Search marketing has grown in popularity as online search continues to evolve from a novelty to a standard feature in our everyday lives. Almost every business in the country, big or small and regardless of industry, has some kind of web presence, and everybody is competing for only a handful of positions at the top of search-engine results pages (SERPs). |
Since larger companies -- mega-corporations such as Walmart or Home Depot -- already have millions of inbound links, decades of content, and a recurring base of online visitors, it’s no wonder why they generally appear in the top ranking positions when people search for commercial products. Regardless of what industry you’re in, you’ll always have at least one competitor who has been around longer and has tried harder than you have (allocated more budget and resources) to building their visibility on the web and in search engines.
So how can you, a small business with limited experience and resources, compete with that level of online domination?
Thankfully, search-engine optimization (SEO) is no longer about sheer volume. It’s not about who’s been on the web the longest, who has the most inbound links, or even who has the biggest library of great content. It’s about which page or website is the most relevant for the searcher. Knowing that, there are several strategies you can implement that can give you the edge over the bigger, badder competition.
1. Specialize in a niche. One of the best things you can do as a small business is give yourself a niche focus. Instinctively, you might think that the better option for search visibility is to cover as many areas of expertise as possible. For example, if you work in heating, cooling, plumbing, roofing, construction and a dozen other home improvement topics, you’ll be able to appear in search engines for queries related to any of those keywords.
However, if you’re trying to take down your biggest competitors, it’s better to take more of a niche focus. Having several areas of specialization gives you relevance for a wide range of keywords, but your relevance for each of them is somewhat low. If you pour all your effort into one or a small handful of keywords, you’ll be able to achieve a much higher visibility.
For example, if you specialize in indoor plumbing, you might miss out on limited visibility for all those other home improvement keywords, but you’ll be the best in indoor plumbing.
2. Engage in a long-tail Google keyword strategy. Long-tail keyword strategies try to accomplish a similar goal. In niche specialization, you sacrifice minimal relevance in a large volume of topics for maximum relevance in a much smaller volume of topics. With long-tail keywords, you’ll be sacrificing minimal ranking potential with highly popular keywords for maximum ranking potential with less popular keywords.
Long-tail keywords are extended phrases Google SEO looks for, such as “tips for installing a toilet in an upstairs bathroom” instead of the much shorter, more popular “toilet installation.” Ranking highly for long-tail Google SEO keywords is much easier than ranking high for shorter keywords, so even though they bring in less traffic, they’re still more valuable for small businesses to go after.
Fortunately, optimizing for long-tail keywords is easy. You can research ideal long-tail keywords to go after using Webmaster Tools, or you can just publish lots of great content -- long-tail keyword phrases tend to appear naturally in the course of your writing. For further information on identifying and using long-tail keywords, see “The Rise of the Long-Tail Keyword for SEO” and “How to Find Long-Tail Keywords Once You’ve Identified Your Primary Keywords.”
3. Leverage locality for optimization. Another way to beat the competition is by targeting a much more local audience. Local search is becoming more relevant and more important, so in today’s context, being the best barber shop in Houston is far better than being an OK barber shop on a national scale.
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