You have a great product or service, and your potential customers are spread out worldwide.
You might literally have customers in every country on the planet.
Filled with unwavering optimism, you kick off your SEO strategy, but you’re hitting wall after wall.
Your site has no technical issues, you have the best content out there, and you’ve gained quite a few backlinks… but you’re still not winning.
It sounds like you’ve picked the wrong fights.
It’s likely you picked a highly competitive market to cater to. And you don’t have the authority to win – not yet.
You’re competing with big brands that are spending millions of dollars a month on digital marketing and have been going at it for over a decade.
Can you beat them?
Yes, but not with this strategy.
You need to rethink it.
They’re Goliath, and you’re David. And you don’t have a slingshot yet.
You need to pick battles you can actually win, and you need to go into battle prepared.
OK, so how do you go about that?
Let’s start at the beginning, and look at some of the weaknesses these big brands have.
Big Brands Aren’t Perfect
First some good news: big brands aren’t perfect.
Speaking from experience, here are some of the weaknesses I often see with big brands:
- They have a slow decision-making process, because they need to get approval from a variety of stakeholders.
- They’re not great at executing SEO- and content-marketing strategies due to internal politics and the number of people involved.
- Their sites are running on legacy platforms, and sometimes they’re even dealing with prolonged code freezes.
Play to Your Strengths
As a smaller player, you may not have a massive budget or a big team of seasoned digital marketing specialists, but you do have some powerful advantages:
- Gait: you’re fast and flexible; you don’t have to get your ideas approved by many layers of management. If you come up with a great idea, you can have it online the same day.
- Grit: it’s likely that your determination to beat these bigger brands is much stronger than the other way around, as these bigger brands are already in a comfortable position. A smaller brand has little to lose and everything to gain.
- Guts: you don’t have to get legal sign-off for every campaign you’re going to run. You can run much more provocative campaigns.
In summary, smaller brands have everything to gain, can run daring campaigns, and can execute much faster than bigger brands because there’s nothing holding them back.
Find Topics to Rank for in Markets with Strong Competition
Even within markets where you’re facing strong competition, you can find topics to rank for that haven’t yet been covered by your competition.
Disregard all the “usual suspects” and aim to find long-tail topics that are easily missed because they seem not to be worth pursuing.
Google Trends is highly useful here. Use it to keep an eye on emerging trends within your space and, as soon as you spot a trend, publish content around that topic.
See how that content performs. If you find it getting a lot of traction, write some more.
Creating a High Barrier to Entry
When you find low-competition topics that you can rank for, make sure your content is the best out there.
That is: make sure it looks awesome, it’s complete, and you have all your bases covered.
Go above and beyond to make sure your content is the best out there, creating a high barrier to entry for competitors.
Look Beyond Your Domestic Market
In markets where big brands don’t have a strong presence, it’s a level playing field, and you actually have a good chance at beating them.
I’d always recommend that smaller brands first create a business case as well to justify entering certain markets, but as a smaller brand, you can go through this process 10 times faster than bigger brands. That also means you can exit it quickly.
Find markets that are accessible to you where the competition doesn’t have a strong presence, and test the waters. If you see potential, invest more and take it from there.
Here are the advantages of entering these markets:
- In low-competition markets, you can enjoy exceptionally high growth.
- You can grow unnoticed, as competitors are all busy fighting each other for that massive market everyone’s pursuing.
You can take the competition head-on at a later time after you’ve built up enough authority and momentum, if you choose to.
Low-competition markets sound interesting, but how do you find them?
By doing old-fashioned desk research, and by using the data you already have.
Finding High-Potential Markets Through Desk Research
Map out all the markets you can cater to, and research the competition within those markets.
If the competition from big brands is low, then look further: are there lots of successful local players you don’t have an edge over?
If so, leave that market. If not, put it on your list.
Here’s an example of my own:
I work at an SEO platform called ContentKing. Worldwide, there are hundreds of SEO platforms, but in the Netherlands, there’s literally only a handful of them.
And none of the big players have localized their platforms into Dutch. It doesn’t make sense for them to do that, and that gives us an edge.
Is the Netherlands easily accessible to us? Yes (part of our team is Dutch).
Is it a massive market? No.
Is it big enough to make it worth our while? For sure!
Finding High-Potential Markets Based on Real Data
If you already have data about where your customers like your offerings, use that to your advantage.
Look within your analytics platform to see what markets convert well, and investigate whether you can grab a bigger market share there.
Example: one of our ContentKing customers, a bicycle seller, saw they were getting a lot of orders from Australia for certain bicycle types.
After some research, they found these customers preferred Dutch bicycles over any other bicycles and would gladly pay the extra shipping fee. They increased their focus on this market, and it turned into a real money-maker.
Finding Topics to Rank for Within These High-Potential Markets
I’ve found that simply creating localized versions of the same content that works well in highly-competitive markets goes a long way in these high potential markets.
This lets you rank quickly as there’s less competition, and because there’s less competition, having the best content is quickly within your grasp.
As a smaller player, you stand a chance against bigger brands if you pick your battles wisely.
Leverage your strengths and take advantage of bigger brands’ weaknesses to quickly grow your business, so that you can take them head-on someday in the future.
Focus on ranking for topics that others aren’t focused on, and look beyond your domestic market.