In "SEO: How to Rank Against Heavyweights," Collaborator Jill Kocher Brown addressed the challenges of ranking for high-demand keywords.
I am often asked questions about this subject. Can a small business with a limited budget compete with popular search terms such as "fashion", "shoes" and "jewelry"?
I will address this issue in this article.
Why is it so difficult to rank for highly competitive keywords?
Imagine that sites in natural search results are physical stores. If these stores are located in prime locations, such as Madison Avenue in New York, the volume and quality of buyers would be high. Sales would also be high, presumably. However, the price of real estate on Madison Avenue is prohibitively expensive for most small businesses.
Similarly, natural search results for competitive terms consist primarily of large firms that can afford the level of public relations needed to rank.
Thus, the conventional wisdom for small brands of professional search optimizers is to focus on ranking less popular keywords that, overall, can produce traffic levels similar to popular terms. This is the equivalent of renting space in several affordable shopping malls rather than a single location on Madison Avenue.
Sometimes, however, conventional wisdom is false.
Rather than identifying keywords, focus on those seeking – their unmet needs and their frustrations.
In many industries, there are large groups of frustrated consumers that are ignored by established suppliers.
Fashion Nova is a California-based retailer that primarily sells women's clothing. He opened his first brick and mortar store in 2006. The e-commerce site, FashionNova.com, was launched in 2013. It is in competition with major brands. But it ranks very well for many competitive terms, at a word, like "fashion", often in front of big companies.
In search of 'jeans', Fashion Nova's ranked number 3, ahead of a lot of big brands like Nordstrom, Lucky Brand, American Eagle Outfitters and Hollister.
Fashion Nova outperforms its competitors with huge marketing budgets and stronger backlink profiles. Backlinks are often considered the most critical factor for search engine optimization. This is a good example of links not being the main driver of success.
Backlinks vs. Application
Google's search success depends primarily on the satisfaction of its users – the researchers. Google does not unilaterally decide which sites are the best. It relies on humans to evaluate the effectiveness of ranking algorithms. Ranking algorithms are a means to an end. In the end, researchers must be satisfied with the results.
Thus, links between websites are not the only reliable way to assess relevancy. Google also reviews the search request for the brand itself.
The search for "Fashion Nova" is growing rapidly. They will soon exceed searches for "American Eagle". At the current growth rate, the "Fashion Nova" searches will eventually catch up with "Nordstrom".
Put yourself in Google's position. Imagine seeing a massive search request for a site with far fewer links than the sought-after competitors. It makes sense to rank the results to meet the expectations of the researchers rather than relying on historical backlinks.
Fashion Nova generated such a massive search demand for its brand that Google ranked near the top to make their searchers happy.
In 2013, I witnessed a similar situation first-hand. I've been consulting for DigitalOcean, a hosting startup that has enjoyed unprecedented success. It is now a leading brand in this industry.
How can these companies generate so much interest without first having high rankings?
Fashion Nova's focus is on underrepresented demographics – minorities and plus sizes. DigitalOcean's focus is on hosting for individual developers, which large vendors have ignored.
In both cases, the target customers love them and often revel in their networks. Their aggressive price also helps. But, more importantly, they have created incredible value for a large but overlooked or overlooked segment of a huge market.
However, their marketing strategy is what leads to a lot of brand research.
Fashion Nova collaborates with minority and large celebrities who have massive social followers. They share selfies and videos on Instagram while wearing Fashion Nova's clothes. For many consumers, being able to look like celebrities at a reasonable price leads to emotional reactions – and sales.
Fashion Nova has more than 12 million Instagram followers. Nordstrom has 2.7 million.
Rapper Cardi B, who has nearly 26 million Instagram followers, recently announced his own Fashion Nova line of clothing. This demonstrates the effectiveness of Fashion Nova's collaboration with influencers.
Another advantage of this strategy is that Fashion Nova organically obtains high quality links from leading publications that cover celebrities. So, Instagram celebrity endorsements can pay for themselves through increased sales, and the long-term SEO benefits of these mentions are essentially free.
Interestingly, Fashion Nova is not an aggressive content buyer. He does not even have a blog!
Steps to be implemented
- Refine your offer to focus on an underserved demographic. Make sure you understand this audience. Consider a new site or brand.
- Personalize your products, messages and rates to this demographic.
- Identify the most relevant social channels. If you sell to other companies, for example, LinkedIn could be a good choice, rather than Instagram.
- Identify the influencers your target audience trusts. Collaborate with them on demonstrations and to use your products and post comments to their followers.
This strategy does not replace tactics to achieve more sales from existing rankings. But it will help generate solid growth.