Remember hearing the story about lemurs? Every year around a certain time they jump off a cliff. However, one would think that at least one lemur would look over the cliff and say, “Hmm, I don’t think I’m going to follow the crowd in jumping off the cliff.” It seems like it would be common sense, yet it happens in the world of online marketing time after time. The rule of thumb to remember when marketing online is that following the crowd isn’t always the best option, especially when it comes to keywords and websites.
If it’s been said once, then it’s probably been said a thousand times, “I saw my competitor doing it.” This seems to be the classic answer that companies use to justify their marketing strategy or what they think is a marketing strategy. Let’s look at an example. Say Company A is a leader in providing offshore outsourcing to software companies and they are bidding on the keyword “offshore.” Company B, who wants to gain in market share and be a leading provider of offshore outsourcing to software companies, see’s that Companies A’s ad is coming up for searches on the keyword, “offshore” and Company B decides they also should be bidding on that keyword. Company B is assuming that Company A is bidding on the right keyword, but they aren’t. The keyword “offshore” covers a myriad of topics like offshore drilling, offshore banking, offshore racing, and offshore boating to name a few. The keyword “offshore” is too broad for the niche service of offshore outsourcing to software companies. Both Company A and Company B will be losing money on the keyword “offshore.” Like a popular proverb says, “If the blind lead the blind they’ll both fall in the ditch.”
Another area where companies blindly follow a competitor is in website design and content. Many times a company will see what a competitor is doing on their website and mimic it as closely as possible without plagiarizing. Here’s the deal. Many times the competitor’s website isn’t good. They don’t have good keyword density, the site isn’t user friendly, and the url’s don’t have a good naming convention. In some cases, the competitor is using black hat tactics that could get them banned by the search engines. Yet, another company will look at a competitor’s site and say, “we want to be like them.”
In some cases, the company that copies ends up losing clients, while the competitor makes adjustments to the site that others are copying.
It’s good to track and watch competitors, but to blindly follow and copy them is not recommended. Many times competitors are bidding on the wrong keywords, wasting money, and are clueless on how to run a successful paid marketing campaign. On top of that, they may think their website is great or they may realize it needs help and they are working with someone to get it changed (while your company is copying their old mistakes). In the world of online marketing it’s better to research and ask questions. Then decide if what your competitor is doing will work for your company. It’s good to be cautious when following a competitor; otherwise you could be following them over a cliff.