The Best Content for E-Commerce Websites

The Search Agents Feed - Tue, 08/08/2017 - 10:11

Regardless of the products or services you sell on your e-commerce website, an effective content marketing strategy is a great way to market your brand in addition to the products you sell. While having this type of strategy is not something highly regarded as a driving force behind sales and higher revenue, the benefits of including a well-thought out content marketing strategy can stretch beyond what you may think. SEO research has shown that companies utilizing an e-commerce content marketing strategy are statistically higher to convert than ones who are not. Overall, content marketing does have the potential to act as a driver of traffic and sales to your online store. If you’re selling products or services on the web and not taking advantage of content marketing, you may want to reconsider your position.

But what are some of the ways to approach a content marketing strategy? While many specialize in selling their products and doing so on the web, many often simply do not know where to begin, or what type of content to create. In this post, we will dive into a few of the best types of content for e-commerce businesses.

Why Have an E-Commerce Content Strategy?

There are loads of possibilities when it comes to content marketing and how it can assist customers along their consumer decision journey. Just a few of the benefits of having e-commerce related content include helping to sell products and services, keeping customers informed, giving helpful tips and advice, building trust and authority on topics (with both users and search engines) and giving you new content to share to followers on social media. Creating content around your craft can help attract new customers and retain existing ones.

The following are different types of e-commerce content to consider.

How-to Content

How-to content is often effective in informing new and existing customers. Perfect for companies selling niche products, this type of content brings in people interested in a particular topic or item and shows them how to use it and why to use it.

An example would be a company that sells musical instruments both online and in store. Creating how-to content that teaches potential customers various music lessons is the perfect opportunity to attract the exact type of customer desired: those interested in music. By becoming an authority figure on music and knowledge of music, more and more customers are likely to associate musical instruments with your brand.

Often best utilized with videos, how-to content teaches your audience something they didn’t know before while also precisely extending your brand name to your desired audience. These may not be the most quickly converting customers, but they are likely to think of your brand when the time comes. The use of videos brings us to our next point.

Video Content

Video content if often considered the best and most useful content with regards to e-commerce and it is not surprising why that is. Informative videos living on social platforms such as YouTube, product pages and other areas of a website are an excellent way to market, demonstrate and explain the products you are selling. When users are researching products and services, they often seek out informative videos over text, as videos are easier to absorb and understand over reading blocks of text. Also, videos are a great way to showcase products that include any kind of technical know-how.

Using the music example from above, a visual representation demonstrating an electric guitar, its look, its features, and the sounds it makes are incredibly more powerful than simply reading about its features and sound possibilities on a page of text. Potential customers are much more likely to make a personal connection to the product they are considering when they can see it in use.

An example of both video content and how-to content is the website Repairclinic.com. Repair Clinic specializes in selling repair equipment for various kitchen, lawn and household appliances online. They make in-depth videos both onsite and on YouTube providing instructional repairs for common problems to various appliances. Their video content offsite links to specific parts and other relevant areas of their website. How-to videos are the perfect way to capitalize on two types of sought after content.

Capitalize on the Latest Trends

As opposed to evergreen content, which is created to have a long shelf life, timely content utilizes trending topics, events, seasons and more. To be successful in creating trending content, you must strike while the iron is hot and research to understand the various nuances of your vertical. Creativity is key here as you must be quick at understanding the changing environment as it pertains to your industry.

Get creative and write blogs, articles and create video content about what’s happening in your industry and how this relates to your products and services. Let’s use a winter sports example. Every four years the Winter Olympics kick off and interest around winter sports peaks, as you can see by this Google Trends snapshot.

As you can see, interest around the query “winter sports” peaks in February of 2006, 2010 and 2014, the exact time of the Winter Olympics. Let’s assume that interest around each individual sport peaks at the same time, as well. Now, let’s pretend you own a company that sells sporting gear and operate an e-commerce website that sells your products. If you are pushing hard by creating quality content around these topics (articles, blogs, videos, etc.) before, during and after the Olympic Games, you are likely doing your best to capitalize on this rare, seasonal uptick in interest.

Be sure to pay attention to the news and other events going on in your industry, because there are likely opportunities you may not even be aware of that are waiting to be taken advantage of.

When creating content for e-commerce, the possibilities and opportunities are rich. Be sure to do your market research and look for news, recent blogs and articles, and pay attention to the world around your niche to best capitalize on the changing environment to best bring traffic to your products. Remember the SEO essentials when creating content by using keyword-rich headings and text. Share your content to your followers on social. And, of course, do not forget to drive your visitors to related pages and products within your site through internal linking. Remember, by formulating a solid content strategy around your products, you’re increasing your likelihood of attracting more traffic and increasing the likelihood of that traffic converting. All good things!

The post The Best Content for E-Commerce Websites appeared first on The Search Agency.

The Best Content for E-Commerce Websites

The Search Agents Feed - Wed, 07/19/2017 - 13:59

Regardless of the products or services you sell on your e-commerce website, an effective content marketing strategy is a great way to market your brand in addition to the products you sell. While having this type of strategy is not something highly regarded as a driving force behind sales and higher revenue, the benefits of including a well-thought out content marketing strategy can stretch beyond what you may think. SEO research has shown that companies utilizing an e-commerce content marketing strategy are statistically higher to convert than ones who are not. Overall, content marketing does have the potential to act as a driver of traffic and sales to your online store. If you’re selling products or services on the web and not taking advantage of content marketing, you may want to reconsider your position.

But what are some of the ways to approach a content marketing strategy? While many specialize in selling their products and doing so on the web, many often simply do not know where to begin, or what type of content to create. In this post, we will dive into a few of the best types of content for e-commerce businesses.

Why Have an E-Commerce Content Strategy?

There are loads of possibilities when it comes to content marketing and how it can assist customers along their consumer decision journey. Just a few of the benefits of having e-commerce related content include helping to sell products and services, keeping customers informed, giving helpful tips and advice, building trust and authority on topics (with both users and search engines) and giving you new content to share to followers on social media. Creating content around your craft can help attract new customers and retain existing ones.

The following are different types of e-commerce content to consider.

How-to Content

How-to content is often effective in informing new and existing customers. Perfect for companies selling niche products, this type of content brings in people interested in a particular topic or item and shows them how to use it and why to use it.

An example would be a company that sells musical instruments both online and in store. Creating how-to content that teaches potential customers various music lessons is the perfect opportunity to attract the exact type of customer desired: those interested in music. By becoming an authority figure on music and knowledge of music, more and more customers are likely to associate musical instruments with your brand.

Often best utilized with videos, how-to content teaches your audience something they didn’t know before while also precisely extending your brand name to your desired audience. These may not be the most quickly converting customers, but they are likely to think of your brand when the time comes. The use of videos brings us to our next point.

Video Content

Video content if often considered the best and most useful content with regards to e-commerce and it is not surprising why that is. Informative videos living on social platforms such as YouTube, product pages and other areas of a website are an excellent way to market, demonstrate and explain the products you are selling. When users are researching products and services, they often seek out informative videos over text, as videos are easier to absorb and understand over reading blocks of text. Also, videos are a great way to showcase products that include any kind of technical know-how.

Using the music example from above, a visual representation demonstrating an electric guitar, its look, its features, and the sounds it makes are incredibly more powerful than simply reading about its features and sound possibilities on a page of text. Potential customers are much more likely to make a personal connection to the product they are considering when they can see it in use.

An example of both video content and how-to content is the website Repairclinic.com. Repair Clinic specializes in selling repair equipment for various kitchen, lawn and household appliances online. They make in-depth videos both onsite and on YouTube providing instructional repairs for common problems to various appliances. Their video content offsite links to specific parts and other relevant areas of their website. How-to videos are the perfect way to capitalize on two types of sought after content.

Capitalize on the Latest Trends

As opposed to evergreen content, which is created to have a long shelf life, timely content utilizes trending topics, events, seasons and more. To be successful in creating trending content, you must strike while the iron is hot and research to understand the various nuances of your vertical. Creativity is key here as you must be quick at understanding the changing environment as it pertains to your industry.

Get creative and write blogs, articles and create video content about what’s happening in your industry and how this relates to your products and services. Let’s use a winter sports example. Every four years the Winter Olympics kick off and interest around winter sports peaks, as you can see by this Google Trends snapshot.

As you can see, interest around the query “winter sports” peaks in February of 2006, 2010 and 2014, the exact time of the Winter Olympics. Let’s assume that interest around each individual sport peaks at the same time, as well. Now, let’s pretend you own a company that sells sporting gear and operate an e-commerce website that sells your products. If you are pushing hard by creating quality content around these topics (articles, blogs, videos, etc.) before, during and after the Olympic Games, you are likely doing your best to capitalize on this rare, seasonal uptick in interest.

Be sure to pay attention to the news and other events going on in your industry, because there are likely opportunities you may not even be aware of that are waiting to be taken advantage of.

When creating content for e-commerce, the possibilities and opportunities are rich. Be sure to do your market research and look for news, recent blogs and articles, and pay attention to the world around your niche to best capitalize on the changing environment to best bring traffic to your products. Remember the SEO essentials when creating content by using keyword-rich headings and text. Share your content to your followers on social. And, of course, do not forget to drive your visitors to related pages and products within your site through internal linking. Remember, by formulating a solid content strategy around your products, you’re increasing your likelihood of attracting more traffic and increasing the likelihood of that traffic converting. All good things!

The post The Best Content for E-Commerce Websites appeared first on The Search Agency.

The Best Content for E-Commerce Websites

The Search Agents Feed - Wed, 07/19/2017 - 12:16

Regardless of the products or services you sell on your e-commerce website, an effective content marketing strategy is a great way to market your brand in addition to the products you sell. While having this type of strategy is not something highly regarded as a driving force behind sales and higher revenue, the benefits of including a well-thought out content marketing strategy can stretch beyond what you may think. SEO research has shown that companies utilizing an e-commerce content marketing strategy are statistically higher to convert than ones who are not. Overall, content marketing does have the potential to act as a driver of traffic and sales to your online store. If you’re selling products or services on the web and not taking advantage of content marketing, you may want to reconsider your position.

But what are some of the ways to approach a content marketing strategy? While many specialize in selling their products and doing so on the web, many often simply do not know where to begin, or what type of content to create. In this post, we will dive into a few of the best types of content for e-commerce businesses.

Why Have an E-Commerce Content Strategy?

There are loads of possibilities when it comes to content marketing and how it can assist customers along their consumer decision journey. Just a few of the benefits of having e-commerce related content include helping to sell products and services, keeping customers informed, giving helpful tips and advice, building trust and authority on topics (with both users and search engines) and giving you new content to share to followers on social media. Creating content around your craft can help attract new customers and retain existing ones.

The following are different types of e-commerce content to consider.

How-to Content

How-to content is often effective in informing new and existing customers. Perfect for companies selling niche products, this type of content brings in people interested in a particular topic or item and shows them how to use it and why to use it.

An example would be a company that sells musical instruments both online and in store. Creating how-to content that teaches potential customers various music lessons is the perfect opportunity to attract the exact type of customer desired: those interested in music. By becoming an authority figure on music and knowledge of music, more and more customers are likely to associate musical instruments with your brand.

Often best utilized with videos, how-to content teaches your audience something they didn’t know before while also precisely extending your brand name to your desired audience. These may not be the most quickly converting customers, but they are likely to think of your brand when the time comes. The use of videos brings us to our next point.

Video Content

Video content if often considered the best and most useful content with regards to e-commerce and it is not surprising why that is. Informative videos living on social platforms such as YouTube, product pages and other areas of a website are an excellent way to market, demonstrate and explain the products you are selling. When users are researching products and services, they often seek out informative videos over text, as videos are easier to absorb and understand over reading blocks of text. Also, videos are a great way to showcase products that include any kind of technical know-how.

Using the music example from above, a visual representation demonstrating an electric guitar, its look, its features, and the sounds it makes are incredibly more powerful than simply reading about its features and sound possibilities on a page of text. Potential customers are much more likely to make a personal connection to the product they are considering when they can see it in use.

An example of both video content and how-to content is the website Repairclinic.com. Repair Clinic specializes in selling repair equipment for various kitchen, lawn and household appliances online. They make in-depth videos both onsite and on YouTube providing instructional repairs for common problems to various appliances. Their video content offsite links to specific parts and other relevant areas of their website. How-to videos are the perfect way to capitalize on two types of sought after content.

Capitalize on the Latest Trends

As opposed to evergreen content, which is created to have a long shelf life, timely content utilizes trending topics, events, seasons and more. To be successful in creating trending content, you must strike while the iron is hot and research to understand the various nuances of your vertical. Creativity is key here as you must be quick at understanding the changing environment as it pertains to your industry.

Get creative and write blogs, articles and create video content about what’s happening in your industry and how this relates to your products and services. Let’s use a winter sports example. Every four years the Winter Olympics kick off and interest around winter sports peaks, as you can see by this Google Trends snapshot.

As you can see, interest around the query “winter sports” peaks in February of 2006, 2010 and 2014, the exact time of the Winter Olympics. Let’s assume that interest around each individual sport peaks at the same time, as well. Now, let’s pretend you own a company that sells sporting gear and operate an e-commerce website that sells your products. If you are pushing hard by creating quality content around these topics (articles, blogs, videos, etc.) before, during and after the Olympic Games, you are likely doing your best to capitalize on this rare, seasonal uptick in interest.

Be sure to pay attention to the news and other events going on in your industry, because there are likely opportunities you may not even be aware of that are waiting to be taken advantage of.

When creating content for e-commerce, the possibilities and opportunities are rich. Be sure to do your market research and look for news, recent blogs and articles, and pay attention to the world around your niche to best capitalize on the changing environment to best bring traffic to your products. Remember the SEO essentials when creating content by using keyword-rich headings and text. Share your content to your followers on social. And, of course, do not forget to drive your visitors to related pages and products within your site through internal linking. Remember, by formulating a solid content strategy around your products, you’re increasing your likelihood of attracting more traffic and increasing the likelihood of that traffic converting. All good things!

The post The Best Content for E-Commerce Websites appeared first on The Search Agency.

The Search Agency Predicts the Future of Voice Search

The Search Agents Feed - Mon, 06/05/2017 - 10:13

Voice search is new, exciting and a bit of a Wild West as consumers and marketers try to figure out what this new paradigm means and how it will change our lives. We here at The Search Agency are looking ahead and asking ourselves, “How will voice search evolve and how will we be using it in five years?”

How will voice search change the marketplace?

As demonstrated at Google I/O 2017, Google Assistant is already making huge advances, showing the ability to shop via Google Assistant through voice. Although limited in some commands, as natural language understanding research continues, we should see as large a shift as we did with the explosion of mobile. Retail and local will take the first hit, with travel not too far behind. I would expect real estate industries to probably be the last to adopt this technology, as their dev cycles are usually longer. What may add some interesting attributes here is how deep voice search entry paths may go into applications available on devices. For instance, Google just released Instant Apps for all.

– Brandon Schakola, Earned Media

We should expect to see an increase in long-tail search queries. Currently, something like 25 percent of search queries are new, and with a new influx of converting long-tail, this is likely to increase. Search marketers will have to re-think their keyword strategies, at least in part, to better accommodate future long-tail queries.

– Deniz Boysan, Paid Media

Voice search will create new opportunities to intrude on consumers via aggressive marketing, and some businesses will pursue this to the detriment of their shoppers. However, voice search also provides an opportunity to give consumers exactly what they need, regardless of the size of the business. For example, if I say, “Give me directions to a running shoe store,” I am just as likely to reach an independent store as a major retailer. It’s all about what Google recognizes as a running shoe store. Businesses will have to more carefully categorize themselves in order to meet exact requests.

– Aryn Kennedy, Earned Media

Longer queries mean more focus on long-tail terms instead of core header terms. Marketers will have to be more diligent with search-query mining and building more comprehensive keyword strategies.

– Luke Hubbard, Paid Media

Will results be served to a screen somewhere or returned by a home device? How will those vary (one result versus many)?

People appreciate having choices, so I think voice search will be most effective when linked to a screen. Even simple queries can have complex variables that your voice assistant may not know about, which would make single answers less useful. For example, you might ask the device to “find a pizzeria with good ratings,” but what you really mean is “find a pizzeria with good ratings, but not AAA Pizza, because that place is gross.”

– Greg Sidor, Earned Media

In this case, I think Google has a lasting advantage over Alexa (although Alexa sold more devices than Google Home) with its Google Home push-to-screen integration with Chromecast/Google TV, which was shown off this past week at Google I/O 2017. We should expect similar experiences once AR devices kick off alongside more automotive integrations (with both Apple and Google competing for that space). We may see in-dash console integrations, projections onto windshields or perhaps better versions of what once was Google Glass.

– Brandon Schakola, Earned Media

It will depend on the question. If you just want a quick answer to a question like, “What sound does a fox make?” then an audio response is the most appropriate. However, if you ask, “What are Barack Obama’s key accomplishments as president?” then a visual response is the best way to provide a detailed answer.

– Aryn Kennedy, Earned Media

Google Home already offers vocal responses with the option to view more info in an accompanying smartphone app, so we will see this continue.

– Luke Hubbard, Paid Media

Will big brands or local stores benefit more? For example, who will win between Pizza Hut and a local indie pizza place in a search for “pizza nearby”?

Device manufacturers have a lot of sway here. Will they sell voice recommendations? If so, big brands stand to benefit greatly. Will they tap into review sites like Yelp, which may skew towards neighborhood favorites? Or will the same rules of organic search apply? If that’s the case, anyone willing to put in the effort to optimize their sites could see good results.

– Greg Sidor, Earned Media

I think local will be the bigger winner at first, especially in larger cities, where foodies seem to be more interested in food tourism than the status quo. Larger brands, especially in retail, have been taking a hit in organic search as of late, and we should expect that to continue for quite some time. What could happen, however, is that folks with preferences in their histories towards certain stores will only see more of the same, and the filter bubbles will continue to change audience behaviors in rather drastic ways — more normalization rather than personalization, in some cases.

– Brandon Schakola, Earned Media

Voice search will serve as an opportunity for smaller businesses (like pizza places) to offer proactive search results, rather than several results or explicit ads. For instance, I could see someone saying, “Hey Google, I feel like pizza tonight.” Here, Google could respond with something like, “I know you like pepperoni, and Mario and Luigi’s Parlor has a special this week on a large pepperoni pizza which has a 4.8-star average rating. Would you like to have one delivered, or choose a different place?” Here, Google may use your previous behavior, including what type of pizza, price range, coupon availability and locations you’ve opted for in the past to make more specific recommendations.

– Dirk Williams, Earned Media

Voice search has the potential to be an equalizer. Rather than just going by authority, consumers may want the nearest or highest-rated, regardless of whether it’s a local store or a chain.

– Aryn Kennedy, Earned Media

Bigger brands will benefit more because they have more resources to create content that will rank No. 1 for long-tail searches.

– Luke Hubbard, Paid Media

Will a voice search-enabled device look at your purchase history to provide more personalized results?

Probably. Both Google and Amazon love aggregating data, so they’d certainly have this capability. A case can be made that consumers who install devices in their homes are looking for this personalized experience.

– Greg Sidor, Earned Media

I don’t think this will be device driven, but platform driven, depending on how cross-device tracking develops. It will really depend on how much information Amazon, Google, Facebook, Twitter and Microsoft are tracking, and how in-store or offline integrations continue to change. We should expect more fracturing of the consumer journey, but also more sharing of information across platforms.

– Brandon Schakola, Earned Media

How will marketers use it?

I wouldn’t expect to see a large push in 2017. Instead, we’ll see it happen in the next two years as we seek to grasp the full extent of how voice search takes hold, in addition to the rise of chatbots and assistants. Siri, Hound, Alexa, Cortana and Google Assistant are making strides, but are not yet fully integrated. It will be a complicated push, as some are tied to specific platforms, while others like Cortana and Google Assistant are taking a different, platform-agnostic approach. Behind them all, the basics of SEO for each instance will still exist. We should expect to see some dramatic shifts in terms of variations between platforms as we move from early adoption to more mainstream usage.

– Brandon Schakola, Earned Media

Marketers will increase their chances of being returned as a voice result by ensuring that every aspect of their business is detailed on-site. Every product, every service, every possible thing that someone could search for must be found by spiders. In addition, businesses will need to step up their customer service game to ensure that bad reviews don’t drag them down in the SERPs. Search engines want to provide the best result, and a store everyone hates will never be the rest result.

– Aryn Kennedy, Earned Media

Marketers must develop a strategy around the “questions asked” so they can be an informational resource, which will improve brand awareness and recognition for other questions. SEO will also become even more important because the No. 1 slot takes priority in vocal responses.

– Luke Hubbard, Paid Media

How will consumers use it?


 

Right now, voice search is more of a convenience than a helpful tool in itself. I think the value comes when you can tell a device to complete an action in one fell swoop. I can ask for movie times, but in most cases I still have to buy the tickets myself. Soon I’ll be able to say something like, “Buy tickets for the 8:30 pm showing of Star Wars at Joe’s Cinema. Find seats towards the middle of the theater.” At that point, voice search will be more than a gimmick.

– Greg Sidor, Earned Media

This will vary wildly by context: device, platform, immediate physical environment, static versus dynamic (home versus car) and whether or not a consumer has access to apps (if on mobile or TV/AR-driven devices). We might grocery shop via voice from our refrigerators, order flights and make flight changes from our Lyft ride, get our Airbnb situated last minute while boarding a flight and possibly rent a suit for tomorrow’s meeting in another city from our shower the night before. What will be drastically different is that since this technology will be deeply intertwined with search, our getting used to not having 10 or so blue links and only one answer could severely disrupt markets in ways we cannot predict at any moment.

– Brandon Schakola, Earned Media

Consumers will use it to make their lives easier. For example, getting directions to a place that sells a specific kind of shoe. Finding out how to remove a particular stain while standing in the laundry room, and then ordering whatever product will do it. Adding milk to the grocery list when a carton is finished. Answering a homework question while helping their kids at the end of a long day. Finding out the weather when deciding what to wear in the morning. Basically, consumers will use voice search the same way they would their phones, but in an easier and more precise fashion.

– Aryn Kennedy, Earned Media

Consumers will use it to find answers to their questions and to have fun conversations with their robots.

– Luke Hubbard, Paid Media

What is your prediction for the state of voice search five years from now?

Voice search is here to stay. The question is how integrated it becomes with things like televisions, refrigerators and cars — the Internet of Things. If marketers end up creeping people out with aggressive listening or damaging data breaches, the potential could be limited to phones and dedicated devices, like Amazon Echo.

– Greg Sidor, Earned Media

Personal assistants will be more mainstream and take care of a good amount things for us. The danger is in how our preferences will drive our own bubbles or break us out of them. Businesses of all kinds will be rattled continually by how these assistants and other conversational applications become a new platform for discovery or the latest social media leviathan reaction. They may also face the possibility of quickly tumbling out of favor, losing revenue based on whatever search algorithm supports the one-and-only best answer at all times for the given audience and context.

– Brandon Schakola, Earned Media

I think voice search will be most heavily used by Gen Z and Gen Alpha, who will fully integrate it into their lives as just another tool, followed closely by senior citizens who have a hard time with small buttons on screens. My young daughter already refers to my phone’s Google Assistant as “she” and will say things like, “Tell Google to set the timer” or “Is she taking us the right way?” Once she’s old enough to have her own phone, it will only be natural for her to interact with it as if it were a person.

– Aryn Kennedy, Earned Media

It will be integrated into VR and AR, giving the illusion of life within our electronics. In other words, these systems will continue to learn to speak more intuitively and sound more human.

– Luke Hubbard, Paid Media

What are your thoughts about the future of voice search? Let us know in the comments below.

The post The Search Agency Predicts the Future of Voice Search appeared first on The Search Agency.

When Big Companies Don’t Play Fair: A Lesson in SEO

The Search Agents Feed - Mon, 05/08/2017 - 11:15

Mom always said that life’s not fair, and we’ve all learned the hard way that even when we do everything right, things don’t always go our way. Nowhere is this more true than in the world of SEO, where some big corporations can practice old or even black hat SEO and still rank number one. But how?

As an SEO agency, it’s our job to advise companies on the best possible ways to reach their online goals. We’re constantly analyzing our clients’ data, following industry thought leaders and vigilantly looking out for Google algorithm updates. I think it’s safe to say that we know a thing or two about SEO. But, much to our frustration, one of the things we’ve come to know is that not everyone has to follow the rules to get ahead.

SEO No-Nos

Any good SEO agency will tell you that the following practices can drastically hurt your SEO performance, and it’s true… for about 90 percent of us. The other 10 percent are still getting away with:

  • Keyword stuffing
  • Thin content
  • Duplicate content
  • Paid links

But who are these rule-breaking rebels and what makes them so special? Well, when you look at who they are, you can’t deny that they are pretty special. However, that doesn’t make their SEO shortcomings any less annoying. As you’ve probably guessed by now, among these violators are some of the biggest online brands: Amazon, eBay, Target, Best Buy, etc.

For instance, look at the top three sites ranking for “kids bike”:

The top three search results are big e-commerce sites that are loaded with duplicate content and thousands, if not tens of thousands, of pages that are cannibalizing each other. Some are even teetering on the edge of keyword stuffing:

Besides having so-so SEO, there’s another thing these companies all have in common, and it’s probably the main reason why they’re able to get away with what most of us cannot: trust — Google trusts them.

Earning Google’s Trust

Here’s where the “life’s not fair” analogy really comes into play. For many big brands, like Target and Best Buy, all they need to do in order to earn Google’s trust is just be big brands. When you’re a huge, successful corporation like Target, you really don’t have to do very much SEO optimization to rank well on the search engines. Google trusts sites that have a lot of authority, and big brands generally have a lot of authority because they have the budgets to produce large, offline campaigns that bring them scores of backlinks, shares and other social signals. They also get a lot of clicks because consumers know and trust their brands, as well.

But not all big brands get away with shady SEO practices. In 2011, both JCPenney and Overstock.com suffered the wrath of Google when they were penalized for buying links and offering discounts in exchange for .edu links, respectively. The good news here is that big brands can get penalized, no matter how authoritative they might be. For JCPenney and Overstock.com, it was just a matter of time before their bad SEO practices were found out. Obviously, buying links is a much more serious violation than keyword stuffing or having duplicate content. But what about the companies that are still getting away with smaller infractions yet still ranking extremely well? Is it ever possible to compete with these giants?

How to Stand Out in a Crowd

As long as authority and trust are among search’s biggest ranking factors, competing head-to-head with a business like Amazon will be an exercise in futility, and most of us have the good sense to realize that it’s simply not a realistic goal. That is, unless you’re a well-established, well-known brand like Schwinn or Huffy and you’re competing on brand terms. In this case, it’s fair to aim for #1 in the SERPs.

But what about newer or lesser-known brands? There are quite a few ways that these types of companies can compete online. What’s more, many of these businesses actually have an advantage over big corporations because they have the creative freedom and the motivation to disrupt a marketplace that is already saturated with copycats. Here are a few ways smaller companies can stand out online:

Promote Your Unique Value Proposition

One of the best ways to get potential consumers to take notice of your company, products or services is to highlight what sets you apart from the competition — your unique value proposition (UVP). But first, take the time to understand and analyze your target audience so you can identify what their biggest needs and pain points are. This way, you’ll be able to position yourself as a company that understands them and can offer them truly effective solutions.

Start by focusing on a small, target market that you’ve researched well. By doing so, your UVP and messaging will resonate strongly with them, giving them confidence in your brand. Nurturing smaller, niche consumer groups will take significant time and effort in the beginning, but the idea is that their positive experiences with will encourage them to like, share and promote your brand on social media to a much wider audience.

Local SEO

With the increase in personalized search results and mobile, on-the-go searching, local SEO should be an essential part of every small business’s online marketing strategy. In fact, if you’re not implementing local SEO, you’re missing out on a huge opportunity. Here’s why…

According to Marcus Miller from Search Engine Land, “Having a physical address and proximity to the searcher as ranking factors gave every local business a potential shot at attracting customers from search engines.” Did you read that? “Every” local business. Local SEO, while not a magic bullet, can help level the playing field for smaller companies.

For details on how to maximize your company’s local search visibility, check out my colleague Nic Jolin’s post, Local SEO: How to Gain Visibility in 2016.

Mobile SEO

Another area where small companies have an advantage over online giants is in mobile SEO. Surprisingly, many of the biggest players in search aren’t sufficiently optimized for mobile, despite the fact that today, more people search on mobile devices than desktops. If your site isn’t mobile-friendly, you are missing out. Today’s mobile users don’t have the patience or time to deal with sites that aren’t mobile-friendly or take more than three seconds to load.

Obviously, this presents an enormous opportunity for smaller players to gain a competitive edge in mobile search, so be sure to follow industry best practices for mobile site optimization and craft your content to speak to mobile users. Particularly with voice search, the keywords you’re optimizing for are going to be vastly different, depending on whether your intended audience is driving down the freeway or sitting at their desk.

Good Guys Don’t Always Finish Last

While it’s very disheartening to see big companies outranking your site in spite of their lackluster SEO, there is absolutely no reason to throw in the towel. We’ve shown that not only are there ways help close the gap between large and small companies online, but there are even instances where the little guy has the advantage. So don’t think your SEO efforts are all for naught. In the world of search, the good guys can often win.

The post When Big Companies Don’t Play Fair: A Lesson in SEO appeared first on The Search Agency.