18 ways to kick your competitor's ass, online

Ian Lurie

I’ve tried nice, mild titles like ‘techniques for better internet marketing’. Figured this might grab folks’ attention a little more effectively.
Let’s face it: We all want to kick our competitors’ collective asses. I’ve never met a competing CEO who I didn’t like. Yet I still want to make them cry like little babies, “Stop it Ian, you’re taking all our businesssssssssss!”
Here’s 18 ways I’ve found particularly effective:

1: Pay attention to detail

If every form and link on your site works, guess what? You’re in the top .00001% of web sites! Chances are, your competitor is not. Every time someone leaves their site because the ‘more information’ link leads back to the home page, that’s one person who can come to yours.
You gotta test forms by hand, in my opinion. There are tools out there, but in the end there are bugs that can slip through.
For links, try Xenu on the PC and Integrity on the Mac.

2: Make your sales quote request form, or ‘more info’ form, 3 fields

Ask folks for 3 things: Their name, their e-mail address, and their question. Add the phone number if you want.
Your competitor is asking them for DNA data, mailing address, mother’s maiden name, sexual preference, married status, etc. in a futile effort to ‘prequalify’ the leads. They’re getting a lot of people whose moms were named ‘asdfasdf’.
Make that form nice and small. You can always ask for more info later.
This form on the Trek website makes me weep with joy:
This one, from Schwinn, on the other hand, makes me think they’re punishing me:
All I want to do is send you a note for God’s sake! You want my mailing address? Really?!!!

3: Tell me what you do

Just come out and say it, OK?
This sucks:
“Widgets, Inc. is committed to our clients’ growth and prosperity. We help clients leverage existing resources to make the most of their potential. We work with integrity and put our best effort into every job.”
That drivel is not ‘branding’ or ‘messaging’. It. is. drivel. Chances are it’s also how your competitor writes.
This is better:
“Widgets, Inc. provides ball bearings of all sizes.”
This is best:
“Get stainless steel ball bearings of all sizes, with a 1 year warranty, at Widgets, Inc.”

4: Stop being paranoid

Let me find you on Twitter and comment on your blog. Let me whine, in public, via your site, about a problem I had on my last flight.
Then answer me.
I’m going to complain anyway. Why not take control of the situation? Your competitor won’t. He’s too busy hiding under his desk every time he finds a web page with his brand name and ‘sucks’ in the title.

5: Learn to use Google Adwords

I mean really learn it. Understand stuff like:

  • Negative keyword matching
  • Geographic targeting
  • Day parting
  • Dynamic keywords
  • Broad, phrase and exact match

Read up on Search Engine Guide
Your competitor is spending 3x more than she should. Get efficient on Adwords and kick her ass.

6: Learn to use a spell checker

I guarantee your competitor spells like he spent too much time with no ozone layer. Use a spell checker and you’ll kick his fanny.

7: Learn to write

Lisa Barone says it best. I can only bow and say ‘amen’.

8: Speed up your pages

Make your pages run faster. I don’t care how fast they are now. Make them even faster! When I go to your competitor’s site, I see this for 25 seconds:
In this case, I’ll go kick their behind for you.

9: Take charge of your site

Your competitor shrugs and says “The developer says it’s impossible” or “The designers say it’ll take 2 months” every time he gets a suggestion from his marketing team.
Man up. Woman up. It’s your site. It’s your property. You paid for it. Go find whoever it is that’s giving you a hard time, fire their sorry butts and start improving your site.

10: Put your contact information on every page of your site

Put your phone number and address on every page of your site. Every single one.
It’ll help you move up in the local search results.
It’ll also make me understand you’re not hiding from me.
Your competitor fired someone for giving out the company phone number to a potential client. She shrieked “DON’T you REALIZE that means people will CALL US?!!!”
You will so totally kick their patootie.

11: Don’t fall for con artists

There are 1000 new companies every day promising you #1 rankings, increased conversion rates overnight, blah blah blah etc. etc. BS BS BS.
Don’t fall for it. And don’t play the “I just don’t know enough to know what’s true and what’s not” card either. Take responsibility: You know if something sounds way too good to be true. And you know if someone’s a scammer.
You’re smart – you’re running a great business. Plus, you’re kicking your competitor right in the arse.

12: Get rid of login requirements

Don’t make me log in to check out, to download a whitepaper, or do anything else.

Yes, I’ve said this before. I will keep saying it until people clue in.

If I’m buying from you, just take my money and go happily away. If I’m downloading your article, be thankful I’m downloading it, and make sure your contact information is on every page of the article.
Your competitor has built a 12″ thick steel door between the customer and any source of value. Knock gently on the door. When they open it, plant your foot in their butt.

13: Pay attention

Learn to do a little basic social media monitoring. Just check in once a week or so.
See a complaint? Go help. See someone complaining about your competitor? Consider how you can politely help them out. See praise? Say thanks.
That kind of responsiveness will get you a level of goodwill money won’t buy. And yes, it’ll boot your competitor right in the behind.

14: Answer e-mail

Whoa. Revolutionary concept, I know. But try actually answering e-mails from the web site. Even ones that don’t look like a sale. If someone asks for advice, think of all the times you asked and received advice, and the adviser asked nothing in return. It’s karma.
Your competitor’s karma sucks.

15: Write every day

Write a little bit, and add it to your web site, every single day.
You’ll become a better writer. Plus, you’ll have a fresher, more interesting web site, move up in the search engines, and get a warm fuzzy feeling.
Your competitor’s cold, black heart will never have a warm fuzzy feeling. Ever.

16: Dump the fads

Instead of hopping on Twitter and auto-following 300,000 people, try, I dunno, talking to 1 or 2. Or, don’t use Twitter at all.
Just dump the fad tools and spam tactics.
Your competitor probably doesn’t use them either. So don’t put your butt right in front of their foot. They’re reading this article too, remember.

17: Measure stuff

Use analytics. Learn what brings folks to your site, and what makes them buy.
I promise, your competitor is not doing that…

18: Don’t be a slave to the data

…Or, they’re testing the crap out of everything, even when the idea they’re testing flies in the face of all logic and reason. I’ve seen companies (no longer with us) test themselves right into oblivion.
Trust your intuition, at least a little.

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Ian Lurie

Ian Lurie is founder of Portent. He's been a digital marketer since the days of AOL and Compuserve (25 years, if you're counting). Ian's recorded training for Lynda.com, writes regularly for the Portent Blog and has been published on AllThingsD, Smashing Magazine, and TechCrunch. Ian speaks at conferences around the world, including SearchLove, MozCon, Seattle Interactive Conference and ad:Tech. He has published several books about business and marketing: One Trick Ponies Get Shot, available on Kindle, The Web Marketing All-In-One Desk Reference for Dummies, and Conversation Marketing. Ian is now an independent consultant and continues to work with the Portent team- training the agency group on all things digital. You can find him at www.ianlurie.com

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  1. #12 in particular really drives me crazy! I see these places that make accessing an article so difficult, I give up.
    Same for #14. There are brands I really like and I drop them a mail to ask a question and I NEVER freaking get a reply! Way to foster a relationship with your fans.
    Great article as always, Ian.

  2. haha great post. Great tip about the fads. Far too many people get caught up in the hype even though they don’t know why they’re doing what they’re doing.
    Just stick to fundamentals if you don’t know why you’re doing something.

  3. Definitely digging #14 & #15! Responsiveness counts BIG TIME! The quicker to respond to requests, the more business opportunities you’ll convert into actual business. And as for #15, totally agree that the more consistent you are in delivering content, the better you get… It starts to come out naturally ya know?

  4. Thanks for haunting me with a squished lizard. I wanted to be upset with you (due to my stomach-turning phobia of crushed reptiles), but that image drives home #18 beautifully!
    We have been starting down that testing path, and yours is the first caution sign I’ve seen that makes an outstanding point. Well done, and thanks.

  5. @Sidra Testing is great, and crucial! All I ask from folks it that they use a little judgment.
    Love your product, by the way…

  6. You nailed some of my biggest pet peeves not only as a consumer but as a marketer as well. When will people learn to use spell check?? Or businesses learn that if they make finding info or purchasing things easier, more people will do it? Or that if they contact you, they do it so you will contact them back? I wish all businesses would take the advice you gave here.

  7. Well said AND entertaining. It never fails to amaze me how little ownership people put into their online efforts. We have just started to give our clients monthly homework, just to get them involved.

  8. Great comments and post (as always)
    #9 drives me crazy. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen clients let programmers control their site. Instead of firing them for doing a crappy job, they keep spending more and more money with them…
    Then someone else has to come along and clean up the mess for little money (because the budget was spent with the crappy programmer).
    The flattened lizard was a little unexpected…

  9. Ian, Should the title have been ‘techniques for better internet marketing,’ i could have not visited this site. Title is so catchy and the contents are both informative and entertaining.

  10. The best one of there in my opinion is that “Take charge of your site” one. Simply because most sites follow a given formula, doesn’t mean you have to. If you have some great idea, do it. At least give it a shot, it might just be what sets you apart from your competitors.

  11. Well, here I am on hold waiting for a Verizon Wireless customer service agent…and I would just like to add that, if you REALLY want to kick your competitors’ collective tuchas, have great customer service. Which would mean: NOT like Verizon’s. YES like Lands’ End’s or LL Bean’s.

  12. OK, I take it back. I just talked to my second Verizon Wireless customer service person (second call), and she was fantastic. I will not throw rotten apples at the Verizon tower after all.
    But the original point stands: Great customer service kicks ass!!

  13. Yup Ian, this header is a lot better than the other one you were considering.
    Isn’t it a shame you even had to write this post, given all of the $$%##^ that’s out there.
    Anyways, #12 is the killer. I hope more and more sites realise that’s the only way to go right now.
    – Gil
    Ooh, and thanks for all the kick-ass synonyms (patootie?) I wonder if you’d have gone more than number 18 had you known of any other kick-ass words 😉

  14. #2 frustrated me when I saw the form. I thought I would have to login to read the rest of the article, haha. After I looked to the right and saw the scroll had a long way to go, I was very relieved.
    Great article. I linked to it from hotelmarketing.com newsletter, but I’m going to bookmark your site now.

  15. What the f**k! – i just spend some good money for two SEO books and now i have the esscence here on one (free) page! Already bookmarked, thank you for this- and 15 is also my fav.
    By the way, in Germany we say for this “jemanden in den Arsch treten” … just to let you know 😉

  16. Great tips! #13: Pay attention cannot be emphasized enough. The best way to combat competitors is to know what they are doing. Monitoring site changes, new content, paid campaigns, backlinks, etc. will really help you gain a competitive edge.

  17. Nice article 🙂 especially point 14. I have a question for you, I hope you do not mind, how did you manage to get 22,500 backlinks in yahoo. That is amazing.

  18. @baz Actually 22000 isn’t that dramatic in Yahoo!. They’re really not picky about what a ‘link’ is. Now, if I could get 22,000 in Google…

  19. You forgot to mention #19 – Get rid of login requirements!
    I’ve never read an article where you suggest this less than 2 times, so I’m assuming that you forgot the second one 😉
    Seriously though, there are still so many sites that do it. The worst is when you want to see what astronomical shipping charge you are going to incur to order the 1oz item, and you not only have to log in, but you have to fill in all of your shipping and billing information just for the rate.
    Don’t these people realize that they’re losing 80% of their customers… For god sakes, just make something up at this point. It would be far better to change it later than make me do all this crap.
    Great article though…

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