We decided to optimize our website only for keywords that bring up our competitors when searched. So, what I have to do is to take every keyword that is in your research and to run a search on Google to see if our competitors are there. You’ll hear back from me early next week.
The above is part of an email I received from a client as we began the keyword research process for their optimization campaign. I can’t help but think of something my (and probably everybody else’s) mother used to say, “If all your friends jumped off a bridge, would you jump too?”
There is nothing wrong with a desire to be everywhere your competitors are, but don’t let this form the only basis for your optimization campaign. Dave Thomas, the founder of Wendy’s Restaurant, said that he wanted to place a Wendy’s across the street from every McDonald’s in America. I subscribe to this philosophy wholeheartedly, and not just because I love a good Wendy’s hamburger! One thing Dave new about this “locate-near-McDonald’s” strategy is that McDonald’s did significant research before entering a given region. He realized that McDonald’s only entered areas where they knew their restaurants would thrive. As Dave saw it, what was lucrative for Ronald would also be profitable for Wendy!
But, do you receive the same benefit from your competitors as Wendy’s has from McDonald’s? Does your competition perform the same level of market research before targeting any particular keyword phrase? Do they absolutely know that their keywords are searched by their target audience? Do they understand that the audience might actually search for a product differently from the common industry lingo? Are they following the advice of a professional SEO or someone that might not care so much about their business success as much as they care about achieving top rankings to make themselves look like a success. Before following your competitors into this territory you need to know the answer to this question.
From a competitive standpoint, it’s always good to know what your competitors are doing, who they are targeting, and what areas they are venturing into. A failure to know this is poor business strategy and planning. While Dave wanted to be everywhere his competitor was, he also never stopped identifying fresh locations to put a Wendy’s that McDonald’s hadn’t yet exploited.
Often–especially online, where marketing is still a fairly new practice–I see that my client’s competition do not often have a full grasp on what keywords they should be targeting. Part of this is ignorance; another is the lack of insight on the part of those running their SEO campaigns. Those that employ the “follow-me” marketing strategy will undoubtedly find themselves following competitors through the same mistakes, costing themselves valuable time and money. Think about what can be accomplished (and sooner) if marketing dollars are placed into a more forward thinking marketing campaign; one that doesn’t solely focus on competitors but more rightly reaches the target audience. After all, it’s not your competitors who’ll be buying from you, it’s your targeted consumer.
Doing what your competitors do, without ever really understanding why, is a bad strategy all the way around. Even if your competitor is doing things right, it may be for reasons that are inappropriate for your business. Pay attention to what your competitors are doing, but also know why, and make sure those same goals and objectives match up with your own.
Leading with your marketing campaign may ultimately mean that you find yourself in the same places and ranking for the same keywords, as your competitor. But leading also means that you will find places where your competitor should be but isn’t. By simply reacting, you’ve allowed competitors to get there first, leaving you to catch up. Leading gets you established where your competitors are not so you bring in the targeted traffic they are missing. Following leaves you one or two steps behind. Leading with your marketing campaign will put you ahead of your competition, and being out in front makesyou the authority, not your competitor.