7 Ways to Deal with Online Competitors and Their Dirty Tricks

In most business books and classes, competitors are treated like an abstract concept. They are in the background, like gravity, but don’t really affect you except as a thought exercise. In that context, the way to deal with them is simple: just do what you do better than anyone else and let customers figure out that you offer more value on their own.

As most of us know, the real world doesn’t really work like that. You do have to concentrate on your own business, but your competitors are anything but abstract. They are people just like you. In fact, in some cases they are petty, unethical, and downright dishonest.

That brings us to a question that’s rarely ever addressed directly enough: how do you deal with the dirty tricks they play? What should you do to fight back when they try to run ads using your brand names, put up websites that look like your own, or try to copy your products? What are your options when they post fake online reviews, try to steal your content, or market their products or services with lies?

In today’s post we are going to give you the answers. But first, a quick warning: don’t try to fight bad behavior with more bad behavior. While it might not always seem like it, those who perpetrate online lies and scams usually get caught. And once they do, they can face severe consequences, ranging from legal challenges to blacklists from search engines and social platforms. Your competitor might be willing to risk the future of their business, but that doesn’t mean you should put yours in jeopardy.

With that little bit of fine print out of the way, let’s look at seven ways you can deal with dishonest online competitors and their dirty tricks…

1. Run Defensive PPC Ads

Suppose you have industry-leading products and services, or just draw a lot of traffic to your website. Your competitors might take an approach that could be summed up as “if you can’t be them, imitate them.” That usually involves running search and social ads based on branded terms or product names that are normally associated with your company. In other words, they try to steal web traffic that’s meant for your website.

An easy way around this is to simply run your own ads for the same terms or branded search phrases. You might not prefer to spend money on search traffic that was meant for you anyway, and that’s understandable. However, you’ll end up getting most of those visits at a very low price (usually pennies per click). And in the process, you’ll deprive your competitor of that web traffic while also driving up their pay-per-click budget at the same time.

2. Lock Up the Right Domains

A similar tactic some dishonest competitors will use is to direct searchers towards a website that looks like it’s owned by your company. Usually they’ll be savvy enough to employ a variation that’s just different enough from yours to avoid any legal liability. Again, the goal is to siphon traffic away from your website and towards their copycat pages.

If you have a very popular company, it’s worth taking the time to snap up a handful of related domains. As with running ads on your own branded search terms, this can be annoying but it’s ultimately going to be inexpensive.

Not sure which domains you should reserve to play defense against your competitors? Get together with your web design team to evaluate search in traffic patterns, along with your most important keywords or brand names. Then you can come up with a list of the most obvious targets and lock them up before your competitors can.

3. Monitor Your Online Reviews

One particularly nasty tactic some desperate competitors will use involves hiring people to post negative reviews of your business. The theory in this case is that if they can’t beat you on price, service, or value, they can at least make you look worse in the eyes of potential customers who might not know better.

This is an area where a little preparation goes a long way. For a few dollars a month you can have your web development team deploy reputation management software that will keep you informed any time someone leaves feedback about your business. If lots of false and negative reviews show up at once, you’ll be alerted before they can do any damage, and as an added bonus you can use the same tools to improve your reputation online with legitimate reviews, boosting your sales in the process.

4. Protect Your Content

There are lots of scams related to web content, but a competitor who is jealous of your success may simply use it as their own. Unfortunately, this is something that’s common enough for us to have seen dozens of times.

Protecting yourself from this kind of theft is pretty simple. There are software tools (like Copyscape) that will scour the web and let you know if someone has posted your copy-written material. If you find that has happened, you can contact the company hosting the offending website and have them remove the pages right away. Google and the other search engines will also take action against blatant content duplication or scraping. However, you have to monitor the web and be aware of the problem before you can do anything about it.

5. Post Comparison Product Reviews

Sometimes, the problem with competitors is that they try to pass their products or services off as better, using false or misleading information. If you come across minor exaggerations, you might not care enough to address them. If you feel like they’ve shared something inaccurate that’s going to hurt sales, though, you might decide to take the issue head-on.

The easiest way to do that is to simply post a side-by-side comparison video or product review. Just put what you have to offer up against the competition and point out the differences in a clear and accurate way. This type of content tends to attract plenty of views and can be easy for buyers to understand. 

Just be sure that you are sharing your facts, comparisons, and assessments. Being untruthful or overboard doesn’t help you. In fact, it just makes it harder for customers to separate you from others who are being unethical with their marketing.

6. Get Customers to Tell the Story

Even if you are completely honest and straightforward in your marketing, it can be hard to get buyers to pay attention. It’s a chicken-and-egg problem: because your competitors lie, it’s difficult for buyers to trust you. And because they don’t trust you, they can’t see the value in what you are offering.

To get around this stumbling block, you just have to let your satisfied customers do the talking for you. People might not believe marketers, but they do believe impartial reviewers who look and act like themselves. So, if you have testimonials from customers who faced the same problems that the rest of your target market is dealing with, get them to share their experiences.

The caveat here is to make sure your reviewers are uncompensated, specific about the benefits they received, and are easy to verify. Do that, and their kind words will do more to boost your sales than any kind of marketing content ever could.

7. Just Keep Leading the Pack

You knew this piece of advice was coming, didn’t you? As frustrating as it might be, the best way to deal with an unethical competitor is usually to ignore them and do your own thing. They might be getting under your skin, but they probably aren’t making a very big dent in your bottom line.

Think about it this way: when someone tries to imitate your products, your content, or some other aspect of your messaging, they are basically admitting that your business is better than theirs. They’re pointing out that you have the real thing and they are a pretender.

Naturally, we don’t want you to ignore serious copyright violations or let a competitor steal money from your pocket. When in doubt, though, your best bet is to work on your own business, continue racking up those positive reviews, and watch your reputation (and profitability) just keep growing.

Are You Getting the Right Kind of Online Marketing Advice?

Having the right information and strategy has always been key to finding customersand surpassing your competitors—on the internet. Now, with the changes and disruptions we are facing in 2020, it’s more important than ever to have a winning plan.

How to Prepare Your Ecommerce Site for an Unusual 2020 Holiday Shopping Season

In a normal year, this would be the point on the calendar where we would be speaking to our clients about changes, additions, and improvements to their online stores. After all, nearly half of all ecommerce sales are made through the holiday season.

Of course, this is anything but a normal year, and as a consequence, many business owners are scrambling for answers and directions.

If you’re like most of the people we talk to, you’re wondering whether you should be playing offense or defense. You’re looking to save money due to an uncertain economy and take advantage of the marketing opportunities that are just around the corner. How can you walk this tightrope and make smart decisions for 2020?

To help you maximize your profitability this Fall, here are seven tips we think you should follow…

1. Pay Attention to Your Website Audit

Typically, we would begin helping our clients to prepare for the holiday shopping season by auditing their existing website and online store. This involves taking a deep dive into their HTML to look for coding errors, security vulnerabilities, search engine visibility, and technical issues like broken links.

That’s an important starting point in any environment, but especially in the economy we are currently facing. You can’t afford to let simple unseen errors affect your ability to attract customers or engage with them. So, order a website audit today and take the time to go over the results with your web design partner.

2. Upgrade Your Shopping Cart for Upsells

The prevailing wisdom in the world of ecommerce is that customers might be a little more jittery than usual this fall. That means you have to maximize the value of every visit and sale. One good way to do that is by generating upsell opportunities with special offers that appear at the time of checkout.

These kinds of last-minute add-ons and combinations are easy for buyers to say yes to, but they require more than an entry-level shopping cart solution. Why not look at the tools installed in your online store and see if a few simple improvements could help you double your sales volume in the coming months?

3. Develop a Smart PPC Strategy

Should you be increasing your pay-per-click advertising (PPC) budget to attract more buyers in a choppy economy, or pulling back to save money? The best answer might be “both.”

Look into the history of your PPC campaigns to see if there are clear trends. You certainly don’t want to pull back on your profitable ads, particularly if they are still working in 2020. At the same time, though, you may consider cutting off marginal or speculative ads for a while. In other words, focus on your winners and cut off any ads that aren’t performing for the next few months.

4. Lean into Retargeting Ads

Although we’ve already mentioned PPC strategies, retargeting ads deserves special mention. Since maximizing value per customer (VPC) is likely to be your top priority for the 2020 shopping season, you want to convert as many high-dollar sales as possible. That means giving buyers second and third chances with retargeting.

You don’t want to go crazy and blow through your marketing budget, of course, but consider throwing additional dollars at potential buyers who are looking into your most profitable products. You may be able to turn more of those exposures into sales and lower your ad costs, particularly if you follow the advice given in the last tip.

5. Use Targeted Content to Your Advantage

It’s easy to forget that free content is often more effective than ads when it comes to drawing in traffic and generating conversions. That’s especially true when you plan ahead.

In recent years, our clients have done particularly well by publishing buying guides, online video demonstrations, and customer testimonials. These all reassure visitors that they are making good decisions and will be happy with their purchases. In other words, they reduce the sense of fear that so many customers feel when it comes to checking out, particularly if they aren’t familiar with your products. Why not use these pieces of content to make your store more profitable this Fall?

6. Build Adaptability into Your Online Marketing Plan

No one can really say with any certainty what the next few months will be like. The best any of us can do is to make good plans, search for opportunities to get ahead, and then stay adaptable.

There are a lot of ways you can be flexible with your holiday season ecommerce strategy. You can build two or three sets of promotions and then let week-two-week analytics guide your strategy. You could prepare various ads, landing pages, and email blasts for different scenarios. You could even activate or hide certain parts of your online store, changing prices and promotions on the fly. The more uncertain you feel about the Fall season, the more contingency plans you should have in place.

7. Start Planning Today

It’s possible that our most important piece of advice is to simply get started on your Fall strategy today if you haven’t already. We advise our clients and readers to get an early jump on ecommerce preparations every year, but in 2020 it’s even more crucial.

Savvy business owners and executives are already following the advice we’ve laid out in this article, knowing that they may have to adjust their plans and ideas as they go. That’s going to be almost impossible if you wait until the last minute. It’s much better to spend a few hours putting together an email, social, or ad campaign that you won’t need than it is to find yourself scrambling to create one when you’re desperate to generate online sales.

Need Expert Help with Your Ecommerce Strategy?

It’s never easy to make good online marketing decisions on your own, and the current economic environment hasn’t helped anything. Fortunately, you don’t have to be an expert in web design, search engine optimization, or pay-per-click advertising to maximize the sales from your ecommerce site. You just have to have a team of experts who are willing to learn about your business and give you the right advice.

5 Frequently Asked Questions about PPC Advertising

New clients often come to us with many questions about pay-per-click (PPC) advertising. It’s not hard to understand why. On the one hand, you can have a new campaign of PPC ads up and running within minutes. But on the other hand, those ads are going to cost you money, and you can watch your budget get eaten up hour by hour.

Additionally, most business owners understand—either from stories or first-hand experience—that PPC ads can lead to fast sales or lots of wasted dollars. So, they may be alternatively excited and apprehensive at the idea of running them.

You may be able to relate to some or all of these situations. In order to help you make good decisions for your company, we are going to share the answers to five frequently asked questions about PPC ads we hear all the time…

Continue reading “5 Frequently Asked Questions about PPC Advertising”