Outranking gigantic companies can be an arduous process but it is possible, there is a science to it. Brand names are always going to be ranking obstacles, but this is an especially sticky situation in two main scenarios.
- You are selling the same product in a well-known e-commerce store.
- You are selling a generic known version of a branded product.
The following tips should help you overcome both of the above scenarios, but you should be warned that neither is particularly easy to overcome.
Fully optimize your onsite SEO
I assume that readers of this post are aware of onsite optimization’s best practices on conforming to Google Webmaster guidelines. However, I think that it is worth a quick review. Before proceeding to steps that are specific to outranking big brand name competitors, you should ensure that you have a strong SEO core. This basically means that you should develop a website that adheres to Google’s Webmaster guidelines and effectively optimizes the following:
- Site URL Structure
- Title Tags & Meta Description
- Image Title & Alt Tags
- NAP & Contact Data
- Links to Social Media Pages
- Quality & Unique Content
Identify Ranking Weaknesses of Your Competitor
Here are some weaknesses that are common to big brands:
Inability to Make Changes to a Website in a Timely Manner
Larger companies often require many levels of approval before making changes to a website.
How to Take Advantage: Write articles that include items in the recent news. Even write news articles about your competitors. Constantly update your web pages to include the latest information.
Individual Page Content is Often Sparse
Many large e-commerce stores use highly templated product description pages that mostly consist of copy extracted directly from the manufacturer’s website or product descriptions.
How to Take Advantage: Write long product descriptions. Don’t worry about keywords, latent semantic indexation, tf–idf, and all that fancy-schmancy-garbage – just describe the product as well as you can. Be sure to include a description of its physical features, advantages, disadvantages, manufacturer, likes and reviews, multiple product pictures, videos, shipping and packaging information, links related to products, and more pictures.
Don’t Take Advantage of Google Business or Local Directory Listings
A number of online e-commerce stores don’t want their customers to know their location and have specific methods that they prefer to be contacted. Business listings are often non-existent for companies that don’t have a storefront, are too small to realize its importance, or haven’t claimed their Google business listing for other reasons. Large companies have multiple storefronts and often don’t spend enough time optimizing the listings for individual stores or don’t have a reliable method to recruit reviews from previous customers.
How to Take Advantage: Get your customers to review your product. I found the best method to do this is to ask for a review of your company as part of the email correspondence following a customer purchase. If you offer shipping tracking, include your link in that email. I have found success by using statements like, “Thank you for your purchase, if you had a positive experience with our company, please click here to review us. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact us about your issue to have it immediately resolved.”
Don’t Take Advantage of All Types of Reviews
This includes third party blog posts, Google my business, Facebook page reviews, product review markup, and the like. These reviews can be a powerful influence in your rankings.
How to Take Advantage: First of all, be sure to include semantic markup for all of your product pages. Visit Google’s structured data testing tool to see if your website is currently using rich snippets and semantic markup.
Don’t sell on multiple online outlets
Many large brands only sell their products on their own website.
How to Take Advantage: Be sure to sell your products on Ebay, Amazon, Google Shopping, and the Walmart Marketplace.
Rank for Your Competitors Brand Name
This is not as difficult as it may seem. It is often the case that almost no competition exists for company brand names. Think about this from Google’s perspective: when you receive a query for a brand name (e.g. Tom’s Online Hockey Supply), which pages do you return to? A good answer to that question is probably the entity of a website that actually represents the query term. In this case, our fictitious website, tomshockeysupply.com. The SERPs will then generally contain some variation of the following:
- Sites that list coupon codes for Tom’s Hockey Supply
- Third party sites with reviews of Tom’s Hockey Supply
- Social media pages for Tom’s Hockey Supply
- Amazon/Ebay Store for Tom’s Hockey Supply
- Local Directory Listings for Tom’s Hockey Supply
- Article reviews about Tom’s Hockey Supply
- Sites with Job Listings for Tom’s Hockey Supply
- Press Releases by Tom’s Hockey Supply
- News articles about Tom’s Hockey Supply
- A mess of things that aren’t Tom’s Hockey Supply
The SERP results for the query “Hockey Giant”. Hockey Giant is a real e-commerce store that sells Hockey Equipment. They have an Alexa ranking of 186,393, 188k backlinks reported by SEMrush, and their site is 17 years old according to the Wayback Machine.
If someone enters a branded query like “Tom’s Online Hockey Supply,” their search intent is pretty obvious. Google is very aware of this strong search intent, but will still include additional pages in the SERPs. Your goal should be to get your website somehow listed in these results. Here are some easy ways to do this:
- Create a landing page: This page should describe your competitor’s business in extensive detail. The title of the page and corresponding H1 should be your competitor’s brand name. Make sure you don’t make false claims, incorrect descriptions, or copy protected content. You might even want to avoid using your competitor’s logo on this page.
- Sell your competitor’s product: I have helped multiple of my previous clients successfully rank for their competitors by advising them to register as a legitimate distributor of their competitor’s products. If you really want to get aggressive, you can sell these products at the lowest price on the market (even if it means temporarily losing money). Be sure to include large call-to-actions on this product page that redirect customers to your own products.
- Buy AdWords for your competitor’s brand name: It’s that simple, and yes it’s allowed. Google says this about trademarks in AdWords; an ad can use a trademark term in its text if either of these conditions is true:
1. The ad text uses the term descriptively in its ordinary meaning rather than in reference to the trademark.
2. The ad is not in reference to the goods or services corresponding to the trademark term.
Additionally, “Google won’t investigate or restrict the selection of trademarks as keywords, even if we receive a trademark complaint”.
Develop Content That Directly Compares You to Competitors
Oftentimes, your potential customers don’t even think to compare services before making a purchase. Writing your own review articles that compare your product to others, or contacting sites that review products in your industry are great ideas. Check out this ad ran by T-Mobile that is meant to keep their business relevant. In no way does T-Mobile expect to outcompete Verizon as a result of this ad: “They simply want consumers to continually mention their brand name in the same breath as their larger competitors.”
Continue to optimize your website’s core SEO and slowly incorporate the advanced tactics in this article, and results will be achieved in time. There is no question that brand names can be brought down by using these methods. Just be sure to stick to the plan and consult an experienced professional.