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Most people see search engine optimization (SEO) as a kind of solitaire. You work entirely in isolation, improving your website and offsite references to maximize your results. To some extent, this is a reasonable way to look at SEO. But if you want to see even better results, you’ll need to recognize the reality that you’re operating in a hyper-competitive environment – and you’ll need to better understand and work with your competitors.
One often overlooked strategy is optimizing for competitor brand keywords. In other words, you’ll be trying to rank higher for searches including the brand names of your competitors (as well as the brand names of their products). Why is this strategy powerful, and how can you use it effectively?
The power of branded keywords
Let’s start by talking about the power of branded keywords. Branded keywords are an important topic in SEO because the people who usually execute branded searches are already familiar with your brand and are therefore likely to buy. Branded keywords are also powerful because they’re usually not competitive; no one else will be competing for space here, so it’s low-hanging fruit in your optimization campaign.
However, discussions of brand keywords are usually restricted to only keywords associated with your brand, rather than someone else’s brand.
Related: Is the SEO Industry Dying?
Competing for competitor brand keywords?
Why would you want to optimize for someone else’s brand keywords?
- Brand visibility and recognition. There’s a subset of customers out there who have heard of your competitor’s brand but haven’t heard of your brand. This is your chance to make your brand name and your company more visible to that niche demographic. If they’re already interested in the specific product you make, this could be your chance to announce yourself as a worthy competitor.
- Traffic siphoning. This is also an opportunity to “siphon” traffic from your competitor, presenting users with a superior content option. Every click-through here is a double win; it’s a user you took away from a competitor and a user who’s currently visiting your site.
- A chance to differentiate your brand. This could also be an excellent opportunity to differentiate your brand. To optimize for competitor brand keywords, you’ll need to create content that acknowledges or describes competitor products and services — which sets the stage for you to articulate why your brand is different.
- Challenging competitors directly. Remember, your own branded keywords are low-hanging fruit in the SEO world. Attempting to optimize for competitor keywords takes away this easy opportunity. It’s a way for you to challenge competitors directly and force them to stay on their toes. If they choose not to challenge you, you can take it as an easy win.
Golden rules for optimizing competitor brand keywords
If you want to optimize for competitor brand keywords successfully, follow these golden rules:
- Set realistic expectations. Start with realistic expectations about your campaign performance. Your competitor is going to have a massive edge when it comes to ranking for its own branded keyword terms. You’re unlikely to completely dethrone them; the best you can usually hope for is position two.
- Target one competitor brand at a time. Don’t try to optimize for many different competitors at once. Develop content that’s focused strategically on one competitor at a time. This gives you more control, more direct relevance to that competitor and a better-paced, long-term strategic path forward.
- Include competitor-branded terms prominently. When optimizing content for competitor-branded terms, make sure to include those terms prominently. They should be featured in the headline of your content, the meta description of your page, and regularly throughout the body content (especially in headers).
- Be transparent and honest. Don’t try to deceive users or besmirch the reputation of one of your competitors. Instead, be transparent and honest. Be truthful about both the strengths and the weaknesses of your competitors’ products. Make it clear that you aren’t writing on behalf of this brand.
- Provide relevant, helpful information. Your content needs to be valuable to users, or they’re not going to be attracted to your site. Every piece of content you create with competitor-branded keyword terms should include relevant, helpful information. Consider doing a product comparison or a product review to start.
- Get creative. Don’t simply copy what other people have done. Try to get creative. Exercising creativity and giving users something truly novel it’s going to make you more successful in siphoning traffic away from your competitors.
- Show off what makes your brand different. Take advantage of this opportunity to compare yourself directly to your competitors. What is it that makes your brand different?
- Build powerful links. Your competitive content is going to be much stronger if you have ample links supporting those pages. Make sure to tweak your link-building strategy so pages featuring competitor-branded terms get plenty of juice. Just make sure you also follow best practices for link building, avoiding the possibility of a penalty.
Ranking for competitor-branded keyword terms isn’t something every business can do, nor is it something every business should do. But if you find yourself frequently outmatched by a prominent competitor, optimizing your content for their terms could be a clever maneuver to win at least some portion of users. Optimizing for competitor terms should never be your highest priority in SEO, and it shouldn’t take over your strategy, but it’s a useful secondary technique that can boost the power of your campaign.