Stealing From Your Competitors
There are times when it's okay to steal.
On these occasions, when stealing is a good thing, I recommend that you steal with as much energy and enthusiasm as you can. All is fair in love and conversion optimization.
Full disclosure: I’m using the term “steal” as a bit of clickbait. It is stealing, but not in the unethical sense. A more neutral word would be “imitate,” “copy” or “mimic.” But you probably wouldn't be as interested in this article if I used those words.
In this article, I’m going to discuss four conversion hacks you should steal from your competitors, but even in the issue of stealing, we need to lay out some ground rules.
To START here are "The Rules for Stealing From Your Competitors"
What kind of rules should guide your stealing? There are at least five. I don’t propose a haphazard free-for-all. Be a good stealer. Steal like this.
First, only steal these hacks from your competitor if your competitor is more successful than you.
Chances are you don’t know your competitor's exact conversion rates, precise revenue or other critical metrics, but that’s okay. Usually, you just know if a company is more successful than you.
One easy way to figure this out their relative success is to search for the most important keywords in your industry. If your competitor is outranking, you, then they are probably more successful than you. When a company outranks another, it usually means that they have more traffic and therefore more conversions and revenue.
If the company has a greater degree of success than you, there’s a pretty good chance that they are worth stealing from. Go for it.
Second, only steal from your competitor if they’re truly a competitor.
Don’t steal from companies that aren’t in your niche. If you steal the things I suggest from other companies, you might be stealing the wrong things. Nothing is worse than planning a heist, only to realize that you didn’t snag the right merch.
Third, only steal the right stuff from your competitor.
Keep in mind that your competitor isn’t doing everything right. They’re only doing some things right. Those are the things you need to steal — the things they’re doing right.
Bear in mind that even smart competitors do stupid things. You are just as intelligent if not more so than your competitor. Don’t steal their stupid ideas. Steal only those things that are obviously smart and successful.
Fourth, try to steal something that all your competitors are doing.
If one successful competitor is doing something, chances are pretty good that it’s working. If two successful competitors are doing it, chances are even higher. If all your competitors are doing it, then there’s an even higher likelihood that it’s working.
Survey as many competitors as you can in order to determine how effective the object of your thievery really is.
I want to plug in a quick comment here about thinking outside the box. Sometimes, you may want to defy conventions and try new stuff. Copying other people can be boring. It could be that the entire industry is missing something really crucial. Just keep that in mind.
Last, don’t stoop to stealing if you’re the king of the hill.
If you’re already smoking the competition, don’t worry about stealing anything. Just focus on doing what you're doing, doing it better and squashing everyone else.
They’re going to have to steal from you.
Okay, it’s time to plan the heist.
Now, Hack No. 1 — Steal your competitors' conversion action.
The conversion action is what you’re asking your customers to do. As you’re aware, conversions can run the gamut from a simple mailing list opt-in to a more significant transaction involving payment.
The right conversion action is crucial in conversion optimization. If you create a conversion action that is too high (costly in effort or money), then your conversion rates will forever live in the basement. If, on the other hand, you make a conversion action that is too low, you may never get the levels of actual purchase and revenue that you need.
There’s a perfect sweet spot that your customers will convert at. That sweet spot might have been found by your competitor. Here’s what you can do:
- Visit your competitors' websites.
- Determine what their conversion action is.
- A/B test that conversion action with the conversion actions on your site.
As an example, let’s pretend that you provide email services. What should your conversion action be?
You visit a successful competitor to see what conversion action they are using.
Constant Contact is asking for a free trial.
Campaigner is also asking for a free trial.
As you survey additional competitors, you realize that most email marketing services are pitching a free trial as the conversion action.
Maybe you should do the same.
Hack No. 2 — Steal your competitors' brand names.
This is an AdWords strategy. It is legal to bid on your competitor’s brand name in AdWords.
Branded keywords are virtually guaranteed to get you first-position organic results in Google.
Here’s what happens when I search for “HubSpot.” Notice how the brand HubSpot dominates the Knowledge Graph result in the top right, the top paid position, and the No. 1 organic result with six site links and a search bar. Their social profiles appear below the news articles.
Google allows bidding on trademarked keywords. Although it is unethical to pretend to be a company you’re not, it is ethical to bid on a competitor's keyword to offer your own brand as an alternative. This is common practice in many competitive fields.
Let’s go back to the example of HubSpot. HubSpot is in a competitive field. They have the top paid result, but what comes next?
These two competitors of HubSpot are also competing for “hubspot.”
The same thing is going on with the branded term “Salesforce.” Although Salesforce takes top result, they’re facing competition from Oracle, which offers itself as “the force in sales force.”
There’s one takeaway from this that I need to insert at this point. If you aren’t bidding on your branded keywords, then your competitors will.
To create a holistically effective PPC and search campaign, you should be ranking for your branded terms organically and in the paid results. Leon Krishnayana makes a case for this practice in his Kissmetrics article.
Buffer, providing social sharing tools, doesn’t bid on its branded term “buffer.” Instead, Hootsuite is attempting to steal the paid results for Buffer.
This technique should be used with caution, but it can be used.
Hack No. 3 — Steal your competitors' keywords.
You have to be careful when bidding on competitors' branded terms. You don’t want to breach any ethics. However, in the wild world of keywords, it’s anyone’s game. Keywords are up for grabs.
Here’s how you can steal your competitors' keywords.
Create a list of your target keywords.
This is the easy part. You know what you want to rank for. Create a list of your most-coveted search terms.
Research these keywords to see which competitors have the highest rank.
This “research” could be as easy as Googling the keyword and finding out who comes out on top.
If you really want to dig into the SEO behind each page, you could use a tool like Moz to check domain and page authority, including link data.
This is what I usually do when sleuthing out a competitor’s keyword domination. The Top 10 report helps me determine relative DA and PA (domain authority and page authority).
The vertical listing helps me understand how powerful each page is.
Create a list of the strongest elements that are common among each of these pages.
Nothing substitutes for a good old-fashioned investigation of each page’s features and elements. Be sure to examine two sets of elements:
- SEO elements — why the page is ranking in the first place.
- Conversion elements — why the page is converting so well.
Here is what you can look for in each category:
- Page title
- Meta description
- Content length
- Keywords and semantic content
- H1s and other heading tags.
- CTA placement
- CTA copy
- Cognitive flow of the page
- Persuasive elements
- Funnel stage.
It’s important to examine each competitor’s page in a multifaceted way. Yes, it starts with keywords, but it goes on to include a holistic view of the page — conversion elements and all.
For me, what starts as a keyword rustling event turns into a casing opportunity.
What I do is write a full report of each competitor (1-2 pages), and then design my own dream page that takes all the awesome elements of each competitor’s page and integrates them into my own page. This could include menu items, persuasion points, CTA copy, ideal images, CSS features, and anything else I think is cool or helpful
And then I create my dream page. Bam.
Results may not be immediate, but when things do eventually fall into place, I can snag the traffic that used to go to my competitor, and the conversions, too!
Win. Win. I love stealing.
Hack No. 4 — Steal your audience's personality.
Personality is a weird thing. It’s true that every website has a personality, and that a site’s personality has a huge role in the way it sells its products.
What’s not always clear is what personality is best.
That’s where you go on a thieving expedition.
Similar products are sold to similar people. Those similar people have a set of characteristics that attract them to the product being sold. They expect the product and its corresponding website to have a certain type of vibe, attitude or personality.
Let me provide a few examples of this:
BMW and Lexus sell vehicles to the same demographic. Thus, their websites look similar and feel similar. There’s a personality thing going on here. Notice the subdued style, dark colors and sophisticated interface.
Here is BMW:
And here is Lexus:
Looks pretty much the same, huh?
In a vastly different field — the field of energy beverages, the idea holds true, too. Let’s take some of the top-performing energy drink producers, and check out their websites.
On Red Bull’s website, I see people flying down a mountain on bicycles. They look like they might die. I see the words “rampage.”
If I “explore the world of Red Bull,” I see videos of people doing death-defying things on motorcycles, bicycles, surfboards, skateboards and snowboards. Some people are actually jumping out of airplanes. Yep, we’ve got some personality going down.
Rockstar’s website looks really similar. Lots of people doing wild things.
There’s also quite a bit of this ...
Monster Energy Drink has more of the same.
Chances are, the energy drink customer base includes a lot of testosterone.
Also, the demographic includes a good deal of people who might get hurt.
That’s what personality is about — creating a website experience that caters to your target audience.
If you’re not successful with your audience, maybe you need to change your personality. You don’t sell energy drinks by having a tame website with pictures of someone sitting in a cubicle. You have to have a certain personality.
If a certain personality type reflected in a certain website type is resonating with the audience, then you need to take on elements of that personality, too. There's enough room in the world for companies that share an overall similar personality. If you can adopt this personality, you will be able to tweak it with enough unique characteristics to make it workable.
Great businesses don’t just lead the way; they also imitate what other successful businesses are doing. There’s nothing wrong with that.
As Picasso probably didn’t say, “Good artists copy; great artists steal.”
I don’t recommend stealing in your ordinary course of life, but you should try these four techniques.
Stealing from your competitors is smart, savvy and, best of all, it could put your conversions through the roof. Stealing the right things from the right people can make a huge difference.
If you don’t experience an uptick in traffic or conversions, just go on stealing some more.