Does Size Matter? How to Outrank the Biggest Brands on Search Listings

SEO May 21, 2014


David versus Goliath. Muggsy Bogues versus Shaq. The little guy beating the big guy.

The true underdog story–it stands the test of time. But can it apply to your business?

Lucky for you, when it comes to perfect SEO, size doesn’t matter and bigger isn’t always better.

There are zillions of examples where small businesses outrank big brand names on Google, with minimal effort — attracting an influx of NEW customers and boosting their profits in the process.

Google itself is one of the most prominent— “outranking” and sending AltaVista, Lycos and alike into oblivion.

So if you think you don’t have a cat in hell’s chance of outranking the major players, think again. 

But just like any other SEO principle, your site won’t cut the mustard if you target the WRONG keywords.

For example, a small and generic shoe manufacturer won’t rank higher than bigger footwear brands.

You know which companies I’m talking about – they’ve muscled in on the SEO landscape and will DOMINATE the search listings, as long as there is consumer demand for their product. 

These companies are so well-established online, your small business can take years to rank in the top 10 for that keyword.

In fact, would you still even consider yourself a SMALL business once you ranked in the top 10 for “buy shoes”? Or the top 5? 

Sticking with our footwear example, take a look at the following keywords:

+ Cheap shoes

+ Women’s shoes

+ Men’s shoes

They sound pretty good, right?


These keywords are just too generic and competitive for a small business to rank highly on search results.

Instead, think creatively and come up with some long tail of three, four or even five-word key phrases which contain your primary keyword, e.g. “shoes”.

Throw in a geographic location (town, city, county, region, country…), a specific product feature (color, material, size), target group (for construction workers, alpinists, divers) and you’re good to go.

Longer, more specific keywords WORK because Google ranks your pages, not the size of your business.

Put another way – Google wants to present its customers with the best website based on their search query.

If your brand excels at designing and selling “beautiful dinosaur-inspired shoes for men in New York”, Google will rank your site over Zappos for this search term (andinosaur-kids-shoesd I’ll be at your doorstep, because I NEED the freshest T-rex kicks). 

Google doesn’t care if the company employs 5 people or 5,000 people.

All that matters is that the content on your pages is RELEVANT and focused.

So, take a look at these key phrases: 

+ Cheap shoes Queens, New York

+ Robust men’s shoes, Chicago

+ Chicago shoes for men with small feet

These are more precise. 

But why will more specific keywords yield results?

Because they reflect your NICHE.

The thing that sets you apart from your competitors.

The qualities your business has that the bigger brands don’t.

So while the larger companies may have a beefed up marketing budget, they lack one thing you already have in abundance – FOCUS. 

Focusing On Your Niche

So you may be wondering how you can fine-tune your niche to attract a new customer base to your website.

Well, when it comes to great SEO, content is still KING.

Matt Cutts says that you can outrank big sites, because they fail in delivering fresh content – and while I disagree, because bigger websites roll out FRESH content daily without a twitch – they lack focus.

They simply can’t cover every single base.

Here are a few tips on how to OWN your niche. 

+ Be more agile than competitors. Create interesting content that pertains to your business and post REGULARLY. Running out of ideas? Well, how about creating posts that reflect the news? Recent developments in tech? Sports? Running?

+ Be creative. Post content that ENGAGES your reader. Content that is naturally linked to – encourage them to comment, like, re-post. Ask them to share your posts on social media, or run a weekly “Customer of the Week” competition, where you award a small prize. 

+ Keep it LOCAL. Keep abreast of any local developments that reflect your business brand. Upcoming marathon being held in your city? Then post an article about the importance of high quality and durable footwear.

+ Contact influencers in your niche. Start small and slowly move on to the big players. Write a post about them and link to their material. Write them a mail telling about it. You’ll get noticed and attract new business. 

+ Start from the bottom and grow vertically. Own your niche completely, become a capacity,  and don’t leave any crumbs to your competitors.

Remember – unlike the CEOs of the larger companies, you know your audience like the back of your hand.


Because you deal with customers every day.

You speak to them, answer their mails, immerse yourself in the industry – you’ve got the extreme customer service. Right?

You know what your particular target group wants, and you understand their buying habits.

The big boys usually outsource their customer service, but you can focus on the individual needs of your customers through daily engagement.

So stay authentic, and be approachable. 

Understanding your competition

Larger companies often have a public relations department and will issue press releases when an upcoming product is about to be launched, or if there is a significant development in the business.

Stay one step AHEAD of your competition by using tools like Google Alerts.

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You’ll keep tabs on the market leaders, and adapt your own business to consumer demand.

But that’s not all.

Don’t JUST focus on the major companies.

Do your research on anybody related to your niche – even the smaller locally based companies.

Find out which sites link to those of your competitors, and go get those links.

Get in contact – email, guest posts, events.

Grow a Brand and a Following

Don’t over-complicate things.

Simplicity is key if you want your customers to spread the word about your business.

+ Create a brand identity – remember, no two companies are the same, so advertise your unique qualities. It’s much easier to rank for “MYBRAND shoes for men” than “shoes for men”.

+ Use short URLs – these promote sharing on Facebook and Twitter.

+ Send out short and snappy messages to your social media followers. 


One of the biggest misconceptions about SEO is that Google prefers big company websites.

In fact, search engines aim to present their users with good, unique content, regardless of whether a brand is established.

Small companies like yours need to attract customers by using the right keywords, and creating unique, relevant and interesting niche content that will be read, shared and commented on. 

A huge marketing budget isn’t unnecessary – but rather a comprehensive understanding of your niche, your audience, your rivals and potential partners, as well as your Shaq-sized competitors.

Soon enough, you’ll outrank the big league players.

And Goliath? He’ll be no match for you. 

  1. Avatar
    Azizul Yusof

    Great Point.

    Go for long tail instead of compete for the short tail.

    Question: will Hit Tail still be helpful with Google encrypting its keyword search results? and if yes, can you explain how?

    Interested to find out. Could be a customer soon.

    1. Avatar
      Rob Walling

      HitTail still works even with Google encrypting its keyword search results; we pull your keywords, even the “not provided” keywords, from your Webmaster Tools account.

  2. Avatar

    The problem I find with long tail keywords in my niche is that the monthly searches are usually so low (in the low double digits). I have to use more generic terms to find any “demand” for a keyword.

  3. Avatar
    Darryl Bray

    Linda – I completely agree. In many cases long tail keywords simply can’t generate enough traffic to sustain a business. Also the competition for long tail keywords is becoming very intense as larger companies are also targeting long tail keyword phrases. Also not all keywords are created equal. You want to optimize for keyword phrases that clearly indicate intent. For example, “buy tennis shoes” or “cheap tennis shoes” clearly indicates that the person is looking to buy tennis shoes. Driving traffic to your website simply for the sake of getting more traffic is a waste of time. “Buying keyword phrases” and keywords that “clearly indicate intent” is what you should focus on. If these keyword phrases are too competitive you should look at another marketing tactic for driving targeted traffic to your website.

  4. Avatar
    soulful ceramics

    but with bigger sites, I still see a lot of bias in the listings especially for large ecommerce sites. The content may not be as relevant, but because their DA and PA are so strong, they tiny and obscure pages also outrank many other sites with strong backlink profile and content.

    1. Avatar
      Max Wegner

      Although the search algorithm is not perfect, targeting these longtail, specific keywords and having a relevant niched down content, of course, is still your best bet.

  5. Avatar

    Really, if someone is searching for the more generic terms, even if it’s in your long tail it’s going to hit. So the long tail “Minneapolis Handmade Artisan Tile by Mercury Mosaics” includes the more generic “tile” “handmade tile” “Minneapolis tile” etc etc. So even if you have something obscure like “Akron Ohio Comfortable Shoes for Men with two left feet by ShoozRusss” — you’re still going to hit on the more generic terms as well.

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