Business are always competing with each other for customers, and online business is no different. However, online business presents unique opportunities for businesses to capture market-share from competitors that would not be possible online.
In online marketing, it’s possible to tailor your campaigns in a way so that your business appears precisely when customers are searching for competitors and competing products. In short, it’s possible to “steal” your competitors website traffic.
Once you have the customer’s attention, the name of the game is to demonstrate why your products or services are a better choice versus another competitor. Product positioning is a post for another day though. Today, we’re going to focus on how to capture the attention of customers searching for a competitor. We’re going to share ways that you can steal traffic.
Targeting Competitors’ in Search Engine Ads
Using Google Adwords or other search engine advertising, it’s possible to bid for the advertisements that appear on the right edge of the screen during a specific search. For example, if someone types “blue widget”, you can tell Google to show your ad. But you can do the same if someone types “competitor X”.
Since the demand for these keywords is not high, they’re often available for a fairly low price compared to product-specific searches. Advertising space next to the results of other product related keyword searches can cost 5-10 times as much.
Although you can bid on competitor brand names in order to show your ads to their customers, it is usually best to keep these keywords out of your ad copy. Brand names are typically trademarked and are allowed to be used only in certain ways that the company allows. It is best to avoid the whole legal mess and just stick to generic terms in your ad copy, and some search engines have algorithms built in to disapprove ads that use competitor trademark terms.
Advertising on a Competitor’s Website
The ads that display on the search engine results page are not the only ones that you can use to steal traffic from your competitors. In some cases, it can be possible to run your ad on a competitor’s website by tapping into the advertising network they’re using to power their on-site ads.
For example, many websites use Google’s ad network to power their on-site ads. Checking a competitor’s website can tell you whether they run Google ads on their own site because the links for the ads will typically contain Google or DoubleClick (which Google owns).
If a competitor is running Google ads on their business web page, you can get on their site pretty easily.
- Setup a “Display Network” ad campaign with Google’s system
- Then, target these ads at the competitor’s website specifically
If the competitor isn’t filtering out specific competing websites such as your own, then your ad will start showing on their site. Most competitor’s that show ads on their own website are likely not sophisticated enough to filter the ads that are shown. But just to be sure you’re not found out, you can configure your ad campaign to not be shown to users in the city or state that the competitor is located in. In short, this means that your ad isn’t going to be seen by anyone in their offices that happen to be looking at their website.
Comment on Their PR / Guest Blog Posts
Some competitors might have PR budgets that you simply can’t match. Rather than competing directly with them for mentions in the press, you can piggyback on their hard work by being the first to comment on their posts across the web.
By creating a Google Alert for their brand name or representative of their company that regularly publishes content to other industry publications, you can be the first to know of the post being published online and (hopefully) be the first to comment on their post.
While you should not use blatant self promotion in these comments, it can be a great opportunity to engage the audience in conversation about the topic being discussed and build your brand alongside the competitor’s.
Proceed with Caution – But Proceed!
While it’s important to be aware of all of the tactics available to you in online marketing, it’s important to use them carefully and think through the ramifications of your actions. While these tactics can be used in incredibly effective and legitimate ways to build your brand, there is also the risk of pushing these to the extreme and experiencing legal or ethical backlash.
Mike Anderson is Social Media Coordinator for Koeppel Direct, a leading U.S. DTRV agency that provides media buying expertise for organizations. This Direct Response Marketing company was founded in 1995 and has experienced significant growth ever since.