How to (not) compete with Amazon.

ecommerce needs focus

Amazon is quite big, right?

Amazon is huge, right?

Amazon is, like, ehm, the authority out there in e-commerce, right?

Amazon is awesome, right?

Amazon is a winner, right?

Amazon is the best in everything, right?

There is no way a small shop could compete with Amazon, right?


In this post, you will learn how to approach the whole “Amazon is so big I’m so small” topic the right way.

But first:

What makes Amazon so great?

I mean, they’re really the “go to guys” for a lot of topics that keep our minds occupied each day:

  • they’ve got great conversion
  • awesome on-page search
  • great SEO
  • user generated content
  • reviews
  • great prices
  • market place features
  • almost $$$ no $$$ budget $$$ limit
  • … I could go on like this for hours, but I have to go and pick up my daughter from school.

But hey, there is one thing I’d like to know:

If Amazon was so great, just like everybody states out there …

… how come there are other sites ranking in Google?

How come Google doesn’t have 10 results of amazon when you search for coffee cups?

How can it be that Google (and the other search engines) take into account what other,
smaller, tiny, not so important, not so awesome, stores have to offer?

Why would Google even bother with them?

If Google cared about their audience, and amazon would be the best store out there, the best for their audience would be to only see amazon’s results on the first pages, right?




– Well, sort of:

Google DOES cares about their users.

A lot.


Their formula can be simplified as:

Better user experience => more searches => more users clicking sometimes on ads => more ca$h

So, Google takes into account users’ behavior.

And thus wants to offer something that’s even better than only showing the best sites’ result:

Google offers variety

¿What do I mean by variety?

I’m referring to this search results list, for example. This is the result I got in the / US when searching for “coffee cups” and their corresponding US SEMrush rankings so you get an idea of their importance according to metrics:

The SEMrush rank indicates approximately the difference in size/importance/authority the different sites have.  While amazon is ranking 5th in SEMrush, the site is ranking 8051st and still competes with amazon on the first page.

Here is why:

Have a glance at their site – they’re the specialist you look for when searching for coffee cups.

The experience you can have browsing their site, searching for coffee cups, is probably quite different from the one you can have on or they do personalizations, you can filter by color, etc. – they’re just different than the other search engine results.

And Google notices. We’ll come to that later again.

Google has all the data right?

Google knows that people clicking on that site after searching for coffee cups usually stay longer, bounce less often, see more sites per session etc. than on other sites like or that would be much more authoritative.

Here’s what that means:

There is an entry point for smaller sites by targeting their offer towards certain search phrases.

Now let me rephrase that to increase its impact on you:

Smaller sites can compete with bigger ones by targeting their offer better towards the searcher’s intent.

Narrow down your focus

Now you might say:

That’s nice Gert, I love that offer targeting strategy … but I cannot possibly target my entire stock towards hundreds and thousands of searcher intents.

Valid point.

You don’t have to.

Not a single store can compete with all their products with all competitors.

You need to narrow down your focus.

Focus! Focus! Focus!

ecommerce needs focus

Especially while building a new brand, you can only fight so many battles at once.

Think about your product categories:

One might be much “sweeter” than the rest of them.

Start with that one.

Analyze your competition well.

What are they doing?

How do they present their content?

What are the search phrases that bring them the most visitors?

Why would somebody remember their site and maybe not your current one?

With today’s tools we have as SEO agencies working in ecommerce, we can very often deconstruct the reasons why someone ranks where they rank, either due to their link profile, usability, page speed, internal link architecture or just the way they grab users’ attention by doing something completely different.


As Marty Neumeier puts it in his book:

When everybody zigs, zag!

Be radically different

If everybody shows a list of products on their landing page, show one big product configurator, or a video of a puppy playing with the product you want to sell, whatever that can make you stick out.

Be different.

Be unique.

Do the opposite.

Often times, this is the key to better rankings.

Specialize and convert

How about this statement? The more specific the search, the higher the conversion?

So, when more specialization brings higher conversions, this might be an interesting path to follow:

Amazon is a generalist.

Amazon has everything.

Which is great.

With their amazon sellers, they have even more stuff.

Which might be even better for them.

For us SEOs working on e-commerce projects, here is a huge advantage:

The fact that amazon isn’t specializing in any particular field, means that there’s nobody investing too much effort in product presentation, explaining concepts, content marketing, creating product videos, video reviews, etc.

Amazon tries, though, but still can’t compete with specialists stores.

Probably they don’t even want to.

But you can.

And should

Spend the effort.

Make your site more user friendly.

More targeted towards the search intent.

Enrich your product presentations.

Provide more content.

Work more with reviews.

Maybe test showing less products at once but filtering the available options better.

Work your way from one product section to the next.

Use the words your audience is using.

Address their doubts about the type of product.

Help them overcome the obstacles between their current situation and the purchase.

They will appreciate that by not bouncing so often and spending more time on your site.

And Google will honor this behavior by improving your rankings.

Google likes experts. Experts’ sites are a great fit for user searches. Be an expert!

be an expert online

If you can convey online that your site, or a section of your site, is specialized enough providing a great user experience for your target audience, Google will rank you well.


Competing against amazon?

So, the next time when you think about how to beat amazon, how to compete against them, just don’t. There is no way in playing their game and trying to beat them in their manner, on their battlefield.

Just don’t compete.

Fight your own battle.

Be different.


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  • 04/05/2017

About the Author

Gert Mellak is the founder of and an expert in search engine optimization and ecommerce. He helps ecommerce businesses to get more organic buyers that convert.


C/ Real 9, Office 12
28991 Madrid
+34 918 160 238

E: [email protected]