Whilst having a large, established website and/or a substantial SEO budget gives big businesses an advantage when it comes to getting to the top of Google, it doesn’t mean that small businesses can’t compete with them. There are countless examples of small business websites ranking higher than big, brand name websites in Google. The mistake that many small businesses make though, which gives them almost no chance of outranking their bigger competitors, is targeting the wrong keywords.
For example, a small business that sells insurance won’t be able to rank their website higher than the biggest companies operating in the mortgage industry for the keyword ‘insurance’. Those big companies are so established online, and will be investing so much in SEO each month, that it would likely take years for a small business to rank in the top 5 for that keyword. By the time they did so, they probably wouldn’t even be classed as a small business anymore.
Sticking with the insurance example, ‘home insurance’, ‘life insurance’ and ‘car insurance’ will also be too competitive for a small insurance business to rank their website for, but there are plenty of 3, 4 and 5 word phrases with insurance in them, that get hundreds of searches a month, that they could realistically get to the top of Google for, especially so if they included their location (town, city or region) in the phrases.
For those longer, more specific keyword phrases, there will probably still be big businesses ranking on the 1st page for them, however, a small business can outrank them, in a reasonable timeframe and without spending a fortune, because of an important point that often gets overlooked – Google ranks webpages, not websites. They want to return the best specific webpage for a search query, regardless of whether that page is on a small business’s website or a big business’s one.
Google ranking webpages instead of websites might seem like little more than semantics, but it makes a big difference in practical terms. It means that to rank well for a particular keyword, a small business doesn’t have to create an entire website that’s better than the sites currently on the 1st page for that keyword, they just have to create a better webpage than the specific pages currently ranking on the 1st page for it.
Big companies might have big budgets to spend on their websites, but they can’t create a great, relevant page for every keyword phrase related to their industry, and that leaves windows of opportunity for small businesses, even in competitive industries. To be able to take advantage of those opportunities they need to create high quality content (that’s better than the content currently on the 1st page) which is very closely related to the keywords they want to target.
To rank higher than large businesses for those keywords though, small ones need to do more than just create pages of high quality content – they need to promote it too. They need to let people know about that content so that others can link to it. It’s vitally important that this happens because Google predominantly relies on links to evaluate the quality of a webpage.
It’s not a straight case of whichever webpage has the most links pointing to it ranks the highest, but that’s the general trend, even though the quality of those backlinks is very important too. So, to rank higher than a page on an established website for a particular keyword, a small business basically needs to get more good quality backlinks pointing to the relevant page on its site than there are pointing to the relevant page on the established site.
Unfortunately, it’s not quite an even playing field, as large businesses need less backlinks to rank pages on their sites because some of the trust and authority accumulated in their sites as whole is passed onto every page within their sites. It’s difficult to give an exact number, as there are so many variables involved, but this disadvantage means that a small business may need to acquire 10-30% more links from 3rd party websites to a page on its site than a large business has to a page on its site if they’re competing for the same keyword.
Getting 3rd party websites to link to their content is key then if a small business wants to compete with bigger ones. It might be assumed that large businesses have an advantage here also, as people will be more likely to link to them, but that’s only true to a degree. People probably are more likely to link to content on established websites, but that’s only because they’re more likely to be aware of it.
People don’t prefer to link to content on big company websites. They want to link to good content, regardless of if it’s on an established site or not. What small businesses need to do then is to not only create the best content related to a keyword phrase, but also to make sure that content gets seen by the right people. Who are those people? Ones with websites and ones actively involved on social media sites.
To do this takes time, but it needn’t cost any money. It’s simply a case of reaching out to and building relationships with the right people. Small businesses actually have an advantage here, as they can be personal and unique in a way that big companies can’t be, and as a result people are more likely to respond and engage with a small business than a big company.
The best people to start with are those that are currently linking to the webpages on the 1st page for the keyword they want to rank for. If a small business has a page on their site that has better content than a page on another website that someone is already linking to, then there’s a fair chance that the linking website will link to the small businesses content instead of, or as well as, the content that they’re currently linking to. Anyone with a related blog or website is worth contacting too.
If a small business is authentic and personable in reaching out to people then those people, some of them at least, will respond. People will respond, if they’re engaged in an appropriate way, because, it’s in their interest too – they want to link to the best content on a topic. Doing so adds value to their own website and improves the experience that visitors to their site have.
This process – choosing the right keywords, creating the best content and getting that content seen by the right people – takes time and the results aren’t instantaneous, but it does work and it does allow small businesses to compete with large ones. Any small business can do this, regardless of what industry they operate in, so there’s no excuse for any business to say that it’s impossible for them to get to the top of Google.