Beating Big Brands to the Top with a Smart SEO Strategy

pine covered mountains with white clouds against a blue sky

If you’re a small to mid-sized brand, competing with industry heavyweights online (and elsewhere) can seem like a virtually impossible task. Search for any popular product or service and it doesn’t take long to realize big brands have a chokehold on the basic keywords people are searching for.

Depending on what these keywords are, this big brand dominance can consume the entire front page of results and beyond.

What’s more, the sites that rule search results often don’t adhere to all those crucial SEO “necessities” marketers and SEOs say are key.

No blog, no link building, and a relatively static site that doesn’t change much week-to-week. The confusion over why those sites do so well only turns to frustration when trying to think of ways to actually win against them.

The big question is:

How does a small brand actually cut through the big brand barrier on Google when it’s obvious the cards are stacked against them?

Before we get into it, let’s quickly run through the practical advantages big brands have over the smaller ones out there:
  • Massive brand awareness. If customers know them, customers search for them. Authority remains high.
  • Larger teams and way larger budgets. Whether it’s building out a huge website or spending big bucks for beautiful innovative content, big brands can just do more.
  • They couldn’t care less about link building. More often than not, big brands are the authoritative sources smaller companies use to give themselves more authority. Big brands don’t have to work to build links because they attract them naturally.

Even though big brands have an obvious upper hand, let’s get to the real question here:

Where do your opportunities lie to beat them out?

Step 1: Combine smart keyword targeting with high-quality content

One of the biggest SEO mistakes small businesses make is targeting the wrong kind of keywords.

A small business that offers network security service to other companies simply won’t be able to rank higher than industry-leading service providers for the keyword phrase “network security.”

The big companies are simply way too established online and invest so much in maintaining their top rank position that it’s essentially impossible to overtake them for such general keywords.

Although these phrases are out of the question, there are plenty of more specific terms and phrases that still receive hundreds or thousands of searches every month. When targeted effectively, these less competitive long-tail keywords are much easier to rank well for in a reasonable timeframe given your content is high quality and valuable to the people flocking to your site.

What’s more, people who search for these highly specific long-tail terms tend to be more qualified to buy than those who run just general searches because they already know what they’re looking for - they just want to find the cream of the crop no matter what website it’s on.

Here’s the bottom line:

Google’s aim is to connect people’s search queries to the best pages out there regardless of the sites they belong to. This means to rank better for certain keywords, you only need to focus on building better webpages and content than those that currently rank for the keywords you want to go after.

Keyword-specific SEO is commonly overlooked by big brands and no matter how large they are, they can’t create enough pages and content to target all the relevant keywords out there.

This leaves the door open for smaller companies to pick up the slack and rank for the more specific keyword phrases the bigger guys tend to overlook.

Invest the resources needed to plan and create amazing content and a smart keyword strategy, and you’ve taken the first big leap towards better visibility online.

Step 2: Promote your content to build a strong system of backlinks.

If smart keyword targeting was all it took to conquer the goliath brands for top Google rankings, I could stop the post right here. Unfortunately, it’s not quite that easy.

To give your content ranking power on Google, you need to prove your content is more valuable than the pages that currently rank for the keywords you’re targeting.

Convince Google your page is better equipped to address an issue than the top page currently does, and you’re on your way.

But how do you prove value to Google?

One of the most powerful indicators is links - specifically, other sites linking to the content on your pages.

Building a great network of backlinks to your site means putting your content in front of those who will actively engage with it on their sites.

While it’s easy for big brands to get their content in front of people, it’s not so easy for the smaller ones. That means building relationships to circulate your content among those who want to feature it or cite it in their own content.

Social media is a start, but the web is a noisy place and leaving your content to promote itself through social shares alone is often not enough anymore.

More and more brands are turning to new types of active content promotion that target specific audiences by putting relevant content pieces on sites people are already going to for industry information.

When they’re reading an article about new threats to network security for instance, these new promotion tools put your article about brand new security solutions on the page—a compelling headline for someone concerned about new threats.

When others find and reference your content, those pages start sticking out to Google as something that’s valuable, and in turn, receive a higher ranking.

If you want to learn more about how it works, check out Outbrain.

While this isn’t an overnight process, it’s a long-term investment that’s well worth the time and energy if it means driving significantly more qualified traffic to specific pages on your site.

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Topics: Sales & Marketing Strategies, Search Engine Optimization

Sam Swiech, Content Marketing Manager

Sam Swiech has worked in the digital marketing industry for 7 years, developing expertise in content strategy, content writing, and copywriting. Outside of the office, he enjoys cooking, travel, and modular synthesizers.

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