Your competition should play an important role in your research before you move forward with any SEO, PPC, or online marketing campaign. In fact, it's generally a good idea to do a fair amount of competitive research before you build a website or even decide what industry or niche to focus your efforts on.
Competitor knowledge isn't the most important aspect of building a successful online business. You still have to be a good manager, know your product or service, and be able to sell, sell, sell! But, gaining competitive knowledge early on can help you guide your online marketing efforts into the most effective direction.
Knowing about your competition isn't as valuable as knowing what they know that you don't. But, not everything your competitors know is truth or fact, so you have to be able to discern whether what they know is right or not, and then discard the information accordingly.
When it comes to on-page optimization, you can learn a lot from your competitors by looking at their websites. How they organize their navigation (their categories and sub-categories) can tell you a great deal about your audience. Or... it can lead you down the wrong path. This is where it is important not to look at one competitor only, but to look at as many as possible.
Be careful that you don't jump on just any bandwagon. Just because a competitor or two may be doing things one way, doesn't necessarily mean it's the best way. For all you know they are copying off of each other, and creating and endless spiral of poor audience targeting. Talk about an opportunity for you to do things right!
Each competitor can teach you something new. Things like: what keywords are being targeted, the best way to provide content to your customers, and what kind of user experience is expected or has the best conversion rates.
There may not be one single answer, but enough research will give you some good ideas on how to move forward on your own site. Take the best from each one, and ditch the rest.
Changing the course of your online marketing efforts mid-stream isn't always as easy as it may seem. And, the consequences of such a change (though often a necessary change for long-term growth) can cause temporary loss of much needed momentum.
What has been propelling your marketing efforts forward can come to a sudden standstill, which will become obvious in loss of traffic, rankings, and likely in sales as well. This scenario is often devastating on a short term basis, since you are forced to start from the ground up all over again.
On the plus side, the effect may be very short lived. Depending on how well your site was built, optimized, and linked, and how drastic of a change is occurring, you may find some of the past efforts carry over to the new efforts. If a change is needed, it has to be done, even if there's short term pain that must be endured. This is why it's best to do your research up front, so you don't have to change course later and suffer the consequences.
Your diligence in competitive research will give you a good idea of who they are, where they are, what they are doing, what's right or wrong about their campaign, and what is or isn't effective. This information will be invaluable to you as you develop your website, business, and online marketing campaigns.
With good research it is not so much about what your competition knows that you don't... it's about what you know that they don't, and how you can use that information to gain a strategic advantage.
Stoney deGeyter is the President of Pole Position Marketing, a leading search engine optimization and marketing firm helping businesses grow since 1998. Stoney is a frequent speaker at website marketing conferences and has published hundreds of helpful SEO, SEM and small business articles.
If you'd like Stoney deGeyter to speak at your conference, seminar, workshop or provide in-house training to your team, contact him via his site or by phone at 866-685-3374.
Stoney pioneered the concept of Destination Search Engine Marketing which is the driving philosophy of how Pole Position Marketing helps clients expand their online presence and grow their businesses. Stoney is Associate Editor at Search Engine Guide and has written several SEO and SEM e-books including E-Marketing Performance; The Best Damn Web Marketing Checklist, Period!; Keyword Research and Selection, Destination Search Engine Marketing, and more.
Stoney has five wonderful children and spends his free time reviewing restaurants and other things to do in Canton, Ohio.
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