By Julie Friedman Bacchini
Let’s start even more basic than that question – do you know who your online competitors are? SPOILER ALERT: They might not be who you think they are and/or they might be different from your offline competitors!
During the course of any marketing strategy engagement, one of the first questions we always ask clients is simply – who are your top 3 competitors? The client will generally rattle off more than three company names and go on to explain each one’s position in their industry or market. We dutifully take down detailed notes of their responses to this query.
After that meeting, we will do our own investigation to determine who the client’s online competitors are and how the client currently stacks up against them, strictly in the digital space. The answers we bring back, we have found fairly often, are at least a partial surprise to our clients.
For this reason, we engage in regular reviews of competitor activity, both at scheduled intervals (which are typically determined based on the overall competitiveness of the client’s industry and geographic locations) and if we see something in data we review that warrants it.
An example of data prompting a closer look might be a sudden spike in AdWords click costs, when there has not been some larger systemic change rolled out.
We also encourage our clients to get more active in staying up to date on their digital competitive landscape. There are a few pretty easy ways to so this:
- Follow your competitors on social media.
- Sign up for their emails (if you feel more comfortable either use your personal email address or set up a generic Gmail email for just this purpose).
- Plan to search for your top 3 desired search terms monthly and see what is returned in the search results (it doesn’t hurt to do this on both Google and Bing and on computers and mobile devices too to see how results sets may differ).
- Set up Google Alerts for your competitors – get emails sent to you when Google indexes something about your competitors.
Bottom line is this – the competitive landscape can shift so quickly in the digital arena. It is a wise practice to try to keep abreast of major shifts so you can act or react accordingly. And, so you can avoid having your boss find out before you do.
Julie Friedman Bacchini is the president of Neptune Moon LLC, a full-service internet marketing and web design firm. She and her blog are regularly included in many top search marketing influencer lists. Julie has presented on topics such as web site experience, local search visibility and paid search both locally and at national industry conferences, including SMX East and PPC Hero. You can find Julie on Twitter @NeptuneMoon or reach her via email at email@example.com or telephone at 484-341-8181.