“Who is your competition?”
It’s one of the first questions we ask prospective clients. It sounds easy enough to answer, but you’d surprised. Through this one little question we’re able to learn a bit more about the client and their space, get an idea of who they feel they’re up against, and then determine whether or not their idea at all matches reality. Sometimes it matches pretty well and other times, well other times their idea is simply adorable. ;)
One thing we all know for sure is that times have changed. It used to be that your competitors were the businesses in your area that sold the same product or performed the same service as you. But thanks to the Internet and to the way many search engines display information, this is no longer the case. In order to outwit your competition and dominate sales, you first have to understand who they are. Because you can’t be out for blood until you know whose blood you’re out for, right?
Below are the five types of competitors you’ll have to consider and plan for.
1. Brick and Mortar Competition
Typically, these are the competitors you have a pretty good handle on. They’re the faces that you fake smile at when you run into them at the local grocery store or whose weekly fliers you slyly throw in the trash so that others can’t see them. If you’re Staples, your brick and mortar competitors are mom and pops like Joe’s Office Supplies, as well as local chains of OfficeMax, OfficeDepot, etc. They’re the stores that both sell a similar product AND that are located in your area. But you know these guys.
2. Competition That Ranks For Your Keywords
Thanks to the Internet, it’s not just the local companies offering similar services that you need to worry about. You also have to be aware of your search competitors – the businesses that are stealing customers by ranking for the keywords you want to be found for. Thanks to the Internet, it doesn’t matter that Jenny’s Computer Depot is a one-woman shop run out of a basement in Idaho, if Jenny is ranking on the first page for your search terms when you’re banished to the second, she’s probably stealing your customers and your retirement fund.
For example, let’s go back to our Staples example.
If you’re Staples and you want to rank for [hanging file folders], your competition isn’t just the brick and mortar guys that exist 15 miles from your storefront.
Thanks to the Internet, you’re also up against:
- The Container Store
- Sams Club
- And many, many others
There doesn’t need to be a Container Store within 200 miles of your storefront. If their Web site is showing up above yours in the search result, that’s a direct competitor. And you need to create an SEO plan handle that.
[While I was doing some research for this post I stumbled upon TopRank’s recent post entitled In Search, Your Competition Isn’t Who You Think where Lee Odden gives some great tips on how to overtake your search competitors. I’d give it a read.
3. Competitors Whose MEDIA Ranks For Your Keyword
Did you see that Shopping One Box listed above the results in the last screen shot? No? Well, here it is again.
Meet your other competitors – the businesses who go through the side door while everyone is trying to push through the front. This is a big reason why it’s so important to not only create digital assets related to your brand, but to optimize them for search. Because with the engines looking for this content and placing it directly into the search results, it creates a new kind of search competitor. One where you either have the goods to compete or you don’t. Obviously, this doesn’t just apply for Shopping results, you’ll also want to look at businesses stealing your search thunder via News, Blogs, Images, Video, etc. If someone is ranking above you, you want to know about it.
4. Companies Google Says Are Your Competition
If Google’s the one ranking your business against your peers (quite literally, actually), then it makes sense to understand who Google things you’re similar to, no? Just some food for thought:
5. Share of Buzz Competitors
Thanks to social media, there’s also another nagging competitor to think about – the businesses who are embarrassing you in the Share of Voice department. These are the businesses that sell similar products or services as you but who seem to be involved in every darn social conversation. People are tweeting their stuff, sharing it on Facebook, and referencing them 24/7 while your brand pretty much bobs up and down in the sea of obscurity.
Am I trying to intimidate you by showing you just how much competition there is out there today? No, I’m not. But it’s important that you’re aware of it. That when you take a look at your competition or create systems to help you monitor their actions that you’re looking at the right sites and in the right direction. Because times have changed and you need to make sure you’re focusing on the proper SEO strategy to help you succeed in a land where customers have more options and more distractions than ever before.
Your competitors are no longer just the names you’ve always know; your competition is anyone who gets themselves in front of YOUR customer’s line of sight.