You might think big businesses have it easy when it comes to SEO. Sure, they have some natural advantages — resources, budget, brand recognition, domain authority, brand associations, but when it comes to SEO natural advantages just aren’t enough. Good runners don’t win races with natural ability, they still need to put time and effort into training.
The tactics required to achieve SEO success are similar whether you are one of the big guys or a small/medium size business.
Here are some of the ways big businesses succeed with SEO.
Setting goals and milestones
First things first — before launching an SEO project, you need to realise the importance of investing in SEO and what the cost of not doing so is. Key stakeholders in your business need to be educated and understand what SEO is, how it works, why it works, how long it takes and the goals associated with your efforts. It’s crucial to determine what SEO success looks like for your business (increased conversions, more website visitors, increased engagement with your content, etc.) and identify a series of realistic milestones before getting started.
Ok, so how do you prove success? Let’s map it out.
- Determine the non-branded long-tail keywords (3+ word phrases) you want to rank for.
- Determine the potential monthly traffic you might be able to get for each keyword.
Tip: Use the Google keyword tool to determine potential monthly queries for each word. A good benchmark is to multiply that number by 0.1 to obtain a more accurate projection of monthly traffic you might be able to obtain from those keywords.
- Analyse your current traffic level and rankings for these keywords.
- Set expectations for time, rankings, traffic and expected return.
This will give you a benchmark to use to measure success. Without benchmarks and expectations, you’re running the race with a blindfold on (which probably isn’t the best strategy if you’re planning on winning). Determining and measuring success requires the synchronous use of research tools, keyword tools, ranking monitors, analytics and reporting.
Although the big guys might have the resources and budget to put towards SEO, experts are often brought in to enhance teams, provide education or assess their SEO status. This helps businesses be more in tune with the changes being made by search engines and stay ahead of their competitors. Big businesses who succeed with SEO are committed to investing the time required to implement SEO strategies and tactics. Ongoing training is a key part of any successful SEO program as it provides stakeholders with consistent knowledge and helps establish realistic expectations (on an unrelated note… we do workshops!).
Be an expert
Another thing that big companies are good at is establishing themselves as experts. This is really important because for every search query Google’s aim is to provide the most relevant and expert content. You are already an expert on your brand — you just need to tell Google that (unfortunately, dropping the big ‘G a line won’t work). So, how do you establish your business as an expert? Big businesses do this by writing expert-level content and presenting it in a way that Google understands it. This means it’s optimised, written in a natural format and is compelling and engaging. Truly expert-level content is then linked to by other sites. That’s gold, Jerry! Gold!
If you take only one thing away from this article make it THIS: links can’t be bought, they need to be earned. Link building is a key factor of SEO. Try reaching out to niche contacts that run blogs or media sites within your network and share your content with them to help amplify its reach and make your content more authoritative (you might want to save these requests for your best content). Content can also refer to social media posts. Posting engaging social media content will improve your SEO value by earning your content more links
Make SEO a priority
Whether your company is big or small, you need a dedicated SEO advocate. Without someone leading the way and advocating for SEO, you just won’t be able to achieve success. It’s like having a project, without a project manager. SEO should not be left as part of someone’s job.
Know your strengths
Small businesses can target opportunities that big sites can’t. As a small business you have the ability to be nimble and quick (pffft, what red tape?). You can quickly apply out of the box ideas, be creative and authentic and have the flexibility to focus on niche content. Here are some strategies you might want to try:
Let’s start with niche content — as a small business, you have the advantage to go after keywords that the big guys can’t or have decided not to compete for. Think of some long-tail keywords that are very targeted, i.e. while Nike might be competing for something like “running shoes for women” they probably aren’t targeting “best running shoes for runners”. As a small business, you have fewer constraints about what you can write about. While Nike might not be able to write about Adidas, you can. Think of the keywords that your bigger competitors might have a bias against, and go after them.
Want to amplify your content’s reach? As a smaller company, you have the flexibility to build stronger and more personal relationships with the people in your industry. A big company might be doing this via their PR team which is a great opportunity for digital PR activity, but as a small business you can go direct and have a more meaningful, genuine impact. Get out there and personally meet with people in your industry to build these relationships. Then, take those relationships further and start having conversations via email, on social media and by commenting on their blog posts as an expert. You can use email to give your connections a heads up about your content. Share your content with people who might be interested in the topic, people who you mention in your content, and/or people who you think would value from reading it. Just make sure your email is personable and doesn’t come across as spammy, and you’ll notice that most people will be happy to share it.
All of these interactions will help with your rankings, help you build backlinks and will likely result in some business. This will reinforce your authenticity and help establish your business as an expert.
Be nimble and quick, Jack. It’s a lot easier to test SEO strategies and tactics on a smaller website. This gives you the opportunity to run a lot of different experiments to find out what works. SEO consultants are in tune with industry changes and new developments. Work with them to experiment with emerging or newly released SEO strategies and stay ahead of your competitors.
Don’t be intimidated by big competitors. Although they have some advantages when it comes to SEO, so do you. SEO is an ongoing process that requires effort and education. Big or small, you need to be continually improving your site to remain competitive, maintain and obtain first-page rankings.