When it comes to improving your search engine presence, you need to know what your competitors are doing. But who are your competitors? “That’s easy”, you may say, “Here at the Blue Widget Co we have 40% of the market, and the Red Widget Co has about 30%, with the rest being made up of loads of tiny distributors not worth worrying about. So we only really have one competitor, the one the sales director obsesses about.”
But you’d probably be wrong. Because we’re not talking about competitors in product market share here, even if the only thing the sales manager cares about when it comes to Google is appearing above the Red Widget Co. Here we’re talking about competitors in the Google results, and that might be some very different companies indeed. It may even be non-commercial organisations: for simple searches like “red widgets”, it’s quite possible that your competitors will include Wikipedia, or the Red Widget Trade Association.
There’s a lot more good stuff on this topic in Define Competitors: Step 4 of the 8-Step SEO Strategy on SEOmoz. Well worth a read, including the discussion.