Okay — we can see it’s possible.
Stores with small catalogues absolutely can — and do — build large, defensible audiences on Google.
But how? How exactly?
In my view, if you’ve got fewer than 10 products and you want to crush it in Google, the thing you should be prepared to do is: invest in content.
With few products, the only way to give yourself the chance to rank for new keywords is to find them and produce new content that targets them.
In other words, you’ve got to blog.
And there are really two kinds to focus on — two kinds of content that show up over and over again in every example of a successful “small” store we see:
- Branded blogging
- Problem/question-based blogging
The strategy for those two can be significantly different. And sometimes — depending on your niche, the stage of your business, and your market’s competitive landscape — one may be much more difficult than the other.
So let’s take a look at what each of these might look like.
Branded blogging (…and not just your own brand)
Branded blogging = blogging about topics that include a brand.
Taking the example from above, Hello Tushy was doing branded blogging when they created a page targeting this keyword:
- “hello tushy reviews”
It’s a page targeting a keyword that includes their brand.
Real quick, though (because I know what a lot of you guys are thinking), I want to get something very important out of the way.
Being able to blog about your own brand is a luxury.
Building a brand takes a lot of time. And it especially takes a lot of time to build a brand big enough that people are typing it into Google.
However, I am not saying that in order for a “small” store to be successful in Google, it’s got to first build a brand.
That’s not true.
It’s nice. It helps. But there are other ways to tackle branded blogging even if you don’t yet have an established brand.
Namely, you can target other brands.
Let’s look at both of those: (1) blogging about your own brand and (2) blogging about other brands.
Blogging about your own brand
A lot of the time, your branded traffic is going to go right to your homepage (these will be people searching your brand only) or to a specific product (people searching for that product specifically).
In the SEO industry, these are what we call navigational keywords. People are typing these into Google mostly as a way to easily navigate to your website (or a product on your website).
These are NOT what we need to blog about.
Here’s an example from SimpliSafe (another “small” but highly successful eCommerce store).
Here’s keyword data for the keyword “simplisafe smart lock.”
The numbers may look good here. There are 5,500 people typing this into Google monthly, and there’s not much competition.
But people typing this into Google are mostly looking for this product; there’s no real indicator that they’re looking to have a conversation or find out more information
For this kind of keyword, our product page can more or less stand on its own. Likewise with keywords like:
- “simplisafe security system”
- “simplisafe camera”
These are all mostly navigational keywords for people hunting for our products already.
So what do we need to target when we set out to blog about our brand? Conversational keywords — keywords that indicate the searcher is both looking for your brand and wondering about something.
In other words, we want to look for keywords that meet the following criteria:
- Include your brand name
- Include some indicator of conversation
- Have a decent number of people searching for them each month
If we look at all keywords containing the word “simplisafe,” I’d pick out stuff like the following if I was going to launch a branded blogging campaign.
These are just two keywords out of a list of thousands that include the brand “simplisafe.”
But keywords like these indicate an opportunity to educate someone about your brand as they are looking and comparing your products to other products.
The keyword “simplisafe reviews,” for example, indicates someone who is looking specifically for SimpliSafe products but who wants to read reviews.
If I were SimpliSafe, I would absolutely want to be the one leading that conversation.
The other keyword, “ring vs simplisafe,” is a keyword that indicates users are searching for information about how SimpliSafe compares to one of its primary competitors.
Again, if I were SimpliSafe, I would absolutely want to be the one leading that conversation.
And how do we do that?
By writing blog posts (or, in some cases, producing landing pages) targeting those keywords.
Blogging about competitor’s brands
But what if we don’t have a big brand?
Lots of businesses don’t. Even high-revenue shops often don’t have a whole lot of brand equity.
If that’s you — if you’re an eCommerce store with a small brand and a small product catalogue, can you still leverage the power of branded blogging?
How? By writing about other brands.
This tactic isn’t necessarily for the faint of heart. It can definitely rub your competitors the wrong way, and if you’re like me, and you’re the kind of person who prefers to build a network of friends in your industry rather than the alternative, this may be one you skip.
That said, it’s a tactic employed by lots of powerful brands who are happy to take part in a little friendly competition.
Here’s the basic strategy: produce content that targets branded, conversational keywords about your competitors.
In particular, you could target keywords that indicate people are not happy with your competitors.
Here’s a good example.
This blog post is from a company called Monster VOIP, a company that offers phone and team communication services for small businesses.
They have some brand equity, but not a ton.
So, one of their strategies is to write articles that target keywords about their competitive brands, especially those that indicate their competitor’s customers may be looking for something different.
Like this one.
This targets the keyword “google voice alternative.”
And it’s a super solid keyword.
The keyword difficulty is a bit high, but 2,100 people search for it every month, and because they are actively looking for an alternative to a solution they’ve already spent money on, these people are likely very motivated to buy.
So Monster VOIP wrote an article on it.
It now ranks #4 in the organic results and generates an estimated 844 visits per month.
And this is one keyword about one competitor.
This strategy can be leveraged for any keyword that indicates people are asking questions (or, ideally, aren’t happy) with your competitors.
Branded blogging is great.
Branded blogging is powerful. They tend to be easier to rank for and are associated with strong buying intent.
But there’s generally a ceiling because there are usually exponentially fewer branded keywords floating around out there than other kinds of keywords.
So the audience is small.
What if we want to build a huge audience of buyers over time?
That’s where audience-oriented blogging comes in.
In my view, audience-based blogging is one of the best — and one of the most overlooked — tactics any eCommerce business can use.
And it’s even more crucial (and often even more overlooked) by stores with small catalogues.
Audience-based blogging = producing content around highly specific topics your audience is already searching for to build a large, strong, defensible audience over time.
There are lots of ways to do this, but here are a few of the best.
1. Answer questions about your product verticals.
Imagine you’re Hello Tushy, and you’re just starting out. You’re selling a bidet. Bidets, to some people, can be… well… scary.
It’s a new sensation. It’s a different cleaning method. It can be expensive. And so on.
People will have questions. Someone somewhere has to answer them.
And if you can be the one who answers, it helps establish authority, expertise, and trust — and those things can lead to a sale.
And just look at all these questions people have about bidets:
Here’s keyword data for “how to use a bidet.”
It’s slightly more competitive, but a company with a website as strong as Hello Tushy’s could certainly compete for it.
Here’s the data for “how to install a bidet.”
Slightly less volume here, but very, very low difficulty. It’s also a bit closer to the top of the funnel than the bottom, but of those 700 people, some are probably looking to buy and are curious about the level of expertise required to get the thing set up if they take the plunge. It’s a good conversation to be leading, and it’s a great stepping stone to incrementally build that audience.
This keyword would be cake for Hello Tushy.
And I especially like keywords like this one: “how much does a bidet cost.”
Someone searching for this keyword almost has their credit card out. People who have moved on from basic questions to ask about price are people who are interested.
These are people we’d want to talk to.
2. Talk to your target audience about their problems (even if they’re not specifically about your products).
Whoever your target audience is, they have problems.
Suppose you were an electric bike company. Your potential customers may have problems like the following:
- Bikes can be unsafe
- People steal bikes
- Bike laws change from state to state
- Commuting to work is annoying in big cities
- Being sweaty after cycling to work
- And so on
One of the ways you can attract potential customers is to demonstrate your expertise by helping them solve their problems — and then/also by offering your product as part of that solution.
This is true even if a keyword doesn’t necessarily indicate interest in your specific product.
Take this keyword: “bike theft prevention.”
This keyword is small but mighty.
It’d be relatively easy to rank for, and it helps our target audience solve a very specific problem.
It’s definitely near the top of the funnel, but it also attracts people who may be frustrated with bike theft.
If we owned an electric bike company, we could help educate them about bike theft, and we could add, “You know; with an electric bike, you need a key, making them much more difficult to steal.”
Then we’d point them to our products.
Or, we’d offer a bike safety checklist in exchange for their email address.
But the point is; producing content about this stuff helps us help our target audience, and when we do that, over time, we make more sales.
This tactic is especially effective for problem-based products.
SimpliSafe is not a “fun” product (no offense, SimpliSafe, if, for some reason, you happen to be reading this).
It solves a problem. It solves the problem of home security.
And if I were SimpliSafe, I’d be blogging about that problem (and related problems) all day.
3. Talk to your target audience about their passions.
It’s also true that whoever your audience is, they’re interested in stuff.
They’ve got passions. They’re thinking and reading about things related to the thing you sell — that’s why people like them are buying from you, right?
So, one way to bring our target audience in is to create content about their passions.
And the idea is the same: we’re not necessarily looking to target the most specific customer. We’re not only writing about our products.
Instead, we’re trying to build a large, sustainable audience by talking to our customers about their passions.
One company that does this really well is the breakout Shopify star of 2021: Beard Brand.
Beard brand isn’t strictly a small store. But they’re small-ish. They have a couple dozen products.
But they’re certainly not large.
And they do an absolutely fantastic job blogging toward their customers’ passions.
The following screenshot is the estimated traffic only for their blog.
And this is their total traffic…
In other words, of their ~189,000 total monthly traffic, about 150,000 comes from their blog.
Beard Brand gets it. In a big way.
What kind of stuff do they write about? They write toward the passion of their customers.
It’s stuff like: “The 21 Best Beard Styles of 2021.”
And, “All Stages of Beard Growth Clarified: The Ultimate Timeline.”
And tons and tons of other articles.
They’re about beards and men’s style and grooming. And they’re fun to read.
Yes, Beard Brand very much understands the power of blogging toward your customer’s passions.
The result is a growing brand that was generating over $1M/yr in revenue in 2019 and showed no signs of slowing.
The “small store advantage”: why SEO sometimes works even better for stores with small catalogues…
As a final note, I wanted to say that, anecdotally, from running organic traffic campaigns for several businesses with small stores…
Sometimes, this stuff can work even better if you don’t have many products.
Because all the rest of your marketing can be so focused.
All the message goes to your one product. Every single page can nudge people to the same product. If you get people on an email list, you can promote your special thing.
There will never be any doubt about who you are and what you’re good at. If you only sell a few specific products — and you’re willing to invest in building a targeted audience of people around that product — the upside can be big.