I’ve got a secret. I might look like a member of your community, but I have a pen with a little camera inside. When you’re not looking, I’m writing coded notes on wadded pieces of trash and infiltrating your comments section. I even have a trench coat. That’s right, I’m a spy and my main objective is to gather intelligence about my blog competition – YOU.
I’m actually not joking. Well, ok, I don’t have a pen with a little camera inside*, but I really am spying on my competition, and I recommend that you do the same, no matter what kind of content you create or what kind of business you run.
Spying on the Competition
This isn’t really as sinister as it sounds. First, let me explain that I’m of the opinion that in any niche, competition is a good thing. I could debate the intricacies of capitalism with you, but let me forgo that and instead just make two points:
- Competition means that there is interest in your niche, a market for your interest. It is likely that the presence of competition means that you can make money in this niche.
- People don’t visit just one site on the Internet. Yes, you’re competing for time somewhat, but this isn’t like two restaurants competing for a lunch crowd. If you each lunch one place, you aren’t going to eat lunch again at the second place, but if you read one blog, you’re very likely going to ready posts at another blog in the same niche or if you listen to one podcast, you’re probably listening to others in the same niche.
I do want to clarify that you should not be dishonest or sneaky. The concept of being a spy makes my point well in this blog post, but I’m not suggesting that you try to take down others in you niche by collecting information about them.
So what do I mean by spying?
- Read other blogs in your niche.
- Listen to podcasts in your niche.
- Watch videos in your niche
- Follow people in your niche on Twitter and other social networking sites.
- Comment on others’ blogs.
- Join forums relating to your niche, especially those run or frequented by others in your niche.
- Analyze others’ blog posts and podcasts – what posts are most popular? what posts have the most comments/downloads?
- Find out how others in your niche are making money.
Creating a Win-Win Situation
The so-called spy game can be a negative thing, if you let it become one. You shouldn’t copy what another blogger is doing or EVER swipe his/her content to use on your own blog. It’s also pretty shady to try to draw a blog’s traffic to your own through excessive linking. If you’re going to link to your own site in the comments section, for example, make sure you’re adding to the conversation, not just randomly spitting out your link.
In other words, don’t be a scumbag. It’s not really a hard thing to not be a scumbag, and some days, I wish more people would try it out. If you say to yourself, I’m not sure I should be doing this, changes are that you probably shouldn’t be.
Instead, create a win-win situation. When you see that a blog in your niche has posted an opinion piece, post your own ideas on your blog, linking back to the original. Call into podcasts in your niche or submit questions for upcoming episodes. Start hanging out in the popular circles in your niche so you can meet new people, establish friendships, and maybe even partner with one another in the future. Gather inspiration from the comments section on a high-traffic post that someone wrote. Suggest guest posts in areas where you feel like the other blog is lacking to fill gaps.
The truth of the matter is this: I want spies checking out my content. If you write a blog in my niche, I hope you visit my site every day and are inspired by what I write. I hope you voice your opinions, whether they are the same as mine or not, and I hope we can see one another at conferences and events to talk about our niche.
Most of all, when I sell a product, I hope you buy it or become an affiliate…and then I hope you develop a product that builds upon my ideas in a unique, new way so I can buy and recommend yours, in turn becoming inspired to build upon the concepts even further with yet another product.
In the end, bloggers and readers both win.