How to stand out as a small fish in the SEO pond

Making SEO work for you can be tough at the best of times, but if you’re a small or newly-established business trying to compete with big brands that are already way ahead of you in the search results, it might feel like a lost cause. Google is known for prioritising the big players – and that makes sense because these are the brands that customers recognise and trust. If one day your search for ‘pizza delivery’ in your area turned up 10 names you’d never heard of, you’d probably wonder what was going on at Google HQ. It’s a very frustrating cycle to break. You can’t get recognition without a good reputation and you can’t get a good reputation until some customers actually find your website. Don’t despair, though. Before you get out your best pen and paper to write a letter to Mr Google pleading to have your business bumped up a bit, take a look at these ideas for getting your company noticed. It might just be a case of adjusting the way you think about SEO and branding.

Step up your branding game

Take a break from the keyword struggle for a moment and think about the way a customer will view your business. High rankings will only get you so far if your branding is all over the place.

Visuals first

Before a customer reads any of your homepage or ad copy they’re going to take in the way you represent yourself visually. They should be able to get a feel for your business from the colours and design of your logo, website and marketing. Don’t underestimate the power of a good (or bad) colour scheme. The colours you choose will say a lot about your business, evoking certain emotions and creating an impression of your brand. Certain colours go together better than others, so do some research on this before you settle on a choice. Use a freelance designer to bring strength and consistency to your branding, and then find a copywriter who can help you develop your slogans, taglines and company messages in an original and catchy way.

Go for more specific keywords

When you’re a small fish in the big pond, the way to attract customers is to target people who are looking for a small fish just like you. If you have a cake shop, instead of just targeting broad terms like ‘wedding cakes’ or ‘cake decorating’, add your brand name or something specific about the cakes you make, for example ‘butterfly wedding cakes’, ‘rainbow layer cakes’ or ‘sweetie pies cakes’. Of course you still need to keep some of the generic terms as well, but it’s better to come high in a few rankings for long-tail keywords than to come 3 pages down for a lot of broader searches.

Be consistent and persistent

The whole point of branding is to get into people’s minds, ensuring you’re the first company they think of for a particular product or service. Your marketing should be instantly recognisable as yours, whether it’s on a website, an email, a newspaper, a video or even a billboard. Your branding needs to filter through to social media, too. Everything you put out to your customers or the public should feature your branding.

Let your location work for you

If your business serves local customers, you need to get on top of local SEO and use it to your advantage. This can make all the difference to the amount of business you get. While big brands may be given preference in the search results, Google will often list local businesses at the top based on the location of the searcher. To be in with a chance of appearing here, you need to ensure you have local, dedicated server hosting and feature plenty of local keywords. There is a lot more to it than this – enough to write a book about it – but now the seed has been planted in your mind you can go and research local SEO some more.

Have a USP and make sure people know about it

As a small business, you probably have a number of unique selling points that set you apart from the big names in your field. These can be a great way to start building a connection with potential customers, but the difficult part is finding a way to get your message out there. Once you’ve worked out your USP you’ll need to get creative with how you communicate it. This strategy may well involve video marketing of some sort, and if you can make yours special enough that it goes viral, your brand will gain instant exposure.

Don’t underestimate the role of social media

Social media doesn’t discriminate against unknown brands in the same way that search engines do. You’re almost on an even playing field with the big names – you just need to get people following and ‘liking’ you. Post regular content and run competitions to get people engaged with your brand. If you’re a local business, get to grips with Facebook’s research tools to gain insight into your potential customers.


There are ways for smaller businesses and start-ups to compete with big brands; the key is understanding who to target and how to set your brand apart. We’ve touched on several much bigger subject here: SEO optimisation, branding, viral marketing and social media strategy. If you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed and need some help from a team of experts, just get in touch to find out what we can do to get your brand the exposure it deserves.