Know Your Competition: How to transfer business skills into the internet marketplace
One of the first things to do before starting up any business is to investigate the competition. Any business owner knows this is crucial; to determine how to position a business in the market, who to target, what prices to set and who to keep an eye on. The same is true of the internet marketplace.
However, this understanding is rarely transferred when a business decides to ‘go online’. Perhaps the initial setup is so daunting that little thought is spared for anything beyond the layout and content of a website. The internet, however is still a marketplace, and one that is growing exponentially. Those same business skills need to be put to use here too.
If you want to learn from the success of your competitors you first need to think like a search engine. By mimicking popular keywords and phrases you can benefit from traffic that would otherwise be directed to your competitors sites.
Keywords are contained in what are called ‘Meta Tags’. These are tags that are found in the source code at the top of a webpage and include descriptions, titles and key words. Search engines use this information (in addition to content) to rank your page for different search strings. You can access this information by viewing the source of any website, just simply select ‘View’, and ‘Source’ from the toolbar.
If after looking at this code you fear it resembles some alien language, do not despair! There are many programs available that will search competitors’ sites for this information and provide a full report: in plain English. Just look for anything about Search Engine Optimization (SEO), it is one of the new hot topics; and you will be swamped with products. The danger is to believe too much of the hype, don’t pay for promises; search engines are not as easily tricked as we are!
Another key ingredient is links. Your page will be ranked favourably if it is viewed by the search engines as being an authority on a given subject. Links work a bit like votes, if someone links to your site they are effectively ‘casting a vote’ of approval. However the weight of this vote is affected by how many other sites they link to, so beware of ‘link farms’ (pages contained entirely of links) because they will not help improve your site’s positioning. The easiest way to obtain links is through online directories – although people may not visit your site directly through these links, it will help with overall search engine positioning.
Returning to the competition; you can discover who is linking to other sites by using an online link popularity checker. This way you can try and get these sites to link to you also. Remember, directed traffic is the best, so aim for links from sites which contain similar content to yours. If you are a business selling stamps, your best links would be from stamp appreciation pages – obvious really.
The internet has been established for a while now. It is no longer an unknown jungle. As a new business entering this arena you can learn from other people’s successes as well as their mistakes!