Pretty obvious question, you say?
Once upon a time, naming your competition was pretty simple. Your competitors were the businesses in your market area that sold the same sort of products or services as you. But thanks to the Internet (more specifically Google), all that’s changed.
Now your competition isn’t so much who you say it is. It’s who Google says it is.
When your key word search terms are entered, who shows up? Is it the “usual suspects” you’ve been going toe-to-toe with for quite some time? Or are there new “competitors” (online or offline) that show up in the search?
Whichever is the case, before you can figure out how to take on your competition, you first have to know who they are.
For the sake of simplicity, here are four different types of competitors it pays to consider:
1. Brick-and-Mortar Competition
These are the competitors you have a pretty good handle on. They’re the ones you compete with on a fairly regular basis. If you’re Staples, your brick-and-mortar competitors are mom-and-pop stationery stores, as well as chains such as OfficeMax and OfficeDepot. Chances are you know these guys pretty well, and you’ve gotten quite adept at competing head-to-head.
2. Competition That Ranks For Your Keywords
Thanks to the Internet, it’s not just local companies 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. The Internet doesn’t care if Jenny’s Book Emporium is run out of her parent’s basement in Nogales, AZ. If Jenny’s ranking higher on the page for your search terms than you are, tough luck. There’s a pretty good shot she’s going to steal some business that under other circumstances would likely come your way.
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. You’re also up against Amazon, The Container Store, Walmart, Sam’s Club and who-knows-else. There doesn’t need to be a physical location within 200 miles of your storefront. If their website is showing up above yours (or comparable to yours) in the search results, they’re a direct competitor.
3. Competitors Whose Social Media Pages Rank For Your Keywords
Like most organizations, you’ve probably got a website. You might even have a Facebook page. Maybe even a LinkedIn business page. But what about the competitors who are seemingly everywhere in Social Media? They blog, they contribute to industry forums, they comment on articles. They post videos on YouTube and photos on Picasa. Keep in mind that Google indexes each and every one of these pages. And the more dynamic the content (the more frequently it is updated), the higher it will generally rank, usually against the very words you’re hoping to be found with.
This is a whole new category of “search competitor”: those who get in through the side door while everyone is trying to push through the front. This is a big reason why it’s so important to have a meaningful presence in as many social platforms as you can manage, and why all digital assets related to your brand need to be optimized for search.
4. “Share of Buzz” Competitors
Thanks to social media, there’s another class of nagging competitor to think about – the ones who are winning in the “Share of Voice” battle. These are the businesses that sell similar products or services as you but who seem to be involved in every social conversation out there. People are tweeting their stuff, sharing their links on Facebook, talking up their promotions and referencing their videos or SlideShare presentations in conversations all across the web.
Bottom line, your competitors are no longer just the names you’ve always known; your competition is anyone who gets themselves in front of your customer’s line of sight.
Once you’re aware of the volume of competition you truly have, you can take action to come out on top. Yes, a big part of that is to focus on a sound SEO strategy (more on that here). And it’s also important to have a meaningful presence across several platforms. But more than that, it is important that you truly understand the value your customers consistently say they receive from you that is unique and meaningful. And turn that value proposition into a Brand Vision that is reflected throughout your organization and your communications.
Just as you compete with your local brick-and-mortar types by being uniquely “you,” so too can you successfully compete with virtual entities—as long as you narrowly focus on what you do best.
Heck, you might even show up in your competition’s searches and steal a few sales from them.
If you’d like to read more about competing with search engine competition, I recommend checking out this thoughtful blog post from TopRank.
Posted by Mickey