No matter what your niche is, there are certainly a few competitors’ websites which are already producing favorable results in your niche. So as you’re designing and optimizing your website, why not analyze what these competitors are doing in order to achieve their results so that you can use a similar approach to insure YOUR success in the online marketplace? You’ve probably heard the saying: “There’s no reason to reinvent the wheel,” and this saying certainly applies when it comes to developing your strategy for marketing your company website.
So in this article, we’ll be covering five reverse engineering strategies which you can use to learn and to benefit from the success of your competitors.
What's Reverse Engineering?
Simply put, reverse engineering is the act of analyzing an existing system, process or structure (whether it be a marketing system, or the structure of a website) and using the knowledge gained from that analysis to recreate a duplicate or similar system. Obviously, when reverse engineering your competition, you want to make sure that you’re not duplicating anything which is protected by copyright laws. However, when it comes to the systems used to optimize and to market website, most of the time you’re pretty safe from violating these laws.
Obviously, as you choose which of your competitors to analyze so that you can reverse engineer their approach, you want to choose those who are winning. You can find such competitors by doing keyword searches for the terms which your site is optimized for and seeing who is ranking first. You can also look at the competitors who are consistently spending advertising money on your keywords (see our article on Traffic Travis for details), since these competitors are probably also making a consistent profit off of those keywords. Once you find a few good competitors, here are five things you can do to reverse engineer their approach and duplicate their success.
#1: Analyze Their Link Building Strategy
Using tools like SEOpen, you can see exactly which websites your competitors are building backlinks from. SEOopen shows you the links as they are indexed by Yahoo, Google and by MSN. It also gives you the option of visiting those links and seeing exactly what type of content your competitors are associating with those back links. For example, when SEOpen displays the links which your competitor is building from an article submission site, you can click those links and view the articles which your competitor is creating and publishing.
This is also a great way to find relevant and quality sites which you can link to. Pay specific attention the sites which your competitors seem to have a lot of backlinks coming from…chances are they’re linking to these sites because they’re getting some quality traffic.
2#: Analyze Their Content Strategy
As you’re analyzing the sites which your competitors are linking to and the types of articles which your competitors are posting on article submission sites, you’ll want to look for common themes. Which keywords or phrases are your competitor’s using in their content? What topics are they publishing the most content about? What type of language are they using in their calls to action? By paying attention to the content strategy which your competitor is using to build quality back links and to attract traffic, you’ll save yourself a LOT of trial and error and be able to create content which will produce you the best results.
#3: Analyze Their Site Structure
Site structure is VERY important when it comes to creating a good user experience, optimizing your site for the search engines and for increasing conversions. Analyze the site structure which your competitors are using and ask yourself these questions: how are they making it easy for their visitors to find what they’re looking for? How are they directing the visitor’s attention towards their offers, their products or their email collection forms? How are they organizing their information so that the visitor has plenty of options for finding good content, but so that the visitor also isn’t overwhelmed by too many options?
Most important, pay attention to their use of graphics, video and flash features and as yourself how the appearance of the site might be contributing to the success of the site.
#4: Analyze Their Audience
Using Alexa.com, you can do a complete analysis of the visitors which are using your competitor’s website. This information is of untold value to you since it will help you get to know your potential customers. The more you know about your customers, the easier it will be for you to “speak their language” when you write content or create products and offers which will appeal to them. Using the “audience” feature on Alexa.com, you can find out the following information about the people visiting your competitor’s site:
- Education Level
- Geographical Location
- Family Size
You can also use the “clickstream” option to find out which OTHER sites your competitors’ visitors are coming from AND going to as they browse your competitor’s site. This is all information which is available to you for free and which can help you to reverse engineer your competitor’s marketing strategy.
#5: Analyze What’s Missing
This is by far the most valuable strategy for analyzing your competition: look for the needs within your market that your competitors are NOT fulfilling. For example, can you find forums where customers of your competitors are talking about your competitor’s products or services? Can you find reviews of your competitor’s products and services? If so, what are the customers complaining about? What’s missing that you could step in and provide? By identifying the chinks in your competitor’s armor and the unfulfilled customer needs within your marketplace, you could discover a whole new realm of untapped opportunity.
Beginning with the first of these strategies, start analyzing your competitors and finding out how you can leverage THEIR experience in order to increase your chances at success. You might be surprised at what you’ve been missing, and it could prove to be very profitable.
Want to Get into a Competitive Industry?
It’s very easy to tell if an online business owner is new to the game or experienced. How? Ask them what they feel about competition.
The new and unproven entrepreneur will be afraid of competition. They’ll have that “big idea,” but they’ll do a Google search and realize other people are already doing it. At this point, they give up, assuming there’s no way they can get into that market.
Well, they’re wrong. Competitive markets are some of the best markets to get into. Why?
A few reasons:
• The market is proven to be profitable. If it wasn’t there wouldn’t be competition.
• Competitors play off of each other. Instead of innovating, they copy whoever’s #1, leaving a massive hold in the market.
• Customers want variety. If everyone in the niche is doing the exact same thing in the exact same way, customers want to see a new business emerge.
And that’s where you come in.
But there’s a key to all of this:
Customers won’t want to help your business grow. You need to “appear” in the market offering exponentially more value than competitors, and coming from a new angle.
The key to thriving in a competitive market is two-fold:
1) Start from the top.
2) Deliver value in ways your competitors aren’t.
Starting from the Top
Starting from the top is absolutely crucial. If you’re going to get into a competitive niche, you have to start off at the same spot your competitors are currently at.
For example, if you wanted to build the next Facebook, you couldn’t throw out a half-assed product that looked like it was built in 1997. No one would ever use that service, since right out the gate, Facebook is already dramatically better.
In order to compete with Facebook, you have to start out at least at the same level.
No, this doesn’t mean you need a billion active users. It means your presentation has to match Facebook.
Yes, we’re talking about your site’s design and functionality.
When a customer visits your site, they’re immediately comparing it to the top dogs in the market. So if you were building the next Facebook, as soon as customers land on your site they’re comparing it to Facebook.
And where do your customer’s eyes go first? Your site design.
Therefore, if you really wanted to compete with Facebook, the first step is to get a design that’s AT LEAST as good as Facebook’s design. That way, customers aren’t immediately turned off by visiting a lower quality site.
And this is where you can stand out big time. Although Facebook is absolutely massive, in this situation, they would start out at a disadvantage presentation-wise. Why? Because they’ve already set the standard.
So now you can easily look at the standard and poke holes in it. What about Facebook’s design could be cleaner, more modern, more intuitive? Take extensive notes, then when designing your own website, answer all the issues Facebook has with theirs.
Deliver Exponentially More Value
This is the same as design, only it’s after the customer has made it past the initial judgment stage. By starting from the top, you’ve created a website that looks better than Facebook. This is crucially important, as it’ll make sure customers click through to the next part – actually using your service.
This is where you can really innovate.
Look for every problem people have with Facebook. Look at all the problems you yourself have with Facebook. Focus on EVERYTHING – from the largest, glaring flaws to the tiniest pet peeves. This is how you will stand out, by being better than Facebook at everything.
Too often, people think they need to do one thing better than competitors to get the edge. They think if they lower their prices, they’ll be ahead in the game. Not so – the only way to get ahead of an established competitor is to do EVERYTHING better.
And not just “better,” exponentially better. When people visit your site, they have to want it immediately. There is no selling involved, they simply want it at first glance.
By using this strategy, you can get into virtually any market. As we’ve shown, even in the ULTRA competitive world of social media you can take over the top dog. No, it’s not easy. And in this case, it would likely cost a significant amount of resources.
However, it’s easy to take this concept and apply it to a niche not as competitive as social media. By doing so, you can take any niche over, regardless of the competition.
How to Copy Others Ideas…
Well, that was a bold title.
Remember when Obama said, “you didn’t build that” and everyone went nuts? Turns out he was 100% right.
Because no one—NO ONE—does it alone. No one succeeds on their own. Yes, at the end of the day, a person’s success relies on their work ethic and ability to put themselves out there. However, success is only possible with the help of other people.
Think about it. Even if you created the best damn business ever with the best damn product ever, ALL BY YOURSELF, you’d still need other people. Why? You’d need customers!
Wow, that was quite the tangent.
Here’s the point – not only do you need other people to succeed, you need other people’s ideas!
Now, before you jump ship at that, let me explain.
I’m not talking about directly mimicking other people’s ideas. No, that would be stupid. Why? Because if you completely mimic someone else’s idea, the absolute best spot you can reach is second place.
This is what we see in the tech industry, big time. Think of all the Apple mimickers there are out there. How many of them are as profitable as Apple? None. This is because mimicking Apple directly will put you—at best—in second place.
“But didn’t you just say copying is key to business?”
Why yes… yes I did!
But I’m not talking about direct mimicking of other’s ideas. I’m talking about applying the concept behind those great ideas, and using that concept in your own business!
This is great news, because it means you can steal ideas from ANYONE and EVERYONE. They don’t have to be in your market, niche or whatever.
One of Apple’s core ideas is that technology should not be separate from the human experience. It should be a 1:1 extension. According to Apple, when you interact with technology, it should feel completely natural.
This is the CONCEPT that generates Apple’s greatest IDEAS. Think of it. Down to the very packaging, Apple is 100% dedicated to improving their user’s experience with technology.
We can apply that same CONCEPT to any business. When designing a smart phone app, for example, you could apply this CONCEPT directly, without directly mimicking Apple. It would simply be built in such a way that would be as intuitive for the user as possible.
The app would be designed from the ground up to be extremely intuitive based on what type of app it is. At every step of the design process, you could ask yourself the question, “do my users know what to do on this screen?” If there’s even a slight chance they didn’t, you would redo that screen until it was obvious what was the next step.
Your end product wouldn’t be anything close to an Apple product (despite the platform it was built on). But it would be very close—conceptually—to the idea that technology should be incredibly intuitive!
When you hear or see a good idea in action, don’t focus on the idea. Focus on the CONCEPT that led to that idea’s inception. If you use this perspective, you can easily get new ideas for your business, just by keeping your ears open!
And the best part is, you won’t be landing yourself in second place. No, you’ll be creating a completely new business from the ground up – a melting pot of CONCEPTS that are valuable to whatever business you’re developing.
This dramatically decreases the odds that competitors will be able to keep up with you. Why? Because they’ll be tempted to mimic your ideas. This will only serve to help you, as soon enough, your competitors will be reinforcing the quality of your brand over theirs.
So next time you’re looking for ideas for your business, stop. Instead, look for the concepts that are behind all the most successful businesses. Then use those concepts to generate brand new, 100% unique ideas for your own business.
Cookie Cutter or Customer Crusher?
For most business owners, the goal is always to reach new heights. As entrepreneurs, we are very difficult to fully satisfy. And, of course, that’s a good thing. Because it’s always pushing us to greater levels.
Oddly enough, even though the ultimate goal for most entrepreneurs is to make more money, or push their business to new heights, they don’t seem to know how to do that. Which is why the vast majority of businesses you see are relatively stagnant.
So what are they missing out on?
In a word, individuality.
Don’t mistake this for a kindergarten class where your teacher told you you were special. This is real world, and if you understand what we’re talking about here, you really can take your business to the next level – BIG TIME.
How many times have you seen the cookie cutter website layout? The slideshow, then the section where we’re graciously informed what the business actually does.
Over, and over, and over, and over again! We’ve seen this hundreds—if not thousands—of times! And get this – that layout is used by businesses that actually know modern design trends.
And it does look nice. But the problem is, every single business is using it! That’s okay if you want to forever be like every other business.
There’s no problem with that, actually. Not every business owner wants to be the innovator in their niche. But for those who want to reach the highest level of success, you must individualize your business.
Your business is an experience for the customer. Starting from the second they land on your site, you need to tug at their feelings – get them feeling what you want them to feel! What is your unique angle? What do you do in your business that no other business does? Why should a customer choose you over the competition?
If you can’t answer these questions, you’re in trouble. If you can’t answer these questions, what are you doing in business?
If you CAN answer these questions—and we sincerely hope you can—that’s great news. Because you now have an angle on how to individualize your business.
Individualizing your business is about telling a story. We humans hold story very close to our culture. It’s how we learn, how we talk about life… it’s the foundation for our cultural existence.
So what’s your businesses story?
Do you sell paper? If you do, and your website says something like, “we sell cheap paper”, you’re doing it wrong!
Instead, you need to find a unique angle. Do you sell paper that’s more firm than your competitors? Excellent – an angle! Now, starting from the ground up, you need to present your website in a way that gets this story across to your customers.
Now that you know your angle, you need to know the angle your customers are looking for as well. This is the sweet spot – combining your unique angle with exactly what your customers are looking for.
So what are your customer’s problems? Are they sick of using flimsy paper because it tears when they use a pencil on it? Great, that’s the sweet spot! We now have the makings of a story. The story is, flimsy paper tears when a pencil is pushed directly into it. This is a problem, because sometimes the pencil needs to be firmly applied.
What’s that, a solution?! We sell firm paper that doesn’t tear when a pencil is firmly applied!
Now, clearly this isn’t the best example in the world. But it should show you exactly what I mean by finding the sweet spot. Look at all the top companies in the world – the businesses that have reached the TOP LEVEL. You’ll see they’ve all found their own sweet spot, and they sure as hell don’t look like every other business out there!