Five Reasons Why You Shouldn't Copy a Competitor's Site and What to Do When You Really Want To

When creating a website, the easiest thing to do is to steal it completely from a competitor or "borrow ideas" from several companies and combine them. But applying this principle isn't a good idea. The article will tell you why and what to do if you want to make something cheap but decent.
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Reason 1. You Promote Your Competitors, not Yourself

Your Customers Will Order Goods from Your Competitors If you copy the competitor's design completely, you'll be associated with them. Even if you change the logo and provide the users with your contact data, the customers will remember the competitor's corporate style and buy their goods, not yours. Even if you copy the design of a no-name company, the users may mix you up, and next time they're comparing several offers, they'll choose another company.

You'll Seem Suspicious Let's look at the easiest example: famous brands always have an original design. They don't steal them from other companies. Take a look at Apple or eBay and think about if you would buy, for instance, an iPhone from a site that's where similar to Apple's but has a different domain name and contact details? You would probably go to the official website and consider the "copy" to be suspicious. Of course, I'm not saying that you won't have clients if you copy a famous website. You will have them, but you'll lose the clients who consider copying to be suspicious.

Here you can see a copy of Apple's website, but the address is different: apple-x.me. Would you trust this store?

Brand Names Can Be Confused

It is impossible to copy the competitor's company name completely or take a name that's very similar to it. The target audience will be confused, and you may lose most of it. For example, if you open two hair salons with the same service in a residential area and call one called Ann and the other Allie, customers will choose randomly, almost without thinking. If your business is like this hair salon example, there's a big chance that your customers may choose another place. Therefore, it is better to promote your brand rather than look at the competitor's name.

Copying a name or using a very similar name may also land you to court. For example, the Russian brand KAMAZ (truck producer) recovered $8,000 from Lottos LLC for the usage of the domain name kamaz-nsk.ru, and Lottos had to pay KAMAZ's court fees as well. Another example is the court's decision to ban the usage of the trademark "People of Action": the two companies were named almost identically, but the plaintiff ensured that the defendant can no longer use the trademark in their domain name.

In any case, by copying a competitor, you can indirectly increase their sales and still remain a no-name company. If you create your own brand, you'll get more recognition and loyalty from your target audience.

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Reason 2. You Won't Get the Same Efficiency

You can't copy a competitor's website, sit back, and get the same lead stream or amount of sales needed to grow the business. There are several reasons why:

  • You don't know whether the site works, what conversion it has, and how many targeted applications the competitor receives from it. Maybe the company receives only one or two clients a month and does most of its promotions offline.

  • You don't know where the competitor is getting traffic from. Maybe they use native ads, context or teasers, or only get organic traffic. This information can be tracked, but you still won't get the full picture. For example, you won't know which source is most efficient, what channels the competitor receives the cheapest leads through, or which channels produce the largest deals.

  • You have a different audience. The target audience for two companies may not be exactly the same, even if you and the competitor sell the same products. Accordingly, what the competitor's audience likes mat be something that your audience doesn't.
The success or failure of competitor sites has too many variables, and you can't know them all. Therefore, the effectiveness of your copied site will be different.

Here is an interesting example. Amazon has been copied many times by different companies, but the American company Target decided to copy only the review software. After the release of the last Harry Potter book, both companies sold about two million copies, but Amazon received more than 1,800 reviews, while Target only got three. Today, the number of reviews for the book on Amazon is more than 12,000.

These are the reviews about the book on Amazon, while Target's site is not available. Let's look at one more simple example: text. If you copy the text from a competitor's site, it will not be unique. First, let's talk about content in terms of efficiency. You do not know whether the text works on the competitor's website — maybe it exists just to be there. Also, you will still have to change something to reflect your value proposition. Therefore, it is better to write and test your text rather than collect it from different sources to increase your conversions. Finally, if you take all the content from your competitors and do not publish anything else, you will have no organic traffic.

The copied text can also harm your SEO. If you have an old site with a lot of good pages, you can copy the content and still be on the top, but it's very difficult to do the same with a young site.
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Reason 3. You Might Face Problems

A competitor that you have copied a website, name, design, or anything else from can cause a lot of problems, especially if they have the rights to the material. For example, if the design is copyrighted and there is a contract confirming this, you could be in a lot of trouble.

Here's what the competitor can do:

  • Write to you with a request to change the design, name, domain name, or remove some material

  • Write a complaint to your hosting provider, who may, in some cases, block your site

  • Sue you and not only to prohibit the use of the unique solution but also make you pay financial compensation

  • Get revenge by, for example, attacking your site, leaving negative reviews in social networks, or creating false leads — there are many ways to get revenge
In any case, you will spend extra time, energy, and possibly money dealing with these issues.

There are many real cases of these issues. A Pikabu forum user under the nickname Jorik1989 faced the situation when the content from his websites was copied. He sent a written complaint to the domain owner and an email and filed a complaint with the hosting provider. As a result, the copied site was deleted, plus the defendant had to pay $8,000 as a compensation.
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Reason 4. Copying Can Be Difficult

You can't see everything that happens on the backend of a site and anticipate the possible problems. For example, let's say that you decide to copy a well-designed page from a competitor's site, but it turns out that it is connected with forms, other pages, and some scripts. As a result, you will have to copy all of that, and if you cannot see it, then you will need to create everything yourself or modify the page so that all of that extra stuff is not needed.

Here's another example. Let's say you decide to copy the chips from an online store's catalog. The competitor has displayed cool photos, there are a lot of characteristics listed, the price is calculated individually, and so on. You can copy the design of the page itself, but part of the code will still be hidden, and some unknown variables may have been used when calculating the price. You will begin to sculpt something of your own and spend a lot of money, time, and effort only to get a strange result. Creating a catalog template from scratch would be much easier.

Of course, text and illustrations are easy to copy — just hit Ctrl + C and Ctrl + V. But copying online calculators, scripts, complex animated designs, and other aspects can be a problem.
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Reason 5. You'll Get Less Outreach and Fewer Conversions

Not only should you not copy sites or individual solutions, but you should also not copy promotions or discounts. With non-unique promotions (i.e., the same ones as your competitors), you'll get less coverage and fewer leads if you work in the same field or region.

Buyers, especially online buyers, often compare offers from several companies and then choose the best one. Therefore, a unique value propositions work best.

Let's have a look at a simple example. In one area of the city, there are six sushi shops. Five of them offer free delivery, and the sixth offers free delivery and a free order if it does not arrive within one hour. Which sushi shop do you think will get the most customers if all six shops have the same number of visitors?

You must constantly monitor your competitors' marketing activities, not so that you can copy them but so that you can offer your target audience something original, cooler, and better for the buyers.
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What to Do if You Really Want to Copy Something

If you really like the design of the site, an individual solution, or a piece of content, you shouldn't copy it blindly. First, think about what you like: the structure, the presentation, the colors, an individual phrase, or something else. Then analyze the competitor's website to see if what you like really works well.

If the chips you like really work, you can try to implement them. But again, do not simply copy them but use them as an idea instead.

  • If you like the colorful design, use different bright shades.

  • If you like the usability, place the menu in the same place but with its own structure and use different but similar phrases on conversion buttons.

  • If you like the structure of the landing page, rework it for your product and add something useful, interesting, and attention-grabbing.
This way, you will create something that works but is your own, and competitors won't be able to accuse you of copying their designs. You can also analyze more than one competitor so that you can find different successful solutions that will help you make conversions.

Even when using ideas from a competitor's site, do not forget that taste is subjective. You may like the site, but it may be unattractive to the target audience, and using it as inspiration would be a waste of money. Therefore, don't forget to test your site.

Of course, analyzing a competitor's website and conducting tests are more difficult than simply copying a solution you like without performing any tests. But testing is much more effective — you will understand what your target audience needs and can offer exactly that.

Experts' Opinions: Why You Can't Copy Solutions from Competitors' Websites

Paul Lipen
CBDO at NinjaPromo

We have several issues when clients come to us and ask us to copy complex functionality.

Here's one issue we faced: one client who asked to copy a calculator from a huge competitor. What was the problem? We could copy it visually, making the same fields and styling it the same way — that part's easy. But the calculator's backend had some logistics that were not visible. The competitor had his own tariffs, calculations, and variables that our calculator couldn't have, and it was all in the code and not visible when working with the calculator. We began to dig, but in the end, the calculator turned out to be a Frankenstein monster that was made by copying. In this case, it would have been easier if the client had immediately given us his costs and all the variables that would affect the calculations, and we could have created a unique calculator immediately. But we had to face the painful adaptation of a calculator that "must be copied from the competitor." If there is not one to adapt and no specialists, then there is a great chance that we will waste a lot of time and effort and not get anything working at all.

Here's another issue. Sometimes, clients ask us to copy a page from a competitor and adapt it to suit the client, but this little piece is tied to other pieces. For example, I copied a page, but it's linked to a few pages and forms. As a result, additional costs may arise.

There is also a problem when copying the design and style. The customer needs to indicate what he likes and what he does not like. As a rule, he can't like everything, so a guessing game from begins if the client doesn't tell us what, exactly, he likes. Ideally, you should go through the blocks and elements to discuss everything — what to leave or what to eliminate. In this case, you can get a similar style but an individually designed product.

Ilya Radniany
Head of Content Marketing Department at NinjaPromo

I'm not saying that copying is a bad thing, but copying needs to be done wisely. I'll explain why.

First, you need to meet niche and market standards, and that does not mean "copy competitors". For example, most hostels offer Wi-Fi. If you have a hostel without Wi-Fi, you will lose customers. All online stores have filtering — it is a must-have — so it is taken into account by both search engines and users. In any niche, there are set standards, and you must meet them.

Second, a common mistake I see is copying a competitor that is out of your league — for example, when a regional delivery service tries to copy the functionality of Takeaway.com. The regional service has a smaller variety of offers and a different business model, so it won't do any good to copy Takeaway.com. Instead copy something (not everything) from the companies in your league, and it will work better.

Third, imitating brands' mistakes can be harmful. Some business owners do not want to correct mistakes because they have competitors. Let's look at an example. The Lamoda online store (extremely popular in Russia and CIS countries) has some usability errors. If your internet marketer advises you to correct similar mistakes, you must refer to this brand, and buyers often chose this brand for its free fittings, fast delivery, and loyalty program. The same thing is true with Avito. It' site has a lot of errors, but because it has a monopoly in the field of free ads, people still use it. Customers of large brands put up with mistakes because of the advantages of the business. You have a different business and fewer customers, so you need to pay attention to errors and usability so that your audience converts better.

Finally, all businesses have different target audiences. Even two grocery stores in the same mall are visited by different people. There is no such thing as 100% audience crossover. Conversion is influenced by the smallest nuances, and if you blindly copy everything, you only do harm to your business.

Alice Krupskaya
Co-Founder of a rental service company

When we designed the first version of our service, there was almost no one to copy from. There are still very few competitors in our field, both in Russia and abroad, so we started looking for ideas in similar fields.

We carefully studied Booking and Airbnb and found an idea that seemed very good: displaying goods on a map. We thought it was convenient — if a person is looking to rent something, such as a bicycle or a tent, it is more important to understand where this thing is than how it looks. Our hypothesis was unanimously approved and sent to development, and the entire appearance of the site was created, taking into account the map display on half of the screen.

We spent a lot of time and effort on the implementation and then waited a long time for it to start being used by the site visitors. A year later, we decided to hide the map, leaving only the "Show" button. This month, we redesigned everything, so there's no map at all. Practice showed us that it is not needed. People on our site look for things to rent using filters and choose from the photos of these things.

Have you encountered copying? Tell us about your experience. It's always interesting to hear your opinions!
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