It shouldn’t surprise any startup or small business that bigger brands often dominate the front page of Google. This is the nature of SEO. Big brands have stronger domain authority, thus they get preferential treatment most of the time. What is surprising, is that Google favors these big brands even when a startup or small business provides more topically relevant information of a higher quality.
Google’s Dirty Secret
A recent article for Entrepreneur about the ways in which Google is favoring big brands like Wikipedia and Amazon, analyzed 30,000 ranking websites using CanIRank’s SEO Competitor Analysis software and showed some pretty nasty results about how big brands dominating the SERPs:
- Their content was 3 percent less relevant than ranking content from smaller brands.
- These same brands were 220 times more likely to break their content up using a slideshow.
- They were 73 times more likely to have autoplaying ads.
How Smaller Brands can Rank
You might be feeling pretty hopeless right now. Don’t! While the bigger brands have an easier time ranking, the small brands and startups can still rank. Nobody knows your brand like you do, right? That’s why you need to…
Focus on your niche.
Bigger brands may have more domain authority than you, but they’ll never know your customer the way you do.
Use what you know about your audience to further focus your messaging and branding to create content that resonates with your customers. This level of authenticity is something big brands simply can’t replicate and is going to give you a huge edge over the competition.
Furthering the idea of focusing on your niche, continue to build your topical expertise. You’ll likely never be able to compete with big brands on their turf, so focus on becoming the expert of your niche. Even though big names might come up when certain keywords are searched, you have an opportunity to rank for long-tail keywords targeting specific questions and desires of those in your market. To better illustrate this, let’s look at a real-world example of niche domination in action.
Case Study: A 3000% ROI: Vaping.com’s SEO Success
One of our clients, Vaping.com, had a well-designed site and a great reputation in the vaping community when they joined us. Despite this, their organic traffic paled in comparison to the competition, with the bulk of their organic traffic coming only from a few broad terms.
Vaping.com already had a content-heavy blog, but very little of the traffic was converting over to sales. Once again, we used our competitive analysis software and discovered they had poor on-page optimization, low page strength, and low Page External Relevancy. We had a few holes to patch up before we could even think about boosting their rankings.
Take a look at this Product and Category page templates, allowing for better use of content.
Note how their product description can now be used to target, while also informing.
Then more supporting content was created to funnel authority and external relevancy toward key product and category pages.
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Six months later, Vaping.com had grown their traffic by 374% and tripled their sales.
Your company may not have the same clout in its market as Vaping.com had going into the process, but the proof is in the pudding. Vaping.com stopped functioning only as a store, and became a resource for all things vaping. They became a master of their niche and absolutely crushed it.
Know Your Target Audience
Social media is an absolute godsend for small businesses and startups trying to drive traffic and establish a name for themselves. While many of the bigger brands have established themselves as social media figures (Looking at you, Taco Bell), you once again have the benefit of knowing your audience on a more intimate level.
Use your niche knowledge to further establish yourself as an expert in your field by connecting with your audience on a personal level through social media. Also, because you know your audience so well, you know how to speak like them and to them. Again, look at Taco Bell.
Go beyond a quirky Facebook post here and there and host your own AMA sessions and webinars. These are a great way to build trust with your audience, while also collecting useful data on who your target customers are.
Hit Them Where it Helps
Using all of your great audience data, you can then create even stronger content that your competitors lack the knowledge and understanding to make. You know their pain points better than anyone, so make content that addresses those points.
You also know where your audience hangs out. Are they on Facebook a lot? Create infographics and highly shareable posts that will perform well with them. Are you looking to build even more of a name for yourself? Take your audience data and create some original research-based content that media outlets are always clamoring for.
The Power of Community: Massage Tables Now’s Networking Victory
Who better to illustrate the power of addressing pain points, than a company that facilitates the addressing of literal pain points? Massage Tables Now, another CanIRank client, are a seller of massage tables and accessories for professionals and in-home practitioners.
Because of their very specific niche, they were having trouble reaching the right people. After some deliberation, we all decided the focus needed to shift from selling and toward helping the customers find success.
Rather than posts promoting specific products, the articles were all based around empowering and helping their target audience: massage therapists and spas.
They listened to the needs of their community and addressed them by offering advice on which oils to use, what to look for in a lightweight table, and what their own customers were doing to succeed.
By listening to the community they not only boosted their sales, they also established partnerships with various spas and massage therapists.
It’s amazing what happens when you listen to your community, embrace them, and put their interests first.
Don’t Skip Your SEO Basics
While not at glamorous as sharing fun infographics on Facebook and hosting AMA sessions, making sure your content is SEO sound is essential. Go through your laundry list and check all of the major SEO boxes:
- Are on-page elements clearly telling Google what you’re talking about?
- Do the Page Title, Meta Description, and H1 element feature the primary keyword and any related terms related to your topic? (Remember: Page Title is 60 characters, and 120-200 for the meta description!)
- Do headers and img alts all have a clear description and feature related terms to boost your page’s relevancy?
- Are you targeting a long-tail keyword? This can be much easier than gunning for that single keyword with a search volume of 400,000.
Remember: Google is ultimately trying to provide what they believe is the most accurate answer to the question being asked. The above points will help your content signal to Google that it’s the answer users are looking for.
Also, if you find you’re trying all of the above points and you’re still not getting the results you want, don’t be afraid to experiment. Perform various A/B tests to see what works and what doesn’t. You’re way smaller than the goliaths in your industry, so use that to your advantage and test things out. Try various H1 combos, see which meta descriptions perform best with your audience, and so on.
You can turn on a dime and course correct a lot faster than a company with hundreds of employees and decision makers. Get out there and test!
Make Mom (And Google) Proud
As cliché as it may sound, be yourself. Branding has never been more important than it is today. Show people why your brand is different from the big dogs, and put that messaging into everything you create.
You won’t beat the big brands in a head-to-head SEO boxing match. They’re bigger, stronger, and they have more fans cheering them on – for now. Find your unique angle, create an opening, and go in for the knockout.
Author: Matt Bentley is the founder of SEO software company CanIRank and chief scientist at Growth AI. Part data scientist and part marketer, Bentley specializes in leveraging machine learning to bring greater accountability and transparency to organic marketing channels like SEO, PR and content marketing.