Will big brands automatically win the SEO race?

By Shawna Wright

More than one small business owner has lamented over the fact that it takes them months of back and forth with Google to recover from a manual action penalty, yet bigger websites/brands seem to recover in just a matter of weeks. Will larger sites automatically win the SEO race simply because they are too big to fail?

Some SEO experts have pointed out, and I see their point, that Google can’t afford to block big name websites from the SERPs for too long because users would start to notice something was amiss. And if Google doesn’t deliver the best possible search results than users will find other ways to search…which is exactly the last thing Google wants.

So do big brands have a slight edge in the SEO race? As SEO Expert John E Lincoln points out;

Bigger brands tend to have an inherent advantage associated with their brand name; the bigger the site, and more powerful the brand, the larger the advantage no question about it. Google tends to weed out products and services that don’t deserve to be at the top of the search engines. In most cases, you simply cannot replicate the natural linking a great brand or product creates.

Big brands are going to have a much easier time earning links naturally because their name carries some weight. CNN.com is much more likely to get cited as a source than blogger XYZ simply because CNN.com is such a trusted and reputable source. I know I am more likely to link to SEO sites like Search Engine Land or Marketing Land because I trust those authors and their research, over a smaller SEO blog I’ve only just come across.

That doesn’t mean I would never link to or share content from that smaller site, but it might take them a little longer to earn my trust (and links) as a reader. The same holds true for Google—you have to earn your way to the top of the SERPs and that takes a lot of work, as well as a lot of time.

But John E. Lincoln also made the point that;

Smaller sites do have the advantage of being able to react to changes in SEO more quickly in most cases. With respect to results, we really stress setting realistic expectations at the outset of the campaign.

With big brands comes big red tape. I know that with many of our larger clients getting content produced, the key to winning the SEO race, is a very arduous and time-consuming process. One blog post has to pass through 4 or 5 hands before it can go live, adding an extra week or two to the publication time line for every post. Every potential link opportunity has to be scrutinized and analyzed, or passed off to someone else to make happen. This slows the whole process down, making it harder to get the ball rolling and build momentum.

Also, bigger brands are usually slower to the adapt to changes in the SEO game and that could make it harder for them to stay at the forefront of the SEO race.

For instance, in 2013 Google changed the rules regarding links from press releases. Now, links need to be nofollow and you can’t use exact match anchor text, only full links and branded keywords. We had one client that relied on a PR firm to manage their online PR and they had to completely re-work the approach they took to writing and distributing press releases, not to mention the internal changes that must have gone on at the PR firm.

Big brands are historically slow to adapt to changing times, which gives smaller sites the chance to find new niches to claim and conquer before the bigger sites even realize what they are missing.

Big brands might have an easier time earning natural links from multiple sources, but that doesn’t mean they automatically win the SEO race. The key is to keep your head down, play by the rules, and focus on building the best possible website for your audience that you can. And remember that success isn’t defined by what the Big Boys are doing.

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