John Mueller was asked if search results are stacked on small sites, creating a situation that gives an advantage to large companies. Mueller admitted that it is difficult to compete with the big companies. But it also showed how the advantage is not limited to company size.
As you will see, large sites have drawbacks that a small site can exploit to gain a competitive advantage.
Do small businesses stand a chance?
Asker John Mueller asked whether small businesses have a disadvantage against larger companies because of how ads shown for certain search queries push organic search results further down the page, further blocking search visibility for smaller brands.
The person at the Google Business Hours hangout asked:
“In some areas, would it be unfair to show Google Shopping ads alongside ads shown at the top of the search, because they push organic search results and smaller organizations to the bottom of the page?
Do small businesses have a chance to compete with larger companies? “
Competition against large companies is tough
The question was very specific, but Mueller’s answer took the question from a more general perspective, as his answer didn’t even mention the case of the ad dropping organic rankings.
Mueller’s answer also addressed the idea of whether Google favors larger brands.
John Mueller replied:
“I don’t know… I think this is almost like a philosophical question.
From our point of view, it’s definitely not that we’re trying to focus on big websites or anything like that.
But from a purely practical point of view, it is clear that if you are a small company and you are trying to compete with larger companies, it will always be difficult.
Competition is not about size
Mueller then used the actual history of search rankings to show how competition has always been about effort in creating an improved website and user experience rather than about site size.
What he said is true. Small brands easily outpace big brands because it has taken years for large companies to recognize the value of SEO.
Big brand’s fascination with Macromedia Flash didn’t help with SEO, but it was great for small sites that know better.
“And especially on the web, one of the things I’ve noticed over time is that in the beginning, many large companies were, basically, incompetent with the web and built bad websites.
And their search results were really bad.
And it was easy for small websites to go in and kind of like say, well here’s my little website or my little bookstore, and suddenly your content is visible to a lot of users.
And you can get that moment of success ahead of time.
But over time, as large companies also realize the value of search and the web in general, they have developed their own websites.
They have really qualified teams, and they work really hard to create a great web experience.
And that kind of means for a small business that it’s very difficult to get a foothold there, especially if there’s a very competitive existing market.
And it’s not about big companies or small businesses.
It’s really about the competitive environment in general.”
Small businesses should focus on the strengths of the competition
While it may seem that the big brands have insurmountable advantages, this is not really the case.
A common reason I find that a small business can’t rank is because the SEO person only knows “instructions‘to know how to do SEO. But they don’t really understand how search works.
While knowing the instructions by heart like “Put your keywords in the title and titles“A starting point for SEO, they are simply not competitive with a company that has a more advanced understanding of how search engines work.
It’s like the difference between knowing a recipe and understanding how to cook.
Someone who has a recipe would make roast pork using cream of mushroom soup and a can of cola.
With their limited experience they will feel they can cook.
They know how to follow the recipe. But they really don’t know How to cook.
This is the situation for some small sites that have trouble competing.
Sometimes (not always), it is because there is a knowledge gap that prevents them from realizing The competitiveness of a small site.
John’s advice on how small businesses can compete is helpful.
“And it’s something where you have to, kind of, as a small business, focus more on your strengths and the competitors’ weaknesses and try to find an angle where you can shine where others don’t have the ability to shine as well.
Which can be specific types of content, specific audiences or something like that.
It’s kind of like how you’d do it in a natural and physical work as well.”
Small sites have competitive strengths
Mueller is right, small sites can have advantages and they can do things that big brands don’t always have the speed or willingness to try.
Speed is a small advantage of the site. But it is only useful when there is a good plan behind it.
Another feature is the audacity to build links.
Big brands don’t always have the nerve to beg for a link. Unwillingness to take risks is a significant drawback of the brand.
Having built small websites that quickly outpace big brands, I know firsthand how boldness is an advantage. There are highly rated sites across a variety of industries that started small.
Do small websites have a chance to compete with larger organizations? Yes they do.
But the competition in 2022 will be tougher, regardless of the size of the company.
Can Small Websites Compete Against Big Brands?
Watch at 38:15: