Google Small Business

Does Google Hate Small Businesses?

With another Panda update round the corner and Penguin 4 in the works, it looks like we can expect another round of SEOs hating on Google more than Dog the Bounty Hunter hates scissors near the back of his neck. With the inevitable knock downs and knock outs from SERPs that these updates will bring, the moaning will come thick and fast.

Keeping that in mind, I’m going to go through some of the problems SEOs often complain about with Google and tell you why those reasons are completely, totally and unequivocally wrong. More than that, I’m going to try and explain how you can do things to weather the impending algo-storm as a small business. It’s gonna be fun – I promise.

The Problem: “They Screwed Me With Penguin”

“It’s totally destroyed my strategy” they say. “I’m no Black-hat” they* say. (*fictional SEO who has issues with anything Google) Number 1: If your SEO strategy was built around link schemes and keyword stuffing (the main targets of Penguin) then well, just no… I mean seriously no. It’s 2013. Number 2: If you were doing these things, then you were engaging in Black-hat techniques so stop acting the victim, dust yourself down and start bouncing back by busting out less ethically dubious tactics. What are those less ethically dubious tactics?

The Solution: Follow the Rules

Follow the Webmaster guidelines as closely as possible. It might sound obvious, but it’s almost always the people who break the rules that whine the most. Remember sitemaps, alt-text, H2s – all the basics but essential practice. Aside from those basics, it’s all about quality and relevance. Having relevant links from quality sources and quality content that’s relevant to your customers or audience. Again, it’s not rocket science but the haters and spammers (that never think of themselves in that way) are the exact type to not get these basics down. Don’t be like them – they’re not cool. It is cool to follow the rules (at least in this case).

The Problem: “They Side With Big Business – The Little Guy Has No Chance”

“I can’t rank for the keyword chocolate, it’s so unfair” would be a ridiculous thing to say but not as far-fetched as you might imagine for some SEOs. Many take issue with the fact that when you search for jeans you end up with Asos, Topman and the like rather than ‘John’s Jolly Jeans’. They complain of bias towards the big guys from Google, saying that it takes a marketing team of thousands and a budget of millions to get anywhere near the top for competitive keywords.

The Solution: Focus On Your ‘Smallness’

The reason you’re not ranking for competitive keywords might have something to do with the fact that they are competitive. Remember, Google doesn’t owe you anything, why are they going to pick you over a well-known multinational? I’m not saying abandon all hopes of fighting with the big guns but let’s face it you need to pick your battles. Rather than aiming for generic, ultra-competitive keywords instead target something a bit more specific and (there it is again) relevant. So if you sell independently made jeans, try ranking instead for say ‘vintage’ or ‘handmade jeans’ rather than just ‘jeans’ . Outside the pure search aspect, emphasise your independence and small-size as much as possible on your site – you then open yourself up to a completely different niche to the bigger players. Demonstrating your ‘localness’ is also a great idea if most of your business is from nearby – you might not be able to rank for jeans but you should definitely seek to rank for Jeans in (*insert place name).

The Problem: “They’re Stealing My Referral Data, I Have Nothing to Work With”

The meteoric rise in keyword (not provided) referral data is causing SEOs everywhere to stare blankly at their screens wondering ‘why me?’. With keyword (not provided) making up more than 80% of data from some sources, it’s like working with your arms tied in front of your eyes or something.

The Solution: Make The Most of What You’ve Got

While this data is certainly very useful, especially for smaller-sized companies, it’s not the be-all-and-end-all for data that can be worked with. Kissmetrics have a great guide to using the data that is available to you to piece together what’s now, more often than not, missing and Dan Barker has an excellent piece specifically on how to ‘steal back’ some referrer data. And don’t forget, as Plato once said (probably) ‘Data doesn’t maketh the man’ – data should only be a tool to aid you in your strategy, it shouldn’t be your strategy.

Be Zoo Proof

With the cuddly-named updates on their way, it makes sense that people are worried; after all the original penguin affected over 3% of English queries – a pretty sizeable chunk. The thing is, despite what naysayers will (nay)say, if you’re doing things right, you’ll be alright. If you think there’s even a chance of the updates uncovering some shady SEO tactics that you thought were hidden in your past, it might be worth considering conducting a comprehensive review right about now. Without a doubt, there will be those who still say that they do everything right and still bear the brunt of Google’s wrath – to those people I say nothing, it’s just not worth the effort. It’s pretty simple really – just don’t feed the animals.

Jackson is a Digital Marketer and SEO who is obsessed with the written word. He loves football, technology, politics, philosophy and music with guitars (and other music too).


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{ 22 comments… add one }
  • Adam March 31, 2013, 8:38 am

    Jackson, I don’t think Google hates small businesses, although I can see how it looks like that because they do seem to favour brands more.

    The reason why Wikipedia and Amazon have so much power in Google is partly due to how many pages they have that are well interlinked and well optimized – part of their growth has been down to social proof that’s come about from dominating long tail queries initially (at least that’s the way I see it).

    The problem that I see is that small businesses are just too under resourced and it takes a lot of time to create content especially to be able to target enough long tail keywords that it would take to get some serious traffic.

    There’s also brand metrics that Google look at as part of their algorithm too that work as trust signals – things like privacy policies, other legal documents, company registration numbers, detailed contact pages, detailed about pages, offline address and physical presence and more. So there are a lot of things that small businesses can do.

  • Efoghor Joseph March 30, 2013, 11:33 am

    I don’t think Google hate any small business. Why would they hate you? Come to think of it, does Google know you or any of the big businesses in person? The answer is “NO”.
    Google loves playing by the rules. They want to give users quality for their money. So if you play by the rules, they would be your good friend.
    Efoghor Joseph recently posted..Online Importation Business: The Beginner’s GuideMy Profile

  • James March 30, 2013, 8:44 am

    It might be, because Google is becoming so rude now a days. Getting more strict parameters and not allowing small business to boost up. frequently rolling animal updates to influence small business specially and not taking much care of quality. There are many duplication, spams story which are not visible to the eyes of Google’s animals. :p
    James recently posted..The Future Goes AppMy Profile

  • Posh Infosys March 30, 2013, 4:44 am

    Hi J@ckson,Nice article,I Really enjoy it..current update of panda,i think google algo focus more and more on, “On page” optimization.
    if you have good quality content and quality backlink then i don’t think you have to work hard for your website to get rank in SERP.

  • Jovell Alingod March 30, 2013, 12:08 am

    Thanks for the tips! This is a great eye-opener for small business owners when it comes to making their online marketing strategies. We can’t help it if Google makes changes to be able to serve users better. But we can learn from Google that putting the customer’s needs first and foremost is key to any success online.

  • Evan March 27, 2013, 3:35 am

    Thank you for posting on this issue. The best option is to create an entirely new listing at the address given. The current listing that is unverified in your account is a experiencing a technical issue that makes it appear as if it is permanently ‘pending.’ It will continue to appear this way even after it is verified.
    Evan recently posted..Best Multipurpose WordPress theme collection 2013My Profile

  • Daniel Law March 27, 2013, 2:57 am

    It’s that time of the year again when local SEO companies frighten their clients into thinking they need additional SEO work to avoid been hit by Panda or Penguin. Realistically if all SEO companies were ethical from the start there wouldn’t be such a panic regardless of what Google spits out.

    Most small businesses are tricked into believing SEO is magic, hence why their the first to get hit by the Google algorithm updates.

  • Heather Stone March 26, 2013, 9:11 pm

    Hi Jackson,
    Yes, like many aspects of operating your business, search engines are just part of the reality we all have to do deal with. There are many small businesses that have flourished in this environment, so don’t make excuses. Figure out how to leverage you advantage and worry about problems as they arise. Thanks for sharing on the BizSugar community.
    Heather Stone recently posted..Obtaining Critical Social Media ROI on FacebookMy Profile

  • Servando Silva
    March 26, 2013, 3:49 pm

    Yeah, for me all of those are just pretexts because you’re doing things wrong.
    Yes, from time to time, an update hits you a little but nothing you can’t recover. Most of the times, the updates have helped my blog grow more instead of going down, so at least I’m following he right strategy.
    Servando Silva recently posted..Google Loves Content – My journey to 20,000 pageviewsMy Profile

  • Rashmi Sinha March 26, 2013, 12:30 pm

    Google is just too smart. we may play the blame game but we do know where we lack when it comes to online business. In most of the cases it is the lack of content and proper management. With Google setting the rules to play by, people need to take the content management issue seriously.

    Thanks for this wonderful point of view.

  • Jane March 26, 2013, 11:46 am

    Well said Jackson this is 2013. And if webmasters/bloggers were indulging in black hat stuff once, its surely gonna hit. And once hit, if we immediately start acting like the good guys, that won’t help much – all the damage has already been done 🙂
    Jane recently posted..Affiliate Marketing Programs: How To Choose The Right OnesMy Profile

  • Priya N March 26, 2013, 10:21 am

    That is very true. Small businesses can’t compete big businesses & so they have to depend on keywords that are less targeted by those businesses.
    In order to rank for your business keywords what you have to do is provide quality to your content & build authority backlinks.

  • Tom Howlett March 26, 2013, 8:52 am

    Good read.

    The bottom line is that everyone wants a short-cut and the fact is that there are no short-cuts anymore. Unfortunately there are still examples of websites that are benefiting through various manipulative link tactics (maybe not for long). Smaller companies need a solid strategy in place and I still think there lies a large problem in convincing smaller companies that doing ‘such and such’ is worth the time investment.

  • Patrick March 26, 2013, 7:02 am

    Google is really playing with us all the time like it controls the internet.The search parameters are becoming too strict and sometimes even the genuine sites go down because of a stupidity done by Google bots.

  • Lee March 26, 2013, 7:00 am

    Hi Jackson
    Very informative. As far as I can see a lot of the people who got caught out and are still going to get caught out basically are not listening to what google is telling them and whether we like it or not where google goes we follow and if they outlaw certain methods then we have to adapt to how they want us today the game.
    You have to enhance it and go with it. There is no point wringing about it and not changing. It just means more hard work is needed now to succeed than a couple of years ago which Is probably a good thing.

    Greatest thanks lee

  • Sandra Barker March 26, 2013, 6:54 am

    Great post! I definitely think that this is a very informative post. I absolutely think that Google is in business to make money. The MOST relevant search results are ALWAYS ads.Thank you for this information. And I’m looking forward for more updates from you. I definitely enjoyed reading your post.

  • Andy Lewis March 26, 2013, 6:13 am

    Small businesses are really affected by new panda update from Google and its because Black hats seo done for ranking . I like the work Focus on smallness , it is truly well said because i don’t think so Google had sided the small businesses purposely.

  • Vincent Armstead March 26, 2013, 4:37 am

    Thanks for the post!!
    As due to recent updates of google small business have been strongly affected due to the black-hat seo techniques. Nowadays google is focusing on quality of the content and penalizing low quality contents. I think there will be a time when google will just allow paid services.

  • David March 26, 2013, 3:50 am

    I hate this data not provided stuff. Search makes up a very small portion of the traffic to Website Buddha right now, and I literally have data not provided as my only “keyword”.

  • Ryan Biddulph
    March 26, 2013, 2:18 am

    Excellent insight Jackson.

    Never lose sight of the basics. Be disciplined, maintain a focused approach, never straying from your core relevance and you can rank while driving steady targeted traffic to your website. Google requires you to think, and think frequently, to place well in search engines. Few people are ready to think as most are mentally lazy, hence the Google smackdowns and complaining.

    Thanks for sharing.

    Ryan Biddulph recently posted..My Most Terrible Mistake as a Cash Gifting Blogger and How I Succeeded from this ErrorMy Profile

  • Joe Hart March 26, 2013, 1:49 am

    Hi Jackson..Great post…Yes it is again that part of the year when the blame game on Google starts…I think it is time when webmasters thought about alternative sources of traffic…Google is slowly becoming more and more strict about manipulation of its ranking parameters…Pretty soon it will develop an algorithm which will stop all SEO gaming..All we can do is produce good content and rely on it to build links for us.

  • Darnell Jackson
    March 25, 2013, 2:12 pm

    Good topic Jackson,

    Just another reminder of why Google is in business, to sell ads and make money.
    If you are dependent on free search traffic you’ll inevitably have issues eventually.

    Google is in business to make money.
    The MOST relevant search results are ALWAYS ads.

    This should tell you something about their strategy, I’m just saying.
    Darnell Jackson recently posted..Grow your audience for EIGHT weeks straight. [5M 008]My Profile

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