It might seem impossible, I actually think they both have a point.
Small businesses naturally feel at a disadvantage to big brands, and they are right. Part of the advantage of big brands is money, but they have other advantages, too. When Google says it is changing the search ranking algorithm to reduce the prominence of "low-quality" sites, many small businesses heard this as "Google starting to favor big brands." When a link or a search result or a social media site contains content with a big brand name in it, it gets more clickthroughs. These advantages are all real.
But the big brands have reason for frustration. They are used to walking into any marketing situation, dropping their bankroll on the table, and getting the attention they want. While you can do that with display advertising, most areas of Internet marketing aren't as easily dominated with cash. Yes, money always helps, but mere funding does not get you to the top of search results (not even always to the top of paid search results), nor does it get your social media campaign to go viral.
Those big brands have a financial advantage, but digital marketing is a far more level playing field than advertising, for example. Money always brings an advantage, but it brings much less of an advantage in low-cost areas such as PR, SEO, and social media. The big brands are actually afraid that their money is not enough of an advantage.
So, small companies think the big companies have an edge, which they do. But big companies are worried because they don't have their customary edge--the edge that they are used to.
What does this tell us? To me, it is a sign that digital marketing is beginning to saturate. It's no longer good enough to see the new thing and jump on it first. It's not enough to know about paid search--now you need to know exactly how to extract every last penny out of your budget. And that's true across all of digital marketing. You need to be able to calculate the ROI of every dime you spend and you need to be ready to improve that ROI each day.
Mike is an expert in search marketing, search technology, social media, publishing, Web personalization, and Web metrics, who regularly makes speaking appearances.
Mike's previous appearances include ClickZ Live, RKG Summit, Ticket Summit, Webdagene, the CiTE conference, and the Forrester Marketing Conference.
Mike also founded and writes for the Biznology newsletter and blog, is the co-author of the best-selling Search Engine Marketing, Inc., and sole author of Do It Wrong Quickly, named by the Miami Herald as one of the 11 best business books of 2007.
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