Compare the website of a giant, well-known brand against your own, and as a small-business owner, you might feel like a minnow in the company of a whale. Considering the size and resources differential, a small-business owner can’t help but wonder if competing is even feasible.
“Is it still possible for a small website to compete with larger sites in the same niche? Can you give examples of the kinds of strategies a small site can use to be seen in the SERPS ahead of larger brands or companies? What other strategies do you use as a small website owner to compete online?”
Size really doesn’t matter in the world of websites, says Terry M. Isner, managing director of Jaffe, a PR and marketing agency for the legal industry. “If they follow a few best practices, small sites can be just as successful, if not even more successful, than large sites. One primary advantage is the fact that small sites get to the point, and in most cases you can experience the company at-a-glance, whereas on a large site, overly complex navigation and menus that make you drill down further and further to find a nugget of information is a time-consuming turnoff.”
The Key to SEO Strategy
Done right, SEO evens things out between big and small sites, and all sites can find success in online search results. “Every website must have basic SEO elements in place and a solid content marketing strategy to succeed in today's digital revolution, and this applies to all digital marketing and communications, including blogs and social media,” Isner says.
SEO best practices are important no matter what the size of the website. Isner adds, “Large sites can easily rank poorly. More content doesn't improve rankings if it doesn't follow a keyword and SEO strategy. If a large site has a bunch of duplicate content, for instance, search bots have a hard time crawling the site and finding all the [relevant] pages among the duplication—so size becomes a negative.”
A keyword strategy involves understanding the market and that means understanding keyword competition. “Knowing how difficult it will be to rank certain keywords is important to ranking success. The easiest way to test keyword competition is to push some content out and test it," Isner says. "Try something simple and quick to get an understanding of how difficult it might be to rank certain keywords and phrases. If you have good success, then carry on. If not, then try a longer-tail variation of the keywords, or do more research and find less used (competitive) keywords.”
In terms of "showing up" in search engine results for terms that large brands and companies are also competing for, it is possible for small companies to compete, says OPEN Forum community member Catherine Juon, chief entrepreneur of Beyond Startup. “For uber-competitive terms, it takes some savvy strategy to figure out what phrases you can most easily gain traction with that will still generate business, while building the infrastructure (and budget) to compete on the most competitive terms.”
Juon suggests optimizing for "universal search" results, including images, maps, videos, news articles, books and anything else that is available. Big brands often don't bother optimizing these, which offers you multiple opportunities to compete for page one positioning.
Isner agrees. "Maps, images, videos all tell your story, so use them to broaden your entry points and search options."
Be Open to New Technology
Small businesses have the advantage of being nimble enough to try out brand new marketing strategies or technologies on their websites, whereas large corporations move much more slowly and, because of that, tend to stick with mainstream technology, says OPEN Forum community member Emil Consuelo, director of e-commerce and digital marketing at Altatac. He suggests taking the time to experiment and see what works best for your company.
Focus on Excellent Customer Service
Smaller companies are able to move quickly, and react faster online, says OPEN Forum community member Elizabeth Tan, digital marketing consultant with Affluential. "This means they tend to be more relational and personal when interacting with their clients. Even in the same industry, and the same niche, every business should have their own unique selling point. So you have to outplay that and communicate that to your clients.”
Larger companies may offer better pricing than your company, but you have better customer relationships as a small-business owner, says Consuelo. “Compete by working on the customer’s experience on your website,” he says. “Build good relationships with your customers, and they will visit your site.”
The same approach is needed for a website as any other aspect of your business, says OPEN Forum community member Michael Trow, owner of Trow Enterprises. "In the early stages of business growth, it is difficult to try and be everything to everyone or even something to everyone," he says. “It typically makes more sense to be focused on the target market and provide a solution to their needs. Depending on your business and model, there are most likely different priorities to focus on for driving traffic to your site."
Be Consistent and Persistent
Nothing is built in a day, including a website that drives traffic, so it’s important to be willing to patiently wait for results, says OPEN Forum community member Lauren Simon, president of Lauren Simon Consulting: “Make your brand different, consistent and better, and you will see your website stand out."
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