Today’s Ask An SEO question comes from Peter, who asks:
“What’s the risk of focusing on what competitors are doing, as opposed to charting your own path? If all competitors are looking at each other, there’s no differentiators.”
Great question, Peter! And one that comes up a lot.
If a company is focusing on what its competitors and industry leaders are doing, it is not creating a better user experience and better solutions for search engine queries.
It goes beyond having no differentiators, but the idea is the same: If everyone is equal, there can still only be one winner.
That includes position one in SEO, but also who a top funnel affiliate promotes based on it being unique, which company gets the SMS and email subscriber because it has a better UX, etc.
But before I go into detail about your question, there are two important things to watch for with your competitors.
Always Watch What The Leader Is Doing, And Who Is Mimicking Them
When you know what the leader is doing, and who follows the leader, you can see trends and patterns as they fall and gain.
This gives you insight into what does and does not work.
By the time you know whether it makes sense for you to try something, you have had time to learn by watching others’ mistakes, while you used the time to create a better overall website.
Make Sure The Pages They’re Testing And Changing Are Important For SEO
I, and a few of my peers, mark pages on client sites that are not important for SEO.
We test them for other channels, knowing SEO traffic isn’t important for the specific page. We also know competitors are looking at these pages and will make the same changes.
When the changes are made, the competitors shoot themselves in the foot, and we pull further ahead.
A great example is a company with a large amount of branded search traffic.
If branded search is the main traffic driver to the homepage, and a couple of collections or categories, SEO on that page likely isn’t important.
These are the ones where we’re going to test UX and average order value (AOV). Our tests will not worry about what happens with SEO, since the branded traffic will find it anyways.
Our competitors normally don’t think about this and damage themselves. At times we’ve done this on purpose to get ahead of them.
On the other end, if everyone is looking at the leader (and each other), and you’re doing something different, you may be in the clear to get ahead of the curve.
Non-SEO pros in those companies may be saying, “But they’re doing this, there has to be a reason for it,” and following suit.
That gives you a clear way to do your own thing and stay off their radars.
If this is your situation, use it to your advantage.
Create a lightning-fast site with clear messaging that says exactly what the page is about.
Now, add in supporting documentation, an easy checkout, trust builders, related content (if you’re a publisher), and features that other sites are missing.
Features could be lifestyle shots, testimonials, FAQs, specs, or even extra copy blocks that share uses for the product and compatibility information.
When everyone is focusing on each other, you can use this opportunity to do what they’re missing and focus on winning.
This situation also gives you a chance to look up related searches, entities, and complementary topics.
Once you have them, create related videos for YouTube and see if you can find influencers and content creators to bring attention to your content while your competitors are all doing the same thing.
You doing something different becomes more appealing because it is unique in the space.
By focusing on your own path, you set yourself up for success.
And by keeping an eye on what everyone else is doing, you can learn from their mistakes – especially if they crash and burn themselves.
When they do, jump in and take over.
And don’t just think about SEO – look at it from all marketing standpoints.
I hope this helps.
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