Keep Your Friends Close and Your Enemies Closer: What You Can Learn from Your Competitors


It’s good to keep an open mind in any context, and the small business world is no exception. Your competitors can teach you a lot about improving your practices and navigating the online maze, so pay attention to what they’re up to on the internet. You never know what you might pick up, so here are a few things to look out for.

What works and how to improve on it

The easiest way to see how your competitors are doing is to read a few online reviews. Check sites like True Local and Facebook to see what their customers are saying, and you’ll get a clear idea of what’s working and what isn’t in your industry. Positive reviews will tell you the things your customers really value that you might not provide (a free hot drink with a haircut, for instance, or a computer-generated mock-up that shows them what their bathroom renovation will look like beforehand). Similarly, negative reviews will help you determine ways you can improve, such as opening on public holidays or providing emergency call-outs.

How to improve your SEO practices

If you Google a service you provide with the location you work in (e.g. “florist south Melbourne”), does your business pop up first? If not, it means the ones above you could teach you a fair bit about boosting your SEO game. Take a look at the keywords your competitors are ranking higher for, and target those keywords within your own site content. If you haven’t already, also make sure you have a Google My Business account set up. This will bring up your address, contact details, a map and a business photo when someone searches for you.

Using a directory listings site like True Local also benefits your local SEO. Google rewards you for having customer reviews by boosting your ranking and this means increasing the likelihood of people clicking on your search results.

How to improve your social media presence

Taking a look at how businesses like yours manage their social media pages can give you valuable insights into where there may be gaps in your own social media plan. Have a look at the kind of content they post, the information they provide, how often they update their pages, and most importantly, what they do that performs well.

Take a page from their book on how to engage with people, as content and communication that provide real value to customers is a great way to help you build up a loyal customer base. Tools like Klear can show you the most influential players in your industry so you can learn from them, and Fanpage Karma gives you a handy side-by-side comparison with your competitors.

How to master your online marketing game

Online marketing can be a struggle to get your head around, so any source of assistance is always welcome. If your competitors seem to have the whole thing nailed, examine what they’re up to and see if there’s anywhere they’re lacking. Maybe they’ve got a regular email newsletter. If so, sign up for it and see what kinds of content they’re producing. Perhaps they advertised a special offer on Facebook and the post got a lot of traction, so why not consider doing your own? Do they get a good response when they post before-and-after pictures of their projects or fun videos of their team goofing around? Try creating similar content with your own unique spin. On the flipside, you might notice some marketing efforts that have fallen flat. If that’s case, you’ll know what to avoid, or think about ways in which those ideas could be improved and implemented for your business.

Remember, the goal here isn’t to copy your competitors, but rather to find and fill any gaps in your own online marketing strategy.

What to include on your website

Your business’ main website is the most important weapon in your online armoury. It’s your primary ‘headquarters’, as such, where customers can learn about you, contact you, book your services or buy your products. So it goes without saying, you should make sure it’s up to scratch!

If you aren’t getting as much traffic as you’d like, or customers aren’t staying on your website long enough to consider hiring you, take a look at your competitors’ sites to see what they’re doing differently. Take note of the layout, and how easy the sites are to navigate. Are they optimised for mobile devices? How do they use pictures and videos to show off their quality? What’s the writing style like? Is the colour scheme more appealing than yours? Take all these things into account to better understand how your own website could be improved.

Did you find this helpful? We’ve got plenty more useful tips in our business blog, so please do check it out sometime!

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