Comparison pages are extremely useful, helping us choose between similar things. But how do you write one? Here are some handy tips.
Image credit: Max Pixel
The internet is rife with options, and the uninformed consumer might as well be choosing at random. That’s why we seek comparison pages to pit products and services against each other.
A comparison page is built to fulfil that one specific purpose of detailing how two things stack up, but typically has one of two goals: it either seeks to make one look better than the other as part of some type of business relationship with its creator or owner, or it aims to make both featured things look good so it can profit through thought leadership and affiliate links.
Executed well, a comparison page can bring in a lot of traffic, impress visitors, and return a lot of value — but it isn’t easy to make a great comparison page. To make things a little easier, here’s what you need to know about how it’s done:
You need some degree of objectivity
Even if the primary or exclusive purpose is to make a case for one product over another, when creating the the comparison page, it would be foolish to take an unreasonable stance one way or the other. This is for two reasons: firstly, it will make it clear that your comments are not to be trusted, and secondly it will cause the page to age poorly.
Don’t just make cursory effects to say positive things about the thing you’re not recommending — offer an honest appraisal of strengths and weaknesses, and make it clear to the reader that either option is viable. You might be able to push more conversions one way by being more forceful, but it won’t help in the long run, because no one is going to take your word as gospel and never question it.
If you claim that one of the options is totally unworkable, and the readers later discover that to be false, your credibility will be completely shot. Your reputation will come under siege online, and soon enough the bulk of your visitors will assume that you’re lying about whatever you say. Loyalty is key in ecommerce, but it’s also key in thought leadership: don’t forget it.
And remember that positioning matters too. If you make a roundup of brands or services with the intention of promoting your own, you may have a strong case for including it, but don’t make it the focus of the piece. Biased placement will make the overall piece hard to take seriously.
Tables, lists and subheadings provide clarity
Some great comparison pages can be reasonably succinct, but many more need to be lengthy and detailed to account for all the pieces of relevant information. When you make a page that long, you need to polish it for SEO and for readability, or else the later content will be useless.
Ensure that your comparison page has a rigid structure — if you’re also providing other comparison pages, give each one essentially the same format. This will make it easier for visitors to follow your points, and establish a signature style that can make your brand more recognisable as a source of expertise.
Wherever possible, include tables, lists, and subheadings. Each subheading should introduce a specific point of comparison (you can even include a table of contents at the top of the page to make it easier for visitors to find the sections that interest them the most). For instance, when comparing two products, you might spend one section on “Value for money” and another on “Quality of documentation” — this will also help your chances of appearing in featured snippets when people Google pertinent questions.
The tables and lists should compare figures and features as clearly as possible, avoiding junk metrics or anything likely to prove confusing in context. For instance, bounce rate is only occasionally meaningful. If you’re trying to make a strong case for one of the compared items over another but you can’t do so without being somewhat manipulative, that’s a strong sign that a comparison page is a bad idea.
To understand why these things matter, take a look at this comparison of the iOS and Android operating systems: the content is solid, but the layout is lacking. If there were a table of contents at the top and a more modular design, it would be hugely easier to browse, and a table summing up the results wouldn’t go amiss.
User testimonials are invaluable
However much of an editorial slant you’re placing on the content of the page, your comments will never hold as much weight as those of the unbiased users of the products or services you’re comparing. Consequently, including direct testimonials from those users will always improve a comparison page, lending it a greater air of credibility and insight.
Anything involving percentages or monetary increases will always work exceptionally well, helping to reduce a complicated matter to a simple value proposition. For instance, enterprise ecommerce host Shopify Plus quotes the CEO of MVMT as saying this: “Shopify Plus helped us scale from $1 to $60 million without flinching.” That not only communicates the scalability of the service, but also nudges the reader to envision their company achieving similar results.
Be mindful of the issue we considered earlier, though: subjectivity in presentation can only be pushed so far before it starts to undermine the points you’re making. Performance stats that aren’t direct comparisons need to be like-for-like to be useful (this can also be legally significant for advertising). If you cited that Shopify Plus quote in a CMS roundup, for instance, you’d need to include similar quotes concerning success stories from brands using other ecommerce suites. Otherwise, it would feel horribly biased, regardless of whether it actually was or not.
Regular updates are essential
Whether you’re comparing products or SaaS tiers, it’s never as simple as writing your page and leaving it to linger in perpetuity. Things change. Products are updated, and software is patched. Within a matter of months, your comparison page can be woefully outdated, leading it to suffer in the rankings and damage your perceived expertise.
The more important the page, the more regularly you should make an effort to update it for clarity and accuracy. Include the edits in the content to show readers that you’re committed to providing accurate information, and remember to shift the dates as needed. Even if an application hasn’t changed in several years, it looks bad to refer to the current year as 2016.
A great comparison page will offer meaningful and legitimate value to the reader while serving your interests. Visitors get useful information to answer their questions, while you get to profit from the resulting conversions. Work in testimonials, use a digestible layout, steer clear of dogma, and update regularly — it’s really that simple.