Sun Tzu says, “Know thy self, know thy enemy. A thousand battles, a thousand victories.” There is truly an art to the search marketing war, so I find Sun Tzu’s message quite fitting. My opinion is that you should know your competitors. You should follow them closely on certain metrics and learn from them. Competitive intelligence should be thorough and, in that spirit, I will discuss some of the top competitors in the US car industry in comparison with the UK car industry including who has good content strategy and what the brands are doing to get their online visibility.
The car industry is definitely a competitive market, especially in the area of SEO. In taking a look at the new cars category in the US (below), we can see that cars.com ranks #3, but they are not just dumping a wad of cash into AdWords for search market share; these guys have gracefully built their organic visibility and climbed to the top 5, making them market leaders, at least in the last 12 weeks. Similarly, edmunds.com, kbb.com, and autotrader.com are all sites that provide the possibility to buy and/or sell cars of different makes and models. There is only one brand here and that’s Cadillac.
Screenshot taken 09/01/2014 of http://ii.hoosh.com
We see a similar situation in the UK with autotrader.co.uk who ranks #2 and continuously works hard to keep its organic position among the top 5 in the new cars category. You wouldn’t think it would be so difficult to keep your organic visibility market position, but when you are looking at a competitive category like new cars, a strong content strategy will keep you in the winner’s circle. This takes a constant effort to improve good content and linking.
Screenshot taken 09/01/2014 of http://ii.hoosh.com
Content Strategy Goes a Long Way in Search Marketing
An example of good content strategy is that of telegraph.co.uk, ranking #1 with the strongest organic visibility and maintaining market leader status for the past 12 weeks. Curiosity sent me on a mission to find out how a news site is managing to maintain such high visibility in the new cars category. Historically, media groups have always had content related to cars, whether it was from the classified ads or talking about new cars coming out on the market. What I found was illuminating. The Telegraph claims to be “the only national news organization with a stand-alone, award-winning supplement dedicated solely to motoring,” as described by Erin Baker, Head of Motoring at Telegraph Media Group.
Screenshot taken 14/01/2014 of https://festivalofmotoring.telegraph.co.uk
To keep their readers informed and ahead of the game, Telegraph Media Group has created Britain’s first ever virtual motor show, the Telegraph Festival of Motoring. It “introduces a revolutionary way to find out about your next car”, with awards where the winners are voted for by the readers. This adds an engaging social aspect as well. Now that’s good content!
Brands vs. Everyone Else
Now let’s say you are a company that sells new cars online and you are looking at this search intelligence. What message do you get from this information?
Well, you see the search marketing strategies the different domains are working with. You can actually see a difference between the brand websites and the others. The brands seem to be focusing their efforts on AdWords. Everyone else, tends to gain the most share of search with either total organic visibility, or a nice balance of both organic and paid visibility. This is their strategy and this is what is working in the new cars category in the US and UK. Knowing your competition allows you to develop the right strategy to run with the best. I see an opportunity here for brands to grow in organic search and be stronger online by learning from our friends at The Telegraph.
Image credit: www.hoosh.com. Used under license.
The HooshRanks above were extracted on January 9, 2014, and are based on the top 20-25 most searched and competitive generic keywords in the category, meaning no branded keywords are involved. I have filtered out the players that are not brands to display the brands that performed the best in the US and UK.
These market positions may have changed several times since then, because most brands have obtained such high visibility in their respective markets by means of Google AdWords. Since a domain’s paid visibility depends on the AdWords investments, the HooshRank can change dramatically. However, Honda.co.uk breaks that pattern. On January 9th, they were ranking #8 organically and #17 in paid, showing that they have taken the lead and made an effort towards a well-balanced visibility. In my opinion, honda.co.uk’s HooshRank position of #14 will show to be steadier than those driven by paid visibility.
It will be interesting to follow these car brands and see if they build a stronger and better content strategy. Sun Tzu also said, “Opportunities multiply as they are seized.” For the sake of this article, I will interpret this as a message to the car brands: there is nothing wrong with gaining visibility through AdWords, but there is an opening in the market to seize organic visibility and establish an even stronger position. Take it!