Picking The Right Rival

22 May, 2019

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It’s A Jungle Out There!

Back in the early days of the internet, the idea that taking a business online would automatically expand markets and reduce costs still seemed credible. Unfortunately, in this day and age, this is no longer the case. 

If you spend a few minutes on Google just looking up the number of results for key terms related to your business, you will get a small idea of just how competitive it can be. 

The number of rivals websites competing for business is growing by the day.
 For example:  If you simply type the search term, “Burger Restaurant” plus a major city name in Google, you will get some pretty intimidating figures:

“Burger Restaurant” + City Name

  • New York:        239,000,000 results

  • Tokyo:                 34,200,000 results

  • Berlin:                 27,800,000 results

  • London:            143,000,000 results

  • Madrid:               29,700,000 results

  • Paris:                116,000,000 results

  • Mexico City:        73,600,000 results

  • Rome:                 20,900,000 results 

  • Lisbon:                  7,370,000 results

  • Cape Town:        20,800,000 results 

  • Mumbai:             17,600,000 results 

All results taken from searches conducted manually on google.com, April 2019

Of course, I am not saying that there are 239 million burger restaurants in New York competing on Google; that’s a few too many, even for New York. Let’s break some things down: The results number is an estimation of the number of pages that could match the search description.

Google only displays around 700 of these websites in its results. This number also includes all categories on Google: Images, Shopping, News, etc, so this is not the number of burger restaurants in New York.

What this does mean is that within these results are burger restaurants in New York that don’t even make it onto the results page. So what about those lucky hundreds who do? should they be patting themselves on the back? 

Not necessarily, 92% of all traffic generated by Google goes to the results on the first page. This means slim pickings for those in the backwaters of the 30+ results pages. Yet, If you scroll through the results of “Burger Restaurant New York”, to the outer reaches of page 42, you will still find legitimate businesses trying to get traffic.

We can learn a lot from the positioning of our rivals, both from their mistakes and successes. Here are some tips for choosing the correct competitors and, shall we say, ‘borrowing’ their best tricks.

Don’t Go Chasing Waterfalls

So let’s imagine you are an entrepreneur, who quite out of blue, decides to try their hand in the ultra-competitive world of burger restaurants. You set up your first spot in the trendy part of a big city and you call it burgerCoach.

Now it’s time to optimize your website with keywords to get onto those search engines. A key rule of digital marketing is to check out what the competition is doing and to use this to inform your keyword strategy.

SEO Keyword tools like rankingCoach enable you to monitor your rivals’ websites to see where they rank for certain keywords; so, whom should burgerCoach be competing with on the search engines? Burger King? McDonald’s? Maybe KFC? 

Considering that burgerCoach is a new business with zero brand awareness, the answer to this question is none of these. Going for the optimized keywords of major companies like McDonald's is a bad idea; many people who search for McDonald’s on Google place the company name in their inquiry: The term “McDonald's London” gets around 1600 searches a month.

If a user has their mindset on a Big Mac then they probably won’t be interested in burgerCoach’s equivalent. If you are using tools like rankingCoach to analyze your competitors, unless you are a major corporation with an established brand, you should focus on tracking successful small and medium-sized businesses in your industry. 

Experiment with keywords to find the search terms that these companies appear on the front pages of Google for. If these keywords have a high search volume and are not too competitive, you are onto a winner.

Find The Right Strings For Your Bow

Fighting with the big dogs can often feel daunting as Jurgen Klopp, a German football trainer once famously said:

“We have a bow and arrow and if we aim well, we can hit the target. The problem is that Bayern has a bazooka. The probability that they will hit the target is clearly higher. But then Robin Hood was apparently quite successful.”

 The case is the same for SEO: if we don’t have the firepower to compete with the major corporations, we need to focus on precisionGood SEO is not just about ensuring that we have what the competition is doing covered. It is also just as important to find out what they are not doing. 

Small changes to keywords can make a huge difference in the competitiveness of a term. For example, If we add an S’ to our original example to make “Burger Restaurants” we find a large disparity in the number of results returned by Google


Burger Restaurants  vs Burger Restaurant    

  • New York:        105,000,000  vs 239,000,000 results

  • Tokyo:                25,400,000  vs  34, 200,000 results 

  • Berlin:                12,700,000  vs  27,800,000 results   

  • London:              42,200,000 vs 143,000,000 results  

  • Madrid:               10,200,000 vs   29,700,000 results

  • Paris:                  28,300,000 vs 116,000,000  results

  • Mexico City:        33,500,000 vs  73,600,000 results

  • Rome:                  6,120,000  vs  20,900,000 results 

  • Lisbon:                 1,820,000  vs   7,370,000 results  

  • Cape Town:          6,260,000 vs  20,800,000 results 

  • Mumbai:              8,090,000  vs  17,600,000 results 


By using trial and error with keyword tools like rankingCoach we can make slight changes to the search terms to find the best value for our time and money.  For instance, the term “Burger Place London” receives three times as many searches a month as “Burger Restaurant” and yet returns a third of the results, at the very least, a restaurant in London should also optimize for this phrase. 

Finding your keyword niche and building it into your content strategy and branding can be very effective. Type in the term “Burger Joint NYC”  on Google and you will see exactly what I mean. As for burgerCoach, I think we’ll stick to Digital Marketing!

Need help tracking and picking your rivals?

Hopefully, this article has given you a small idea of just how important it is to keep an eye on the competition. 

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