As a small business owner it is easy to get discouraged and feel that leaving SEO to big brands is the best choice. While SMB SEO and Big brand SEO differ on many fronts, the beauty of SEO is that it allows you to compete with much larger companies and capture at least some of their search traffic. Below, we are going to look at the pros and cons of being a big brand and an SMB when it comes to SEO.
A lot of SEOs, blogs, and industry news sites proclaim that Google favors big brands when it comes to SEO. While big brands have some advantages, SEO superiority is not yet one of them. For a while people thought that big brands could almost get a pass from Google and avoid being penalized even if they were using questionable tactics. Overstock and Halifax (one of the largest UK banks) where both hit with Google penalties and lost keyword rankings. That being said, there are also several big brands that control their niche almost exclusively; but why is this the case?
Google continually tells us that they want to reward sites with higher rankings that gain natural links, are user friendly and produce fresh content. As a big brand, press coverage and authority links are much easier to obtain. They also have entire departments dedicated to producing content. Couple that with the larger budget and a diverse online marketing mix and you have the makings of a dominant online presence. Since big brands do not rely solely upon organic search traffic, they are also more able to take a more aggressive and riskier approach to ranking several keywords. Even though brands have many benefits, they are also limited by the same size that helps them.
As you know, SEO is often a fast changing game and big brands are not known for being overly adaptive. As a matter of fact, a study shared at SMX in 2013 indicated that only 6 out of the top 100 fortune 500 companies have a website meeting Google's mobile guidelines. This is only one of the areas that big brands are prone to falling behind. As an SEO team or company, it is very important to work with a company that understands the value of SEO and is willing to make the changes needed to assist you in improving their organic traffic. Big brands are often prone to delaying or failing to make changes to keep them ahead of the organic competition. Even worse, an in-house SEO team may have limited resources and unreasonable expectations from business leaders who do not understand the process. This is not to say that small business owners are not guilty of the same, they are just often more willing to change. Combine this with the fact that big brands are often in the spotlight when the do make a mistake and you have all the makings of a major SEO disaster.
Personally, I doubt SEO will ever die, it will just adapt to leverage the newest methods of driving organic traffic as it has since the 90s. The biggest issue at the moment with SEO is that cost-cutting shortcuts that used to rank websites are now more likely to end in a penalty than a #1 ranking. This means that as an SEO, we have to put in more man (or woman) hours and use more resources in the process. As a SMB, this means a higher cost for you. While there are still plenty of industries that can afford SEO, some of the lower profit per conversion businesses are no longer willing or able to afford a quality SEO service.
Putting aside cost, small business owners face several challenges that big brands do not. As an SMB owner, you may be the head of marketing, the bookkeeper, sales and customer service, all in one day. This makes is hard for you to give the proper focus to creating and implementing an SEO strategy which means outsourcing the work to a company is your only viable option is most cases. In doing so you are putting the online future of your company in the hands of someone who may not even know what they are doing.
Did you know: While combing through a mountain of secondary data, I discovered that nearly half of people offering SEO services have less than 12 months of experience in SEO!
This means that as a small business owner, you need to be even more selective when choosing an SEO company to work with because by the time you realize the current company isn't cutting it, you may be on your way to broke.
Aside from "expert" SEO companies that found you via a telemarketing call center based in India, you as an SMB have several other challenges ahead of you. Remember how I mentioned that getting press is pretty easy for big brands? You are going to have to work a lot harder to get the same coverage and if you take a risky approach to SEO and get penalized, the loss of organic traffic could be devastating to your bottom dollar. Before you give up though, there are plenty of advantages you have as a SMB.
For any of you who watch boxing or UFC fights, you can probably think of many instances when the smaller and more agile fighter was labeled as an underdog but went on to win the match. While the larger fighter may have a more powerful strike, the smaller fighter is successful by staying one step ahead. As a SMB, you have the underdog advantage.
Underdog Buster Douglas Knocks Out Undefeated Mike Tyson in 1990 Fight
As a SMB you have a tremendous advantage in speed and agility. A large corporation may require a year to redesign their website to be mobile friendly while it may only take a month for your site to be updated. Along with this, you can quickly change marketing materials, keyword strategies, and even your content production strategies to meet the latest trends. As a SMB owner, you also have a lot more freedom to change since you are not guided by corporate rules and a bloated decision making system.
Every business is unique and faces unique challenges. Your SEO strategy should be as unique as your company and whether you own a small shop or a large company, you should devote the time and resources to your SEO team so that they can provide you with the best possible results. As many people before me have said, "SEO is an investment not a cost". Keep this is mind and you will be able to decide if SEO is a good strategy for your company and whether or not it is a wise investment. If you cannot make money by ranking for your primary keywords, SEO is not for you.
What is the main reason you aren't using SEO?
B) Don't See ROI Potential
C) Bad Experience with Another Company
D) Need to Know More About SEO
Author Bio: Travis Bliffen is the founder of Stellar SEO, a search marketing and design agency located near St. Louis, Mo. Travis loves researching and writing about SEO strategies and implementing innovative strategies for his clients. Connect on Twitter @theseoproz.