Can a small business beat an established brand on search engines?
This week, Matt Cutts answers the question : How can small sites become popular?
How can smaller sites with superior content ever rank over sites with superior traffic? It’s a vicious circle: A regional or national brick-and-mortar brand has higher traffic, leads to a higher rank, which leads to higher traffic, ad infinitum.
Matt’s short answer:
The small guys can absolutely (out)perform the larger guys as long as they do a really good job at it.
While listening to his answer and rationales, I realized that you can interpret his points as him subtly reinforcing Google ranking factors. That was an ‘aha’ moment for me. So what are the ways which small sites can outperform big sites?
Let me break down his points, and add some of my own.
#1 Use content “freshness” to your advantage
sites that are smart enough to be agile, and be dynamic and respond quickly, and roll out new ideas much faster, can often rank higher in Google search results.
What I think Matt means, is that smaller sites can use their smaller size to adapt faster than older sites. Adopting new ideas, new technologies and new methods in a business can give you advantages.
However, how I interpret this is that smaller sites can use “query deserves freshness” to rank high on certain terms. Whenever there is a sudden trending search topic on Google, and you are one of the first to tackle the topic on your site, Google will help you rank higher for those search terms.
By staying on top of news in your industry, small businesses can quickly launch a content to tackle a trending topic. Using this “freshness” factor, small players can easily beat the big boys.
#2 Focus on User Experience and adding value
they do a better job of focusing on user experience, they return something that adds more value… Whatever area you are in, if you are doing better than the other incumbents, then over time, you can expect to perform better and better…
Matt Cutts gave the example of AltaVista and Google. People tend to forget that in the 90s, Google too was a young upstart trying to shake up the search engine industry.
Smaller sites tend to be able to have their own personality on the site. Having a unique “voice” on your small site will help you attract readers, and provides a more personal user experience than big, boring sites.
Besides this, we can also make sure our content provides more value. Make it more unique, more entertaining, and more useful, such that users will flock to your site instead of the bigger players.
Did you know that Huffington Post, the number 1 most popular political site/opinion blog in the US started off as a 2-person blog? They got to where they are now by offering content that was superior to the other established online news media at the time.
#3 Becoming an authority on a niche topic
think of concentrating on a smaller topic area or niche, and say, I’m a subject matter expert in this particular area, and make sure you cover it really really well, and then you can sort of build out from that smaller area until you become larger and larger..
Matt Cutts used the “Katamari” example to explain how a small site can slowly grow larger, and expand their reach to cover more topics. In case you are wondering what a “Katamari” is, please look at the attached video. It’s a rather unique video game, but it represents the point well.
Referring back to the Huffington Post example in point 2, when HuffPo first started, they were a small blog that focused on liberal news and opinions. They focused and became an authority on that topic, and after time, they were able to branch out and cover topics of every kind.
Google does use certain data to determine whether a site is an authority. One of these is Author Rank, and it ties very closely with Google Authorship. Matt Cutts did state that Google takes into account the authority of an author, and gives a ranking boost for in-depth content written by authoritative authors. (I also made a small mention of this here)
#4 Content is king
Don’t stop trying to produce superior content because over time, that becomes one of the best ways to rank higher on the web.
After all, it all boils down to having superior content. Users keep returning to a site that has quality content that they cannot find anywhere else.
Matt does say, that if you run a one man team, it’s definitely going to be hard to beat a company with many employees. That doesn’t mean we don’t stand a chance.
If we can’t produce content that tops the quality of an established site, we can strive to come up with content faster. At the very least, we must do what it takes to differentiate ourselves from the competitors – whether it’s being funny, insightful, or controversial. It also helps to know how to make the content we create SEO friendly. It’s a shame if a great piece of content can’t find found.
What do you think?
Do you think we as the Davids of the internet, truly stand a chance against the Goliaths? Or is Matt Cutts just giving us false hope?
Personally, I believe I stand a chance. Do you?