Imitate & Flatter – Copy & Infuriate

Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery but copying your competitors entire site isn’t.  It may seem like they have what you need to rank well but rankings aren’t just about on page content anymore.

Spying on the competition is easy with a plethora of free tools at our disposal.  While this will not help page rankings directly, it could help conversions when the best landing pages are selected for imitation.  The purpose in examining the competition is not to copy them exactly but to use the varied approaches they use as a launching point from where you can build your own site’s identity.  Imitating as well as innovating and building on that imitation to create something unique is key.  Copying any page exactly for conversions won’t improve yours and may diminish them.  Copying the competition could also diminish your site’s perceived value as you become seen as a possible fraud copying another site to steal business.  The customer is savvy – they know when you’re copying and when you’ve created something personal.  You’ll aslo lose out to duplicate content penalties.

Ranking for your desired terms can seem an occult practice.  Obfuscation has made it more difficult to sort the wheat from the chaff and create a personal strategy.  Small to medium sized companies may not have the budget or the trust to hire in outside help and so implementing basic changes inhouse can make huge differences.  Look at the competition, understand what they have done, imitate their positive wins and build on them.  There is more to it than just on page changes but that is the best place to begin.

Site design needs to be distinct and compliment your company’s existing schemes.  Over the years I have worked on businesses in very niche areas.  I have seen sites attempting to exactly replicate their best competitor and yet subtly change the page to steal loyal customers and traffic but escape lawsuits.  This will not improve rankings and may well lose you rankings overall due to duplicate content.  Additionally it is ‘bad karma’ as they say and the lawyers fees just aren’t worth it.  Be unique when you use your competition for inspiration.

I’m currently working with someone tackling the problem of duplicate content.  They lost rankings and have seen some scraper sites ranking better than they are for their own unique content.  They are tackling the duplicate content problem head on by removing all articles already duplicated and changing the code of new ones.  The scraper sites will soon carry links back to the originating site as well as scraping content with adverts in it, making the original site even more money.  The scraper sites are unlikely to notice until their traffic dips and possibly not even then.

Copying exactly another site leaves an inflexibility in place that can be difficult to break.  If you don’t seek to understand what you’ve copied, when rankings are lost you will find it difficult to recover.  If you rely on copied content when it changes or loses rank juice you are back to square one.  Pure copying can be so restrictive as to be impossible to work with.

Imitating the competition is fine and is, in fact, anticipated.  Copying them like a phishing site isn’t cool and customers quickly catch on and your site may lose perceived authority.  Use the competition as inspiration and create something new – don’t just copy them.  And for those of you scraping the content of sites I work on, all your revenue is belong to us ;)

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2 Responses to “Imitate & Flatter – Copy & Infuriate”

  1. Julie Joyce says:

    Excellent piece as usual. I expect nothing less from you Judith.

  2. *performance anxiety*

    eek!

    Thanks so much! You know we all love your witty posts best!

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