I know that it's hard to be creative. I know that it's hard to be unique. Get over it. On the Internet, merely copying your competitors works far less well than it does in offline marketing. Unfortunately, Google bares all. If you do the same stuff as everyone else, count on the ones who did it before you to reap the benefits, with your results bringing up the rear.

Why do I say that? Because many small businesses don't like to admit it to themselves, but their biggest edge over the years is that they were local. They were close to where the customers were. There wasn't anything about their business that customers would miss if they moved 50 miles away, because there is another business just like theirs in that town.

I've been talking to a small auto repair shop owner who fixes any kind of car and has a great reputation locally, but on the Internet, he can't break through the clutter. He has always skated by with his local business, but now he needs to realize that specializing is what wins on the Web.


So, if you just see what others do, and say "Ditto," it is unlikely to make you the destination site for your customers on the Web. Because on the Web everyone is equally close, so you need some other to way to be unique besides geography.

Time for you to stare at your navel and decide exactly what is it that you do better than everyone else. The one thing. It's likely to be just one of the dozens of things that you do in your business. It's fine to keep selling all that other stuff, but online, you need to specialize in something. You might even need a separate site.

Our auto repair shop owner is realizing that, online, he needs to trumpet his work on restoring classic cars. It's not the biggest part of his business, but it is the thing that will make people drive an hour to see him, because they won't do that for an oil change on their 2007 Taurus. He might even want to put together a separate Web site just for his vintage car restoration business, to get the best search results.

So what about you? Do you have a "Ditto business"? If you do, you'll never get credit for what you do if someone else is known for having done it first. And Google won't have any reason to single you out. Instead, pick something you really do in a unique way, and bring that to the fore of your Internet marketing. Specializing will break your business out of the mass of clutter and give Google and your customers a reason to separate you from the pack.

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November 30, 2009

Mike is an expert in search marketing, search technology, social media, publishing, text analytics, and web metrics, who regularly makes speaking appearances.

Mike's previous appearances include Text Analytics World, Rutgers Business School, SEMRush webinar, ClickZ Live.

Mike also founded and writes for Biznology, is the co-author of Outside-In Marketing (with James Mathewson) and the best-selling Search Engine Marketing, Inc. (now in its 3rd edition, and sole author of Do It Wrong Quickly, named by the Miami Herald as one of the 11 best business books of 2007.


In order to have my motorcycle pass inspection this year, it had to have new tires. The local who helped me out is one of those success stories that broke out from the pack. He doesn't perform services anymore as his motorcycle parts business online is booming. He was kind to take my service request, otherwise, I'd have to travel 110 miles to the nearest motorcycle services I could find.
While I am happy for this success, it is locally worrisome, if you see what I Mean.

Great article

I see business owners all the time just follow the pack in what ever industry they are in. It's crazy to see them so lost and so willing to follow a out dated system. I would venture to say if any business owner would take a long hard look at what they do best they could do information videos submit them and drive traffic to their web site all day long. look at your yellow pages out dated system that every one still follows. look at auto glass the business owners are doing the same thing big ad paying monthly and some don't even have a web site. The hard part is teaching old dogs new tricks but when you find an old dog that wants to venture off the old path watch out especially with local search.


I thing everybody is doing and copying their competitors with little bit different strategy...

Well stated Mike, thanks.

Two things I'd like to add:

1) We perfer "Me to" or "Cookie cutter" over "Ditto". I suppose the irony is you chose "Ditto" because it's not "Me to" or "Cookie cutter". On the hard, we chose those two because they are metaphorical knowns that clients and potential clients are sure to understand (in a "Words That Work" sense.)

2) It's not the follower aspect that's difficult to understand. Most people, by nature, do not have a true sense of differentiation, leadership, innovation, etc. That's not a criticism, just one of life's givens. What always amazes me is the people who chose status quo means yet expect ground and/or record breaking ends. Instead of seeing the given as the known limitation, they for some reason believe that they're going to get further with the same plan. Boggles my mind. Care to comment?

I've seen that, too, Mark. I usually confront them on their magical thinking. They believe that they can ignore my advice but still get the results that they'd get if they listened to me. I usually bring them back to things that they know and ask for their advice, then ask what would happen if I ignored it. For most, that brings them around. The rest you don't want to work with anyway.

For me it's about thoroughness and properly understanding linking strategy and how Google works. I see so many examples of SEO 'experts' implementing their strategy incorrectly.

Yup, I hear ya :) Your perspective sounds similar to my own. That is, some projects just aren't a good fit. The irony is, they tend to also be the same types who act surprised (read: get upset, angry, etc.) when you say, "Ya know what? No thank you." I do mostly web based projects (sites, SEO, SEM, etc.) and too often clients insist on compromising, conveniently forget those decisions and then finish with, "See I told _____ wasn't a good fit for us." At that point I bite my tongue because it's senseless to point out that they did it all wrong. Meanwhile the rest of the free world is falling over themselves trying to reap the benefits of the endless digital gold rush. Go figure, right? But at least I know it's not just me :) Thanks.

In every type of business one has to be competitive, if you follow your competitors then you must have something unique to compete with.

Mastering the niche is key. If you do not focus on one main area the competition will be fierce, and if you do not provide any unique content to your site you will surely lose out. That's why those that wish to market their local business online should refer to internet marketers with such experience. There is a need for SEO in the IM world and an SEM Specialist can help with those needs. I think people are all too often oblivious to how much SEO and Search Marketing Experts can really help their business grow and expand on the internet.

oh that is really true. It does happen. Companies do copy to follow the path taken by other on success but it would be wise to be first in path which is not followed so far

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Search Engine Guide > Mike Moran > Are you just following your competitors?