Compete with established stockists online with an ingredients-first approach

vitamin c ingredients
Charlotte Rudd
by: Charlotte Rudd
In our latest whitepaper ‘The Race to the Top: Emerging Brands vs. Established Stockists’, we dig deep to explore how small beauty brands can compete with established stockists when it comes to ranking on the search engine results pages (SERPs).

One battleground we’ve identified is ingredients and specifically how emerging brands can lean into their ingredient-first superpowers! Ingredient-led beauty is one of the buzziest industry trends right now (think Bakuchiol, Vitamin C and CBD) and it’s indie brands who are trailblazing. From The Inkey List to The Ordinary, the stage has been set for the new pioneers of solution-driven beauty to get a piece of the action.

Tap into trending ingredients

One thing we know about trending ingredients is that they change quickly. The agility of small brands allows them to pivot quickly to tap into trending ingredients and rapidly evolving consumer needs. We also know that the newer the ingredient, the more likely it is to be the focus of searches with informational intent.

For example, searches for the relatively new ingredient ‘Bakuchiol’, a natural alternative to Retinol, reveal that at this stage consumers are looking to understand the benefits of the ingredient, rather than poised to purchase immediately. Monthly searches for Bakuchiol hit a huge 6.6k in May 2021, with top-of-funnel content such as ‘best product roundups’ and ‘how-to’ from the likes of Byrdie and Allure dominating the SERPs. A blog post from the independent brand Paula’s Choice titled ‘Bakuchiol: What is it?’ ranks fourth on the first SERP for ‘Bakuchiol skin care’.

Source: Google search results for ‘Bakuchiol skin care’ (left) and ‘Vitamin C skin care’ (right), June 2021

Vitamin C, a more established beauty ingredient than Bakuchiol, reflects a buying mindset in the SERPs, with stockists Boots and Superdrug coming out on top.

This is indicative of the different awareness levels of the two ingredients. Vitamin C is better known and so consumers are further down the funnel in the purchasing stages, or even replenishment cycle and its stockists capturing this intent.

Using ingredient-first landing pages

The high ranking of Boots and Superdrug for Vitamin C is also due to the way that multi-brand stockists successfully dedicate entire landing pages to one ingredient to showcase all relevant stocked brands and products.

Both Superdrug and Boots have dedicated Vitamin C landing pages but don’t have a specific landing page for the newer ingredient Bakuchiol, presumably because they don’t stock enough Bakuchiol products to warrant a separate landing page yet.

Ingredient-first landing pages are a great illustration of how stockists target popular and more established ingredient keywords for commercial intent, making it difficult for small brands to compete on these terms. A smaller brand may have very few products of one specific ingredient, so a dedicated landing page designed in this format may not be viable.

Source: Boots Vitamin C Skin Care Landing Page, June 2021

Create ingredient guides

Instead, we recommend that small beauty brands focus on storytelling around up-and-coming skincare ingredients (such as the Bakuchiol example), leveraging your expert voice to produce first-to-market ingredient guides to capitalise on the inevitable rush of information-seeking beauty shoppers. As we’ve seen, established stockists will likely be investing time into capturing consumers further down the funnel. 

As much as possible, emerging brands should avoid trying to compete with the big power players on the same established ingredient keywords because most of the time it’s a losing game against higher domain authority. So whilst your bigger competitors’ attentions are turned to the commercial-intent and more popular ingredients, an authentic indie brand with a specialist positioning can muscle in on the droves of prospective consumers who are still in the awareness and discovery phase for newer ingredients.

Source: Paula’s Choice Ingredient Spotlight ‘Bakuchiol: What is it?’ Fourth ranked in the SERPS for the search term ‘Bakuchiol skin care’.

Long-tail optimisation

For as long as the ingredient is relatively new and undiscovered, so-called ‘how-to’ content is a good alternative to target long-tail keywords and to challenge media competition that ranks high for informational intent e.g. Byrdie and Allure above.

Though it can be tempting to create long-form content like the listicles seen on these sites, and whilst it won’t necessarily help you rank, it’s still important to build those critical, SEO-warranted, internal links. We don’t recommend copying ‘listicle’ or ‘best product roundup’ formats that media articles rank well for, as it will likely be too difficult to compete on these terms.

But if you can’t beat ‘em join ‘em.

In lieu of trying to replicate listicle content on own brand sites, a more effective strategy would be to focus time and energy on affiliate platforms and digital PR to be featured in ‘best product’ round-ups.

Key Takeaways

Creating quality educational content should always be a high priority for emerging brands, especially if brand identity is built upon an ingredients-first approach, as many are today.

This approach might not improve ranking per se but it will capture traffic and improve the overall user experience onsite, building that all-important trust and brand loyalty.

This is a recommended approach to optimise ingredient-based searches and is well suited to smaller brands that can focus on smaller high intent and long-tail keywords for the newest trending ingredients. All while established stockists are distracted elsewhere chasing lower funnel, commercial-intent for more mainstream skincare ingredients.

If you’d like to see more of our recommendations for how emerging brands can compete with established stockists online, download a copy of our latest white paper here.

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