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Want to compete with big brands? Follow these nine simple SEO tips

By Alexandra Gavril - July 20, 2015

If you’re a small business and are competing in an industry with huge brands that dominate the search results, it can be tough. You probably get frustrated all the time, thinking you don’t stand a chance of beating them and gaining the recognition you deserve.

While it may seem that Google prefers big brands, the reason they show up at the top of the search results is because they’ve managed to gain people’s trust over the years.

So, what can you do, as a small business?

Plenty. You’re not the only small business competing with big brands and with the right tools and strategy, you can win some battles against these giant. Here are a few tips that can help improve your SEO strategy.

1. Know where your users are coming from and how they behave on your site

The first thing you should do is to find out more about your audience. You need to see where they’re coming from and what they’re doing after they land on your site. Do they visit more than one page? Do they spend more than ten seconds?

With Google Analytics, you have access to all this valuable information, and more. You can learn:

• Who your visitors are
• Which websites are sending you the most traffic
• Which pages users are looking at on your site
• Which are the pages that users visit most often
• How much time they spend on each page, and more

Google Analytics is free and easy to set up. If you need help getting started, check out our beginner’s guide to Google Analytics for complete steps on how to set it up and how to extract numbers that reveal valuable information about your audience.

One thing that’s important to mention here is that Analytics isn’t just useful for getting information on organic traffic. It can also show you which websites are linking to you and if their visitors might be interested in your products.

Let’s take a simple example. Say your website is getting traffic from another site that published an article and linked to your site. This traffic converts quite well but as time passes, the article loses its novelty factor and is buried on the tenth page on the blog. As a result, you’re getting less and less traffic from it.

By being able to access this data, you can learn which sites would be beneficial to partner with. You can then buy a banner spot on their site so their visitors can see your ads and your business since you already know their traffic converts.

Just make sure you follow the Google guidelines when it comes to paid links. Find out more about paid links and the types of bad links that you should avoid so you don’t get penalised by Google.


2. Understand how your website is perceived by search engines

After you’ve set up Google Analytics, you should also set up Google Search Console (previously known as Google Webmaster Tools), a free toolset provided by Google that can help you understand what’s going on with your website.

Think about it this way. You may have penalties that are preventing your site from ranking highly in Google’s search engine results. Or you may have other issues like broken links, pages with duplicate content or other errors that are preventing Googlebot, Google’s web crawling bot, from crawling your site correctly. These are things you need to fix immediately, and the only way to find out about them is through Google Search Console.

Don’t know how to use it? No worries, we have a beginner’s guide to Google Search Console that walks you through everything you need to know, from how to set it up to what useful information you can find and use to improve your site.

3. Learn who your competition is

You can’t compete with businesses you know nothing about. If you want to get ahead, you need to learn as much as you can about what your competitors are doing online. Where are they getting their traffic? Which keywords are they ranking for? How do search crawlers see their sites as compared to yours? What kind of content are they creating and promoting to attract visitors to their site?

Performing a competitive analysis is a critical part of search marketing success as it will tell you where you stand and how much work you need to put in to outrank your competitors. Follow the four simple steps in our beginner’s guide to SEO competitor analysis and see what valuable information and insights you can uncover about your competitors.

4. Don’t go broad, specialise on a niche

One of the best things you can do as a small business to achieve a much higher visibility in search engines and to grow your revenue is to focus on a niche. So, instead of covering too many areas of expertise, go with only a few. This will allow you to put all your resources into optimising for a small list of strong keywords and gaining higher visibility in Google’s search engine results.

For example, if you’re a copywriter, choose a specific niche like medical, real estate or the food industry. Optimising for a handful of keywords around these niches will produce a higher impact for your site.

5. Cover long-tail keywords at first

As a small business, you need to first build some brand awareness. People won’t know you exist if you show up on the 20th page in Google’s search engine results. That’s why you should focus on optimising your site for highly targeted keywords (also known as long-tail keywords). This will help you get more traffic and build brand awareness, and in time build enough trust and authority so you can then compete for more generic keywords with a higher search volume.

Long-tail keywords are keyword phrases like “tips to design a logo” instead of the much shorter, more popular “logo design”. Even though optimising for long-tail keywords will bring in less traffic, they’re more valuable for small businesses to go after. By being more specific you’re increasing the chances of attracting visitors who are actually interested in your products or services.


6. Conquer your local users first

If you’re a business that serves your local area, you need to use local SEO to your advantage. If you do it right, you can generate an extensive amount of business.

Think about it. With local search becoming more relevant, being the best plumber in Ealing is far better than being an OK plumber in London. In addition to local name recognition, all the backlinks and mentions online will also tell search engines that you are important in that community.

If you want to build local relevance, check out these two resources to learn how to get started with local SEO:

Local SEO for local businesses – a beginner’s guide
Six simple ways for small businesses to build good local links

7. Create content that’s useful for your audience

Producing high-quality offsite content is where small business can beat big brands, and beat them soundly. If you write from your experience, if you frequently share useful advice and tips, you’ll be able to build brand awareness, trust and loyalty easier.

No matter the format – ebooks, infographics, webinars, videos or white papers – make sure every piece of content you publish is useful and interesting. Be consistent with your publication schedule and you’ll soon become recognized as an authority in your industry.

8. Humanise your brand

A great thing you can do to get ahead of big brands is to step up the “personal” factor in your own brand strategy. Being small gives you the advantage of giving each person you interact with a more personal, humanised experience. This is your chance to show your audience that you’re friendly as well as passionate and knowledgeable about your industry.

Whether it’s on social networks like Twitter and Facebook, on Quora or other forums, show people that your brand is made out of real people who are happy to help.

If you’re not sure about which social media network to use, then this guide will help you pick the right platforms for your business.

9. Start a blog

It doesn’t matter what business you’re in. You need to have a blog because it’s your best tool to make your audience understand what you believe in, why you do what you do, how you do it and how they can benefit from your knowledge and offering.

The content you publish on your blog shows expertise, openness and willingness to help. It shows how you do business. By reading your blog, your audience will soon understand how unique and different you are from your competitors. They’ll understand why they should always choose you.

If you don’t yet have a blog, or if you want to improve your current one, read our beginner’s guide to blogging for business.

Wrapping up

If you think you can’t compete with big brands, you’re wrong. Sure, you don’t have huge budgets and resources, but now you do have the tools and knowledge to stand out from the crowd. If you follow our tips, you’ll have no excuse to say that it’s impossible to get to the top of Google.

Have any other advice on what small businesses can do to compete with big brands? We’d love to read them in a comment below.