence can lead to a stagnant website that falls behind rivals. Without ongoing competitor research, you miss opportunities to implement innovations that will delight customers and improve conversions over time.

Key Metrics to Consider

When conducting competitor analysis for CRO, having access to detailed metrics provides invaluable insights. 

Here are some of the most important metrics to analyze in-depth:

Conversion Rates:

  • Look beyond overall site conversion rate and drill down into category, product, and landing page-specific conversion rates. This shows you the highest and lowest performing areas for competitors.
  • Leverage tools like SimilarWeb that allow you to estimate competitors’ conversion rates when they don’t publicly share this data.
  • Install their mobile apps to analyze in-app conversion funnels if applicable.

Bounce Rates:

  • Evaluate bounce rates across key site pages and campaigns. Spikes may indicate content gaps or technical issues.
  • Filter bounce rates by source traffic, segments, and other cuts to identify patterns.
  • Use clickstream data in analytics platforms to see where visitors are bouncing from each page.

Page Load Speeds:

  • Test site speed across multiple pages and several times per day to account for variability.
  • Compare speeds globally vs. key target markets using tools like ThinkwithGoogle or WebPageTest.
  • Note which page elements (images, scripts, etc.) slow page loads to optimize.

On-page Content:

  • Copy and paste content into text analysis tools to evaluate engagement levels.
  • Compare the depth and quality of competitor FAQs and category pages.
  • Sign up for their content with unique emails to analyze their onboarding flows.

Tools for Competitive Analysis

In order to conduct a comprehensive competitive analysis, leveraging the right set of tools is crucial. Each tool provides unique insights that, when combined, give a detailed 360-degree view of competitors’ websites and digital strategies.


SimilarWeb should be a core piece of any CRO analyst’s toolkit. This robust platform offers an expansive wealth of data on over 100 million websites. 

Drill into traffic metrics like volume, geography, source, conversions, and keyword rankings. Compare engagement and retention metrics across desktop and mobile. 

See which paid and earned channels drive the most referrals. Having this comprehensive understanding of competitors’ traffic sources and engagement levels empowers you to identify strategic weak points and opportunities to focus your CRO efforts for maximum impact.


In addition to traffic intelligence, understanding competitors’ technical infrastructure is key. BuiltWith allows you to dissect components like content management systems, ecommerce platforms, analytics, heat mapping, and more. 

Identifying the technologies competitors use to optimize and enhance website performance can inform your own tech stack decisions. 

For example, if a competing site has a noticeably faster load time, you can inspect its page speed optimization techniques and explore implementing similar solutions.

Google Analytics & SEMrush

No analysis is complete without assessing organic and paid search performance. Google Analytics and SEMrush make accessing this data possible. 

See which keywords drive the most traffic and conversions through SEMrush’s organic research. Use the Keyword Planner to note the terms competitors are bidding on and optimize your paid search campaigns accordingly. 

Tie this search intelligence back to your website content strategy as well. Build out pages, blogs, and guides on high-value topics competitors already target and rank well for.

The right competitive intelligence tool stack provides the hard data needed to make smart optimization decisions and keep up with the competition. 

With the ability to monitor every aspect of a competitor’s website, you can continuously enhance your own site to win more conversions.

How to Conduct a Competitive Analysis: A Step-by-Step Guide

Identify Your Competitors

Cast a wide net when compiling your list of core competitors to analyze. Look beyond just direct product rivals selling similar items. Consider retailers with comparable brand images and messaging even if product offerings differ.

Include companies targeting your demographic segments and audience interests, even if not direct competitors. The goal is to identify 3-5 brands for the most relevant and impactful insights.

Define Your Goals

Take time to outline your specific goals and objectives for the competitive analysis. This focuses the research on tangible outcomes. 

Common goals include identifying website or campaign optimization opportunities, guiding messaging and content development, monitoring new feature releases, gaining paid search intelligence, and more. Well-defined goals inform which metrics and data points to hone in on.

Gather Publicly Available Data

Leverage tools like SimilarWeb, SEMrush, SensorTower, and others to pull available traffic metrics, engagement data, keyword rankings, and advertising intelligence on each competitor. 

Tracked metrics may include website visits, geography, referral sources, pages per visit, bounce rates, conversion funnels, organic rankings, paid search spend, app downloads, and much more. 

Compile all quantitative data gathered into a master spreadsheet for easy comparison.

Conduct Thorough Site Audits

Go significantly beyond surface-level reviews by tactically auditing each competitor’s website page-by-page. 

Document key elements like page load speeds, ease of navigation, content presentation, product features, special offers and discounts, and more. Create a spreadsheet template to capture audit notes. 

Take it a step further by signing up as a customer to experience and evaluate their onboarding flows.

Analyze and Spot Trends

With all the research compiled, perform side-by-side comparisons to spot positive and negative trends. 

Evaluate differences in traffic sources, conversion funnels, page content, technical elements, and advertising approaches. Note particular strengths to emulate on your own site. Call out weak points or gaps to improve upon. 

Uncover the influencers driving higher engagement and conversion.

Uncover Optimization Opportunities

Translate the research findings into tangible optimization opportunities to test on your website. Does a top competitor have a shorter checkout process you can mimic? Are they targeting valuable keywords and topics with content you lack? Use insights gathered to ideate ways to better attract, engage, and convert visitors.

 Common Mistakes to Avoid

Analyzing Only Direct Competitors

It’s tempting only to analyze competitors who sell the exact same products and services as you. 

However, this narrow focus severely limits the insights gathered. Expand your view to include indirect competitors with similar target demographics, brand images, or competing for voice share.

Adding companies that align with your audience’s interests exposes more diverse perspectives, website strategies, and data benchmarks for evaluation. 

Looking beyond your niche also sparks fresh optimization ideas you may have never considered otherwise. Cast a wide net to make your analysis as impactful as possible.

Relying Solely on High-Level Metrics

While overall site traffic and macro sales data provide useful context, it does not provide enough granular detail to inform optimization efforts. 

You need to dig deeper and gather category, product line, campaign, and individual page-level metrics to extract truly actionable insights.

Supplement quantitative data by conducting in-depth page-by-page website audits. 

Document elements like page layouts, content presentation, special features, ease of navigation, and more. This qualitative data is crucial for understanding competitors’ engagement and conversion optimization strategies.

Depending on Manual Analysis

Attempting to compile competitor research manually is extremely time-consuming and unlikely to produce comprehensive results. The volume of data points needed makes manual tracking impractical.

Leverage tools like SimilarWeb, SEMrush, Sensor Tower, and others to automate data collection. 

These tools provide holistic intelligence on website traffic, conversions, organic and paid search performance, app analytics, and more. Automated tracking produces more extensive, accurate competitive intelligence.

Not Aligning Analysis to Goals

It’s easy to go down rabbit holes analyzing whatever metrics catch your eye, even if not relevant to your goals. Always tie research back to your predetermined objectives to stay focused. 

Continually assess whether the insights uncovered will help you generate optimization ideas.

Having clear goals for the competitive analysis streamlines the process so you gather only the most pertinent data to inform tangible website and campaign enhancement opportunities. Wasted effort is avoided.

Failing to Become a Customer

You can’t fully understand competitors’ optimized customer experience without becoming a customer yourself. Provide your contact information and purchase their products or services.

This first-hand experience exposes strengths and weaknesses in their onboarding journeys, post-purchase engagement tactics, and customer service you may have never known otherwise.

No Follow-up Optimization Strategy

The most common mistake is to conduct competitor research but then fail to take action on the insights uncovered. 

Once your analysis is complete, develop a strategic roadmap for optimizing your site and campaigns based on the findings.

Identify tests to implement, set goals and timelines, allocate resources, run A/B testing, and monitor lift in your KPIs. Analysis without action is a wasted effort.

Wrapping It Up

Regular competitive analysis is invaluable for any successful conversion rate optimization program. By thoroughly evaluating your top competitors’ strategies and metrics, you gain the insights needed to test and optimize your website continually.

The data exposes precisely how competitors are attracting and engaging potential customers. It also reveals areas where you can improve to convert visitors better. 

Whether through enhancing content, mimicking high-performing site elements, closing feature gaps, or expanding your reach – competitive intelligence informs it all.

We covered the fundamentals, from selecting the right competitors to tools to help automate research. Follow best practices like becoming a customer yourself and aligning analysis to core goals. Avoid common pitfalls like manual tracking or failing to take action on findings.

The work put into competitive analysis pays off exponentially in the form of higher-converting website experiences. Users get exactly what they need to select your brand. Implement these tips, and you will be well ahead of the competition.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q: How often should I conduct competitive analysis?

A: Ongoing competitor analysis is ideal, but a practical approach is to revisit your top competitors at least quarterly. Significant changes can happen across websites in just a few months. Staying current is key.

Q: How many competitors should I analyze?

A: Aim to analyze your top 3-5 competitors. This provides sufficient data points for comparison without becoming overly complex. Expand beyond direct competitors for diverse perspectives.

Q: What metrics and data should I focus on gathering?

A: Prioritize metrics tied to your goals. This often includes traffic volume, conversion rates, page load speeds, organic keyword rankings, referrals, advertising spend, and more. Supplement with qualitative notes from site audits.

Q: How can I access competitor data I can’t view publicly?

A: Sign up as a customer to experience onboarding journeys and post-purchase engagement. Use aggregated industry data in tools like SimilarWeb to estimate conversion rates, traffic splits, and other opaque metrics.

Q: How do I turn insights into optimization opportunities?

A: Compile findings into categories to reveal strengths to emulate and weak points to improve. Brainstorm specific site changes or tests based on the data. Prioritize quick wins first.

Guide to Competitive Analysis for Conversion Rate Optimization

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Khalid Saleh

Khalid Saleh

Khalid Saleh is CEO and co-founder of Invesp. He is the co-author of bestselling book: "Conversion Optimization: The Art and Science of Converting Visitors into Customers." Khalid is an in-demand speaker who has presented at such industry events as SMX, SES, PubCon, Emetrics, ACCM and DMA, among others.

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