Small is Beautiful: 5 Ways to Beat Big Companies to the Clicks


Are you the David to your competitors’ Goliath?

As a small company it can seem that you have to work harder than your bigger counterparts to win the attention of your target customers. But being small doesn’t necessarily have to be a disadvantage.

As Malcolm Gladwell showed in his book David and Goliath, sometimes being small is an advantage, because it enables you to switch tactics quickly to stay one step ahead of the behemoths. And that can really help when it comes to getting the attention you need for your business. It’s not about size; it’s about effectiveness. Here are some strategies you can use to make sure your company gets those clicks – and you don’t always need a big budget to achieve success.

1. Improve Your Search Listing

Despite Panda, Penguin and Hummingbird, optimization is still crucial, and a small company with a great search engine listing will beat a larger one with poor optimization every time. Troubleshoot page titles and descriptions to see how they appear to Google. (There’s a great tool on Feedthebot to help with this.) If they look blah, then get your copywriters on the case to craft compelling titles and descriptions that will encourage clicks. That applies to blog content too. You’ll soon see the results of this when you check analytics reports for top pages.

While you’re at it, set up Google authorship and link your content to your Google+ profile. This gives you a nice picture next to your content (boosting CTR) and also helps Google link all your content together, which could provide more sitelinks for search engine entries. Getting your site structure right will help with this too. A study on PPC Hero showed that the presence of sitelinks improved CTR while cutting CPC – a great way for you to show ROI on your improved strategy.

Still on the subject of search, local search has become even more important now that so many mobile device users are searching for information. Providing locally optimized pages, with maps, address details and locally relevant descriptions and content will help you cater for this important user segment. A lot of companies still don’t do this well; nail it and you will see the results in your analytics data.

2. Optimize for Mobile Users

Recent research shows that 74% of businesses do not yet have a mobile optimized website. That probably includes some of your competitors. Getting ready for mobile will give you an easy advantage over your larger competitors who may be slower to jump on this bandwagon.

Google’s Mobile Playbook suggests that this is going to be a big area for businesses. Recommendations for businesses include meeting the needs of mobile consumers with mobile-first site designs, using mobile video (more on that later) and taking advantage of mobile device features (location and proximity sensors) to deliver a more personal experience to users.

An infographic published on Mashable shows that 66% of consumers are using their smartphones to make purchasing decisions; optimizing your mobile presence can help you win those clicks.

3. Rock Social Media to Win Clicks

Social media is the third part of the SoLoMo trifecta and it’s another area where size doesn’t matter. Research from Harvard Business Review shows that although 58% of companies are using social media, only 12% of firms feel that they are using it effectively. Many others get it wrong.

You could be part of that 12%, and that’s more about time than money, which is good news for ROI reporting. The same research shows that the companies that do best on social media benefits from new business, more awareness of the company and a better perception of its products and services – and that adds up to better search ranking and more clicks. Do it well and you can massively extend your reach, while getting ideas from customers and monitoring trends.

Things to do include:

  • Optimizing your company description on your social media profiles.
  • Making sure you have some strong images that show what you’re all about.
  • Including a link to your home page or a relevant social media landing page with a strong call to action.
  • Being human – as a small company you’re potentially more directly connected with your customers, so use that to your advantage.

While you’re there, find out who’s already talking about you and what attention you’re getting. You might identify some true fans and influencers who will send others your way just because they love you. And don’t forget about the potential of social advertising especially on Facebook, which is where the majority of web users who only use one site spend their time. It’s only takes a small spend to see an increase in visibility, as the Adobe Social Intelligence report shows.

Doing social media well increases your authority, builds links to your content and improves your search engine presence, so you can’t afford to ignore it.

4. Market with Content

One of the best ways to win clicks is with free content and you don’t have to be a huge company to do it. Yes, you have to spend the time to craft compelling content for your website, blog and social media, but you can keep the budget small with some creative repurposing. Take the best content you have and use that to create:

  • Slideshare presentations (Slideshare is low cost and has great analytics so you can show how much attention you are getting)
  • White papers or free reports (something Hubspot has turned into an art form)
  • Infographics

Another way to win clicks is to get key people in the company to serve as expert sources for others. Use a free service like HARO to get started with this.

We talked about video earlier, and this is a great way to get attention and win clicks. Around 40 billion videos are streamed in the US each month and video is also popular with mobile users. Videos drive action, with research from Quicksprout showing that 12% of video viewers bought a product after watching a related video. As an SEO, it’s your job to make sure video filenames and descriptions are properly optimized. If that’s done, and you also link your YouTube upload to your Google+ profiles, you will see video snapshots in search results, again encouraging clicks.

5. Measure and Adapt

As mentioned earlier, the beauty of being a small company is that it’s easy to change tactics if something isn’t working (something the big brands can find it difficult to do). Monitoring SERPs, social media mentions, content marketing success, video views and the clicks that result from all of these will soon tell you if your actions are working to bring the attention you need, in terms of engagement, content virality and sales. The key thing is to avoid complacency and move quicker than your bigger counterparts to change what isn’t working and do more of what is.

Creative commons image: Cobmundo / Flickr

8 responses to “Small is Beautiful: 5 Ways to Beat Big Companies to the Clicks

  1. Love this post, Sharon. It’s all too uncommon these days – seems most posts on increasing readership or traffic are either micro-targeted, which fails to give the big picture, or are *so* “big picture” that they’re devoid of actionable tips. You hit the sweet spot – and THANK you for the links. Now I’m off to FINALLY figure out this Google Authorship thing once and for all, LOL.

  2. To one of your first points, the best thing small businesses can do is take advantage of their size and flexibility. Big companies have so much red tape and so many board rooms to get through before anything can get done that small biz should be soaring ahead on this alone. But too many small businesses are afraid to do anything for fear of getting it wrong or… wait for it… “change”. It’s a strange conundrum.

    Anyway, as you’ve proved here, there are small things you can do that have big results. Keep putting out good, optimized content and I don’t care how small you are, you’re going to get found!

  3. So timely Sharon, thank you. I’m grateful for the rigor of the research you have put in to this and thus the learning we can take out of it, but also that you validate the need for ongoing research, good optimisation and great content. A keeper 🙂

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