Search Marketing: Opportunity
for Little Companies

by Rob Spiegel

Think it's impossible for your small online business to compete against the big guys like Amazon? Think again. With careful attention to the content of your web pages, your site could rank higher in search results than any of the mega sites.

Do a Google search on “rock CDs.” You would expect the Amazon.com to come up as the first listing in the results. Amazon sells more CDs over the Internet than any other company. Amazon is at the top of the paid listings. But for the free listings, Amazon shows up as the 14th result. The top result is Silver Dragon Records. Next comes Loud Metal. Both are small companies, ultra tiny by Amazon standards.

There is still room for small companies to get star attention in the fastest growing territory of advertising: search marketing. And there is little cost involved. The trick to beating Amazon in the CD market is to make sure your site has the information Internet searchers seek.

This is also true for other retail sectors. Try searching for “mystery novels.” Amazon – the biggest bookseller on the globe – comes up number 19. The top spot goes to the small company Mystery List. Also in the top five are Top Mystery and Mystery Net, all small specialty booksellers.

Small companies are beating large corporations in search marketing primarily in niche markets. If you search “books,” Amazon comes up at the top. But in the specialized markets that small companies thrive in, you can beat industry leaders by presenting useful information that is well organized on your site.

The Internet has been growing as a retail outlet for more than a decade now, so it’s surprising that a small company can still gain national reach with an inexpensive site. What’s more surprising is that a small niche company can beat out Amazon, one of the largest companies that was born on the Web. The reason a small company can be a major retailer is because time and knowledge is more valuable than cash when it comes to organic search marketing.

There are two types of search marketing, pay per click (or paid search) and optimization (natural or free search). With paid search, companies bid on keywords (the search terms consumers use). The highest bidders comes up highest in the list of paid ads, the small ads that stack up on the right side (and sometimes at the very top) of the results page. Large corporations do well with paid search, since they can outbid small companies.



But with optimization, large corporations get beat by small concerns creating sites that come up high in the free listings that are preferred by search users. Optimization is the word given for the effort to make a Website “spider” friendly. Search spiders comb the Web and index sites by the quality of their information and the quality of their links.

If you create a site that had information consumers are seeking on a particular subject, and if you’re linked to other important sites in your subject area, Google will rank your site high among the free search listings. Large corporations have been notoriously poor at optimizing their sites, while small niche companies have consistently produced Websites that are spider friendly.

A good optimizer will tweak the Website copy until the site rises in the rankings. Most good optimizers continually alter their copy to make sure they come up at the top of the search results. This is a time-consuming process, but not all that time consuming. A good optimizer may spend three to four hour a week tweaking the site’s copy once it’s well optimized. Getting started may require two or three hours a day for a few weeks.

Large corporations have not been able to successfully compete against small companies for the minute attention to detail required for optimization. Corporations usually hire marketing firms to do their optimization. The cost of paying a firm to optimize the site is often more than the cost of bidding on keywords for paid search.

We’ve seen large retailers demolish the small stores on our streets. It’s refreshing to see the small entrepreneur get an edge up on the large corporation on the Internet.

Rob Spiegel is the author of Net Strategy (Dearborn) and The Shoestring Entrepreneur’s Guide to Internet Start-ups (St. Martin's Press). You can reach Rob at robspiegel@comcast.net

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