Big vs. Small

One of the most common excuses I hear from small businesses who aren’t taking advantage of online marketing is the fear that a smaller local business can’t compete with the big names you frequently see at the top of the search results. It is such a prevalent concern that Google’s head of search spam, Matt Cutts finally had to address it in one of his frequent Webmaster Help videos.

Specifically, Cutts was asked:

How can smaller sites with superior content ever rank over sites with superior traffic? It’s a vicious circle: A regional or brick-and-mortar brand has higher traffic, leads to a higher rank, which leads to higher traffic, ad infinitum.

Thankfully, the notion that bigger brands automatically can leverage traffic to maintain high visibility is (mostly) false, as Cutts explains. In many ways, search engines are one of the great equalizers, in that they theoretically rank all sites the same way. Big brands are held up to the same standards as smaller or more local businesses.

I would wager Cutts specifically chose this question as it is worded in a way that allows for the most optimistic answer. Cutts is absolutely right when he says that smaller sites with superior content can quite possibly overtake their more recognizable competition. When businesses get to a certain size, they can become lumbering and sluggish, which makes it much easier for a more agile brand invested in their online presence to perform higher.

The larger brand may still get more traffic, but you can steal their spot in the rankings by getting real engagement and interest in your content.

The real trick is finding your niche. While Cutts’ answer prides content quality and performance over all others, he forgets to mention that some brands may be able to outperform you in many markets. The big brands may be large and encumbered, but they also have the resources to put up a good fight for online visibility, which a small brand with less resources may not win across the board.

However, if you can find your niche, you don’t have to worry about outperforming the well-funded giant in every aspect. You just have to beat them in your one special area. If you have your niche covered well, you’ll be able to grow into other niches until you gradually become a giant too.

You can see Matt Cutts’ full Webmaster Help video below:

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