391: How to Create Effective Comparison Pages
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In today’s episode of The Startup Chat, Steli and Hiten talk about how to create comparison pages to highlight the differences between you and your competitors.
The startup industry can be super competitive, and buyers are continually looking for better solutions to their problems. One way to show potential customers that your product is better than your competitors is by creating a comparison page on your site.
In this week’s episode, Steli and Hiten dive into what a comparison page is, who it should be targeted at, the right time to create one and much more.
Time Stamped Show Notes:
00:00 About today’s topic.
00:50 Why this topic was chosen.
01:36 Who to target your comparison pages at.
02:02 How these pages are for search engines.
03:45 Another target for your comparison pages.
04:40 One thing that puzzles Steli.
06:04 How to create a compelling comparison page.
07:53 What makes a comparison page compelling.
08:00 Why comparing features is a good thing.
09:49 When to create a comparison page.
3 Key Points:
- These pages are for search engines.
- You could be doing it for a visitor that’s already on your site.
- Act like you’re unbiased and write your best possible content that you can.
Steli Efti: Everybody, this is Steli Efti
Hiten Shah: And this is Hiten Shah and today on the Startup Chat we’re gonna talk about how to create comparison pages to basically highlight you versus your competitor. So your business, your product versus a competitor.
Steli Efti: Right? So, you know, oftentimes … Well, first of all, I think the definition that you’ve already given is super useful. It’s usually a landing page that compares your product or company with a direct competitor or multiple competitors, right? The thing that you see … And so maybe we’ll break it down to this episode in terms of who … When should you use this kind of tactic? When is it effective? When isn’t it? Is this something that you … When should you utilize it? Is this a pure SEO play where you try to drive traffic when people are searching for you versus a competitor or should you send these kind of or use these kinds of pages in the sales process, etc. And then also the kind of style. I’ve seen a ton of these comparison pages. Usually I’m not very impressed so I’d love to do a little bit of a back and forth between you and how, like what are the different templates that are out there that companies use and how potentially to improve on those kind of standard boilerplate templates of comparison pages.
Hiten Shah: Yep.
Steli Efti: Alright. So let’s start with the …
Hiten Shah: Well go ahead.
Steli Efti: Let’s start with the when … Who are these pages typically for? Who do we … If I have a SAS product in my company and I am a startup and I’m thinking and I have competitors, let’s say that, I have competitors, when is it worth my time even thinking about building a comparison page?
Hiten Shah: Steli, you’re going to love this. These pages are for search engines.
Steli Efti: I thought that you would say that. Alright.
Hiten Shah: Yeah.
Steli Efti: Give me more.
Hiten Shah: I mean think about it, this is the thing, okay, let me go through the one on one and then we can get into the good stuff. Right?
Steli Efti: Boom.
Hiten Shah: So like, look, these pages are for search engines because people are typing in things like, let’s say Zendesk alternative. In fact, Zendesk was so good at this that they created a whole alternative band. I just somehow retweeted something about it.
Steli Efti: You tweeted this. I just saw this yesterday.
Hiten Shah: At my company we’re, one of my companies, we’re really digging into channels and B2B marketing and we noticed that a while ago, but someone actually tweeted it recently. Dated this back in like 2014 or something I think. So number one, and they’ve been great at SEO, but number one, you do it for search engines so that you can get new visitors who are typing in things like some company name alternative. So like Zendesk alternative and then that leads to who you’re really doing it for. You’re doing it for these new visitors that have never met you before, essentially.
Steli Efti: Mm.
Hiten Shah: Or you’re doing it for visitors who are Googling, who might’ve come to your site before, but they’re trying to figure out the difference between you and a competitor. So the alternative terminology is really about “I’m looking for an alternative for a product that’s usually not somebody who is doing research on your product.” They’re doing research on a competitor and then you come up because you ranked in Google for it and you’re an alternative. So that’s … Number one is search engine, because search engines and then even things like Zendesk versus Help Scout, that page is also for search engInes, because if someone is evaluating which customer support tool to use, they might type that in Google, right?
Steli Efti: Right.
Hiten Shah: So search engines, you’re doing it for search engines. That’s one of the main reasons or main type of a visitor is somebody coming from the search engine. Another one is that sometimes you have people who come to your site and in most product, with most products, you don’t know if they’re using a competitor or not, but you can always ask if you really want to on your site and then you’re … So you could be doing it for a website visitor that’s already on your website. That about summarizes. Why you would do this and there’s versions of this like Zendesk alternative. Then there’s versions where what we’re really talking about is comparison pages, like Zendesk versus Help Scout, to basically provide a page that shows the difference between the two products and if you’re Help Scout and you have that page, I believe they have that page on their site. Let’s talk about how you do it, how you break it down.
Steli Efti: Mm-hmm(affirmative).
Hiten Shah: Go for it.
Steli Efti: Well so …
Hiten Shah: I know you’ve thought about this. Yeah. So the one thing … I’m not surprised that you said you’re doing it for search engines, because that’s the main use case that I’ve seen comparison pages being used in. The thing that I’m oftentimes puzzled is when you click on one of those comparison pages and you can tell “Hey, they did a good job at ranking high for this, for these key words”, right? So they are probably getting high quality, very targeted traffic on this, but then the page itself is so obviously just written for a search engine that when you’re trying to read, consume that content, from a persuasion and sales point of view, I’m reading this and I’m not getting excited to now feel like your product is better, but I am actually getting bored, overwhelmed, I feel the urge to leave this page because it seems like worthless. If you actually want to start reading the content or try to consume any of the content on the website, oftentimes it’s not compelling content. I’ve been oftentimes thinking about this from the point of view of “I wonder if many of these companies are overly optimizing to rank very high?” So ranking is the metric or the KPI they’re gunning for and once they rank high they’re kind of happy, but they’re not really measuring how much of that traffic is converting to whatever the call to action is, the trial sign up or whatever else that you’re trying to do and how long are people staying on that page, because the content is oftentimes not that compelling. So that’s the thing that I really wanted to talk to you about, which is the different types of content to make a comparison page truly compelling for a human once that human arrives on your page. The thing is, the searches will keep you ranked if you basically are creating a shitty page.
Steli Efti: Mm.
Hiten Shah: If you’re creating a page that people won’t stay on, eventually your rankings will drop.
Steli Efti: Mm.
Hiten Shah: So really how to create a compelling page is almost pretty much act like you’re unbiased and write a page that’s the best page on the topic. You do that by looking at all the other pages on the topic, because there will be other pages in most cases, and you create the best possible version of that page that exists, that answers people’s questions about the topic and the topic in this case is the comparison of two softwares. You’ll see companies like G2 Crowd and other sites that are supposed to be unbiased and they probably are by nature of what they do. They write these pages pretty well. They include ratings of each company and any accolades for each company and things like that. Just to give an example, because everybody loves examples, my opinion is that the HubSpot versus Marketo page is a pretty good page on HubSpot. On HubSpot sites, if you typed in HubSpot Marketo, you’ll get their page. It’s like one of the top three or five, you should check it out because, in their case, HubSpot has a really high ratings on G2 Crowd. So they’re basically using that information on that page and framing it and they’re not talking about we or anything like that. They’re literally acting like this is a HubSpot marketing software versus Marketo and you might … I mean if you read it there is obviously bias because it’s very heavily HubSpot oriented and the ratings are high, but you don’t really feel like you’re on a HubSpot page with the way that they’ve written it.
Steli Efti: Nice. So let’s talk about that a little bit. What makes it compelling, right? So there’s multiple things that you can put in the way that you try to compare your product versus a competitor. Features are what seems to be a very obvious route right? Comparing feature by feature, what does your product include or is capable of versus your competitors and have that kind of a matrix that shows the checkpoints are all green on your side and a bunch of red on your competitor’s side. So comparing features is one thing. Comparing pricing is another obvious route, right? How much do You have to pay for useful, neutral versus a competitor solution, but then there’s other really interesting, compelling content that I think people can use. Here in the HubSpot example they do a great job of using their rating, right? So very early out of the gate they’re showing their G2 Crowd that they are leader Fall 2018 in marketing automation and then right after they show some kind of a gardener, prettier inside Customers Choice Award that they got, right? So what do they do? They use social proof and credibility. They’re like “Look at these awards, look at these third party vendor analysts that have come out and said that our product is better than the competition.” So that’s one and then they use heavily quotes and customer references, right? I would assume, I don’t see this here, but I would assume if you could you would want to even skew heavily towards a customer of yours that used to be a customer of your competitors, Competitor X, and can give a relevant quote that says “I used to use”, whatever, “Marketo, but we had X, Y and Z problem. Since we switched to HubSpot X, Z and Z is amazing.” I wouLd tell every CMO to make the switch or something. That is obviously super compelling, really powerful content.
Hiten Shah: Yeah.
Steli Efti: When you have your customers saying that they prefer your product over the competition, they’ve tried both or they’ve been customers of both. What other stuff can you even have as like compelling content within comparison pages? One thing I’ll throw out, and I’m curious to hear your thoughts before we wrap up this episode at this point, is one thing I never see or very, very rarely are two things. One is actually highlighting non obvious things about the competitor. Sometimes the feature to feature comparison to me is boring. It’s like we have this thing and both companies have it, but features are not all created equal and sometimes companies can do a terrible job at building a feature that doesn’t really work, but it’s their, quote unquote, versus another company that’s done an amazing job building something in an incredibly thoughtful way that works incredibly well. So highlighting not just that a competitor has or doesn’t have a feature, but how the difference in how features work. I think that that’s something that can be super compelling and harder and not obviously to uncover for the customer. The other thing is service and support. This is something companies obviously, apparently many companies, don’t want to highlight, but if you have a company that has outstanding customer service and support, that can make a big difference. The people, the culture of your company, the way that you treat your customers, the way you think about product development, these things, these cultural things, or these customer service facing things, can make a real big difference in how I compare your company and your product with other competitors. Oftentimes I don’t see these things really being utilized in these comparison pages. So it’s just an idea to throw out there for something. If you really have a strong and differentiated way that you do customer support or successful service, that’s something that is not not valuable. It’s not like “Well, if it’s not a feature, we can’t really compare ourselves with somebody else.” I think that companies should do that more when they are much better at these things then their competitors and I think that customers are interested in that information.
Hiten Shah: Yeah. So basically highlight any key differentiation.
Steli Efti: Right.
Hiten Shah: Especially if it’s from the customer’s eyes that makes it easier to talk about on an unbiased page.
Steli Efti: Right. Mm-hmm(affirmative).
Hiten Shah: I think you asked early on about timing.
Steli Efti: Oh yeah.
Hiten Shah: I think you should put up these pages as soon as you can and then keep working on them, partly because of SCO and partly just because they’re just pages you want to have on your site. If you can compare yourself to somethIng else, put it up. I think In some cases some products don’t have strong competitors, for a bunch of reasons. So in those cases there’s no pages to put up, but if you’re in a competitive market and there’s even like two or three competitors, it’s worth putting up the page, even if you just link to it in your footer or sometimes link to it from a blog post, but it’s not a big deal on your site, that’s totally fine. I would put it up.
Steli Efti: Awesome. Alright, I think we’ve covered the topic pretty well. Thanks for listening everybody. If you have not done that yet, please do us a favor, go to iTunes, give us a five star review and a rating. We highly appreciate that and until next time, we’ll hear you soon.
Hiten Shah: See ya.