How Byrdie Toppled Billion Dollar Beauty Brands (Without Ads)

By | October 16, 2021

Amazing SEO doesn’t happen in a vacuum. It’s not the result of hiring one really smart person, or layering search on top of marketing. Truly incredible SEO is infused in a brand’s DNA. It informs marketing, draws insight from customers, and fuels growth.

Some brands like Byrdie understand this, while others continue to view organic search as a commodity.

The marketing double standard

How would Neutrogena’s VP of Marketing react if the brand’s entire line of beauty products was suddenly yanked from the shelves of every national retailer and dumped into obscure bins in the back of stores?

What about other heads of marketing for massive beauty brands like L’Oréal, Olay, MAC Cosmetics, Dove, or Nivea?

Would they all just shrug their shoulders and move on?

No. Anyone in charge of marketing at a multi-billion dollar brand would do whatever it takes to secure prime product placement in stores where customers are most likely to see them.

So, why don’t all marketing executives approach digital marketing with that same relentless drive to win? Afterall, the first page of Google is just like a prime, top-shelf placement — and everything else is a dirty bin in the rear of the store.

Before we can answer that question — and explain how brands can claim the prized top shelf in Google — we need to look at some data.

Which beauty brands dominate Google organic market share?

top 10 beauty brands based on organic market share

Using Terakeet’s market share analysis technology, we examined 3,168 high-value, non-branded beauty industry keywords that account for 9,393,580 monthly Google searches. Then, we calculated the market share for the top brands in each of nine different sectors and published the results of our study in a 93-page Google Market Share Report for the Beauty Industry.

The report reveals that certain brands always control the leaderboard, regardless of market sector.

You’d probably expect massive beauty brands that sell products to dominate organic search for topics like skincare, hair care, or makeup. However, familiar household names like L’Oréal, Maybelline, Garnier, YSL, Kiehl’s, Redken, Pantene, Urban Decay, Estée Lauder, Clinique, Chanel, Lancôme, Dior, or Givenchy were nowhere to be found.

Shockingly, out of all these brands, only L’Oréal made the top 10 in Google market share in any of the nine market sectors we analyzed. And even then, it only appeared in a single sector.

So, which beauty brands hoard all the organic search market share and win top-shelf placement on the first page of Google?

Beauty Industry Market ReportFind out which beauty brands have the most Google organic market share (and which ones are invisible).Download the Report

Online publishers edge out retailers on Google’s “top shelf”

According to Terakeet’s beauty industry analysis, online publishers control the most market share, hands down.

And, in an industry expected to top $716 billion by 2025, that’s a lot of opportunity. Especially when three markets make up  62.3% of the total industry’s sales:

  • Hair care – 24%
  • Skin care – 23.7%
  • Cosmetics – 14.6%

Among the top 19 Google market share holders in hair care, for example, 16 are publishers or informational websites. Similarly, 14 of the top 20 in skincare are non-beauty retailers.

And what publisher consistently outperforms the rest? Byrdie.

Byrdie is an online publisher that has secured an iron grip on consumer attention in the beauty space by creating popular, engaging, long-form content.

The brand itself doesn’t sell any beauty products, yet it completely trounces the performance of beauty brands and retailers when it comes to search visibility and organic traffic from beauty keywords. Ironic, right?

So, what is Byrdie and how does it dominate organic search?

What is Byrdie? homepage hero

Katherine Power and Hillary Kerr co-founded Byrdie in 2013. The business model was simple: Create amazing content users will ****, optimize it for organic search, and monetize the website through affiliate marketing.

Byrdie was originally part of media company Clique Brands. Dotdash then acquired the company in January 2019, and made SEO a major focus of its beauty content marketing initiatives.

It’s worth noting that Dotdash also owns many other prominent digital properties, including Verywell, Investopedia, The Balance, The Spruce, Simply Recipes, Brides, and many more. So, publishing and SEO are in the parent organization’s DNA.

That helps to explain Byrdie’s massive organic search success. However, there’s much more to the site than product reviews, affiliate links, and keyword-stuffed pages.

Byrdie knows its target audience and takes its content quality seriously. The content is written by award-winning writers and editors who have worked for other prominent publishers and beauty companies including Hearst, Condé Nast, Meredith, and L’Oréal.

In other words, Byrdie doesn’t guess when it comes to publishing. Its content strategy is informed by search data. Even with thousands of pieces of content, its website is lean, focused, and organized.

As a result, it drives massive business value for the brand.

Byrdie’s organic search domination


Byrdie’s top 250 posts represent 42.4% of its organic traffic



88.9% of Byrdie’s monthly traffic comes from organic search



Byrdie increased its organic market share 1,753% in the hair styling sector


Although Allure holds the number one spot in Terakeet’s Beauty Industry Market Report, Byrdie was a more fascinating case study because it quickly climbed the ranks to number two. Its story illustrates that even brands outside the top 20 can overtake top competitors with the right strategy.

Byrdie dominates Google organic search across several market sectors.

For example, in the hair care and makeup markets, with a combined sample size of 7 million monthly searches, Byrdie held the top spot with the most Google organic market share of any website.

organic search market share bubble chart showing Byrdie with 9.98% of the makeup sector market share.
organic search market share bubble chart showing Byrdie with 10.74% of the hair care sector market share.

In skincare, with a sample size of 2.2 million monthly Google searches, Byrdie captured the second highest market share for the keywords examined.

And Byrdie keeps rocketing higher over time. 

The publisher surged to 1st overall in Google organic market share in the makeup market by growing its share from 1.72% to 9.98% (5.7x increase!) from February 2019 to February 2021.

Even looking granularly at individual sectors, Byrdie increased its market share across a range of areas.

For instance, in the styling sector within the hair care market representing 694K+ monthly Google searches, Byrdie increased its Google organic market share more than 1,753%, from 0.88% to 16.31%, during the two-year period February 2019 to 2021.

chart showing byrdie with the most organic search market share for the styling segment of the beauty industry

As a result, it captured more market share in the sector than any other website.

Byrdie boasts more than 14,000 content pieces overall and attracts nearly 88.9% of its monthly site visits through organic search (Source: SimilarWeb).

In other words, Byrdie is a sophisticated SEO engine that consistently ranks for top beauty keywords ahead of large, established brands in the industry with much larger marketing budgets.

Byrdie’s SEO performance by the numbers

We used several SEO tools to take a snapshot of Byrdie’s organic search performance, including Screaming Frog, Semrush, Ahrefs, Similarweb, and our own proprietary market share technology, Carina.

Byrdie 2 year organic traffic growth chart domain 2 year keyword growth
byrdie website traffic from similarweb
  • 17.8M monthly US organic visits, 27.7M monthly worldwide (SEMrush)
  • Average post among its top performing 100 posts drives 56.7K monthly visits (SEMrush)
  • Average post among its top 250 posts drives 36.3K monthly visits (SEMrush)
  • Top 250 posts represent about 2.4% of all posts, but drive 42.38% of all traffic (SEMrush)
  • More than 1.1 million Google page one rankings (Ahrefs)
  • 72.16% of all pages have a click depth within 3 clicks
  • 95.25% of all pages have a click depth within 4 clicks
  • Average post server response time is 0.202 (Google recommends 2 ms)
  • Top 100 posts have an average word count of 2,269
  • Top 250 posts have an average word count of 2,205
  • All posts have an average of 40 internal links
  • The top performing 100 posts have an average of 66 internal links
  • 1,247 URLs receive zero traffic
  • Over 1.46 million backlinks from approximately 94,000 websites (Ahrefs)
The Battle for Market ShareFind out which beauty brands are winning the Google organic market share wars (and which ones are not).Download the Report

Byrdie SEO strategy breakdown

So, how did a small website that had less than 100,000 monthly visitors five years ago become a publishing Goliath that crushes billion-dollar beauty brands?

Terakeet examined the SEO strategy to uncover its strategy for strong Google rankings and organic traffic.

Byrdie has well-organized website architecture

Website architecture is essential for SEO because it allows search engines to understand content hierarchy and relatedness. In other words, it clarifies what your website is all about. Site structure is defined by several factors, including navigation, URL structure, breadcrumbs, internal links, categories, etc.

Additionally, these elements are great for users because they help people quickly find the content they want.

Categories and Subcategories

Byrdie organizes its website content by categories and subcategories in the top navigation. For example, Skin, Hair, Fragrance, Wellness, Style, and Reviews are included in the top nav. Under Skin, you’ll find the subcategories:

  • Skincare
  • Oily
  • Dry
  • Acne
  • Anti-Aging
  • Body
  • Fragrance
  • Tattoos & Body Piercings
  • Ask a Dermatologist
  • Skincare Ingredients A-Z

Rather than using more generic subcategories, such as skin types, skin conditions, etc., Byrdie pulls in its most popular subtopics (Skincare, Oily, Dry, Acne, etc.).

This is an excellent example of breaking the expected rules of taxonomy in favor of a better user experience. In other words, Byrdie realized a “skin types” section would require additional clicks by the site visitor, because most users would then need to drill down into the specific skin type they were looking for. So, Byrdie removed a step from the process, reducing potential friction in the site experience.

Each category and subcategory page has a prominent sub-navigation system and description towards the top of the page that tells users where they are. The description helps the site visitor understand the types of information they’ll find, but also often includes the respective target SEO keyword, as can be seen in the description for the dry skin page: dry skin category description


The Byrdie website has a flat URL structure. For example, blog URLs live directly off of the root domain instead of being organized in subfolders or living on a subdomain. Ecommerce websites benefit from using hierarchical URL structures such as:


However, blogs don’t require this level of URL organization because content is less compartmentalized than products.

What Byrdie does really well, is to use short, keyword-rich URLs like these:


Although Byrdie doesn’t include category folders in its URLs, it does categorize its content via the CMS. For example, the red palm oil for hair example listed above is in the “HAIR” category and the “HAIRCARE” subcategory.

The well-organized information architecture and keyword-centric URLs are helpful for SEO because they make it easy for Google to understand what each page on the site is about.

Breadcrumbs breadcrumb example

Finally, Byrdie uses breadcrumb navigation to reinforce site hierarchy. Breadcrumbs tell both users and search engines where a page lives in the taxonomy. They’re also an excellent navigation tool to jump back to a previous section.

Byrdie clearly understands the power of internal links. The 100 top performing URLs have an average of 66 inbound internal links, which is about 50% more than the sitewide average.

What’s more, they use anchor text strategically throughout the domain. For instance, their article, 16 Hair Products That Let Your Curls Live Their Best Life has about 189 inbound internal links. About 25 of those are from related blog posts with hundreds of cumulative backlinks. The anchor text? Keyword-rich variations that unlock additional ranking potential for long-tail keywords, including:

  • curl-defining cream
  • big curls
  • curly hair
  • wavy, curly, and coily hair types
  • curl-friendly products
  • curl-focused styles
  • volume-boosting tips for curly hair
  • curly hair products
  • curl-enhancing mousse
  • Etc.

As a result, that article ranks for 1,763 keywords that collectively bring in about 102,744 monthly organic sessions.

Byrdie uses topic clusters to improve SEO results

One of the most effective ways to improve SEO results is to have a unified, cohesive content strategy.

And the topic cluster model is the ideal framework for blog content. It’s built on a hub-and-spoke model, and each content cluster contains three essential components:

Topic clusters enhance context, relevance, and authority.

You can see the power of this approach by looking at Byrdie’s content clusters related to various types of piercings:

  • Among the top 100 traffic-driving URLs in the Byrdie site, 7,621 piercing terms drive 1.05 million+ in organic traffic each month
  • Among all URLs, 66 posts are about piercings. They rank for a combined 26,355 keywords, and receive more than 1.4 million monthly visits.

Here are the top 10 piercing-related titles:

  • Industrial Bar Piercing: The Complete Guide
  • Nostril Piercings Info and Healing Guide
  • Septum Piercings 101: Pain Level, Healing Time, and More
  • What to Know Before Getting Your Belly Button Pierced
  • The Best Types of Ear Piercings: See Our Chart For Ideas
  • A Complete Guide to Daith Piercings
  • Conch Piercings 101: What to Know Before Getting Pierced
  • A Complete Guide to Tragus Piercings
  • The Complete Guide to Getting a Tongue Piercing
  • Rook Piercing: A Complete Guide

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