SEO for Your Competition

In my opinion, SEO for your competition is one of the more underutilized tactics today. You can try to optimize for your competition’s company name, products, or even comparison searches. In this post, I’ll take you through the process and what to watch out for.

Expect whatever relationship you currently have to become much more adversarial than it is now …

Anyone who has done any work in the ORM (Online Reputation Management) space can tell you: until a negative article hits the newspapers or press, there usually isn’t a lot of competition for a company’s name. However, unless the company’s SEO is completely incompetent or the site is invisible to search engines, you will probably never outrank another company for their name. But what you can do is rank in the top ten and get a lot of clicks if your title is compelling enough. Example below:

There are a few points I should bring up at this point. Bear in mind that I’m not a lawyer and not qualified in any way to dispense legal advice. It’s not against the law or illegal to use another company’s name (even if it’s trademarked) on your page. For example, iPhone and Blackberry are both trademarked names; however, I can use them anytime I want. If someone has a legal team and wants to waste time, they can come after me, require that I put on the trademark symbol ™, and credit the trademark to its owner, but they can’t stop me from using it. Additionally, it’s not illegal to use another company’s trademark in your meta tags or titles as long as you aren’t intentionally causing confusion. So, when you word your titles and meta tags, use them in a clear fashion that allows reasonable users and the courts to understand that this is a comparison, not a misrepresentation. Second, a little corporate puffery on your behalf for your company probably isn’t a big deal. However, making false or misleading statements about someone else’s company could be slander or defamation, so choose your words wisely.

AT&T iPhone vs Verizon iPhone page (click to enlarge)

OK, back to the SEO aspect. If you are going to try and rank for a product you don’t sell, creating a comparison page is an excellent way to convert that traffic. Show the aspects of your product/service and why they are better than the competition. As an example, here’s a page on the AT&T iPhone vs the Verizon iPhone.

This is one of the few SEO instances where putting text in graphics is a good idea. You can make the compelling conversion words or bullet points an image and keep the words for the engines in standard machine and human readable text format.

Another tactic is optimizing for + “sucks” phrases. If a customer is doing that type of search, they are looking to see if they are going to get screwed. That sort of customer is probably deep in the conversion funnel and doing last minute checks to make sure they aren’t making a mistake. Sucks pages are interesting from a legal perspective (again, bear in mind that I’m not a lawyer and not qualified to give legal advice). If you have a “sucks” page, and it represents an honest opinion or is an honest account of a transaction or purchase, it can be negative and still be legal. However, if it is fabricated or embellished with the intent of extorting, blackmailing, trademark-squatting, is slanderous, defamatory, or otherwise created with ill intent or in bad faith, you could find yourself on the losing end of a lawsuit. Sometimes asking something in the form of a question is legally safer than as a statement.

One last point to remember. Once you start to rank, it’s going to be pretty obvious to your competition who is doing it and why. Expect whatever relationship you currently have to become much more adversarial than it is now. Additionally, you should be prepared for others to start building pages around your company name, so you should have a thick skin and not mind a bit of bad karma …

What are the takeaways from this post:

  • Optimizing for your competition’s company or name or competing product brand names is usually a easy SERP to rank for.
  • Using the names of others isn’t illegal but be sure and properly attribute the trademark.
  • There is a difference between an honest criticism and slander and defamation. Know where the line is and avoid it.
  • Reviews or sucks websites for your competition are subject to higher level of scrutiny and should be honest, real, and truthful.
  • Do not create, fabricate, or embellish negative reviews.
  • Avoid making declarative negative statements; instead, use questions.

snippets generated using: SEOMofo Snippet Preview Tool, photo credit: Shutterstock, Photospin,

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