Niche Down to Scale Up: A Case Study in Ecommerce Content Marketing

Ecommerce is saturated with content marketing. Companies like WooCommerce, BigCommerce, and Shopify dominate the search results with thousands of articles, peerless brand recognition, and almost unassailable domain authority.

When you’re up against strong incumbents, the smartest thing to do is to stop competing.

Sellbrite, a multichannel selling tool, did just that.

Their original content strategy resembled that of many other companies: write long-form, top-of-the-funnel blog posts about anything—and everything— ecommerce. In other industries, this approach can be enough, but stark competition in ecommerce has raised the bar.

Sellbrite’s traffic peaked in 2017 and then plateaued for 14 months straight.

Sellbrite pushed past the plateau by pivoting their strategy to focus on their area of expertise—multichannel ecommerce—and not ecommerce broadly. In practice, that meant

  • targeting product-specific long-tail search terms,
  • riding the wave of growth created by emerging ecommerce technology, and
  • aligning content strategy with product messaging.

Through niching down, Sellbrite’s traffic shot up.

In the space of a year, monthly blog visits increased by 255%, from 20,000 in April 2019, to 71,000 in April 2020.

This level of growth can’t be achieved by taking on the industry giants and fighting over the crumbs left behind; it comes from carving out your own, less contested, niche.

1. Leverage the Long Tail

Many companies choose to fight over a handful of high volume, short-tail keywords—despite being dramatically outgunned by their competitors. Sellbrite’s content strategy prioritizes the long tail instead.

Take BigCommerce as an example. Their website has a domain authority of 92/100, the same as WIRED and greater than Netflix. The strength of their domain allows their content to claim the top spot for hypercompetitive, high-volume keywords such as “ecommerce” (73,000 monthly searches) and “affiliate marketing” (76,000 monthly searches).

Few companies can contest these keywords. Few should even try. The intent behind “ecommerce” is so broad that it’s almost useless. Are searchers looking for a definition? A platform? Strategies for their own ecommerce store?

Instead, Sellbrite focuses on topics that they are uniquely positioned to understand and comment on. They eschew the “appeal to everyone” approach of other ecommerce blogs and focus on their own area of expertise: selling products across multiple online marketplaces.

Sellbrite focuses on topics that they are uniquely positioned to understand and comment on.

Instead of targeting short-tail, generic “ecommerce” keywords, they create content for long-tail “ecommerce marketplace” terms:

These long-tail topics are less competitive, offer clearer search intent, and are more relevant to Sellbrite’s product. Sellbrite is more likely to win these terms from competitors, and these terms are more likely to result in business.

Should a competitor set their sights on these keywords, Sellbrite could still contest them—while domain authority matters, so too do authority and experience in the subject matter, both of which Sellbrite possesses in spades.

2. Target Branded Keywords to Ride the Wave of Growth

Focusing on multichannel ecommerce has allowed Sellbrite to turn the saturation in their industry into an advantage.

In ecommerce, new products, platforms, and tactics appear at breakneck speed: within the time required to write this article, Shopify and Facebook have teamed up, and Stripe has expanded into five new territories.

With each development, new branded keywords and content opportunities appear, providing Sellbrite with more ways to reach its audience. As companies like Etsy, eBay, and Amazon continue to ascend, Sellbrite can ride the wave of their growth.

Case in point—many of Sellbrite’s best-performing articles target branded keywords:

In isolation, these multichannel-specific keywords offer far less volume than a behemoth like “ecommerce.” Crucially though, Sellbrite is able to win these terms outright instead of quarreling over 20th place in more competitive search results.

In aggregate, pursuing these keywords is also lucrative. Sellbrite’s blog currently ranks for 49,000 keywords, a figure that grew over 31% from the previous quarter. Of those rankings, over 500 keywords have Sellbrite sitting in the top three results.

As the ecommerce industry grows, so does Sellbrite’s traffic:

Many companies shy away from targeting branded keywords, under the assumption that an "eBay" search term can only be fulfilled by an eBay page. This is sometimes true, but not exclusively.

Often, it's possible to add something new and contrarian to the search results—writing the content that eBay, or Amazon, or Etsy won't write themselves.

3. Align Content Strategy with Product Messaging

When coronavirus hit, demand for Sellbrite’s product increased dramatically. Thanks to the alignment between their product positioning and their content marketing, the company was able to capitalize on that surge of interest at a time when others in the industry struggled to keep the lights on.

On March 17, 2020, Amazon announced that they would be excluding “nonessential” goods from its warehouses in response to the outbreak of COVID-19. With Amazon accounting for ~35% of the U.S. ecommerce market, the impact was widespread; companies that had previously depended on Amazon found themselves without revenue, warehousing, and distribution channels.

Amazon’s decision created an urgent need for sellers to diversify to new channels—a challenge Sellbrite can solve.

But if Sellbrite’s marketing had consisted entirely of generic, top-of-funnel content about “ecommerce” and “affiliate marketing,” this growth wouldn’t have been as pronounced.

If Sellbrite’s marketing had consisted entirely of generic, top-of-funnel content about “ecommerce” and “affiliate marketing,” this growth wouldn’t have been as pronounced.

Instead, Sellbrite had effectively invested in their own success: their articles about multichannel ecommerce created a surge in traffic that fed directly into the product.

As a result, Sellbrite’s blog saw its best-ever traffic during the height of COVID-19, hitting 18,000 visits in a single week:

While Sellbrite didn’t predict the pandemic, it did ensure that it’s content marketing supported its product positioning: when demand for multichannel ecommerce was at its peak, Sellbrite was prepared with hundreds of hyper-relevant keyword rankings.

Niche Down to Scale Up

Sellbrite’s content strategy is deceptively simple—it boils down to aligning your marketing with your product and writing about the topics that you’re uniquely positioned to comment on.

But in doing so, the company has been able to avoid direct competition with industry behemoths, rank for thousands of relevant keywords, and hit record-breaking traffic.

When many ecommerce companies are struggling to survive, Sellbrite has used content marketing to stake out their own niche and achieve record growth.

Their lesson is clear: in any industry saturated by content marketing and dominated by a handful of huge competitors, it pays to avoid direct competition and instead niche down.