Who is Your Competition on the Web?
Who are your competitors? You think you know. You don’t know or realize though! I will explain.
Usually when people refer to their competitors they name a few businesses from the same industry who sell the same products or services as them. This might be true for the offline world but
on the Web there are much bigger competitors. Who are they?
This is for many search engine results the most common list of competitors:
- Mainstream media
- Content farms
- Shopping search engines
- Corporate bloggers
- Your actual competitors
Your actual competitors who sell the same stuff you offer do not have to be at the end of this list, it depends on the niche, keywords and how competitive they are.
Other small businesses are by far not your most important competition.
Besides, your industry peers are not necessarily just rivals. You can work together for the benefit of all parties involved. I’ll explain below.
Embracing outgoing links and social media shares
That’s one of the main differences between SEO and SEO 2.0: in old school SEO people believed that they have to hoard PageRank and never link out at all, not to mention to competing sites.
When blogs and social media finally arrived in business circles most sane people have abandoned this approach.
These days the SEO industry has a whole blogosphere of its own which is highly interlinked both by hyperlinks and real life links between humans.
Also most SEO specialists are heavy users of social media and sharing links by their peers all of the time.
and all kinds of other social media outlets have been embraced by the SEO practitioners early on.
Your most dangerous competition are the big guys, as you see in the list above at least nine of these mentioned above are big guys.
Google is the elephant in the room you directly compete with. It’s not just search, it’s the attention economy. As Aaron Wall correctly points out Google is grabbing more and more real estate in the search results.
Ads hide actual results
Many users won’t even notice your organic search results before they click a Google ad or one of the myriad of their other properties and services.
You can’t compete with Google! You can try to buy your way into Google ads but when Google chooses to display their other services on top of yours you lost.
You have to focus on a keyword Google hasn’t usurped completely yet.
A huge competitor is also Wikipedia, the greatest content farm of all that successfully poses as a non-profit while earning money “by donations” and not paying their contributors.
Wikipedia will outrank your site in most cases even when it’s ridiculous. Search for [film] or even [films] and Google will serve you a Wikipedia entry which explains what a film is on top.
Additionally Google will show content from Wikipedia and other sites on top the actual results. This way there is no need to even click a link to third party sites anymore. The responses on Google suffice.
Mainstream media has overtaken blogging
Another even more disturbing competitor is mainstream media. They do not only cover news anymore these days, they are frantically searching for SEO opportunities as well so that they will rank on top for queries like [iPad].
Amazon and Ebay are also almost everywhere and either you join them or you risk obscurity for many keywords and phrases.
Many people have written about content farms and the Google quality update aimed at curbing their prominence in Google results.
Even though Demand Media’s eHow and About.com by the NYT have lost a bit after the second part of the update called “Panda” hit them they still thrive. Demand Media, owner of eHow, has stunned experts with its recent numbers.
Shopping search engines have been hit hard by the latest update but they are still competition you have to watch closely. Price comparison sites are often at the forefront of modern SEO. You need to know what they are doing to be able to cope with changes.
A-list bloggers and industrial strength spammers seem like an unlikely couple to mention together but they are both more important than you.
Try to rank in the technology sector and a-list bloggers will make you humble. You can’t compete with giants Engadget, Gizmodo out of nowhere.
Tech blogs owned by large corporations have whole teams of writers frantically covering the latest gadgets.
Try the same thing in the pharmacy business online and you’ll face a huge onslaught of spam infested sites and hacked pages redirecting you do the spammer’s shops.
Spammers are faster than the search engines and they’ll always find a loophole. While they might disappear on one day they will reappear on the next with another site or hijacked blog.
How to compete with giants
Now, how can you compete with all of them? There are two ways to do so. The most common one is:
If you can’t beat them, join them: Pay for Google ads, contribute to Wikipedia, send out press releases to journalists, set up an Ebay and Amazon shop, add articles to article directories or other content farms, guest blog on a-list blogs and buy links.
There is also a new way, the SEO 2.0 way: Joining forces with other bloggers or peers, sometimes your actual competitors. You can outrank the big guys by working together with other bloggers.
I have done that in the past by joining a group of bloggers determined to help each other but I always preferred the intuitive SEO 2.0 way of cooperation. It’s been called mutual aid prior to the Internet.
I link out to my peers or “competitors” and they link back to me.
Not all of them do, but some of them do and some even give back more than they get because once you give and get a few times you stop counting. You just share resources as in real life with friends and family.
Cooperation not competition is the only way bloggers and small businesses can compete with their real competitors from big business and big media, big Google included.
Last updated: April 3rd, 2017.
AMEN ! ! !
This article wakes me up and made me realise that Wikipedia IS a competitor for me for certain keywords.
You are right, internet marketing is about building community if you are not large like big companies. Join them to build your own community for your SEO.
I often encounter clients who are hoping to rank better locally, so they only look at local competitors and forget that there are a lot of potential customers who don’t search for “Pittsburgh widgets”, they search for “widgets”. A local apartment site for example, will not only have to compete with other local apartment listings, but the giants like apartments.com. It can be done, but requires outside the box thinking. Joining forces with other small competitors as well as those who are not direct competitors but are in overlapping markets can help even “the little guy” succeed.
Mike: Thank you for the kind feedback!
Kent: Creating a community is the next step. Even a loose connection with a few like minded individuals can often work wonders.
Nick: Also consider local search. Locally (via Universal search blended results) you can even rank for one word keywords like “shoes” in your area.
yea, thanks for the sharing with the updated info. Everybody is now depending each other to get better ranking in Search Engine. Previously, we are doing SEO for our own only. Today, a new site is hard to survive if it is not a fresh content, if the owner does not share (using the organic way), if the owner has limited budget. owh~ another challenging world.
Yeah I thought Google were going to give a lot more weight to local results and through them into the mix with the normal search results?
You always give me great ideas that I can bring to mgmt. at my office.
Would doing both “If you can’t beat them, join them” and “Joining forces with other bloggers or peers” be a good way to go? Or just focus all efforts on one?
Ted: Good question. I think it depends on the site and the market it’s in. I can join forces in some niches while I can’t in others.
Joining your enemies is a sign of your weakness though. You have to strive to be able to survive without them, aka PPC etc.
Agree with what you are saying:
The web is a unique social experiment which has promoted co-operation from the outset.
Surprised to see no mention of the opportunities for co-operation using the social media tools (linked in, facebook etc) at our disposal to actually be able to get directly in touch with anybody with an account.
The competition maybe Google, Wikipedia or any other big Fortune company but they are best at their job and we are at ours so we can outrank them it just needs a proper strategy.
Its really a good idea to join the competitors that you can,t defeat, get back links from them which definitely would held in ranking you batter.