Different businesses and different industries approach competition differently. I have a friend who sells cookware; she and her competitors get together and trade recipes. I’ve also worked with people who exulted when their competitors had problems, and wouldn’t care to trade with customers who also went to the competition.
Whatever your attitude toward your competitors, you should get some information from their websites. You can learn a lot from it.
For example, let’s say that you have an amazing new technology for cleaning medical waste.
You probably don’t, I realize. Few people do. That’s one reason that I’m so excited about the Ozonator, which is an environmentally friendly new way to clean up biohazardous waste. It doesn’t really matter what you sell, though — paint, tutoring, biohazardous waste management solutions, it’s all the same process.
So let’s say that you have a new biohazardous waste disposal system, and you want to check out your competitors. First you have to find them. Head for your favorite search engine. Use your keywords, certainly, but also get creative and try out other terms. I found redbag.com (I’m not linking to them because they automatically play an irritating video, but I appreciate their serving as my example competitor).
Use View>Page Source on your toolbar or by right-clicking on the page to find their source code, and see what keywords they’re using. The place you’re looking for will look like this:
Now, I don’t think that people searching for “red” are necessarily looking for biohazardous waste management solutions, but your competitors’ keywords can give you ideas for your own, or they can help you find more possible competitors.
I can also go ask Yahoo Site Explorer what links they have. Actually, RedBag.com had no inlinks at all, but another competitor had some:
We ask Yahoo because Google is notoriously unwilling to tell us. Yahoo isn’t shy. Look at the screenshot here to see how to put in your request. Then you can use the drop down menus to narrow or expand your focus. Examining these results will tell us what kind of linking strategy our competitor is using: paid ads and directories, perhaps, or reciprocal links, or maybe lots of bloggers talk about them. If we’re in luck, this will lead us to good places to ask for links. For example, if our competitors are listed by a health organization, we can write and say that we noticed they’ve listed So and So, but they’ve left us out. Will they please add us? This often works very well.
While you’re at your competitors’ websites, you’ll want to examine them in the way you normally do examine competitors, and get the usual lessons you look for when you check out the competition. But you can also look behind the scenes, and get a little extra data that can help with your online marketing efforts. I listed a few other tools for this purpose in an earlier post on learning from competitors, if you want to read further.