In the May edition of our Digital Hack series, we take on Competitor Conquesting. We’ll be looking at how you can get a step ahead of your competitors across multiple Digital channels & tactics.
Competitor conquesting involves actively targeting your competitor’s customers or prospects. Whether hijacking the hard work your competitors have done to build awareness of their brand/products/services, or to disrupt them and convert their customers to yours, this has proven to be a highly effective Digital Strategy.
When thinking about competitor conquesting, most people will default to SEM and bidding on your competitors brand. Sure we’ll cover this, but It can be achieved in more ways and across more channels than you might think.
Let’s start with the basics, you can target your competitor’s brand, product & service terms in your keyword list. By bidding directly on their terms you can show up above their Organic listing and if they are not running SEM across their own terms then you are likely to show top of the results. Winning.
Now, most brands will be bidding on their own terms as they provide a low cost way to gain incremental results and have greater control over what users see and where they go when searching for you. For more on this, and to find out how to minimise your own brand CPC, check out our March Digital Hack: Brand CPC.
So, with your competitor bidding on their own terms you’ll likely sit below their paid listing and notice that your CPC may be quite high. The reason for this is Google’s Quality Score calculation that will penalise you if your ad copy & landing page are not directly related to the search terms.
But we have a possible solution to that using our hack within the hack: This doesn’t work with all brands but works a treat on brands with the service they offer in their name. Think Real Insurance, Sydney Property Developers, NRMA Roadside Assistance.
How do we do it? By using Phrase Match keywords rather than bidding directly on your competitor’s brand name. Lazy… or smart?
Well, we have found that by using phrase match keywords to pick up these terms we can significantly reduce the CPC. How? The phrase match keywords pick up a raft of relevant terms, generating good click volume and therefore have a higher quality score than our competitor keywords. Try it!
While you likely can’t use your competitor’s brand name in your copy as they should have Trademarked it, there’s nothing stopping you from getting a bit creative. This one is not for the faint hearted and we certainly wouldn’t advocate it here at True Syd. But, in a past life, it has been know to work pretty well. Examples would include using a capital i instead of l, or vice versa. E.g. Real Insurance | ReaI lnsurance. Look the same, right? Well, if you look reeeaaly closely, you’ll see that in the second version we’ve used a capital i on the end of Real and a lowercase L at the start of Insurance.
A tactic a bit more above board would be to research your competitors & their ads and write copy that competes directly with what they are offering and show the customer why your offering is better!
Remember – competitors on SEM are not just your direct business competitors so also research around your generic keyword campaigns to see who’s appearing. They may pose opportunities you didn’t think existed.
Social is a bit more tricky, but we’ve found a few hacks to help get one up on your competitors.
Targeting your competitor’s company name on LinkedIn is an obvious one, but you can often find them as an “interest” on Facebook too. If I’m a property developer, I might want to leverage Metricon’s strong social following by targeting people who follow or have talked about them across Facebook’s properties. But don’t just stop at their brand name, check for their products and services as well to expand your target audience.
By uploading a Custom Audience of your customers and creating a Lookalike, there is a high probability that those Lookalikes will be your competitor’s customers. We have found the best way to approach this is to segment your customer base into those who have converted across various areas of your business and strategically using each one, along with dedicated messaging & creative, to go directly after your competitor’s equivalent offerings.
Audit your competitor’s content like you would your own activity, and you might just uncover insights into what is and isn’t working for them. While paid data is hidden behind the Facebook wall, all Organic data is available for everyone to see. It can be time consuming if you’re not using tools to pull this data, but could be worth the effort.
As part of that content audit, you will likely uncover the hashtags your competitors are using. While it’s possible to use your competitor’s hashtag in your posts, this tactic sits squarely in the SEM Trademark category of “a bit dodgy”. But, by working out what the top hashtags are in the category for your product or service and cross-checking this with your competitors, you will uncover their strategy to directly compete against and likely find some gaps you can go after.
Depending on your brand’s tone of voice and protocols, you could even comment on your competitor’s posts. Whether a bit of light hearted banter or more serious direct response, this will get you in front of their followers. Tread carefully here, though!
YouTube has the ability to target competitor channels using Placement targeting in AdWords. They may not allow ads on their videos by opting out, so this might take a bit of research first to find those that are allowing ads. When you find them, you can take this a step further by picking on their top performing videos as YouTube even allows you to target specific videos!
As with GDN Placement targeting, you can also target domains and apps across YouTube, meaning you can enter your competitor’s website in to hit their audience.
Of course, keyword targeting plays a big part of Programmatic campaigns. As with SEM, you can target competitor brand terms, as well as individual products or services and get really granular with your competing creative.
Mentioned in the YouTube targeting options, programmatic buying often includes the ability to target specific domains or even URLs. Meaning you can target your competitors or any of their category/product etc. sections of their website. Also as with YouTube, your competitors won’t likely allow advertising direct on their website, but some platforms will take this as a signal and target the users that have visited their site across other web properties.
One of the more recent methods of targeting competitors across Programmatic includes something called Geoconquesting. This involves geofencing (drawing a ring around a location on a map) your competitor’s physical store locations, activations or events. By collecting user’s mobile device IDs and tracking their movements, we can identify the users that have been seen inside our chosen geofenced areas and target them across mobile, or cross-device if that platform also has that functionality.
Audit your competitor’s website as you would your own. Many of the free tools such as MOZ, Screaming Frog and SEMRush will allow you scrape content to help you understand their keyword strategy and go after them, or identify gaps.
Use their brand term on your site. This might initially seem counterintuitive, but can help you infiltrate their Google search page brand dominance. Including comparisons between your brand/product/service and thiers can be an easy way in, though we have seen examples of dedicated pages and content targeting competitors which is a slightly less subtle way of approaching it!
While Gmail Sponsored Promotions have generally lost favour with Digital Advertisers since being relegated to the Promotions tab, this still offers an opportunity to hit your competitor’s customers/email subscribers. GSP used to offer domain targeting so you could literally target receivers of your competitor’s emails, but this was removed back in 2017. Google also stopped “reading our emails” last year so we can no longer keyword target based on the content of received emails. But, keyword targeting still exists so you can target competitor terms. Google will target users based on their browsing behaviour and if they have consumed content with your competitor’s terms, or visited their website of course, you are likely to hit them in their Gmail.
In late 2016, Apple released the ability to target searches across the App Store. Using Apple Search Ads, you can keyword target competitor brand terms, app names or relevant generic terms. You’re app will show at the top as a sponsored listing, pushing your competitor down to second position.
We’ve seen great results using these tactics and others for our clients, so get in touch if you want to know more!