One of my nerdish hobbies in the last two decades is surfing the web. As I noticed how companies over the years are building their online presence, I cannot help but be interested in how companies differentiate themselves online, regardless of the industry.
As I delve deeper into the differences, a few critical questions came to me:
What makes a company stand out from its competitors online?
What are the psychological reasons why a potential customer decides to pick one company over another?
Your website should look better than your competitors
A well designed and functional website is just as important as a physical storefront. Most people search online for information before making a sale. Your website is akin to a siren call to lure in potential customers. Because of its importance, this should be a part of your business plan.
Your goal is to make your website more inviting and functional than your competitors. It is foolish to believe that you can create a website without knowing how your competitors display their products and/or services.
Do I follow the trend or be a trend maker?
Most people will not search for options beyond the first or second web search results. Make sure that your search engine optimization (SEO) on your website is functional. This will make it easier to be located through search engines.
Companies like Yoast have plugins to test your SEO functionality. Additionally, Google or Bing will allow you to be placed higher on their search results. They do this by auctioning the cost per click (CPC). Unless you know how to do this correctly, you will waste your money. It is best to hire someone who does SEO and online marketing professionally. Learning online marketing from scratch may be an ineffective use of your time.
Just focus on building great content. Do not worry about showing up on the first or second page. Besides, the goal is to grow web traffic organically. Part of the way to grow traffic is through a great online presence. The best way to review yourself is to put yourself in the position of a potential customer.
Pretend that you are searching for a business like yourself. To illustrate this concept, I want to show you my search for an Italian resultant in Dallas, Texas.
The Hunt for Red Lasagna
I am traveling to Dallas soon and I want to preplan for my dining options. Specially, I want to eat Italian food. I searched online using DuckDuckGo. I decided to search for options using Trip Advisor.
(Side note: All businesses that provide accommodation and leisure services should establish a profile on Trip Advisor. This is not limited to food and lodging. Barbershops, salons, spas and fitness services should also have a business profile on Trip Advisor.)
Trip Advisor Query Results
I will review Kenny’s Italian restaurant and Cane Rosso because they are both Italian chain restaurants located in the Dallas metro region. The first thing I noticed immediately is that Kenny's Italian Kitchen has a button where I can make a reservation. That is a nice feature that the other top three restaurants do not display.
Review of Kenny's Italian Kitchen in Trip Advisor
Things I like about Kenny's web presence on Trip Advisor:
- A nice delicious image of lasagna. My mouth was watering as I write this.
- Reservations can be booked through OpenTable.
- Their Details section has descriptive language about the restaurant. It is okay, but it can be written better.
Things I did not like about Kenny's web presence on Trip Advisor:
- The restaurant did not respond to any customer reviews, positive or negative. If you have an active profile, you need to respond to your customers. These people took the time to write a review of your business. Do you know how hard it is to have someone provide a review? All feedback is key to business improvements. We should be thanking customers for doing this.
Things I like about Kenny's Italian Kitchen website:
- Views of their meal items and dining room.
- Links to their other restaurants.
- All of the web links worked.
Things I did not like about Kenny's Italian Kitchen website:
- The site has an outdated WordPress theme. The menu bar cuts off some of the information.
- The photos were not done professionally. For example, there was a lot of glare, making it hard to see the images clearly.
- The site has not been maintained since January 2019. I knew this because their copyright is dated December 2018.
- The News and Review Section only had links to reviews but no news. Either remove the “news” or populate it with the most recent positive reviews of the business.
- They outsourced their reservation system to OpenTable rather than create their own interface. When you have multiple restaurants, put down the money and invest in your ordering system.
Review of Cane Rosso in Trip Advisor
The first thing that jumped out to me is that the site is unclaimed by the owner. This is a cardinal sin in my book. Owners must maintain control of their online profile. Thankfully this business is doing well based on their reviews, but it should not rely on TripAdvisor and their customers to populate their business information.
Like Yelp, Trip Advisor will try to convince you to buy advertisements with them once you claim a profile. A Trip Advisor representative will say their ads will help your business grow. Review this article about Trip Advisor ads and make your own decision about running advertisements.
Things I like about Cane Rosso website:
- The footer contains a section to subscribe to their newsletter. A business needs to collect contact information to inform customers of their offers and specials.
- Big and bold images of their food. Their photography was professional.
- Their website is up to do date and modern.
- The website includes a section to purchase gift cards, catering and scheduling reservations.
- They have a built in system to manage everything from hiring, reservation and gift cards.
- Pictures of each restaurant storefront so I could locate it easily. They also included maps.
Things I did not like about Cane Rosso website:
- I had a hard time reading the small text in the some of the pages, below is an example.
Will I go to Kenny's Italian Kitchen or Cane Rosso?
If the distances were the same, I would dine at Cane Rosso. I liked Cane Rosos's big and colorful pictures, which included various shots of their dining room. I also like the fact that they automated many parts of their website. For those who are unfamiliar to the Dallas area, their web map and storefront pictures were a bonus. Cane Rosso won me over because their web presence excelled Kenny’s.
Do you like my analysis? Got a question or comment? I would love to read it. Please write it in the comment section below.