Oh the irony. I’m competing with my own SEO strategies from years ago. When I was working at eBay, creating lasting strategies to bring mountains of free SEO traffic to the platform, across multiple categories, I could never imagine I would curse the success I’ve had as I would be competing with my own strategies. At Fanatics, I will make it my mission to de-crown eBay on a number of Pet-Peeve queries I’ve had some success at while I was at eBay. Sometimes, I took it to the extreme, and made it a topic in my presentations at a number of conferences, in the hope any blogger in the audience would pick up the story, and live blog a link to some of the examples on my slides.
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Ernie Banks Baseball Cards
Almost 5 years ago, I got the chance to present in front of the whole eBay executive staff on the SEO opportunity for eBay. At that point, I learned a valuable lesson on enterprise in-house SEO: Know your audience, or even better; know the favorite queries of the top executives in your company.
For John Donahoe, the CEO of eBay, it was clear to me I didn’t do my homework. When he asked me: “Why is eBay not ranking for Ernie Banks Baseball Card, while we have +6,000 collectible baseball cards on the site?”, the only response I could give him was a technical SEO explanation. The message was received with mixed emotions, as the limited attention span of CEO’s of a Fortune 100 company are not well suited for something like; Discoverability of a page, Topical relevance vs User Intent, or External- & Internal link distribution.
When we walked out of that meeting, the first thing I did was making a phone call to the team, order a page to be created for Ernie Banks Baseball Cards, and start to include the page into our internal link optimization. Luckily our team had built a flexible platform for long tail keyword targeting, using top of the page relevant content, and an API call to include live items on the site to keep the inventory on the page fresh. With little to no help from the main engineering teams, the platform had been driving massive amounts of ROI for several years, where now the system could be useful to create the perception with the CEO of eBay, his SEO team could actually deliver.
Instant results within a week
And guess what, within a day, the page was up. The following week, the page was ranking on the 1st page for the query Ernie Banks Baseball Cards. After 2-3 weeks, the page was #1. Awesome to be writing an email to your CEO and declare you conquered the topic he is so passionate about. After this, we pulled this trick many times more on executive favorite searches.
Lasting results, dominating the top of the SERP’s
For years, the page we created was ranking on 1st position, paying back the initial investment many times, like money in the bank! And even the normal search page started to rank, where for the query Ernie Banks Baseball Cards, eBay dominated the first 2 positions for years!
Competing with Yourself
Fast forward ~5 years, and I just ended up starting with Fanatics to work on it’s SEO. Fanatics powers many sites, among the league site for MLB. In the sports collectible arena, we have a good horse in the race with Fanatics Authentic. And YES, we do have Ernie Banks Baseball cards on the site for sale (and Ernie Banks Jerseys, Baseballs, Vintage Trading Cards), which brings me to the moral of this story; I’m currently competing with my own work from years ago.
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Many SEO’s out there are competing with other SEO’s. But have you ever thought about being your own competitor, and look at your strategy from a different angle? How would you try to beat yourself? What tactics would you deploy, and what amount of resources do you need? It’s an interesting question I would love to get more input on from you. If you would like to share some of your thoughts, feel free to add it in the form at the bottom of this post here, and I will make sure I mention you in follow up blogposts.
As I’m battling my own SEO work, I’ve been helped by the large bureaucracy and in-efficiency of a large company like eBay. I normally wouldn’t diss a former employer which has been so good to me, but this is just plain stupid what has happened. Just 2 months ago, I noticed eBay had taken down the platform described earlier. The pages return a 404-error code, not even a 301 redirect. And where eBay used to have double rankings on top on profitable, long-tail keywords, driving a ton of free traffic, these have all been removed from the Google Index due to a block in Robots.txt and the platform been taken down.
A former colleague called it the greatest ROI project ever! With an initial investment of $250,000, eBay consistently pulled in $20m in GMV per year. As the platform was running for more than 6 years, the payback on the investment must have been 75X the initial investment. How about that for ROI.
- Always know your audience, know what they might be searching for, and be prepared to rank a page to point out the quality of your work, pro-actively!
- When competing with large companies, do not under estimate the stupidity of their actions. You might get ahead, just because the executive team in that company things certain pages need to be taken down. Don’t forget, SEO is a zero sum game, when the #1 ranking page falls out of the index, some other page takes it’s place.
- Do you have what it takes to compete with yourself? If your the best in what you do, can you beat your own tactics, strategies and smarts? This opens up a whole new way of thinking how to set up your campaigns, because if you don’t compete with yourself, others might, and they might win!
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