James Challis

How To Compete In A Competitive Online Sector

2nd Dec 2013 SEO Blog 5 minutes to read

Competitive Online Sector ImageIt’s the first big stumbling block for every excited entrepreneur and SME: how do you compete with a large multinational spending millions on SEO and Advertising. Internet success stories have led to many major organisations investing in online activity meaning achieving success has become more difficult but is still achievable.

Let’s have a look at some ways to even things up.

Improve Your Website

The first port of call: you need to have a website that is competitive. This includes ensuring that the site is search engine friendly, usable and optimised for conversions. You must solve errors with site navigation, create accurate sitemaps and use Google Webmaster Tools to identify any indexing problems that may affect your ability to rank for the keywords you are targeting. Removing any duplication of page content is vital if you want to challenge a strong competitor. There’s lot more tips in our free Technical SEO whitepaper.

Promoting and enhancing a website that is not up to scratch is likely to have a negative impact on your ROI for months after any problems are corrected.

Find Niche Keywords

No business can truly compete online for free. Almost every business that wants to survive the next decade needs to set a budget for online activity. Even things that don’t have direct costs if done in-house, like SEO and Social Media, have huge costs in terms of time and gathering the right experience.

One great way to utilise a budget is by targeting highly specific keywords that other competitors may be overlooking.

Design landing pages to focus on a very particular long tail keyword, this will give you a much higher chance of ranking high in a short space of time. Ideally you are looking for keywords or phrases that have good monthly search volume whilst having a fairly low level of competition, using the Google Keyword Planner can help identify these opportunities in competitive industries. Finding niche keywords is essential and they work so well because customers search in a variety of different ways with every search result being slightly different.

Utilise titles, headers and META descriptions to increase the relevance of your webpage. You should however avoid overusing any keywords in your page content as this could affect your ability to rank.


Connect with your local audience. We’re regularly told of the internet being a global market with unlimited reach. Whilst this is true, a small business looking to compete in a competitive industry should focus on developing a local reputation to help provide strong early growth.

Gain a reputation by joining local associations, supporting local events and charities. It’s more than likely that the demand from the local population will be enough to achieve short term growth and help build your online reputation. People are often more willing to promote good local businesses and using this demographic as a source for reviews is invaluable.

You’ll find a lot of ways to do this in Andy’s ultimate list of Local SEO resources.


Content is currently Google’s major focus. Creating content is a chance to use your expertise and knowledge to explain your products and services in detail. Spend time developing the primary pages on your website and explore opportunities to offer customers more relevant and unique content. Encourage on site product reviews and set up an on-site blog to announce new offerings, staff development and relevant industry news.

Businesses are often resistant to producing videos for their products and services; however this is a great opportunity to show how good their product is or how knowledgeable their employees are. Semi-professional short videos are easy to produce and you can use videos to explain your business, product tours and show your employees expertise on relevant subjects.

Make sure any content you create is unique and integrated into the site using SEO best practices to appease the Google monster.

Dean’s Video Marketing guide explains a lot of the ways to do video on a low cost.

Paid Search

Pay Per Click advertising can still be excellent for small budgets. It allows you to set a budget and continuously optimise the campaigns to deliver a better Return On Investment. Adverts that are specifically targeted on highly specific keywords and terms, in the right locations and at the right time should be capable of delivering a good return. For example, if your business isn’t “living for the weekend”, then you may want to avoid advertising during this time.

We still see small business making a lot of mistakes. For example using negative keywords can help you avoid paying for users who may be looking for something completely irrelevant to your business. There are many examples of well-run campaigns that deliver outstanding results such as HostelBookers

The biggest trap with PPC campaigns is to think your campaign can’t be optimised further, as you’ll always get more out of it if you put extra time in. Sam’s video on ten ways to save money with PPC is a great starting point.


This unfortunately doesn’t just mean setting up a Twitter account and tweeting once a year. Begin by setting up accounts on Google+, Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest and use these networks to distribute content on a regular basis.

Social Media is a fantastic low cost opportunity to build your brand image and show the personality of your business by the tone and content of your posts on social networks. Enhance your offering by directly interacting with your customers and consider using Twitter as a customer service portal to show potential customers that you communicate well and can be trusted to deliver. As long as your business has reasonable business and returns policies, you should avoid any embarrassing public pitfalls.

Attract customers to follow, like and re-pin by offering discounts, promotions and competitions that are relevant to them. By building a social following, you are giving positive social signals to Google and Bing regarding your brand and website, which will help build rankings.

By finding your niche keywords, engaging in targeted PPC campaigns and producing unique relevant content, you can give a business the best chance of competing with the industry big boys. One of the major advantages of all the suggestions in this post are that they are completely scalable. Once you have a stronghold in your online market, you can evolve your campaigns to target more direct keywords, enhance your PPC campaigns and become an industry leader.

Are there any other hints, tips or comments you could share from experience? Please let me know below.

Image Credits:

Big Fish Eating Small Fish from Bigstock

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James Challis

James is chairman of Koozai FC and a fan of Southampton FC, so if you’re a football fan you can judge him accordingly. He also turns up late to our Christmas parties and we never let him live it down. Ever.

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