In a word, no. You should never copy a competitor’s website, in whole or in part, for any reason. You might think that lifting an image, or just a couple paragraphs of text, couldn’t really get you into any trouble.
And you would be wrong.
While the different laws that govern the Internet are constantly changing, the rules against theft and plagiarism are incredibly clear and consistent. Failing to abide by them could open you up to all sorts of problems with copyright, intellectual property, and even “duplicate content” issues that get you banned by the major search engines like Google, Yahoo, and Bing.
With that being said, however, there is another side to the story… although you can never, ever copy material from a competitor’s website, you can draw inspiration.
What’s the big difference between copying and inspiration? One relates to the listing of material and content, whereas the other is simply taking ideas that you see and applying them to your own business. Like the way a certain company has instituted their online newsletter, or arrange their product pages? Talk to your business web design team about doing something similar. See the video or logo that you think could help you win more customers? Work with an online marketing specialist who can help you put the concept to use.
The best thing about this sort of inspiration, besides the fact that it’s actually legal, is that it can take you in unexpected directions. By looking for ideas, rather than content, you’re no longer limited to checking out other businesses within your own industry. In fact, some of the best web marketing ideas have come from savvy business owners and web designers seeing something work elsewhere.
And besides, who is to say that you couldn’t make an idea work even better than someone else has in the past? This industry, as with most, builds upon continual successes, so don’t be afraid to find inspiration elsewhere and make it work for your business online.