Use your competition to guide your search engine marketing

in Business

We all know that we shouldn’t copy our competitors in business and marketing. If you do everything the same as your competitors, you’re in some serious trouble!

Outright copying is usually pretty obvious, but what about for some of the behind the scenes stuff?  Like search engine marketing, for example? If you copy your competitors, no one will really notice.

You can save a lot of time and money by copying competitors’ search marketing tactics. They have already done the leg work for you.  And if you don’t copy them, you’ll get left behind. Right?


In search engine marketing, competitive research is a huge part of success. You DO have to know what your competitors are doing, but don’t take the route of blatant copying. It can be a huge mistake. Here’s why…

Your competitors might not know what they are doing

Sure, you can just copy your competitors’ keywords, get links on the same directories  and tick search engine marketing off your list.

For one, it’s not as easy as that. There are so many factors involved in search ranking. Copying does not mean that you will soon enjoy the same position in the search results.

But most importantly, how do you know that your competitors actually know what they are doing? How do you know that they hired a professional search marketer, or that they properly trained themselves? You don’t, and you could just be copying their mistakes.

  • You could copy their keywords. Only to find out that they are way too broad and don’t drive the kind of qualified traffic you want.
  • You could copy their linking technique, and since they are buying links, you decide to too. Only to find out that Google is not a fan of this technique, especially when it’s spammy and super irrelevant.


I was doing some search engine marketing work for a client a while back, and I saw first hand just how easy it would be to make a huge mistake simply by following the crowd.

Do any of you have listings on Google Places? Well, Google really doesn’t make it easy on small business owners. Getting blacklisted is super common (even if you’ve made an innocent mistake). And they have all kinds of rules and regulations that they only arbitrarily enforce.

One such rule is that you are only allowed to have your official business name in your title. NOT business name + keywords. When I was setting up the listing for my client, tons of the competitors had the keyword rich title. They just hadn’t gotten caught out. Had I just been copying tactics, I could have easily gotten the business’ Google profile deleted.

You can miss out on opportunities

In search engine marketing, the greatest opportunities lie where your competitors are not active. If you just straight up copy, you won’t take advantage of what they are not doing.

If there is a particular type of activity that they don’t engage in, such as blogging or social media, this is a golden opportunity.

If they have a content poor website, and you get yours fully pumped up, that’s a huge competitive advantage.

If they haven’t done proper keyword research, there could be all kinds of great keywords that they missed out on. Maybe keywords that are a better indicator that someone is actually interested in buying your product or service. Or a keyword that has less competition and will be easier to rank higher for.

So remember, as in all things marketing, don’t copy your competitors when you’re doing search stuff for your business. Do your research on them, and then figure out how your strategy can be even better.

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{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

MartinaIring September 7, 2011 at 2:56 pm

Thanks for the comment @photoshow I like how you emphasize the trial and error aspect of search marketing. It’s an ongoing process, but if you keep on learning, your site will keep on moving!

photoshow August 26, 2011 at 5:22 pm

Great article Martina! My challenge is that my competition uses my content but well I hope it is more important that you build on the brand. SEO for me is really trial and error as my service is very niche. I do check on competitors only as a comparison to guide me. Searching globally is great especially to a things from a different angle.

MartinaIring August 26, 2011 at 10:55 am

Totally agree! Use information from your competitors to guide you, not completely take over. This applies to any type of marketing situation. @onlineboxprinting

onlineboxprinting August 25, 2011 at 2:10 pm

I have noticed that sometimes checking what my competitors are doing helps a lot. But one should not spend a lot of time in researching what competitors are doing because not all the resources used by competitors will be useful for you. Anyway thanks for writing on a useful topic.

MartinaIring August 25, 2011 at 9:55 am

Thanks @janesheeba ! Doing well in search engine rankings definitely takes time and effort. I completely agree with you that just because the competition is strong doesn’t mean you shouldn’t bother trying. You might just have to try something a little different.

janesheeba August 24, 2011 at 10:55 pm

Sometimes (or indeed most of the times), trying to follow the route of an lister could demotivate you. Coz the competition will be tough and if you do not manage to cope up, it could be a waste of time; but it is still worth trying. On the other hand, as you say, it is very important to analyze a method rather than blindly following your competitor coz he/she could be on the wrong track! Nice one Martina 🙂

MartinaIring August 24, 2011 at 6:55 pm

@MARLdblE Marketing insect – too hilarious! Thanks for the comment Marlee 🙂

MARLdblE August 24, 2011 at 2:51 pm

Hey @MartinaIring ! This is what I’ve heard referred to as marketing insect – where one business copies the bad habits of another. It’s so detrimental to business owners. As you suggested, competitive recon is very important, but you have to know the difference!

MorganBarnhart August 24, 2011 at 12:39 pm

@MartinaIring Google also knows the difference between a content farm and someone who is actually just trying to target a specific individual or business. I have had many discussions with people who work directly with Google about using the title tag technique and they say Google has no problem with that. They don’t mind if you target those you want to target. In fact, in their Adwords, they encourage using targeted keywords – and A LOT of them! Google has no problem with using the keywords and tags that are necessary for your success, as long as you’re targeting very specific people and not a wide variety of people.

MartinaIring August 24, 2011 at 12:36 pm

@keepupweb Love the search globally tip Sherryl! A great way to get some more ideas. Thanks for the comment 🙂

MartinaIring August 24, 2011 at 12:35 pm

@MorganBarnhart Great explanation of keyword stuffing 🙂 Thanks for sharing the example! Absolutely this is perfect for your website, but my understanding for Google Places is that it’s not OK. I know that tons of businesses do it, but I guess I’m just being a stickler, especially with Google cracking down. I’ve heard of so many small businesses getting their listing deleted, for very innocent actions.

keepupweb August 24, 2011 at 9:22 am


You bring up some excellent points. I always advise clients to check out the competition and I always suggest looking globally. Don’t restrict your search to your local area. Someone across the globe may be implementing a great idea that you can get inspired by. As you point out, we can’t copyright and we should be innovative. Who knows. We may come up with an idea or fresh approach that our competitors missed.

MorganBarnhart August 23, 2011 at 5:47 pm

@MartinaIring Say I want to target New York SEO, I would put my title tag like this: “New York SEO | My Company Name” just like that. Google frowns and penalizes sites that do something like this, “New York SEO, SEM, Social Media, Internet Marketing, South Side | My Company”. That may have been too many words, but you get the idea. That’s called keyword stuffing and no matter where it is on your site, Google does not take kindly to keyword stuffing. Google wants you to be successful and they understand that targeting appropriate keywords is fine, they just don’t want you to go crazy with it. Been using this technique for the past several years and have never gotten penalized, in fact, quite the opposite. 🙂

MartinaIring August 23, 2011 at 5:40 pm

Thanks for your comment Morgan! I’m curious to know more about the single keyword idea that you bring up. This is the info I am going on from Google, and my understanding of it is that you can only use your business name, and not keywords. @MorganBarnhart

MorganBarnhart August 23, 2011 at 4:03 pm

Hey Martina!

Actually, it is ok to use one keyword in your title tag. There’s nothing wrong with it. It’s when you begin keyword stuffing your title that Google gets angry. Ranking for a single keyword in your title tag is actually a good idea and has helped many many many many many clients, it’s even helped my own business.

I do agree, though, that you shouldn’t blatantly copy your competition. It’s important to know what they’re up to, but there’s no way that you should do everything that they’re doing. It’d look awfully suspicious and besides, you don’t want to be a follower; map out your own personalized strategy.


MartinaIring August 23, 2011 at 12:06 pm

So glad it was helpful for you! @bodynsoil

bodynsoil August 23, 2011 at 6:19 am

Excellent post full of information that is very thought provoking. I love reading articles that make me go back to my blog/website and rethink what I am doing after learning something new. Thank you.

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