There has been an explosion of online competitors for most every category, and in many cases, the sharp ones are taking away sales from established brands.Since consumers go online to check out products via search and social networks, companies offering competing products can clean up by buying keywords, including your company name, product name and model. It happens all day long. Consumers who click on those links may wind up buying a competitor's product, or buy your product from an authorized or unauthorized retailer or dealer.To understand how pervasive this is, go to Google, Bing or your favorite search engine, and type in company names, product names and models of DRTV advertised products. Scan the results page to see how many competitors are bidding on those keywords. You'll get a sense, in most cases, of why ignoring the competition is a bad idea.It's very easy to assume that consumers will buy only from your "official" web site or authorized dealers/retailers/etailers. But that's not the way it works. Consumers often gravitate to the lowest price and/or the best promotional offer.In addition to developing a robust search program (see section #4), having a presence on social networks (next section) and uploading your commercials to YouTube and other video sites (section #12), you need to make sure your SEM program competes based on the copy that competitors use.If, for example, a competitor is offering free shipping on your product or a competing, similar product and you're not, that's something that needs to be addressed. Start paying attention to the copy that competitors use as a basic starting point. You need to become very involved with the strategy behind your paid search campaign now that you understand what competitors are doing.Next, check out social networking sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace and others, both general and vertical, to determine where you should be bolstering your social presence. When consumers go to these social sites, you need to be there. Check out what your competitors are doing in this regard.Finally, regularly monitor your competitors' web sites to see what they're doing. We've seen cases where competitors pirate entire sites or major portions of it. While this probably won't happen to you, it's important to be aware of what others are doing in your category.You can download the entire ebook at any time at: http://DD111.acquirgy.netIrv Brechner has written over 100 published direct marketing articles and 13 books on a variety of topics. He's been a pioneer in online customer acquisition since 1996 and offline for his 35-year career. He has developed Acquirgy.com's "Customer Acquisition Intel Center" (acquirgy.com/intel ) he evangelizes best-of-breed tactics to help companies acquire customers in the digital age. He can be reached at: email@example.com .Read all Irv's MediaBizBloggers commentaries at Customer Acquisition Intel.Check us out on Facebook at MediaBizBloggers.comFollow our Twitter updates @MediaBizBloggerThe opinions and points of view expressed in this commentary are exclusively the views of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of MediaBizBloggers.com management or associated bloggers. MediaBizBloggers is an open thought leadership platform and readers may share their comments and opinions in response to all commentaries.