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SEO 27 min read

E-Commerce And Competition: How To Compete With Market Leaders In Organic Search

Content Strategy vs. SEO Strategy: How to Decide Which Comes First

Marketing Specialist at Digital Silk
The most successful people know how valuable it is to watch their competition and study their strategy. This is most apparent in sports — the best athletes admit studying their biggest rivals to learn how they move and operate on the field of play.

When it comes to SEO, things are not much different. You must predict your competitor's every move if you're to have any hope of besting them.

SEO professionals often look at market leaders in the fight for organic search rankings rather than focusing on their closest rivals. While we can learn a lot from market leaders, this is not always the best way to approach your SEO strategy.

Unless you know who you're fighting for your place under the sun, you won't know what strategy to employ and how to come out on top. So, before we get into specific organic search tactics that will help you beat even the biggest companies in your industry, let's discuss the mechanics of discovering your immediate competition.

How to Find Your True Organic Search Competitors?

Whether you run a large international corporation or a small mom-and-pop store, you'll need to understand the actual marketing landscape within your industry. This is crucial not only for your SEO efforts but for every aspect of your overall marketing strategy.

Getting to know your competitors helps you:
Learn what you're up against
Know your actual chances of obtaining a top ranking for a given keyword
Understand the strategies and tactics that work for the industry leaders so that you can implement them at an even higher level.
So, the first thing you should be asking yourself before starting any SEO campaign is this: "Who are my competitors?".

You may already have a few companies in mind, especially if you've been in the business for a while. There are likely a few organizations that you've come to consider your rivals since they tend to occupy the same section of the market.

However, the companies that you think of as your direct competitors in terms of business may not be the same ones you should be focusing on when it comes to your SEO battle. Search engine optimization and business success are related. Still, they do not always go hand in hand, so an industry leader in sales may not have the highest-ranking result on Google for a relevant keyword.

Let's take a look at the steps you need to take to identify and outrank your SEO competition.

Analysis of competitors' websites: an extensive guide

Discover your True SEO Competitors

As discussed earlier, your digital competition may not be the same as your brand competition. So, how do you discover your SEO competitors?

First, you need to look at every business you're sharing market space with. Then, it's time to look at how well they are doing on the SEO front. At this point, you can create a list of SEO market leaders.

A quick and easy way to do this is to analyze your website through Serpstat. This gives you a broad palette of data, including a list of sites similar to your own. These results should give you a pretty clear idea of your digital competition.

This is where you can begin to shift your strategy to focus primarily on these competitors.
    Example — Hotels.com
    To illustrate this point, we'll take Hotels.com as an example. This accommodation and hotel aggregation site is one of the most successful in its industry, with an estimated monthly Google search traffic of 121.2 million.
    Looking at its list of competitors in organic search, we see websites like HotelsCombined.com, Trivago, and Priceline, with Agoda following close behind. Although some of these sites may target different user intents, they compete for the same organic traffic.
    It all boils down to user intent. Hotels.com is trying to attract users looking for a place to stay and wants to avoid potential customers ending up on websites that offer these services too. This is why the Hotels' digital marketing team should be focusing its efforts on digging into the traffic share of its competitors, especially those ranking higher.

      Understand Your Competition's Performance Level

      While you're looking into your competitors, make sure to check out their overall performance. You can do this by clicking on each competitor from your list and comparing your numbers with theirs.

      In our example, one of the biggest rivals of Hotels.com is Trivago, so we can take a closer look at the latter's overview page. Here we see that Hotels outperforms Trivago in all segments, with much higher visibility and estimated search traffic. That said, Trivago does have a relatively competitive organic keywords rating of 4.7 million.
        These types of comparisons allow the marketing team at your company to gain further insight into where the competition is focusing its efforts. The information collected this way can be used to enhance a company's SEO efforts but can also be shared across departments (PPC comes to mind) to improve their results.

          Eliminate Low-Trending Competitors

          Search engine traffic is a living entity, so trends fluctuate by the day. This means that after you've successfully singled out your most vigorous competitors, you need to make sure they're as strong as they currently seem to be.

          To do this, you'll need to look into their organic search trends individually. Your goal is to determine whether each of these companies is a genuine competitor/market leader over the long haul, or if they're simply having a strong week.

          So how do you rule out these low-trending "pretenders" and focus on the true champions?

          We regret to inform you that there aren't any shortcuts to this. You'll need to do the legwork, researching, plotting, and comparing each of your potential competitor's SEO trends over an extended period.

          If a company has a consistent high trend or has managed to hold its increase in search traffic gains for at least a quarter, they're worth a second look. On the other hand, if a potential competitor simply has an uncharacteristic uptick in a sea of sub-par results, you should focus your efforts elsewhere.

          In the screenshot below, we can see that Trivago has had a decline in both its visibility and traffic over the past year. This means that Hotels.com should be looking elsewhere for inspiration on advancing its strategy. However, if Trivago had a sudden spike in traffic and visibility, Hotels would want to find out what changes their competitor recently made.
            Keeping an eye on your competitor's traffic, visibility, and organic search trends enables you to pinpoint which campaigns work for them and which don't, so that you can implement their more successful ideas into your overall strategy.

              Identify Your Competitors' Top-Ranking Pages

              Knowing who your competitors are is simply not enough in today's highly saturated digital world. You need to know exactly what tactics they're using to drive their traffic and what topics they have been focusing on.

              Looking at your closest competitors' trends helps you to an extent, but you'll also need to know which pages they use to drive the most organic search traffic to their websites. This enables you to perfect your own digital marketing and SEO strategy.

              To identify your rivals' powerhouse content, you'll need to find their top-performing pages. Thankfully, with Serpstat, this is easy to do. All you need to do is scroll down to the Top pages section of the Domain Analysis.
                From there, you can plot out a trend map for each page and find out which keywords these superstar pages are ranking for. This info will tell you what your biggest rivals are focusing on now and help you predict their next move. You can also incorporate this data into your digital marketing strategy.

                If you take a closer look at the screenshot above, you'll see that Trivago's third-best landing page is focused on cheap family vacations. This shows that many people are interested in traveling on a budget with their families.

                With that information, Hotels.com and other travel-oriented websites have a strong starting position to create well-researched, engaging content that caters to that particular audience.

                  How to Outperform the Biggest Brands in Your Industry?

                  So far, we've covered the topic of using Serpstat to figure out who your actual competition is. But in today's global market, beating out your closest competitors may not cut it. If your potential customers are spread out globally, you may be up against some juggernauts.

                  Despite your unwavering optimism and a metric ton of research on your closest rivals, you seem to be hitting wall after wall. There are no technical issues on your website, even your content is top of the line, and you're crushing it with the guest posts and backlinks, but your website is still not at the top of the SERPs.

                  Things are looking increasingly hopeless. Perhaps your market is simply too competitive. The brands you're up against are spending millions of dollars on marketing and have the firepower to beat you into the ground with brute force. You cannot beat them at their own game.

                  Think David and Goliath. You can't just take the big guys on in simple hand-to-hand combat. You need a slingshot, and you need to pick your battles carefully.

                  Chances are you're growing tired of this metaphor, so let's talk about what you can do to take the fight to the giants.
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                  Exploit Their Weaknesses

                  First, you need to understand that, despite all their might, big brands aren't perfect. They have their weaknesses, and you need to exploit them. We talked to some of the best small business SEO companies globally and asked them to outline some of those weaknesses for us. Here they are:

                  Slow decision-making process — Many people need to be on the same page before anything noteworthy can be done in a big multinational corporation. This means significant decisions can take weeks, months, or even years. This is the advantage of small businesses. Like David vs. Goliath, this is your chance to play to your agility.

                  Internal politics — Big companies are not great at executing content marketing and SEO strategies because of the sheer number of people involved. Each person has their own idea about how things should be done, and different schools of thought quickly emerge. This often slows progress down to a halt.

                  Outdated software — You'd be surprised at how many huge websites run on legacy platforms. This means they often run into problems not only related to SEO but the general operation of their website.

                  Hopefully, the three weaknesses listed above have got you believing that market leaders are not unbeatable in the SEO game. However, as much as we like an underdog story, you'll need a lot more than belief to come out on top. Thankfully, you have a few advantages of your own, and it's time to focus on those.

                    Play to Your Strengths

                    You might be thinking: "How in the world could my small business have a chance against a huge multinational corporation?" If you're still thinking along these lines, maybe you should go back and reread the previous section.

                    As one of the smaller fish in the pond, you may not have a huge budget or a massive team of Ivy League-educated digital marketing professionals. However, that doesn't mean you have no weapons in your arsenal. Let's take a look at a few "slingshots" you can use to take down the Goliaths in your niche:

                    Guts — You're not getting anywhere without some courage. We don't mean this in the simple sense of having the bravery to put up a fight — we mean taking risks that your big-league opponents may not dare to take. Use the fact that you don't need a dozen legal experts to sign off on every campaign idea and piece of content you're looking to publish.

                    Grit — Your willingness to go the distance to beat the market leaders is likely much more potent than their willingness to beat you. They're either in a relatively comfortable position, or they're fighting whomever they consider their biggest competitors. Either way, they've got their gaze focused elsewhere, and this is your chance to strike. You have everything to gain and very little to lose, while the opposite is true for them.

                    Gait — You're flexible, quick, and agile. As we mentioned above, you don't have to have each of your ideas signed off by several layers of upper and middle management. A great idea could come to you in a dream and become part of your marketing strategy at 9:00 a.m. the following morning.

                    In summary, a smaller brand, such as your own, can come up with ideas, execute campaigns, and correct course much faster than any market leader. There's nothing holding you back, and you have everything to gain.

                      Find Less-Contested Topics

                      Even in the most competitive markets, you should be able to find at least a few topics that haven't been covered extensively by the leaders. Instead of honing in on the "usual suspects," try to look for topics that don't seem to be worth the trouble and cover them with high-quality content.

                      Forums like Reddit and Quora are your friends here, but so is Google Trends. These are all ways to keep your finger on the market's pulse and publish content around any emerging trends. If this content performs well, make sure to keep covering it. You'll develop a tight-knit community of readers in no time.

                      Make Sure You Have the Best Content

                      Once you find a low-competition keyword/topic to rank for, create a high barrier to entry by making your content the absolute best out there. How do you do that? You publish complete guides on the topic that not only have all the bases covered but look awesome as well.

                      Going the extra mile to make sure your content is top-shelf will pay dividends by preventing less driven competitors from even attempting to outperform it.

                        How to Write Engaging Content: 8 Actionable Tips

                        Look for More Accessible Markets

                        Beating market leaders doesn't always mean going up against an industry juggernaut. There are markets where no brand has established a mighty presence, so you may have a much better chance at coming out on top, thanks to the more level playing field.

                        For smaller brands, the first step of the website development process should always be to create a business case exploring the market they're looking to breach. The great thing about being a smaller brand is that you can go through this process much faster than any colossal brand, for the reasons detailed above. This also means you can retreat from a market quickly if you feel a Goliath looming.

                        The trick is to test the waters in a market where none of the potential competitors have a strong presence. Invest more where you see potential and take things one step at a time. Remember, you can always pivot.

                        Here are the two most notable advantages of entering a low-contest market:


                        • There's a potential for exponential growth if you start off on the right foot.
                        • You can take the other competitors by surprise as they battle each other out for the top step on the ladder.

                        The "cloak and dagger" approach is the best practice here. If you can remain unnoticed until you've built up a decent amount of momentum, you'll be in a strong position when you finally take your rivals head-on.

                        All this talk of low-competition markets may have you at the edge of your seat, but you won't get far unless you know where to look. Again, we're afraid there are no shortcuts here. You'll need to do old-fashioned research and use whatever data you already have to find the markets with the highest potential.

                        Use Desk Research to Find a Promising Market

                        To start with, map out all the markets your business could potentially cater to, and perform meticulous research of the competition within those markets using the Serpstat tool as explained above.

                        If the biggest brands on the scene seem to be showing low levels of competitiveness, you might be in with a shot. However, a lack of elite players doesn't quite mean you're in the clear just yet. There could still be lots of successful brands that you can't outperform without a significant degree of effort.

                        Presuming that this is the case, your best bet may be to leave this market altogether and look for a more straightforward path to the top.

                        In case you already have some data about which demographics like your products or services, make sure to use it to your advantage. Inspect your analytics platform for markets that convert well and see if you can improve your market share there.

                        Localize High-Performing Content to Serve a High-Potential Market

                        You often don't need to spend too much time looking for topics to rank for in a new market. All you need to do is create a localized version of the same content that worked well in another market, and you'll likely get great results.

                        The less competition, the better, because it is easier to have the best content available, which in turn means you'll rank more quickly

                          How to Audit Your Content Production: a Step-By-Step Guide

                          Control Your Online Reputation

                          As we mentioned before, in competitive industries, things change quickly. You could be the top dog in your niche one month, only to find a brand-new contender breathing down your neck the next. When it comes to digital marketing and SEO, trends can turn on a dime, so you can't afford to wait for Google to take its time with ranking your website.

                          What you need to do is take proactive steps to get your content into as many channels as possible, building your online reputation as you go.

                          Actively Manage Reviews and Testimonials

                          To make sure you have a rock-solid online reputation, you should list your company on sites like Yellow Pages, Bing Places, Yelp, and Google My Business. That said, don't think that by simply putting your business on these websites, you've completed your work. In fact, this is where the real work only begins.

                          You'll need to keep track of customer reviews on each of these websites, as well as any comments on social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Not only do you need to try and respond to every negative review and comment, but you need to do so in a non-confrontational way, validating your customers' concerns and offering to rectify the problem in the best way you can.

                          Your goal here is to control your own online reputation, rather than allowing your competitors to do so. If you choose to neglect your online reviews and simply let the narrative take its course, your rivals will take advantage of your inaction.

                          Controlling the conversation about your brand also includes taking control of your PR and encouraging satisfied customers to leave positive reviews and testimonials on all platforms.

                            How to set up the monitoring of brand mentions online

                            Market Through a Range of Channels

                            You can't afford to let your SEO strategy exist in a bubble. Your online visibility is influenced not only by the amount of traffic your site receives but also by social signals.

                            Again, you can't wait for Google to notice your website and rank it higher. Instead, you must circulate your content across many platforms, giving your audience many chances to interact with it. This is what a proper multi-channel marketing approach looks like.

                            There are many channels for you to utilize in your marketing efforts, including paid search marketing, content marketing, email marketing, and social media marketing, to name a few. These all enable you to increase your brand awareness and build your online reputation through:

                            • Drumming up your brand name recognition
                            • Funneling traffic to your site
                            • Growing your online presence
                            • Generating reviews and testimonials

                            Even when your search engine rankings inevitably fluctuate, these other channels will keep you competitive and allow you to stay afloat in the most trying times.

                              Conclusion — Conquering a Competitive Market

                              To stand a chance against industry giants as a smaller player, you'll need to pick your battles wisely and take every opportunity that presents itself.

                              This means taking advantage of more prominent brands' weaknesses and leveraging your strengths to grow your online presence quickly. To do this, you'll need to look past the most saturated markets and focus your content on topics that have slipped by bigger brands so far.

                              Also, you'll need to work harder than the big guys and take your research beyond SEO basics, implementing advanced strategies and using powerful tools to stand out against the most powerful competition.

                              To beat your rivals, you'll need to exploit gaps in their approach, as well as learn from what they're doing right.

                              It is never a good idea to rely on a single platform or approach to boost your search engine rankings and drive traffic to your website. Instead, pursue a multidimensional, multi-level digital marketing and search engine optimization approach.

                              Such an approach will enable you to reach audiences across a wide range of platforms and niches. It will also help you control the narrative surrounding your brand and build a robust reputation within the industry.
                              To keep abreast of all the news from the Serpstat blog, subscribe to our newsletter. Also, follows us on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, or join our private group on Facebook to get all the insights ;)

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