Brands That Crush SEO: REI & Etsy

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Many people ask me, “So, who do you think is doing SEO the best?” Well, in order to succeed in any industry, you have to be able to know who to watch and learn from. REI and Etsy have been steady strategy influencers for me throughout my SEO career. Not only are they brands that I follow on a personal level, but I love nerding out over their online consumer case studies and interface changes that directly respond to their user engagement. I’m thankful to have such awesome brands to inspire me to try new ideas and to grow the businesses I work with in innovative, new ways.

So.. What makes REI and Etsy my brands to watch?

Not Just Staying Ahead of Trends, But Creating Them.


REI continues to brilliantly execute “long form” content video marketing. Their team produces dozens of videos every year, ranging from five-minute simple how-to videos to 40-minute documentaries. These documentaries are more than just engaging content, they appeal to the emotions of those passionate about the outdoors by building stories that their audience either relate to or are inspired by.  

I know what you’re thinking….how does video relate to SEO? Well, video is a form of “quality content” and for REI, it is answering questions for different types of audiences and positions REI as an ongoing online resource, and people LOVE going to their site to learn and be inspired. See how this is a strategic tactic in their SEO strategy?

Because REI has positioned their brand as a leading authority of outdoor adventure by creating captivating original content, their organic traffic is steady and constantly on the rise. This makes them a genuinely competitive brand in their areas and industries of expertise!



Everyone knows Etsy! They are the name brand for crafters and artists looking to sell goods online using an eBay style format.

Their online store requires product sellers to have their own independent SEO strategy in order for their stores to perform on Etsy. The brand’s goal is to differentiate themselves by delivering a more personalized and intuitive search experience for shoppers. They have invested in an entire “online shopper data team” focused on testing changes around how shoppers will get to their preferred search result pages and then how they will interact with them. Their approach is setting the standard for the hand-made goods e-commerce environment.

The Value of Search Intent Driven Strategies.  


Paolo Mottola, Managing Editor of REI Co-op was the winner for 2017 Content Marketer of the Year and I love this recent quote from him -

“We’re reaching people who have different needs and interests at different times,” he says, “It’s not a linear relationship and not always about retail transactions with our business.”

The intent behind a search is so rarely seen by companies as opportunity for new business relationships. REI not only understands the value of understanding their audiences’ intent, they also look to create new intentions for their consumers’ online search. Their team thinks about how to position their content in a way that develops curiosity in a subject, not just an answer to a question or typical outdoor market product need.  

By approaching content creation this way, people new to the outdoors feel like REI can show them how to get started with more confidence.  It increases the number of consumers engaging with REI’s inspirational stories and outdoor motivation documentaries, which creates and reinforces an emotional connection with potential consumers’ search intent versus a one time transaction.

Investment in Consumer Data.

Etsy is committed to keeping crafters using their stores as their main platform to sell custom goods and products. E-commerce in itself is ever changing and ultimately requires a designated set of minds to truly be used to its full potential. Etsy relies on their buyer data to continue providing a better user experience to the online buyers. By keeping user experience in mind, Etsy exceeds the needs of their consumers as well as their crafters. They focus on positive search and transaction experiences for their consumers, and in turn, they’re dedicated to helping their store owners grow their businesses.

They even have a buyer marketplace experiment hub where you can view tests that are most relevant to sellers including:

  • New ideas they’re currently testing

  • Updated information on experiments that have resulted in a permanent change across the site

  • If they turned off or stopped an experiment

  • A catalogue of past experiments

These are just a few of their recent data testing samples conducted this past year:

Etsy Test 1
Etsy Test 2

Strategic Pairing of SEO and Brand Voice.


REI - what a brand voice! They have created an experience-focused brand for outdoor lifestyle with a co-operative, interactive consumer base that leads the brand in its storytelling. The stories of their consumers are the stories the brand is built on. But like many brands I admire, their content marketing team focuses on the foundation of their internal brand guidelines and clearly defined brand voice before producing anything. SEO cannot succeed without the clarity of your voice. REI showcases this unwavering loyalty to their brand with every piece of content they produce.


Etsy has positioned themselves as the global marketplace for unique and creative goods. Their focus on homemade products, crafts, and vintage products is their brand voice. The data scientist team understands the importance of this, which is why their dedication to creating search results that are tailored to each consumers’ personal taste sets their SEO apart from other online marketplaces. The style of their search functionality represents so much of their handcrafted brand because it consistently demonstrates their commitment to creative, one of kind online findings for their consumers.

Company Alignment on Optimal SEO


REI leverages agency and publisher relationships to co-develop stories and provide them to the audiences searching for them. The partnerships made within the industry showcase the “all in” company mindset that generates goodwill amongst their consumers and brand ambassadors. This goodwill leads to optimal user interactions, online search marketing strategies, and continuously furthers the brand’s mission to create the most intimate of online connections with new and loyal consumers.

In short: REI as a whole embraces the quality of the user’s experience.


The Etsy team strategically and meticulously works through every decision they make within their company. Etsy demonstrates the importance of investing not only in the data from a user experience perspective, but also in their values and principles (you can check out their most recent Etsy Report here). Their focus on user experience and online search engagement goes over and beyond what is expected by consumers. Even though e-commerce is an extremely technical and practical online experience, Etsy has found a way to create a deeper connection with their sellers and online buyers.

“Our mission is to Keep Commerce Human.”

I’m sure by now you have seen the consistency in the brands I follow for SEO inspiration. They are the same brands that motivate me to conquer my fears, take chances, live creatively, and go after everything I want in life. They take big, calculated risks with their online targeting strategy and work to create new innovative ideas that build long term consumer relationships versus simply following industry standards or best practices.  

Dominating your SEO strategy has to do with building an authentic brand that you believe in! Think about Etsy and REI the next time you are given a marketing challenge or you find yourself in a SEO performance rut. Don’t let the fear of doing something different stop you from trying an approach that your audience is searching for... or maybe doesn’t even know they want!  

Learn more about Shelma at: Flash Foxy
Learn more about REI's Force of Nature initiative:
Film by: Talweg Creative