How The Small Guy Can Use Trust To Win The SEO Game

If only Google would sit still for one moment!

The job of the SEO would be so much easier :)

As we all know, the last thing Google wants to do is make life easy for SEOs, so we'll just have to live with the constant change. One of the biggest changes SEOs have had to adapt to in recent times has been algorithm shifts that reward big players.

For example, Google results heavily feature YouTube (owned by Google, of course) and Wikipedia pages in against almost every search we make.

Let's look at some of the advantages of big business, and ways the small guy can counter them.

Advantages Of The Big Players

Unlike the small business, large businesses have access to significant amounts of capital. They can use this capital, indirectly, to buy position.

They can run large ongoing media campaigns that ensure visitors, links and attention, and all the resulting ranking advantages that provides. Big business can cross promote their properties, which makes it easier to launch new sites. They can buy out competitors (Google - YouTube) and trounce the competition, even though they enter late. They have many employees they can throw at problems, and waves of lawyers to throw problems at others.

What does the little guy have?

An internet connection.

Google Has Devalued Easy Tricks

The low hanging fruit is gone.

Google will always be a moving target. As the structure of the web changes, Google changes with it.

In the last few years, Google have devalued on page factors, they've made link building a lot more difficult, and the playing field is far from level. When the big guys get caught out using aggressive SEO, they're often given a free pass back into the index, because to not have them showing would devalue Google. The little guy is likely to be excluded for some time.

What Can The Little Guy Do?

The big companies have one major problem.

They're big.

Because they are big, they can often only operate in tried and tested ways. For example, there's a Telecoms company that have just wasted tens of millions of dollars on a website that most bedroom SEOs could have beaten in their sleep. The site has recently been shut down.

The site was uneconomic because the only way this big Telecoms company knew how to operate was by using the biggest and "best" suppliers. So that meant hiring in consultants from the big consultancy firms. That meant employing large vendors to do their programming. It meant above-the-line advertising at prime time, and saturation advertising across newspapers and radio. It meant hiring teams of people and organizing them in the tried and tested organization structure.

Because that's how they've always released products and services.

Also consider that a lot of Web 2.0 operations, lauded in the media for the past few years as "the bright young things to watch", are now crashing to earth as their big-money funding dries up. Turns out that was the only thing keeping them going. Meanwhile, a lot of SEO-aware webmasters are enjoying a growing income because they're always had the revenue equation right.

In both cases, the access to big capital was a disadvantage. It meant these companies didn't need to be smart.

So what, specifically, can the smart, little, SEO-aware guy do?

Big Bets?

You can take big bets.

The big guys tend to be conservative, but we don't need to be. We can have a crazy idea one morning, and make it a reality by that afternoon. We can ask ourselves "Is this idea crazy enough!".

The big company finds it very hard to do that.

Big company people often fret about their jobs and reputation, they have to convince a lot of stakeholders, and there's always someone waiting to stab them in the back.

So they play it safe.

Read why Seth thinks "safe" is bad idea.

Small Niche

The big company might not be able to make money out a small niche.

In the Telecoms company example I used above, their bloated structure and operating methodology drove costs way above the potential return. However, a smaller company with lower overheads could have made a success of it.

There are thousands and thousands of small niches the big companies can never compete in.

But you can.

Personal Trust Networks

Big companies have problems personalizing their services and relationships.

The web is about to change again. And when the web changes Google changes, too. The big change is a social one.

Twitter, social media, bookmarking sites are all about "the personal". They're hard for a big company to centrally control. That suits the small guy.

Look to build up a high degree of trust with small, tightly linked networks of people. Use a blog to keep in contact. Not just any old blog - really work it. Make it unique and own your ideas. Have an opinion and shout it loud.

Try to talk to those one hundred people in your little niche who make a difference. Talk to those 100 people who think the same way you do. If they know you and trust you, they'll do a lot of your marketing for you. There remains no more effective marketing than word of mouth.

Ask your friends to help out. Cross promote their stuff. Go into joint ventures. Really work the personal, trusted relationship side, because that's the way the web is going. Trust is being decentralized.

This is one area in which the big guys are going to have a lot of problems competing.

Friendgine - Friend Search Engine

Aaron has a great idea called "Friendgine".

Set up your own, personal Google or Yahoo search engine that includes the sites of all your friends and personal network colleagues. If you ever need to link to an external article, search your friendgine first, and link to your friends if they have relevant content.

This is a subtle way to keep in contact. They'll also likely reciprocate the favor. By creating these mini trust webs you'll make it difficult for other people who haven't established such relationships, to follow. You'll have your own nepotistic closed circle :)

If you want to see a presentation on this topic, check out Aaron's Beating The Big Guy

Published: February 17, 2009 by A Reader in seo tips


February 17, 2009 - 1:24pm

Agree with all of those points. Reminds me of a post I did a while back: which was essentially exactly the same topic, how small SEOs can beat large firms.

Might be worth a continuation read if anyone is interested.

February 17, 2009 - 1:40pm

Nice. Will add that to the above post. :)

February 17, 2009 - 2:43pm

Love the friendgine idea. I set one up on my site in about 30 minutes. I expect it will get a solid (and hopefully reciprocal) reaction from the colleagues I've included.

More importantly, I will adapt the same concept to consumer-oriented sites that I run outside of my SEO consulting business. I think it will have an even greater impact on those sites than the already-crowded marketing space.

Thanks for the idea!

February 17, 2009 - 3:07pm

If you have a decent social network the Friendgine idea is easily worth 10s or 100s of thousands of dollars over the course of a few years. :)

February 17, 2009 - 7:49pm

I think the "friendgine" is a great idea, too - I recently tried out this "Zemanta" plugin which tries to achieve this as a WordPress plugin - it scans your social networks and gives you its own little search engine for your "friends'" blogs. It doesn't work particularly well yet, I especially found that I wanted it to find my OWN blog posts more often, but it's a nifty idea.

The Glider Guy
February 17, 2009 - 10:07pm

All I hear in the UK news over here is how we are all struggling as the media screams ever louder about the downturn in the economic climate, yet why is it good, smaller companies are busier than ever? (though typically the UK press and media don't want to know about any good business news.)

I'm looking forward to small companies giving large business competitors a proverbial smack in the face, some of them have been deserving of it for too long....

February 18, 2009 - 6:22am

Another advantage that the "little guy" can gain over a big company is a good domain name. More specifically an exact match keyword only domain name (i.e. is an exact match keyword only domain name for the keyword "cars").

Every single domain name is unique. Big companies can always outspend you to match your link building efforts or your content producing efforts but they cannot duplicate your domain name.

With the weight that search engines put on your domain name matching the keyword phrase exactly it can be a HUGE competitive advantage to own just the right domain name.

Imagine owning and trying to outrank another big corporate site for the keyword "vitamins" - doesn't matter if you are a "little guy" - you have a definite and sustainable competitive advantage.

I wrote a post about finding these types of exact match keyword only domain names.

February 18, 2009 - 4:03pm

Good point there! We have long been big fans of targeted domains as part of our overall strategy. :)

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