“My competitors are here, so this is where I need to be.”
“They’re ranking for keyword x so I should be too!”
“They’re advertising on http://www.nytimes.com so that’s what I need to do.”
How many of you have thought or heard similar sentiments? On the surface, it makes sense. Why would your seemingly successful competitor be there if it didn’t work? Why reinvent the wheel with your own keywords and tactics?
I think, though, that there are several reasons you might not want to be where your competitors are.
Reason 1: You don’t know whether it’s working.
Unless you’ve got some killer competitive intelligence, or somehow your competitor is definitely succeeding and only employing one tactic, the fact that they’re employing a tactic doesn’t mean it’s working for them. Sadly many companies do things like bid on unprofitable keywords for extended periods of time for various reasons, such as internal politics, neglect and faulty information. Don’t follow them blindly off a cliff!
Reason 2: The same thing may not work for you.
Let’s say that your competitor’s tactic is working for them. Maybe they’re bidding on a very competitive head term and it’s actually making them money (it usually doesn’t). There may be a reason it works for them that doesn’t apply to you. For example perhaps their overall budget is much bigger, so they can afford that head term as well as its more profitable brothers and sisters way down the tail. Maybe their landing page converts better. Your challenge is to find the tactics that work for your unique set of strengths and challenges.
Reason 3: There’s competition there.
Here’s what it really comes down to. I want you to imagine two scenarios. One, you’re talking to a group of potential customers. Two, you and your competitor are both trying to talk to the same group of potential customers. When you follow your competitors around, you’re essentially forgoing scenario one and guaranteeing scenario two.
Competitor research is a great way to get ideas. You can find out through competitor research who your competitors are targeting and how. But it’s a terrible basis for ultimate decision making. Instead, begin by targeting the same people in a different way, or try targeting a different group of people with their tactics. Then expand based on what works. In the end, you should be so successful they start looking to you for new ideas.