Keeping an Eye on the Competition — Sort Of

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keeping an eye on the competition

Most businesses put a huge focus on competitor research, and for good reason. Your competitors can tell you a lot about your industry, your progress, and give you ideas about where you want to be in the future and how to get there.

However, what many don’t consider are their indirect competitors. It’s true that they are not quite as important, but if you’re looking to get more advanced in your online marketing and want to get creative, analyzing your indirect competitors can offer you a lot of great information.

How to Find Indirect Competitors and the Benefits

Of course, before understanding what you can gain from your indirect competitors, you have to actually find them and know what “indirect” means in this context. Essentially, an indirect competitor can be considered someone who is in your industry, selling and marketing to your same audience, but they are not selling the same product or service as you.

For example, if you offer dental services an indirect competitor may be a toothpaste brand — same audience, different services. An article on Search Engine Watch discussed two major reasons why looking at indirect competitors could be beneficial:

  • Find untapped opportunities. Because direct competitors are doing similar things to your business, they don’t offer as much inspiration or new ideas as an indirect competitor might. This is where you’ll find new link building ideas, outreach opportunities, etc. that your competitors have not yet found, helping to set you apart. It’s also a great way to find new influencers when looking to build relationships online.
  • Understand your audience better. Part of success is understand how your product or service fits into a consumers overall plan. In many cases, your audience will be interested in your business and your indirect competitor’s simultaneously, so it’s important to see how you can compliment that and make the most of it. As Search Engine Watch states, “indirect competitors provide a larger test bed to see what has and hasn’t worked.”

So how do you find indirect competitors exactly?

Your best bet is to simply think outside the box and consider what other products/ services your audience would be interested in within your industry. A little bit of research and you should find a lot of examples. You can also ask yourself what alternate products/ services your audience may consider aside from whatever it is that you offer. When in doubt, search for competitive broad terms to see which companies are ranking well for your keywords.

Of course, these benefits don’t come without a little bit of work on your part. You have to make sure you’re gathering the right information about these competitors and then analyzing it and using it in the right way.

How to Use Indirect Competitor Information to Your Advantage

Much of the information you’ll want to gather from indirect competitors is very similar to what you’re probably already collecting from your direct competitors—backlink profile, content types and successes, social media considerations, keyword information, etc.

You can learn more about how to gather information from a direct competitor (which also applies to an indirect competitor.) How you analyze this information will also be similar. It’s what you might find that differs.

A few steps to getting the most from this data from indirect competitors include:

1. Make a List of all of the Indirect Competitors You Find

As discussed above, this could take some time. You should have a much larger number of indirect competitors than you do direct because the spectrum is so much broader. You have those who offer a similar product or service, a complimentary product or service, those that use similar keywords, and even those in your industry with a similar business model could sometimes be considered complimentary. Take some time to identify those who may be worth taking to step 2 below.

2. Rank Your List Based on Those with the Best SEO

This is where that research comes into play. Use tools like Open Site Explorer and SEMRush to help you see the SEO success of all the companies you’re thinking about for your indirect competitor list. It’s not going to be worth it to spend a lot of time on smaller businesses (although it never hurts to look), but some of the larger indirect competitors should help give you a lot of ideas and a lot of data to work with when analyzing and trying to think of new opportunities for your own company. You can learn more from an Inc. Magazine article found here about the kinds of information you can grab from competitors.

3. Consider Reaching Out for a Partnership

Finally, the more you understand your indirect competitors, the more you may get ideas about a partnership—a referral partnership to be exact. This works particularly well with complimentary companies. For example, a car dealership may want to partner with a car insurance company and hopefully each will offer referrals to customers for the other. A smaller scale example might be a flower shop partnership with a tailor. If you see an opportunity, reach out and talk!

Have you ever analyzed your indirect competitors? Did you find any new information or inspiration that you hadn’t found when analyzing your direct competitors?

Keeping an Eye on the Competition photo via Shutterstock

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