You might think that being friends with your competitors is a counter-intuitive idea. Why would you want to stay close to the very people who are selling the same products and services that you are? Because, in the long run, it makes a lot more sense to learn from each other and support each other than it does to pretend your competitors don't exist and trying to one-up them all the time.
Everyone wants to think their stuff is the best. And of course, you should see your products and services as the best. You better! That's your job. At least it is if your plan is to be successful. Who have you ever seen be successful that didn't believe in what they were selling? Yes, you should beware of your secrets. Your marketing ideas. Your expansion plans. Next year's models. All that stuff is important and proprietary. But to pretend that you don't have competitors as if that will help you is simply wrong thinking.
Hidden within the latest Google search algorithms is a glaring reality that deserves your consideration. If you step back for a moment and consider that Google's primary goal is to have the sites with the most keyword and subject authority at the top of the results, and how they do that, then you will quickly see a great advantage of being connected with your competitors. How? Because you'll be connected with another website that shares keyword and subject with you. This is paramount and important to your ranking.
Be very very careful when taking advice from your friends about SEO and what you need to do to get a good rank. There is a lot of really bad information floating around that simply never seems to die. One is that you need a lot of links to your website to get good results. This was tried years ago, but these days any links to your website need to be well considered. Why? Because links from your friend's unrelated websites aren't going to help you at all. Unless that link it somehow related to your business, your keywords, and your topic, there is a very good chance it could actually hurt you.
This is one of the main reasons why we suggest being friends with your competitors. On the web, you need each other. You both share subject matter and keywords and therefore you're related. Google can see that relationship and therefore you would do well to promote each other with links. You might like a blog post on your competitor's site, or likewise, and you might even exchange links with each other in the form of articles or reviews. This can only help your site and your competitor's site as well. This is the way it works now. And it will probably become even more like that as time goes along and Google tries ever harder to have quality-related pages at the top of their search results.
If you're a loner, we suggest reconsidering your reasons for being that way. Instead, it makes more sense to get connected and stay connected. Connect with sites like XBIZ.net and others and see who you can network with. Ask your friendly competitors about hosting a blog post of yours, or offering likewise for them. In the long run, there is far more to be gained from this approach than to keep worrying about stupid things or holding outdated ideas about your competitors and how to be successful. Make a good product. Sell a good service. And make sure you connect to the world and get them seen.