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|Ways for Small Sites to Beat Larger Sites|
The great thing about the internet is that it is possible for smaller businesses to compete with larger businesses. I am not saying it is easy or that every small business is capable of this. With a good mix of passion and creativity, it is possible for your small website to outperform even the biggest companies.
Find Your Niche
Since you have limited resources don't try to cover the entire industry. For example a huge car manufacturer website has enough writers to cover the entire automotive industry. It would be smarter for you to just pick one specialty niche like 4x4 off road trucks or motorcycles with sidecars. Now you can be the master of your niche and do a great job on it.
The large corporate websites have huge teams and countless meetings for all of these teams to talk to each other. You don't need to waste time on this, so you can move faster and respond to the changing public demand before the corporations even schedule their conference calls. You need the courage to make fast decisions. If you waste time being indecisive, the large corporate competition will catch up to you.
Steal Their Research
I am not talking about breaking into their offices but their are many ways you can take advantage of the research the competition does. When you are at a search conference, look at the name tags and you might come across a loose lipped competitor. At one conference, one of my competitors bragged how great he was and exposed their entire strategy to show-off without even realizing who I was. Pay attention to press releases and industry interviews. Larger companies often give sneak peaks of what they are working on. Also set-up Google alerts for your larger competitors. This will help to notify you of whenever they make changes which you should be able to quickly recreate for your own site.
Develop Brand Advocates
If you do a great job, you can develop of strong following of advocates that will virally spread your brand. This will lead to more direct traffic, type-in searches and other strong usage signals. Make it easy for your fanatic fans to spread the word about you. Keep your urls short & easy to retype into twitter or email. Send out interesting emails that have a stronger chance of being forwarded. Don't be scared about offending someone and avoid being plain vanilla. Develop a personality for your brand to make you unique from the large faceless corporate companies.
What other ways would you use for a smaller site to beat larger sites?
My focus on this has been mostly for ecommerce sites.
Extreme Customer Service
Large companies sometimes outsource their customer service, or limit it to just arranging for a replacement item to ship. Smaller companies can often focus more on the individual customers' needs.
Better Product Knowledge
One of my clients has to compete with Amazon on a lot of his products. Generally they're pretty close in price. But Amazon doesn't have the industry or product expertise to advise the customer on which product is most suitable for his needs. Buyers have to rely on reviews rather than experts. We've found some success by emphasizing this.
Niche Specific Usability / Features
A smaller store may be able to offer features that some of the large companies can't - they can keep track of an organization's tax exempt status, in some cases can offer net 30 terms, can do auto ships or manage inventory for multiple warehouses. Price discounts for quantity. In one case, when a client noticed a lot of business on the other side of the country, he opened a warehouse in that area and is now able to offer faster delivery times and reduced shipping costs to that sector.
Other features we've worked with are configurators or "builder" apps that lets the customer pick exactly what they want in the mix and match area (i.e. they buy 1000 widgets at the 1000 widget price, but can mix and match the attributes they want, such as 200 blue widgets, 500 red widgets, 100 yellow, and so on)
None of this stuff is easy to think up or implement, but it's all stuff we'd have to be doing constantly just to compete anyway, large OR small.
But mostly, you have to believe that you *can* compete. If you think the deck is irretrievably stacked against you, you probably won't have much success.
>Steal Their Research
Sometimes the research is very hard to understand or poorly presented.
Taking the same research and presenting it better is a good strategy.
Both of your posts are about niche marketing. This is becoming harder to do however is extremely important.
I find one of the biggest problems in Seo is competition. An industry that has a high amount of competition, is going to be very difficult to get organic traffic. No matter what strategies you use.
This means sometimes we have to abandon a website because there's just too much competition. Many people have not caught on to this. They're still looking for old tricks to get that website to rank. There are times we should just abandon the website if our only source of traffic is organic.
I have found a couple ways to gain advantage. Fast loading websites are a big advantage. Good mobile experience is an advantage.
Sorry to remind, but it's '14 not '04. The days of "be an expert on blue cute round widgets - and they'll buy" are [almost] over.
please be so kind and share your view on
|What other ways would you use for a smaller site to beat larger sites? |
I have been combining smaller sites into a bigger site to compete with heavy weight sites.
Google is doing a good job knocking out little websites, mid size and large sites will duke it out for web traffic.
Best way to compete with the larger sites.
Understand how the people in the niche think, how they process information. Then present the same data that thousands of other sites have in just the way they will process it easiest to make quick decisions.
Most sites show info the way the general public expects it, or how it's been done traditionally. Niche specialists focus on different details, they compare points not normally on the same page. They don't care about certain details -- drop those. Simplify. Focus.
Make their work (or play) so quick and easy that they check in constantly.
Actually responding to readers can go a long way for a content based site. Many of the gargantuan content sites and big brands don't really make themselves available on social networks (sure, they have an account - but they have a rotating cast of interns who manage them) and good luck getting a response from an email to them.
Average people have very little concept of how "big" a website is, so hearing from you will likely be as thrilling to them as hearing from a "big" company. Something as small as "Hey, glad you stopped by!" in response to a FB post or a tweet goes a long way in creating repeat visitors and goodwill for them to share, tweet and pin your content. Bonus points if you freely answer questions and concerns with them having the knowledge that you aren't selling anything.
Almost every big guy started small and built up.
Niche... Niche... Niche... start small with one niche, dominate it, take the niche away from the big guy, don't even leave them the crumbs. The big guys can not focus, will not focus, on the long tail, they will dump the long tail in a second if it does not come easily for them.
Repeat with the next niche.
Sell out before the next little guy starts eating at your niches.
|The great thing about the internet is that it is possible for smaller businesses to compete with larger businesses. |
Sometimes I wonder whether I live on the same planet like some other people.
The great thing about the internet WAS that it WAS possible for smaller businesses to compete with larger businesses. That WAS ten years ago.
|Understand how the people in the niche think |
eCommerce ... and not just people who buy, but also those ex-competitors who had their own sites and who now use Mega Sites(Amazon, Etsy, and such) as their "Store Fronts".
All though they have the link love from/via Mega Site, they compete on the same level with other ones that are the same as them. They compete on a Mega Site level, duplicating each others efforts due to the fact they are given the same tools which often does them no good.
Big sites have a few weaknesses.
They can not easily keep all their content fresh and up to date. Fresh content, which has more recent information is better than stale content.
They get sloppy because they don't want to over optimise, and they don't want to bother with many long keyword combinations because normally their ranking gives those to them without effort.
They can not easily keep track of local search results. Nobody has the time to change their location from zip code to zip code across the country. Local search has left them blind.
Various keyword spy tools reveals their market demographics and major sources of traffic. Excellent materials for small competitors to research.
It is nearly impossible for them to make rapid changes to changing conditions. Customers expect the link that was on the front page yesterday to be there today. Changing it throws their repeat visitors into complain mode.
Search engines need to stay on the leading edge or they may lose visitors because of no turnover.
Small sites with one webmaster have a weakness too. Production of high quality content takes man hours and one webmaster has less time than a team of webmasters. It hard to grow faster than a site with 10 or 50 times the content creators.
Our site has always appealed to people who like to read, and who like in-depth information.
After more than 15 years, I've finally come to the realization that we've been leaving traffic and money on the table by not going after the Cliff's Notes audience.
Now that mobile is coming on strong, it seems like a good chance to pursue the "keep it short and sweet" crowd, so I'm currently in the process of building a responsive-layout site about our most popular (and profitable) subtopic for people who are in a hurry or who surf the Web on smartphones.
The new site will be freestanding, but it will have deep links to the existing site's in-depth articles where appropriate, because even the person who's looking for an overview of A, B, and C may be interested in learning more about C if that subtopic is especially important to him.
In effect, we'll soon have two sites about one subject niche that appeals to two audience niches. This isn't a strategy that big sites can pursue easily, but for a mom-and-pop team, it's a fairly simple process that costs nothing but a month's time.
I agree with Netmeg about the importance of extreme customer service and product knowledge. Combine those things with email that informs and products that bring repeat sales, you can bring in sales continually no matter how far down the search engines bury you.
It helps to have your website url and/or your phone number on your products so the customers know how to reach you when they need more, too.
Another one: just being local.
A lot of this just reflects what happens in the rest of the economy where big companies have an advantage that has increased over the years for a range of reasons from technology to legal changes.
I also agree with the customer service sentiment.
One thing I would add to that is not being afraid of speaking to customers/users on the phone. Some of the best ideas I've implemented on my site have come directly from my users and customers, via a phone call.
|The great thing about the internet WAS that it WAS possible for smaller businesses to compete with larger businesses. |
Ok, so I just had to get this out. Just because it seems like people on the internet have lost perspective just a little.
Sam, the guy who runs the Big & Little convenience store around the corner from me, has been successfully competing with Walmart down the block for the past 7 years (Sam's store has been there at least the 13 years I have lived here). And he has out lived the chain grocery store and Target that Walmart put out of business when it moved in. We are talking about a one man (ok and a lazy teenager to work the counter) shop. He isn't even part of a chain.
And he did it by pretty much using the very same things listed here. Despite the fact that he is only a quarter mile from a store that not only sells almost everything he does but about 10,000 things more, he is convenient for people who are running home. On top of that, he knows what his customers like that they may not be able to get at Walmart, and he stocks it (yes, so mostly that means black plastic wrapped skin mags - but that is beside the point). He also knows most of his customers by name and knows what lottery tickets they like to play.
The road he is on is less traveled than the road the Walmart is on. The place certainly is not as shiny as the Walmart is. Heck, his prices aren't even competitive. In fact, in many cases they are higher. Yet he has made a decent living that has supported his family for quite some time.
So if this guy can survive for a decade plus, outliving even big boys on the block, why do we feel it is unfair when we are online to be put up against the same conditions? It has never been fair for small businesses. And good many big businesses in the US started as small businesses at one point in time.
The fact of the matter is that it was "easier" before simply because small businesses typically get there first not because it was easier. Sam was there long before Walmart, but Walmart is still going to make more money. That does not mean Sam can't make a good living too.
It isn't just big business vs. small business. Big businesses fade or fail, too. Montgomery Ward is gone, Sears is a shadow of its former self, and Woolworths closed its last U.S. store more than 15 years ago.
|The fact of the matter is that it was "easier" before simply because small businesses typically get there first not because it was easier. |
Good point. Also, in the less competitive Web environment of 10 or 15 years ago, it was easier to build a business on a foundation of SEO. Today, other skills--such as knowing how to use advertising effectively--may be more valuable.
Websites and companies, don't wake the dragon
I agree on what's been discussed, but sometimes competition between sites depending on the nature, means competition with the bigger company. Don't wake the dragon (chess concept) why? because some niches involve not only information but also service and in certain cases no matter how good you are with your work and website, the other one has more credibility (at first).
Some projects are easier to sell just because. Sometimes the same projects become difficult to sell once you are obviously in competition with the bigger site (and thus company). Even if you have everything to win, chances are old clients already have a communication relationship with the competition and they could be easily be told you are not worth the time.
So, at times it works to compete on the sides, not waking up the giant, meaning? go slow, low profile. Once you are strong then you can impress people with how good and fast you are VS an old and slow dragon.
|such as knowing how to use advertising effectively |
That is a more relevant point than most will consider.
Advertising/marketing is often thought to be the advantage of the big guys/gals because they have deeper pockets. But in fact, marketing is more effective for the smaller player. The small player has the opportunity to get a better ROI on their marketing.
|The small player has the opportunity to get a better ROI on their marketing. |
Long before the Internet was invented, there were small businesses that did well by running classified ads and tiny display ads in the back pages of magazines that ranged from National Geographic to small trade and enthusiast publications. (I've been seeing a number of small advertisers in The New Yorker for decades.)
I still see those ads, these days they give web site rather than a snail mail address.
Also they are genuinely offering niche products or services.
|the guy who runs the Big & Little convenience store around the corner from me, has been successfully competing with Walmart down the block |
reminds me of why I like the local dollar stores. I can stop at a dollar store, park very near the door, pick up my items, pay, and be driving away in five minutes.
|Long before the Internet was invented, there were small businesses that did well by running classified ads and tiny display ads in the back pages of magazines that ranged from National Geographic to small trade and enthusiast publications. |
there used to be sections in the back of outdoor life, field and stream, and various gun magazines for small ads.
Title of this thread is:
|Ways for Small Sites to Beat Larger Sites |
However seems to me that most posts here refer to the "triumph" of lowlife bare survival of small sites and single-employee corner shops, rather than "Ways for Small Sites to BEAT Larger Sites".
Are we confusing survival with ability to actually compete and flourish?
Fifteen years ago, it was possible to build and promote startup content and ecommerce web sites able to truly *compete* with established brick & mortar businesses - most of today's ecommerce "giants" came out of almost nowhere at that time.
But that was fifteen years ago.
Is it still possible to build a new Amazon out of nowhere? I believe that in exceptional circumstances it still is. But for most of us, that window of opportunity available for a short period of time, is past history.
|Are we confusing survival with ability to actually compete and flourish? |
Depends on your definition of "beat".
But if you want to go with your definition of "beat" as defined by:
|Is it still possible to build a new Amazon out of nowhere? |
I will add this then.
Learn how to court Venture Capital
Nobody, not even Amazon, got big without some serious VC investment (or a giant parent company who provided the cash). If you are looking to become a mega giant, you need to look at how to fund it. And it is still totally possible. But the fact that you need money to do it has never changed.
I've thought about doing it myself. I go to local conferences and meetings all the time where I meet all kinds of people who don't have any traffic yet but lots of VC. I figure I at least have a proven plan so I could cash in on that too - really be able to compete with the big guys in my niche (who also have VC or a giant parent company). But I just personally like surviving and growing steadily.
Every website needs to have a strategy. We've been talking about different things to apply to a strategy.
We need to have a plan. We can't just throw a website selling widgets. We need to have a strategy to sell widgets to a certain group of people. The more focused strategy can be, the better the results.
Many of the things talked about here are tactics. Tactics in an of themselves, will not do the job.
We have to do market research to know who to target. Who are my most profitable prospects. Who are the ones who will give me the least aggravation.
Once we know who we want to serve, then we want to understand them. We want to define them. This helps us think of ways to serve them better. This is what persona is all about.
Often people try to do personas without market research. Sometimes we think we know our market. I been selling to this market for 10 years. But when we do surveys, we are surprised at the answers. We didn't know them as well as we thought we did.
So to really make money in this Internet business, competing against big guys, we need three things:
- Market research
- Personas or profiles
- Strategy and strategic plan.
By the way, this is what the big guys are doing.
|Is it still possible to build a new Amazon out of nowhere? I believe that in exceptional circumstances it still is. But for most of us, that window of opportunity available for a short period of time, is past history. |
I don't think this thread is about building a new Amazon out of nowhere. The theme is "ways for small sites to beat larger sites," not "ways to create a new megasite."
What most of this thread's participants are concerned with (I think) is how or whether small sites can compete with large sites in their niches. Offhand, I can think of several things that can help to achieve that goal:
1) First and foremost, have a business that's built around more than a set of keywords and SEO skills. (In the Internet Gold Rush of the 1990s, a lot of people got into e-commerce and affiliate marketing on the strength of their technical and SEO abilities.)
2) Know how to use advertising effectively.
3) Think beyond organic search. (I know people who have built a profitable tour business through word of mouth on TripAdvisor, and my neighborhood has a successful bookstore that does a worldwide business in used books--including rare books--mostly via Amazon.)
|Is it still possible to build a new Amazon out of nowhere? I believe that in exceptional circumstances it still is |
First of all, not everyone can build and/or run an Amazon. Second of all, why would we WANT a gazillion Amazon.coms out there. Third of all, how is any of this different online than it is offline?
The only way it's different, really, is that in many cases small business and entrepreneurs jumped online a little ahead of some of the big players. They pretty much had to, because many of them were being eaten alive offline (I don't believe a single downtown store still exists in the town where I grew up, once the mall over by the freeway went in) Now that everyone's online, it happens again. As far as I can tell, it comes with the territory. All I can do is either adapt, or go get another job.
So to really make money in this Internet business, competing against big guys, we need FOUR things:
- Market research / Product
- Personas or profiles
- Strategy and business plan
- Venture Capital
By the way, this is what the big guys are doing.
Depends on the niche.
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