It is said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. In the business world, believing that little idiom is amazingly naive. Commercially, imitation can lead to massive drops in your sales figures. It can also mean a drastic reduction in your profit margins as it is imitation that gives birth to price wars. Unfortunately, there aren’t many things that a business can do to deal with this form of “flattery”. Or, is there a way to deal with those unoriginal but tricky competitors?
Tricky Competitors That Won’t Cease Being Your Shadow
The competitors behind you do have the advantage of running behind you. If you look back in this race, you’re likely to stumble and tumble. At the very least, the moment you turn back to look at the contenders, you will slow down enough for them to overtake you. Track and field analogies aside, there isn’t a lot you can do about a pesky and unprincipled competitor who has decided to hang on to your coattails.
What you can do, however, is learn their sneaky marketing tactics. You can try to turn the same tactics around on them or find a way to counter them. The former would be counterproductive. You’re ahead because your strategies work and they’re copying you for the same reason. Therefore, the trick is to find a way to counter their techniques.
What do you need to focus on? The following is a list of elements you should focus on in the order of increasing severity.
#1 Your Content Strategy
Every modern successful business knows that when it comes to online marketing, content really is king. Hence, content strategy is one of the first things that most businesses focus. Similarly, established online businesses make their content strategies the primary component of their marketing campaigns.
Sadly, your tricky competitors also know this. When an unscrupulous competitor decides to target your business, the very first thing they’ll focus on is your content strategy. What they’ll try to do is imitate your content strategy simply because it is working. After all, they have a similar business model, are operating in the same industry, and are targeting the same customers.
The only way to deal with this problem is to base your content strategy on such quality that it cannot be reproduced by someone else. It is very much possible for you to create such content provided you know how. There are already numerous guides on how (e.g. Moz and Backlinko) you can go about this but what you also need to ensure is that your special content is branded.
#2 Your Backlink Profile
Your backlink profile holds importance because it is one of the major parameters used by search engines to rate and rank your website. The basic premise of this element of Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is that the size and quality of your backlink profile will define where you stand on search engine result pages.
The problem is that your backlink profile is in the mainstream. This means that your competitors can easily study your backlink profile. They then approach the same third-party websites with similar content to get a backlink of their own. They can even try to have your link replaced with their own.
You don’t have to worry about this sneaky tactic of tricky competitors, though. The reason they’re tracing your backlink profile is that you’re ahead. All you need to do to beat this sly game is stay ahead i.e. continue your backlink creation efforts.
#3 Your Earned Media and Public Relations Efforts
Earned media can be defined as media mentions that are not paid. These are organically encouraged mentions that media organisations include within their editorial pieces. The key thing here is that earned media mentions are similar to public relations exercises and that they’re not advertisements.
Earning natural media mentions can be difficult. The most difficult aspect of earned media is finding a media organisation or media professional who is open to your suggestions. It requires a lot of networking and identifying the right people.
Your competitors, however, don’t have to go through that difficult process. They can simply study your earned media mentions and try to get the same. There isn’t anything that you can do about this except building strong interpersonal relationships with the media professionals you’re in touch with.
Your competitors will find it naturally difficult to get similar earned media mentions because such mentions tend to be time-sensitive and highly event-specific. Having stronger interpersonal relationships will just help you discover which competitors are trying to be sneaky.
#4 Their Click Farm Campaigns
When faced with defeat and the prospect of loss of funds, it isn’t uncommon for tricky competitors to turn into truly malicious competitors. When this happens, your competitors will stop trying to one-up you and will instead try to pull you down. At this point, they’ve realised that they can’t compete with you.
Click farms are usually what such competitors resort to first. Click farms are designed for people who want to target others’ search advertisement budgets. The method is simple. They pay someone to click on all your search engine advertisements so as to increase your outlay.
The idea is to force you to stop using that channel. Once you stop, they’ll step into the breach and benefit from the void left by you. It is possible for you to monitor the clicks on your advertisements and even get reports so that you can present the same to the search engine when you get ridiculous bills.
#5 Their Negative SEO Agents
Click farms are simplistic in their efforts to get you to spend more. There is something even more pernicious than click farms and it is called negative SEO. Search engines have positive parameters and negative parameters on the basis of which they judge your online assets. When you do SEO, you’re trying to build your reputation in their eyes on the basis of positive parameters.
Tricky competitors can be insidious enough to try to tag those negative parameters onto your online assets. For instance, a link to your website placed on a blacklisted website will instantly cause your search rankings to drop. Similarly, a link on an adult entertainment website may see you disappear from search engine results completely.
There are other ways of doing negative SEO. The best way of preventing negative SEO from affecting your business is to monitor your SEO profile at all times. There are software suites and even web apps out there designed to help you do just that. It can be a natural part of your SEO campaign because monitoring your SEO efforts will also reveal low hanging fruits that you can leverage.
#6 Their Hackers
We’ve saved the worst for last – hacking. Hiring hackers to bring down specific websites for good is becoming easier as the World Wide Web has become omnipresent in every walk of life.
Losing your business’s online storefront can be incredibly disastrous to not only its bottom line but also its brand value. While this may be the most malicious tactic that your tricky competitors can employ, it also remains the easiest to defend against.
You just need the right security net around your online assets. You need to protect your servers with the right security tools. For example, DDoS attacks are very dangerous but you can install a sufficiently advanced firewall on the server side to protect yourself.