Let’s start this discussion off with a seemingly inconvenient truth: Every company out there has competitors. Even if you operate in a niche market, there are other businesses out there that offer similar products and services.
And if you somehow find yourself in a brand-new arena and are the first one to plant your flag, you can bet it won’t be long before others come trudging up the hill looking for a spot near yours to place their own.
Here at IMPACT, we’ve helped hundreds of clients establish their businesses in the digital marketplace. These companies wanted to join the online conversation and pull ahead of their competition while growing their bottom line. And we’re more than happy to share our strategies for how to make this happen.
This is why — no matter your industry, or whether you’re B2B or B2C — we have a series of topics we teach companies to address that drive the most traffic, leads, and sales. These topics, which we call The Big 5, come from IMPACT Principal Marcus Sheridan’s award-winning inbound marketing strategy book They Ask, You Answer.
They are the topics that other companies are either unwilling or afraid to address themselves. (We call this “ostrich marketing,” when companies prefer to bury their heads in the sand and pretend these issues don’t exist.)
One such topic — and possibly the most important next to talking about cost — is to simply address the existence of the other flags on the hill. However, out of all the other topics we teach clients how to write, this is the one that gets the most resistance.
We hear it all the time, and perhaps you’re thinking it yourself: “Why on earth would we want to draw attention to our competitors? That doesn’t make any sense!”
Well, we have some excellent reasons — and we’re going to not only explain those reasons, but we’re also going to tell you exactly how to write about your competitors on your business’s blog in a way that can drive more revenue than you’d expect.
In this article, we’re sharing with you:
- Five convincing reasons you should write about your competitors.
- Whether you should worry about legal repercussions.
- How to write about competitors on your business blog.
Let’s dive in.
Five convincing reasons you should write about your competitors
Before we discuss why you should address your competitors on your website, let’s first ask why not?
What is your biggest concern with telling your website visitors that others out there do the same thing you do? Is it because you think they don’t know your competitors exist? Are you afraid if you tell them there are more options, they’ll choose those other options every time?
At first glance, talking about your competitors might seem counterintuitive. But one thing we’ve noticed is businesses that aren’t afraid to tackle this issue get positive results.
Here’s the thing — consumers are more informed than ever. And what they appreciate more than anything in today’s market is honesty. Being the only company they encounter that is willing to address the big stinky elephants in the room is going to gain you major points.
So, why should you write these articles? Here are a few of the biggest reasons:
1. Your buyers will know you’re honest
Writing an article about your competitors is going to show them that your business is honest and transparent and that you want what is best for them above all else. By discussing your competition’s strengths as well as your own, you can establish trust from the beginning.
Of course, they’re not naïve enough to believe you don’t want their business, but they’ll be grateful that you’re trying to educate them rather than give them the hard sell every time.
2. Your buyers will see you as the industry thought leader
Most consumers have never had a company inform them honestly about their other options, much less offer transparency into their own competitive analysis. And by doing so, you’ve demonstrated your integrity to users, and they’re probably going to be more willing to see what other topics you have written about that pertain to them, as they’ll trust your guidance and expertise.
3. You’ll get traffic you may have never otherwise gotten
As you’ll shortly see, you’re going to write articles using target keywords that would normally take searchers to either your competitors’ websites or third-party review sites.
There’s a good chance these searchers are in the decision stage of their buyer’s journey and want to know more about your competition before making a final decision. They may not even realize you’re in the same field.
Having them come to your site, rather than any other, at least allows you the chance to introduce your company and services to these prospects.
4. You get to control the conversation
Even if searchers are aware of your company, and that you offer the same service as other companies, if you’re willing to address how other businesses can help with their problem too, it allows you to control the conversation.
You need to remain fair and unbiased (otherwise, they’ll know you’re just trying to persuade them away from the competition), but you can still choose what to say about them — and maybe even more importantly, what not to say. Controlling the conversation offers your business a competitive advantage that other businesses will find difficult to overcome.
5. You’ll convert new leads
We’re going to talk more in-depth about this when I explain how to write the article, but just as writing about your competition can generate traffic you never would have gotten otherwise, this inbound marketing tactic also allows you to get more opportunities to create new leads and sales that never would have come your way.
Should you be worried about legal repercussions?
When companies are new to this type of content, they often come to us with the same concern: What if my competitors threaten to sue me over what I write?
Just as with all your content, you should aim to be honest and transparent. When writing about your competition, remove bias and opinion. Just share the facts. Facts are not libel.
This is exactly how one of our clients responded to the threat of a lawsuit.
Yale Appliance is a Massachusetts-based retailer selling direct to consumers, and they’ve been threatened with lawsuits in the past.
They sell thousands of kitchen appliances every year, and they also perform service calls. They started tracking those service calls and seeing which brands needed to be fixed most often.
Then, Yale published its data in an article titled Most Reliable Appliance Brands, showing which brands were the most and least likely to break down.
Major manufacturers threatened lawsuits. (Although brands like Whirlpool and Bosch are not competitors of Yale, this anecdote has relevance.) But Yale stood by its numbers. They were not slandering these brands, just offering facts from the front lines:
When Yale pointed out they were just reporting facts, the lawsuits were withdrawn.
Each year, Yale updates this list, based on its most recent data, and it’s a good reminder that writing about your competition should be objective and fact-based.
If it gives you peace of mind, check with a legal expert before you publish anything you’re concerned about. See if what you’ve written could be considered libelous. If you’re being factual, you should have nothing to worry about.
Now that that’s out of the way, let’s dive into how you actually write these articles.
How to write about competitors on your business blog
Now that we’ve discussed why you should write about your competitors, it’s time to talk about how, and the best practices for doing it right. We’ll also be looking at some examples of companies that have done it well.
But first, there are two important types of competitor articles you’ll want to write:
- Best-of competitor lists.
- Competitor comparisons.
In the best-of-competitor list, you’re targeting searches people make where they want to see all of their best options of vendors that sell the product/service they’re exploring. In other words, you’re performing competitive analysis and then publishing the results.
These articles simply list out all of the top vendors that you compete with the most.
The competitor comparison article is for people who have seriously weighed their options and are struggling to choose between a small handful of choices. Here, they really want to narrow down the specific value that each company brings by looking at the competition’s strengths.
The competitor comparison article isn’t one that gets lots of search queries, but it is a valuable asset your sales teams can use when working with leads who ask the question:
“What’s the difference between working with your company and working with — ?”
It’s also a great piece of content to use for assignment selling.
Structuring your competitor articles
As with any article we write, it’s all about structure. We need to write effective titles, introductory paragraphs, subheads, content body paragraphs, concluding paragraphs, and CTAs that nudge users to engage with us further.
Although there are two types of competitor articles you can write, for the sake of simplicity, we’ll focus on the best-of competitor lists.
How to write a title for a competitor article
If you want to target searches people make where they’re looking for a list of potential vendors, you need to write a best-of article that lists all the vendors.
But here’s the tough part: You can’t put your company on the list.
No, you’re not losing any kind of competitive advantage by doing this.
Sounds crazy, right? But if you genuinely want to gain the trust of readers, putting yourself on the list becomes too self-promotional. It can have the opposite effect from the one you’re after and cause readers to roll their eyes and tune you out.
The thing most people have a hard time wrapping their heads around is that you don’t need to be included on the list for two reasons:
- That prospect is already on your website. They’re already connecting and engaging with you, even if it’s to learn about others.
- You can use the introduction and conclusion of the article to subtly establish yourself as a thought leader and someone they can trust to buy from.
So, here are some ways you can write a title that will garner SEO traffic for people searching “Best [insert service/products].”
Pick anywhere from 3-15 of your biggest competitors, and write a title along the lines of:
- The Top 13 Inbound Marketing and HubSpot Partner Agencies
- 5 Best Copier Companies in San Diego
- Best Managed Transportation Companies (And How To Choose)
- Who Are the Best Spray Foam Insulation Contractors in Detroit, Michigan
- Best Commercial Roofing Contractors in Cleveland, Ohio
If you noticed, three of the articles targeted the locations they serve because they’re regionally based.
The other two articles don’t use regional specificity, because their target market can include anybody, anywhere.
How to write an introductory paragraph for a competitor article
Your company is not going to be on your best-of list. However, that doesn’t mean that you can’t inform the reader why you’re not putting yourself on the list. One of the best ways to do this is to write an intro that establishes industry thought leadership and your company’s pursuit of making consumers well-informed buyers.
Let’s take a look at how this is done in an example from SAMCO’s Best Industrial Water Treatment System Companies for Removing Silica:
This introduction establishes thought leadership, expertise, and shows that it’s written in the best interest of the consumer. It addresses the reader’s problem directly. It mentions that their company does, in fact, offer silica removal services, but they want to ensure the consumer is getting the best care for their individual needs.
It shows transparency and thought leadership by informing the consumer that they have other options and that SAMCO is willing to help them explore those options.
What info should you share about your competitors?
Now, we get to the question of the hour: What exactly do we say about our current competitors in our best-of list?
Is this the time where we slam them and talk about how their products and services are inferior to our own? Or do we sing praises that make them sound like the perfect fit for any consumer?
The answer is…neither.
We’re not going to trash-talk their business, and we’re also not going to glorify it.
We’re simply going to share some very basic information about them:
- Who they are.
- How long they’ve been in business.
- Any awards/certifications they’ve won or compliances they follow.
- Their particular specialties or what they’re known for.
- Specific brands they carry.
- Anything else you’d like to mention.
If you want to give their business compliments, you’re more than welcome to, but sharing anything derogatory about them can backfire on you, as the trust you’re trying to establish with readers could begin to slip.
Also, the information you share about each can be as in-depth or shallow as you like. Let’s take a look at a few examples.
This first article comes to us from Intek Freight & Logistics, a managed transportation services provider. They wrote an article on the Top 10 Managed Transportation Service Companies.
Look at how they talked about their competitors:
Intek didn’t write up any full paragraphs or even sentences about their competitors. They simply added their name, logo, location, website, and when they were founded. They didn’t speak highly of the entrants on the list, nor did they speak negatively. They simply admitted they existed.
That doesn’t mean all of your competitor lists should be this watered down. People do want to have some information, and giving it to them can keep them from researching further in other places.
Take this next example from W.S. Tyler’s article, Eight of the Best Woven Wire Companies in the U.S.A.:
Here you can see that W.S. Tyler gives a bit more information, but not that much more. Similar to Intek, they list the location of the companies and sometimes the year they were founded. Then they give more context to the reader by including a quick paragraph about the company and what they offer.
They even include a quick video in the intro:
Still, nothing about this entry invokes any kind of response in a reader to immediately reach out to these other companies. They’re merely made aware of their presence and the various services they offer.
If you’re really struggling with what to say about your competitors, feel free to go to their websites, click on their “About Us” page, and paraphrase what they say about themselves.
Another consideration is whether or not to include a link to their website on your page. In the first article by Intek, the competitors are named, and their websites are linked.
In the W.S. Tyler article, however, there aren’t any links to the companies on the list.
Pros and cons of linking to competitors
On the pro side, linking to competitors is great for SEO. Google likes to see you linking to other pages beyond your own site. It’s especially odd to them when you name-drop a company without linking to their domain.
A negative aspect is that, by linking to your competitor, you make it easy for readers to leave your site for another. However, I’d argue that, if we’re being honest with ourselves, how hard would it be for someone to check out your competitors’ websites without a link?
They can just as easily open a new tab and search.
For me, the positive SEO benefits and the chance to have the top answer in Google’s search results far outweigh the possibility of someone reading my article and leaving to court my competitor.
But I’ll leave it up to you to make that choice for yourself.
How to conclude a competitors article
The conclusion of an article is where you get a chance to reintroduce your company’s services to the reader and allow them the opportunity to engage with you further.
Your outro should reinforce that your company’s primary objective is consumer education. Recap for them considerations they should keep in mind as they find a company that is a good fit for them.
At the same time, you can now tell them about the services you provide and customers that have found you a good fit for their needs. And finally, you’re going to want to keep them engaged by adding a CTA for an offer that is relevant to the conversation.
Check out this example from Fire & Ice Heating & Air Conditioning in their article, Best HVAC Contractors in Columbus, Ohio.
After listing all of the options homeowners have for HVAC companies in Columbus, they do a few things:
First, they have a CTA for a helpful offer to download a checklist of questions you should ask any contractor. This is not only a valuable offer to the prospect, but it’s also a lead magnet that helps Fire & Ice capture more leads they can nurture. And, while the prospect is using the checklist to vet the other competitors, they’re constantly reminded of Fire & Ice because their name and logo are on the checklist.
In the final section, Fire & Ice throws their hat in the ring by explaining why they feel they’re the best HVAC company in Columbus.
They showcase their business values and ethics. And when they say they have a commitment to customer service and personal integrity, you can tell they mean it because they answered a common question nobody wants to answer.
And finally, they get the first chance to make a connection with the reader. Rather than click on links to the competitors to learn about them, you can schedule an estimate right from this page in the final CTA.
To reiterate, even though the focus of the article is on the competitors, the real takeaway is that these visitors begin to establish trust with the company writing the article. This places Fire & Ice at a competitive advantage.
If there’s any topic that consumers know most companies don’t want to talk about, it’s the fact that there are other companies out there. That’s why this type of article fares so well with consumers and search engines alike.
Results for discussing your competitors online
Writing articles that gain trust from readers is great and all, but that trust can only develop if they’re able to find your article. So, aside from establishing trust and encouraging visitors to reach out, what does it do in terms of SEO?
Well, it turns out that these articles often perform very well.
Intek Logistics’ competitor articles are the top drivers of sales qualified leads. They’ve written several competitor articles for each service they provide, and the results look a lot like what you see below:
As you can see, Intek is the first result and has the coveted featured snippet for the query “best transportation companies.”
SAMCO also has the No. 1 spot for their article on the best silica removal companies:
And finally, even here at IMPACT, we’ve taken the top spot for anybody wanting to know who the best HubSpot partner agencies are:
So, what’s next?
It’s not easy convincing people in your organization to write these topics, and it’s not easy to write them well. Therefore, before you commit to writing a competitor article, I suggest you check out the following resources:
First, head over to IMPACT+.
- If you need help convincing others, check out lessons from 6 Topics Subject Matter Experts Need to Address and watch the lesson on How to Talk About Your Competitors.
- If you need help writing killer intros and actionable outros, check out The Subject Matter Expert’s Guide to Content and watch 6 Foolproof, Stupidly Easy Blog Introduction Formulas and How To Write Show-Stopping Conclusions.
By now, I hope you see the value in writing articles discussing your competitors.
And I’m telling you, for the majority of our clients here at IMPACT who have written best-of competitor lists, they find their way to the first page of Google. Many even end up with the featured snippet for clutch queries.
So, what are you waiting for? Get writing…before your competitors do.