Understanding Your Online Competition

Posted by on June 25, 2012 in Business Start Up Advice [ 0 Comments ]

Prior to launching any SEO, social media marketing, content marketing or any other online marketing campaign it’s imperative that website owners take the time to really understand who their online competition is. It may be Marketing 101 to do a competitive analysis, but it never ceases to amaze me how often site owners don’t really understand who exactly their true competitors are, and how little understanding they have of the online competitive landscape. Never assume you know who your real competition is online or that you know how your company measures up!

A strong offline presence doesn’t equal a strong online brand.

One of my SEO clients is a large B2B manufacturing company that dominates the offline space. They are one of the few major players in the game and their offline brand value and recognition is undeniable. Having been around since the 1940s, they are well known and respected in their industry. When I took over their SEO program a few years ago it was a completely different story online. Their website was getting hammered in the SERPs by a bunch of smaller companies from overseas that they would never even think of as competition in their offline marketing. They were also being pushed out of branded searches because there are so many resellers online trying to capitalize on the power of their offline brand. Since they hadn’t optimized their website and product pages, these resellers were often outperforming them for their own products! In short, offline they were a giant and online they were just one of many.

Just because another company is in the same industry that doesn’t mean they are your competition.

Let’s say you owned a local pet store in San Diego, California. Who are your true online competitors? I can tell you right now that you’ll never beat national brands like Petco or PetSmart in the SERPs for as broad a keyword as “pet store.” And even if you could out position them, “pet store” is such a non-specific keyword that you wouldn’t want to! What’s the point of ranking for “pet store” if a searcher is based in New York City? How does that help drive traffic to your store? When it comes to SEO, you aren’t necessarily competing against those large companies for local dominance; you’re competing with the pet store on the other side of town that is also trying to do well in the SERPs for localized and long tail keywords like “San Diego pet store.”

Never assume your SEO is untouchable.

I’ve seen it happen many times—a website will get to the top of the SERPs for their top keywords and they’ll decide to ease up on their SEO. After all, you can’t do better than position one right? Here’s the thing—no website is locked into their SERP ranking position. Every website that ranks beneath you, whether you’re on the first page of Google or the tenth page, is trying to push your site down and propel their own site up. When you ease up on your SEO campaign your online competition has a much better chance of stealing your thunder. You can never be 100% of how aggressive your online competitors are being with their own SEO marketing campaigns, so don’t expect to hold onto your success for long if you don’t keep your own SEO moving forward.

Stop trying to duplicate your competitor’s SEO.

Some site owners think they can reverse engineer their competition’s SEO campaigns. They try to identify exactly how many links they have and where they come from, the exact number of blog posts going live in a given time frame, how many times a certain keyword is used in web copy and so forth—hoping they’ll find the secret to their competitor’s SEO success. SEO doesn’t work like that. Never assume that what one company is doing is going to work for yours. While using the competition’s SEO program to see how yours measures up in the beginning in a good idea, you don’t want to be following in the footsteps of your competitors’ business plans.

When it comes to creating a successful SEO campaign, knowing who your competition really is, what kind of SEO program they have and how your website measures up is key. But you have to be honest with yourself and don’t get so focused on what the competition is doing that you forget about making your own SEO campaign better!

Photo Credit: petenionline.com

Nick Stamoulis is the President of Brick Marketing (http://www.brickmarketing.com), a social SEO solutions firm based in Boston, Massachusetts. With nearly 13 years of experience, Nick Stamoulis shares his B2C and B2B SEO knowledge by writing for the Brick Marketing Blog, hosting SEO trainings and publishing the Brick Marketing SEO Newsletter, read by over 150,000 opt-in subscribers.

Contact Nick Stamoulis at 781-999-1222 or nick@brickmarketing.com

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