You know what never goes out of fashion?
The high road.
Take it. I dare you. It may be way less satisfying than a life-long effort to dethrone one of your competitors, but even if you enjoy a few small victories here and there (or even the occasional epic victory), you still come out the other end looking like a total fool.
Probably not the look you were going for.
It's why our parents taught us to play nice. To win with grace. To (all together now) take the high road. Because it's not fun being on top if you had to stomp on people to get there. In fact, that doesn't make you a winner at all ... it makes you a massive loser. So if you've got a competitor that's doing any of the things in this blog post, take heart in knowing that they are, indeed, acting like a total jerkazoid. Thanks to the magic of the internet, it's a whole lot easier for everyone else to see their true colors, too. And if you find yourself guilty of any of these, you might want to reconsider the lovability of your marketing.
1) Bidding on Your Branded Keywords
When someone types one of your branded keywords into a search engine -- your company name, for example -- it's pretty fair to assume they're looking for ... well, you. I mean, unless your company name is shared by a bunch of other businesses, it's kind of a given that you're going to show up in the top search results. Why? Because Google's in the business of providing the most relevant results possible, and they know your website is the most relevant result for a search for your company.
That's why it's a total shmuck move for a competitor to try to outrank you for your own company name. And often, they try to do it using PPC -- bidding on branded terms that are undeniably associated with your company, cloaking themselves to trick the searcher into thinking they're really you, and desperately trying to take just a little share from you in the SERPs. Share that you earned, fair and square.
Misleading searchers and wasting your money?! Nice move!
2) Stealing Your Content
On the other end of the spectrum, there are competitors who know you're an awesome content creator and totally promote your content! And by "promote," what we really mean is "steal." As in, they leave out the minor detail that you actually created the content, and they just republished it. Yeah, copying and pasting is totally the same amount of effort as hours of researching, thinking, writing, and formatting.
That's right, it's a sleazy thing to do considering how much time and effort content creation takes, but it happens all the time. You write an amazing ebook, a competitor grabs the content, rebrands it, and pretends they did all the work. Or perhaps you write a fantastic blog post, and they decide to hop on the bandwagon and do a slight reword of your content so they don't get dinged for duplicate content in the SERPs ... and then don't give you any props for the mindshare.
The thing that stinks the most about this scenario is that there's so much content on the internet, it's kind of easy to get away with this. Yes, maybe a handful of shrewd readers might pick up on the glaring similarities -- or outright plagiarism -- but this is one of those situations where you just have to rise above, and remember that in this day and age, nice guys and gals don't finish last.
3) Copying Everything You Do
There are ways competitors can copy you other than through your content. They could recreate your homepage, your pricing structure, your design scheme ... pretty much anything. Honestly, I'm not sure if this is worse than stealing content or not. Sure, imitation is a form of flattery, but there's a fine line between getting inspiration here and there and adapting an idea for your own benefit, and just straight up copying it. I mean, do you have any idea how much effort goes into determining a pricing structure, for example? I actually don't ... I just know it's a ridiculous amount of time, and requires lots of people with really expensive degrees to figure out. So it's kind of slimy to just sit back as a competitor figures out all the hard stuff, and then just snag it when they're finished.
But if you ever suspect one of your competitors is blatantly copying some aspect of your business, ask them to show their work, just like your high school math teacher! Bet they can't explain why they made any of the changes they made ;-)
4) Leaving Links to Their Content on Your Content
This is just sad :-/
When you put a link in the comments section of almost every blog on the internet, it's a "no follow" link. That means, while you may think you're getting link juice to your own site by leaving a generic comment on a blog and including a link to your website, you're really just screaming out to readers "Hey! I don't know how the internet works! Also, I'm trying to grab some of my competitor's readers in a really blatant, lazy way!"
Gain competitive market share by creating marketing people love. Not by link spamming.
5) Grabbing Branded Domain Names and Social Media Accounts
Remember when we talked about branded terms in the beginning of this post? It's possible you'll want to use one of your branded terms to launch a microsite, a Twitter account, a Facebook page, what have you. And sometimes, your competitors remember that and grab those accounts before you have the chance. Classy.
There's technically nothing wrong with this. Technically. But that doesn't mean your competitors don't look like total, absolute, and utter shmucks for doing it. Look, if you want to win the inbound marketing game, you don't need to resort to cheap tactics. Win your game fair and square -- victory will taste much sweeter.
6) Talking Smack
This one's pretty straightforward. If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all. There's no glory in calling out a competitor and berating them in your marketing. Even if it feels cathartic, you're actually dragging yourself down with them -- you look petty, even. Whether it's something in particular that's making your blood boil or they just generally grind your gears, don't let your emotions get the best of you and start talking smack to leads and customers -- the general public has gotten pretty good at identifying inappropriate behavior and calling out companies on their own. And if you find yourself the target of such sentiments from one of your competitors, take comfort in knowing that they're the ones that look ridiculous, not you!
7) Telling Flat Out Lies About You
Have you ever hopped on a sales call with a lead who is also considering a competitor's solution, only to have them spill a boatload of lies that have been fed to them right from said competitor? You probably have, right? That is so the wrong way to approach marketing and sales, because when a lead figures out you were lying, they lose all trust in you. Why would anyone want to turn their money over to a company that's selling something based on false pretenses? If your competitor ever stoops this low -- to include flat out lies about your company in their marketing materials or sales conversations -- politely explain the truth to your leads, and for goodness sake, never stoop to their level!
What else can turn a competitor's marketing from good-natured to shmucky?
Image credit: uselessid
Originally published Sep 6, 2012 9:00:00 AM, updated March 21 2013