500 Block Building, Main Street, Miles City

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I often talk to small business people who lament at how the marketing deck is stacked against them. The big guys have the connections, the money, and the brand name. "How can I compete?" I hear them asking. I always have the same answer--Internet marketing, especially organic search marketing. But when I tell them this, often I get disbelief. These small business owners have painfully learned over the years that marketing is for big companies, not for them. They're wrong.

A few weeks ago, I ran across a report on SearchEngineLand about a report from Conductor, saying that Fortune 500 companies are "woefully unrepresented in natural search." Just 8% of those companies got high grades for their search rankings.

So, if the big companies aren't there, guess who is? That's right--small-to-medium size companies. Paid search still goes (mainly) to companies with deep pockets, but organic search goes to the relevant. If your business has the relevant answer for the searcher, you can get that high ranking, too.

I've seen it over and over again--big companies getting outranked by their own, distributors, partners, and affiliates for their branded keywords. This shouldn't happen, because clearly the manufacturer should have the best answer for that product's search. It happens because the smaller companies do a better job on their information.

And because large companies find search far more difficult than small ones. For organic search success, every piece of the equation must be in place. If you fail to do any one piece, you organic search results suffer. Because large companies have so many more people to coordinate, organic search becomes far harder for large companies than for small ones. So, small companies take note: for organic search, more resources makes the job harder, leaving an opportunity for you.

Sure big companies always have some kind of edge in anything. But big companies have far less of an edge in earned media than they do in traditional marketing channels. If you've been making excuses about how you're doing in search marketing, maybe it's time to realize that any small business that wants to succeed in search has the opportunity.

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December 11, 2008

Mike is an expert in search marketing, search technology, social media, publishing, text analytics, and web metrics, who regularly makes speaking appearances.

Mike's previous appearances include Text Analytics World, Rutgers Business School, SEMRush webinar, ClickZ Live.

Mike also founded and writes for Biznology, is the co-author of Outside-In Marketing (with James Mathewson) and the best-selling Search Engine Marketing, Inc. (now in its 3rd edition, and sole author of Do It Wrong Quickly, named by the Miami Herald as one of the 11 best business books of 2007.


If only small businesses would stop throwing up road blocks to even a good discussion of the opportunity search provides them. I think that the SMB space is virtually devoid of knowledge which creates fear around the practice of search marketing. Education of these folks is the key.

On the internet you cant really tell if its a big or small company, anyone can spend limited funds and create a very professional site to allow customer finding them in search. This is the cheapest and most effective way to battle over the big players

we have saw this in our local business we are often able to easily beat larger companies in search engines and it lets us be more picky about who our clients are

I agree with Andrei, you can't tell if a complany is a big or small company. It is one of the most affordable and effective ways to compete with the big players.

Affordable and effective - Yes I agree. But to do it right and maintain your positions can be very time consuming if you are doing it yourself. Keeping search engine positions can be a full time job in itself particularly if you are in a very competitive sector. There is plenty of help out there though :)

I have this conversation a few times a week and for some reason local business cannot wrap their head around how the internet can help them. It is like they are conditioned to believe that it is only for the bigger players.

Small companies have only one or two products or solutions to focus on.
That makes it simple for SEO as they require only a limited number of keywords, meta tags and well designed pages.

A big company has many products or many solutions all competing to get attention.
That makes it harder for a large company to be successful on the Internet.

Definitely if the small businesses target the small niche keywords in their market, they can go along way, in to gaining extra customers. I mean think about how many people do searches for restaurants, etc for their favorite place of going out. I know myself that I do search on the internet for places to go out to, and I often read the reviews on them.

I agree that smaller companies sometimes target less competitive keywords than larger companies, but I find it to be true that small companies often beat big companies for the exact same keywords, too.

I post informative content and get a lot of hits through organic search. The tough part is converting those visitors into customers - in that field I'm still overwhelmed by the bigger players.

I have done SEM for both big and small companies. Our biggest ROI is generally for the non-paid organic listings. It does take some effort but well worth the time IMHO. :-)

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Search Engine Guide > Mike Moran > Why Small Businesses Need Search