Starting a business is fun, exhilarating, yet at the same time, quite daunting. There are so many nagging doubts in our heads. Some of those doubts are put there by others, and some of those are of our own. But by far, the biggest doubt is wondering if we will be able to compete or not.
Competition is just a part of business. In fact, some competition is a good thing. If there’s no competition whatsoever, then maybe there just isn’t a market for what you are selling.
So how do we work around competition? There are two main ways to handle this: a) go head to head with them, or b) go where they haven’t gone yet.
This is pretty straightforward. In going head to head, you need to either outbid, outrank, or out-promote your competitors.
The only trouble with this method is that your competitors have probably been in the game much longer than you have, so while they are coasting or even climbing, you’ll be hustling to catch up. This will eat up your resources and time, and will be very, very frustrating.
Instead, why not try method #2?
This requires a lot more research from the get-go, but the payoff is much higher. However strong your competitors are, it’s highly unlikely that they are everywhere.
Sure, they may be ranking well for some keywords and showing ads for others, but that probably isn’t true for every conceivable keyword, is it? With a little bit of digging, you can find other keywords that your competitors aren’t going for and capitalize on those.
Let’s have a look at what you can do to get around your competitors for three major traffic sources.
We mentioned SEO and PPC in short just now. The conventional wisdom with keywords is that there are head keywords, or main keywords (i.e., “blue widgets”), and then there are long tail keywords (“round blue widgets for pets”). While your competitors may be ranking for head keywords, they may not be ranking for long tail keywords.
This post on Shopify is an excellent tutorial on how to find long tail keywords and optimize your site for them to build traffic.
The beauty of long tail keywords is that they are potentially infinite. And they add up. Even though those keywords may only show 30-50 searches per month, if you can get 100 optimized pages around one keyword each and rank #1, that’s 3000-5000 potential visits.
The same thing goes for PPC. The trick with PPC is to not bid too much on head keywords unless they are dirt cheap. Head keywords are buyers that are still researching, and unless you have the margins to accommodate lots of clicks for one conversion, it’s going to be tough.
Instead, focus your energy (and cash) on long tail keywords and have even hundreds of ad groups each dedicated to a particular keyword or set of keywords. You may find that the competition here is much less. Even if there is competition, chances are the ads won’t be as optimized as yours – meaning higher click-through rates for you.
The beauty of social media is that one customer can interact with multiple businesses at the same time. This makes it very easy to poach your competitors followers, providing that you have something unique (and better) to offer.
It’s also very likely that your competitor’s followers don’t include every potential customer out there. This leaves the playing field wide open for you to go after those customers, too. Depending on the nature of your business, you may even find that easier to do.
Also, there are four major social networks you can target: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. Again, it’s doubtful that your competitor is cemented firmly on each and every one – there lies your opportunity.
Instagram is a great network to be on. Getting likes to your content and getting followers is much, much easier than on other networks, although it is harder to drive (and measure) traffic from Instagram.
But the point remains: if you can look in places no one else is looking, you can still do very well.
Many small, boutique-style businesses thrive on traffic they receive from blogs and forums. Blog traffic can either be featured posts on blogs, or even blog ads.
Blog ads are hit or miss, and the only way you’ll really know if they work for you is if you actually buy an ad and see what happens. They must work, though, since ad networks (and the blogs that feature those ads) are doing very, very well.
Forums are also places to get established and position yourself as an expert. In a store I used to run, I found a niche forum that was dominated by one user. This user was a competitor of mine, and they were everywhere on the forum. Any time someone had a question related to the niche, they would have a solid and helpful answer.
I did some research on that competitor, and it turns out they don’t receive much traffic from outside the forum – so that’s an entire business running from forum traffic!
You can become such a user in a forum related to your niche.
Knowing where your traffic will come from is an important part of researching your niche beforehand. It will also help you focus your efforts on strategies that are most likely to give you a solid ROI.