You scroll down past the banner ads and enter your search term. You pass the “sponsored search engine results” without a glance. You ignore the shaded results to the right, as well as the additional “sponsored results” at bottom. Hiding somewhere in the middle of it all, you finally find the search engine results for which you came.

Welcome to the world of organic search engine results and natural search engine optimization – a world where mom-and-pop shops compete with million dollar companies, where million dollar companies compete with billion dollar corporations. And, while many will argue to the contrary, the playing field in the world of natural search engine optimization is more or less level. Small companies can and do dominate their behemoth competitors in this world, for a variety of reasons.

What is natural search?

For those who aren’t quite clear what the term means, “natural” or “organic” search describes the “editorial” search engine results on any particular engine. These search engine results are purported to be completely non-biased – meaning that the engine will not accept any amount of money to influence the rankings of any individual sites. This is quite different than the paid advertising that appears in “sponsored” or “featured” search engine results, in which higher positions are rewarded for to the companies willing to pay the most per visitor. The only method for achieving rankings in these listings is natural search engine optimization.

Why are natural search and natural search engine optimization important?

Savvy searchers who understand the difference between paid and natural search engine results are more likely to hold the natural search engine results in a higher regard, much like a person reading a magazine would probably be more positively influenced by an article about a particular company than by a paid advertisement from the company.

What advantages do huge corporations have when it comes to search engine results?

Certainly, large companies do have some specific advantages when it comes to natural search engine optimization.

a. Links – the primary advantage that large corporations have is their ability to obtain large amounts of inbound links, which can have a huge impact on search engine results and is a key component of an natural search engine optimization campaign. Often these links are given freely without the company asking (or being aware that it is happening). Many of the huge corporation’s vendors, affiliates, and partners are eager to show their associations with the company and link to the corporate site readily and non-reciprocally. Large corporations can also facilitate huge increases in link popularity through a simple corporate policy requiring inbound links from any companies wishing to work with them.

b. Budget – although history shows that a large percentage of major corporations do not spend wisely in this arena, larger corporations typically have larger marketing budgets then their smaller competitors. However, this does not necessarily mean that they will readily allocate a portion of that budget for natural search engine optimization, as discussed below.

What advantages do smaller companies have?

While the advantages of huge corporations, particularly in the area of link popularity, can be difficult to overcome, it is often unnecessary to try. A large percentage of such companies consistently seem to shoot themselves in the foot when it comes to natural search engine optimization, a primary reason why small companies can often outperform them in search engine results. Specific advantages include:

a. A willingness to pursue the channel – Smaller companies are typically more willing to devote resources to natural search engine optimization than large corporations. Huge things have to happen for a major corporation to get involved in this “new” channel, a channel far removed from the traditional marketing methodologies used to build the giant. Few corporate underlings want to be the one to put their neck on the line and recommend something completely new and “unproven”. Even when a large corporation looks into natural search engine optimization as a potential marketing tool, it can take many months, and sometimes years, for a final decision to be made.

b. A willingness to change the company website – Huge corporations face similar problems when it comes to changing to the corporate website. Within such entities, a person can often not get so much as a comma removed from the text of a secondary page without holding several upper-level management meetings and, ultimately, making a board presentation. Smaller, leaner companies are able to approve necessary website changes more quickly, and are almost always more willing to quickly adapt to the needs of both visitors and search engines – a definite plus in the arena of natural search engine results.

c. The willingness to outsource – Larger companies have more internal resources at their disposal, and are less likely to outsource this specialized service to someone with proven experience. Often, natural search engine optimization is treated as an afterthought and dumped on an IT person, who typically has too much to do already and will approach the problem solely from a technical standpoint. Natural search engine optimization is by necessity a combination of marketing and technology. Newcomers to the field (especially those who treat the discipline as strictly a technical issue) often make fundamental mistakes that at best do not get results and at worst put sites at risk of penalization.

d. A lack of technical hurdles – Huge corporations are more likely to have technical issues on their website that can prevent search engines from indexing all of their pages. Often the pages of corporate websites are generated “on the fly” from large databases, and such pages (without modification to the URLs) are sometimes never indexed. In addition, (although usability studies are making this happen less often), some huge corporations have their sites built entirely in flash or use other technologies that are virtually invisible to search engines.

The Bottom Line

To most huge corporations, natural search engine optimization is often a very small piece of an enormous puzzle – and it is a piece they have been doing without for years. The necessary steps required to fully embrace the channel are often enough to stop any well-intentioned initiative in its tracks. As most natural search engine optimization experts will tell you, some of the most egregious search engine mistakes are consistently made by household name companies – leaving their smaller, leaner competitors the opportunity to take full advantage and to gain the search engine results in the end.

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