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Outperforming the competition, on a budget

By: Josh Ewin at MrEwin

Submitted on Wed, Jul 26th, 2006 12:00 am

Imagine if you will, that you are "Mr. Big's Big Print Books". You have a website catering to large print book buyers. You have some serious competition online; one of the largest online e-tailers,, as well as a number of online versions of national book sellers such as Barns&Noble or Borders. How in the world do you compete against that?

Unless as Mr. Big you also have very deep pockets, it is very unlikely that you are going to out spend the competition and buy your way to the top. You are going to have to rely on your ability to adapt and find methods to accomplish for free what the big boys are paying big bucks to do.

Organic Placement
The big boys have the advantage of name recognition here and likely have a good number of inbound links based on that alone. You do have an advantage here though. You are selling in one small niche. No need to look at the entire scope of the major competition here, only the small segment that you are competing against. The fact that you can focus on your specific segment gives you the advantage in that segment. Who cares what the competition does, outside of your specific niche.

Mr. Big only has to worry about how places for large print books. He can safely ignore how they do in the rest of the markets. So Mr. Big's domain is going to be more specific to his niche and ALL of the content on his site will be as well. This will help identify him as a good match in the search results, contextually. This is going to help him reach the top of the rankings for his market. Will have high rankings too? probably, but Mr. Big's focus on his niche will put him in play and surfers like to comparison shop. He will be competing in the same search listings as his competition and will have used only his core market focus to get him there. has too many items on it's plate to worry about becoming the worlds #1 authority on large print books. Mr. Big however is well on the way to becoming just that.

Paid Placement
This one is a bit trickier. It is very easy in this area for a larger company to just throw giant amounts of money at some keywords and claim huge chunks of traffic. I have a feeling many of you are thinking, "There is no way I can play at that level, profitably". You'd be wrong.

The paid search game is still very young and many larger companies are not grasping the finer points of the game yet. Yes, they can out spend the US Treasury, but is all that money doing any good? The single and double word key phrases that are most common in a niche are also usually the most expensive. Many larger companies think these deliver the most traffic, so this is where they need to be. This time, they are wrong. This traffic is also the lowest converting traffic. So a click that buys for $3.00 could very well be a lower converting click than one that Mr. big buys for $.25. The trick is to find the 3-4 word phrases that surfers are using to find the products. When a surfer uses four or more words in a search he or she is usually further along in the buying process and is looking for something specific. When a surfer uses 1-2 words, they are usually still in the "looking" phase of the buying process.

If Mr. Big targets paid or PPC traffic to specific titles or authors that are published in large print, he will most likely have a much better conversion rate at a lower cost than the big boys do paying large figures for generic traffic such as "Books" or even "Large Print Books".

The trick to compete on a budget is to stay within your niche, becoming the authority on the subject and provide as much detail as you can to your surfers. You may never have a warehouse full of every product known to man, but you will be the best place to find your specific product online.

John will be speaking in the "Big Ideas for Small Sites & Small Budgets" session at the Search Engine Strategies Conference in San Jose Aug 7th-10th 2006. If you are attending, feel free to stop by with any questions or just to say 'hi'.

Written by John Carcutt, Senior SEO Analyst.

About the Author

Josh Ewin
MrEwin is an E-Business Analysis blog containing up to the minute articles, reviews and interviews with industry leaders regarding the current state and future direction of e-commerce.

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