Competition – Meet the Frenemies

We’re going to take a look at who they are, what they’re doing, and how to profit from them. Sometimes your competition can be your best friend in the business. Read on…

Who’s your real competition?

If you’re going to beat them, you have to know who they are. But it’s not as simple as searching Google for your main keywords and listing the top 10 results. You really have two kinds of competitors.

SERP Competition

SERP = Search Engine Results Page

These are those awful websites that are ahead of you in the search results. You absolutely need to appear on the first page of search results to have any kind of organic traffic. So every site in the first 10 results on Google is your competition. We’ll be discussing how to deal with these folks in the Marketing section of the book. (Yes, I see SEO as a marketing activity.)

Business Competition

These are the websites on page 1 of the SERPs that do what you do for a living. To clarify – some of the results for a given keyword are not really your business competition. They’re just in your way on the SERP. Here’s an excerpt of a SERP for a keyword near and dear to my heart: Binocular Microscopes

1. binocular microscope - definition of binocular microscope by the ... - CachedNoun, 1. binocular microscope - a light microscope adapted to the use of both eyes. light microscope - microscope consisting of an optical instrument that ...

2. Optical microscope - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia - CachedIn industrial use, binocular microscopes are common. Aside from applications needing true depth perception, the use of dual eyepieces reduces eye strain ...

3. binocular microscope | eBay - CachedeBay: binocular microscope. ... Related Searches: binocular stereo microscope, binocular, stereo microscope, microscope, binocular compound microscope ...

4. What is a Binocular Microscope? - CachedBrief and Straightforward Guide: What is a Binocular Microscope?

5. Binocular Microscopes - CachedBinocular Microscopes are in stock and ready to ship! Visit our website or call toll free for more information: 800 962 6437.

6. 1000x Monocular/Binocular Biological Laboratory Microscope - built ... - CachedBiological Laboratory 1000X Monocular/Binocular Microscope With Built-In Mechanical Stage. Click on image to zoom. 1 Review(s). Availability: In stock ...

7. Binocular Compound Microscopes at Professional Microscopes and ... - CachedAccu-Scope Binocular, Trinocular and Digital Binocular Microscopes, Stereo Zoom and ....Binocular Microscope with 4 DIN achromatic parfocal objectives. ...

8. Trinocular microscope, binocular microscope, stereo microscope ... - Cachedtrinocular microscope, binocular microscope, stereo microscope, microscope lens, microscope accessories, trinocular, fiber optic illuminator, stereo zoom ...

9. Binocular ... - Biology at Clermont College - University of Cincinnati - CachedTo carry a microscope: first clear your desk to recieve the microscope, then grasp its arm firmly, lift and support under the base with other hand, set on a cleared ...

Competitive Analysis

So what do we see here? Not everyone is business competition. Results 1,2 & 4 are informational sites, and #9 is a university website. There are only 5 websites actually selling microscopes here.

If I am selling binocular microscopes, I really only need to get to position #5. I can’t imagine a business customer using eBay (at least not in my niche) and everyone else above #5 is informational.

It’s important to look at the SERP results from the standpoint of your customer. My customer in this case is in the market for a microscope, not looking to find out what they are. He is a business customer, and he will therefore be concerned with warranties, quality, and customer service.

Take a look at result #5 above. Notice that the search term is in the URL, bolded in the page title, it begins the description and the description itself is a call to action. If I am a busy engineer or purchasing agent, I am likely to go straight to that websi…. Oh wait. There’s a toll free number right there. It’s as if they’re trying to sell something.

In this case, there was not much work involved in deciphering the SERPs. I can see who they are. But that is just the beginning…

You’ll want to click through on all of your competitors to see what they are up to. Open up a document window, because you’ll need to take some notes.

For each of your business competitors, list the following:

  • Copy and paste their SERP result into your document. Now click through to their site. Right click on the page, and select “view source” (on a Mac use Command + U). You’ll see a page of incomprehensible spaghetti code.
  • Now hit Control+F (Command+F on a Mac) to bring up a search window and type in “title”. This is what you are looking for:

<title> <meta name="description" content=
<meta name="keywords" content=

These are the “metatags” for that website. They contain the “meta information” about the website. We’ll discuss this more in the Your Website section of the book.

  • Copy all of title, description and keywords and paste them under the SERP result. Go back to the website and look at the homepage. Do they have a phone number listed? Are the various trust signals in place?
  • Trust Signals = Images and text designed to give the visitor the conviction that the website they are visiting is trustworthy and a real business. Examples would be the BBB logo, UPS and Fedex logos, Visa/Mastercard/Amex logos, and Paypal.
  • Check out their About Us page – note any information they are giving away, such as physical location, sales figures, number of employees, building sq. ft., etc.
  • If they have a contact us form, submit a sensible query with a throwaway email address to see how they respond. This will give you a peek into their customer service practices.
  • Download any special reports, product literature, flyers, ads or brochures they are offering for free. If they have a newsletter, sign up for it. Make a folder on your hard drive and label it Competition/ Make a folder inside that with the Competitor’s name.
  • Where do their product offerings differ from yours? Where do they match up? If you are selling some of the exact same products, compare pricing. If theirs is lower, don’t take this as a signal to drop yours.
  • What about the items they are selling that you are not? Do they seem to be a good fit for you? If so, see if they list the manufacturer. If not, follow the procedures in the Product section of this book to try and track down a proper source.

The next technique can be a little scary, and doesn’t always work out, but you can just call them and ask them questions. Things like:

“How long would it take me to get (desirable item)? “
“Where would this ship out of?”
“Can you ship it Next Day?”
“What if I order a dozen, can you give me a discount?”
“ If I am re-selling these, can I get a discount?”
“Do you offer a warranty above and beyond the manufacturer’s warranty?”

You may find that not only are they a competitor, they can be a second source of product.

If they ask you who you are and why you are asking all these questions, there are only two permissible answers:

1) The truth
2) I’d rather not say.

Either answer will result in a quick search for your phone number in Google, if they have it on their caller I.D.

I get these kinds of calls from time to time, and I am very open. You see, from my standpoint I have a chance to expand my circle of contacts, and maybe work with these people.

Don’t lie. In fact, never lie to a supplier, a customer or a competitor. You know the saying “it’s a small world”? Well, internet marketing is even smaller. And e-commerce is smaller than that. And the part of e-commerce that deals with your product area is smaller still. You want a reputation as a stand-up guy.

Once you have all of this information on your business competition, you can develop a plan of attack to counter their offers if needed. In many cases you’ll find their offering surprisingly weak, their website outdated and hard to navigate, and so on. This is cause for joy. It tells you two important things:

1) There’s enough business in the market that even a bad website can pull orders.
2) At least that competitor will be easy to blow past once your site is up and running.

We talk more about what to do with all of this information in the Content Creation, Marketing & SEO and website sections of this book.

Working with your competition

Not as crazy as it sounds. One of our favorite suppliers is in direct competition with us. They are using a different business model, and our paths rarely cross outside of our business together.

Here’s some of the ways you can work with your competition to your mutual benefit:

1. Use them as a supplier. Maybe they actually stock items that you would prefer not to. Although you will not get the discount you would if you were stocking, it can be worth it not to bother with stock. Make sure that if at all possible, they include your packing slip with the shipment, so the end user sees the product as coming from you.

2. Exchange info about your mutual suppliers. They may have an inside line and access to information about new product releases. Be careful never to divulge information that you have promised to keep secret, or that you think could be confidential.

3. Use them as a customer. We have competitors that buy from us, and we buy from them, depending on who needs what, and what’s in stock.

4. They may have capabilities that you do not. One of my competitors does video demos of equipment, and can even do this live, while the potential customers watch from their computers. It provides a level of interaction that results in what we like to call a “high kill rate”. I am happy to split sales with him for access to this.