Every year Google revamps ranking factors for websites. During 2014-15, HTTPS usage and mobile usability helped determine website ranking. Then in 2017, more emphasis was given to HTTPS websites. Now in 2018-19, mobile page speed has also been added to the Google ranking factors for mobile search.

To ensure online visibility, it is vital to understand how to gain an edge over others through the website content, the UI (mobile usability), and the user experience.

User experience matters.

User experience plays the largest part, as ranking factors are changed continuously based on user behavior. In simple terms, a poor performing website results in poor user experience. As a result, sites with poor user experiences get less promotion on Google.

Let’s look at a few facts:

  • 1 in 4 visitors will abandon the website if it takes more than 4 seconds to load.
  • 46% of users don’t revisit poorly performing websites.
  • 74% of users accessing the mobile site will leave if it takes longer than 5 seconds to load.
  • Every one-second delay in page load time could lead to $1.6 billion in annual losses for online merchants as big as Amazon.
  • 47% of ecommerce customers expect page load times of less than two seconds before they consider leaving.
  • 40% of users abandon the site at the third second of waiting, even before a performance analytics tool captures their presence on the site.

What are your competitors doing?

Website optimization is now an indispensable part of anyone running an online business. Do not assume you are ahead of the competition – the competition is doing everything that you are when it comes to optimization.

Building a website monitoring strategy is a good place to start when trying to understand the performance of your website. The performance data from monitoring tools can be used to benchmark your website against competitors.

Digital Experience Monitoring (DEM) provides companies with a way to track and evaluate end-user experiences so that they can respond quickly when that experience falters. Your competitors may already be using this DEM strategy for their web properties, looking at different metrics and as a result, outperforming you.

What metrics matter?

The metrics are the tools you use to measure performance. They determine what and where to optimize, which then determines the end-user experience and eventually, the online visibility of your website.

In this era of Digital Experience Monitoring, there are a lot of performance metrics available, but no default set of metrics that you should always look at.

So based on your industry, business goals, the tools you use, and your end-users, you can define what metrics are important to you. This creates a strategy that is focused on your needs and business goals, instead of relying on a default set of metrics. To beat the competition, every advantage you can get over them matters. This includes the metrics you are focused on!

At this point, we covered some basics, gone over the need for Competitive Benchmarking, and above all, laid out the need for an all-around DEM solution. So, what’s next?

The next step: choosing metrics wisely

To measure metrics, you need a well thought-out monitoring strategy in place. An ideal monitoring strategy that provides a complete understanding of your web properties should include both Active and Passive Monitoring, in other words, both Synthetic and Real User Monitoring (RUM).

  • Synthetic monitoring allows you to block out much of the noise that is reported with Real User Monitoring (RUM). Use it to identify latency and downtime promptly. This allows you to scientifically isolate and diagnose the root cause(s) of erratic performance issues.
  • RUM helps identify target areas for optimization. You can then create synthetic tests to monitor these pages from relevant geographic areas and ISP networks moving forward.

With this practice of combining active and passive monitoring, you ensure full visibility into application usage and performance. It also helps you understand network or channel distribution and the user journey.

Catchpoint is a comprehensive Digital Experience Monitoring (DEM) Platform for Real User Monitoring & Synthetic Monitoring. Catchpoint has the largest number of monitoring nodes (or PoPs) across the world.

Hundreds of enterprises around the globe leverage Catchpoint’s products and features to proactively manage their end-user experiences, while also performing competitive benchmarking and analysis.

With Catchpoint, you can correlate the data from RUM and Synthetic for detailed performance analysis. The RUM data can also be used to tune your synthetic monitoring into a more effective monitoring strategy. By using both Synthetic and RUM features on Catchpoint’s single platform, you can examine both sides of the digital experience in a single, comprehensive dashboard.

Gaining the competitive edge through monitoring

Consider the following example to understand how monitoring can be instrumental in competitive analysis.

Comparison of two different websites’ performance: customer vs. competitor

The Document Complete metric indicates that the browser has finished rendering the page and the end-user can interact with the page. In this case, it takes an average of 14 seconds before the end-user can interact on the customer’s website! The competitor, on the other hand, takes only around 5.5 seconds. Think back to how little patience end-users had for a website to load. An end-user will clearly prefer the competitor’s website given how much faster it is.

Now, how do you analyze what is causing the delayed load time, and what is it that your competitor is doing right?

Looking at the data, we observed that:

  • The total downloaded bytes is higher for the customer website. Can we correlate this with higher document complete time? Not really; total downloaded bytes accounts for the entire page, which includes items loaded after document complete.
  • The webpage structure of both websites can also play a major role in performance. But both the websites have more or less the same structure, so we can rule out this reason for now.

Next, we look at the network components. We analyzed the data breakdown by hosts on the page to understand individual network components, as this could be where the issue stems from. So let’s dig deeper.

Using the Catchpoint Zone Breakdown, we see that a third-party component on the customer’s page is causing a bottleneck:

Drilling into the data even further with Catchpoint Host Level Breakdown, we identified the hosts on the page that impacted performance:

We also use request-based charting to narrow down the requests from that host which were causing the issue. The customer had to check with the third-party host to understand the variation in size of this specific host.

Stay one step ahead with competitive benchmarking

Competitive benchmarking can be instrumental when trying to improve the end-user experience, as it gives an unbiased performance report that clearly shows what can be done better.

Let’s compare Google.com against a random website using synthetic monitoring:

We can see how well Google performs. We can replicate these tests to include a set of websites that we want to analyze. The data can then be used to evaluate different metrics that show exactly what the website is missing and where optimization is needed.

Benchmarking helps to:

  • Compare different performance metrics that create bottlenecks in the application delivery chain.
  • Evaluate features that are either missing or need optimization.
  • Improve alerting strategies so you can quickly identify and resolve unexpected performance issues.

Summary

Online visibility depends on various factors, most importantly, the end-user experience. Website optimization focuses on performance, but it is not enough; tracking where you stand compared to competitors is equally important.

Competitive analysis and benchmarking are two important ways that help you improve online visibility.  

  • Know your competition and your audience, based on industry and even geography.
  • Figure out how you are different.
  • Keep track of how competitors are performing (Content/Marketing/End-User Experience).
  • Even if you are doing well, keep improvising and “compete with yourself.” Create your own monitoring strategy by defining what you need and why you need it.

With Catchpoint’s 20+ monitor types and vast node coverage across backbone, broadband, and wireless locations, you can eliminate blind spots, understand how every component of your service delivery chain impacts users, and receive specific alerts if something goes wrong.

The ability to monitor from more than 825 backbone, broadband, cloud, enterprise, last mile, and wireless locations can help you detect suboptimal experiences from anywhere in real-time.

A holistic digital experience monitoring strategy like Catchpoint is necessary to ensure the speed, reachability, reliability, and availability of all your digital services.

Get started with a free trial of Catchpoint today.