Analyzing both major and niche competitors

I now have an actual live domain name attached to my hosting account. My next step is to get a little more specific about the type of content that should appear on my web site, as well as its general look and feel. My answers to these questions will help me determine what tools I’ll need to use to build the site, and also help me flesh out my ideas about my next steps for moving forward.

Reviewing the big name competition to determine best practices

To start, I like to look at some of the successful big name companies in my general category. For online job listings, and Career Builder are clearly on top. My thinking is that these folks have probably invested a huge amount of time and money tinkering with different formats to figure out the right way to connect employers and job seekers. By observing their overall approach, I can benefit from their investment and shorten my own learning curve.

For example, a common theme is a fairly clean home page with a really big search box front and center. Both have a white background and use fairly subdued color palettes, although Monster is a little flashier. The focus of the home page is also pretty much exclusively geared at job seekers–both sites have a different “front door” for employers.

Another key distinction is that they also both offer more than just job listings. There are articles geared towards helping people figure out the best strategy to find a job, and even how to choose one career over another. Both have a salary calculator tool. And they each have a method for visitors to request a periodic email when new jobs that meet their criteria have been posted.

Assessing the web sites already in my niche

After getting a good sense of what the large players are doing, I also want to look at the smaller sites operating successfully in my direct area of ESL Jobs. Identifying common themes across this group will help to ensure I meet the minimum bar of what the current market expects. I can also use my visits to see if I can find any opportunities where I can offer something to differentiate my own site. In particular, I will look to see if there is anything that the big companies are doing that the niche companies are not.

To find these top competitors, I simply head over to Google and type in my keywords. The top 10 web sites returned are the ones I will survey. A quick pass shows how incredibly different they are from one other. Judging by some of the dates on their job posts, they are also experiencing very different levels of popularity and success.

Looking deeper, the majority of their home pages seem to be incredibly long, requiring scrolling down repeatedly to view all the information. For a first time visitor, I think this might be a bit overwhelming. In contrast, the big name companies have most of their home page on a single screen, a feature I plan to emulate. The colors and fonts of the niche players are all over the place as well, with only a few having what I would consider to be a clean design and the others being incredibly busy. Most have a fairly dated appearance compared to the current web sites of the big companies.

Somewhat surprisingly, only a single site had a large search box at the top of their home page, and only two had a clearly visible way to receive new job postings by email. It was interesting to note that quite a few provided the opportunity for a teacher to post a resume that could be viewed by interested employers, a feature I had not even considered. In an odd twist, one of the top 10 sites didn’t even appear to be functioning, as a lot of its links generated script errors.

As far as providing material above and beyond just job postings, quite a few seemed to be part of much larger sites with content that ranged all over the map. A few had articles on teaching conditions in various countries. A few had tips for finding a job. None had a salary calculator.

Learning lessons from the big and the small

My time spent evaluating both the large and niche players helped me narrow down the features and appearance of the web site I intend to build. It’s interesting to note that while much of what I assumed going in turned out to be correct, a good bit was a complete surprise to me. It underscores the benefit of taking the time to really understand the market before jumping into it.

In summary, I determined that my minimum bar for success is a clean, compact, professional look with a big search module at the top of the home page. To really stand out, ESL Jobs World will need to present more than just job listings, but also tools to help teachers find their next job. I need to separate the teacher part of the site from the employer part of the site. I need to have an easy to find email newsletter to notify teachers of new jobs. To really cover all angles, I also need to enable teachers to post their resumes so that employers can review them. Finally, providing supplemental content not found elsewhere like a salary calculator would really help to differentiate me.

All in all, a tall order, but at least now I have a target in my sites.

One comment

  1. This is a really good article dave. Helps seeing, practically, how to analyse the supply-side of the market. Now, when it comes to the demand-side of that same market, I find it much less obvious how to get meaningful information. What do you think could be the right method to get such information?