How Any Small Business Can Compete with the Big Boys Using SEO and Social Media

big small

I get it.

I understand how brutal it can be–trying to market your small business in a world of billion-dollar businesses and multi-million dollar marketing budgets.

You have a limited budget, limited time, limited knowledge, and a limited arsenal of tactics that you can afford to implement.

But the big brands? They can do anything they want, hire as many people as they want, and unleash any tactic they want.

Today’s small businesses are forced to compete in an increasingly saturated marketplace.

The competition is fierce, and it has become incredibly difficult to rise above the noise.

Combine this with the massive disparity between a small business’s marketing budget and a much larger enterprise’s seemingly infinite resources, and it’s obvious that the cards are stacked against small businesses.

In fact, finding new customers is one of the top concerns of small business owners, and 66% claim this is the biggest issue they face.

How can small businesses tip the scales in their favor and go head to head with mega juggernauts?

It all boils down to two specific marketing strategies: SEO and social media.

When done correctly, these strategies can help any small business compete with the big boys.

I’ve been able to help small businesses do exactly that–upset the sumo-wrestler-size businesses in their niche.

It’s part of the glory of digital marketing. Anyone can compete. Anyone can succeed.

Even the little guy.

You just have to know how.

Leveling the playing field

The beautiful thing about these two mediums–SEO and social media–is that they are impartial. They show no favoritism.

Google doesn’t care what business is offering which product. It’s just looking to provide users with the best and most relevant results.

The same goes for social media.

It doesn’t matter if it’s a brand new startup bootstrapping its marketing or a well established company that’s been around for years.

You can still achieve significant exposure as long as you understand the process and how to reach your demographic effectively.

While it is true that there will be inherent difficulty outranking a behemoth like Amazon or Walmart on search engines and you’re unlikely to gain the same size of a social media following as a corporate titan, the right know-how definitely makes it possible for small businesses to gain traction.

It’s a matter of implementing the right techniques and having an understanding of the processes that are working at the moment.

Small businesses benefit the most from social media

A 2011 Social Media Marketing Industry Report came up with some interesting findings in terms of who benefited the most from social media.

According to their findings, 90% of respondents agreed social media was important to their businesses.

The interesting thing is that 67% of self-employed individuals and 66% of small business owners were more likely to strongly agree with this statement.


In terms of the specific advantages, 88% of respondents said the top benefit was increased exposure for their businesses.

Second, at 72%, was increased traffic/subscribers.


With roughly two-thirds of all small business owners claiming social media was important to their businesses, it’s clear that a well run campaign can have a significant impact.

You also have to take into account the possibility for going viral and seeing massive growth in an extremely short period of time.

If you really understand your audience and know how to connect with them on social media, you can not only gain exposure but also earn your audience’s loyalty and bring repeat business.

Are you a small business owner? Download this 8 step cheat sheet to learn how to leverage SEO and social media to compete with big boys.

So in theory, a no-name startup can experience wide scale exposure overnight and get a flood of traffic along with off the chart sales.

Killing it at SEO

There’s no denying that search engines have forever changed the way we find information and the way businesses approach marketing.

To put some perspective on things, “Google processes over 40,000 search queries every second on average, which translates to over 3.5 billion searches per day and 1.2 trillion searches per year worldwide.”


Wow! That’s a lot.

But let’s be honest. Small businesses stand little to no chance of outranking colossal companies for broad search terms.

But when small businesses use smart tactics like long-tail keyword phrases, they have a realistic chance to outrank the big boys.

Here’s a very simple example.

I entered the keywords “razor blade” on Google–a very broad search term.

As you might expect, the top results were dominated by Amazon:


Then I entered a more specific and much narrower search term, “best double edged razor blades.”

Here are the results:


As you can see, much smaller companies are getting the top results, and Amazon is the very last entry on the first page.

Of course, the more specific, long-tail, keywords won’t get as many searches as the broad ones. But they can still generate a lot of quality organic traffic.

This allows small SEO-savvy businesses to consistently bring in a stream of leads that are ready to buy.

My hyper-simplistic example by no means demonstrates the full potential of SEO for small businesses. It simply proves that small businesses can in fact compete with their much larger counterparts.

Ideal for small marketing budgets

What’s the primary advantage large companies have over small ones? Money.

Of course, they have a plethora of other advantages like more brand equity, a formal marketing department, an HR department, etc.

But when you break it all down, big businesses can easily have hundreds of thousands, or even millions, of dollars to funnel into their marketing campaigns each year.

On the other hand, small startups may be on a shoestring budget, and $50,000 annually may seem like a lot.

Fortunately, legitimate SEO and social media campaigns can be run without a lot of financial backing.

This is especially true when you do everything in-house.

Rather than hiring a high priced marketing agency, small businesses can cut back on their costs significantly by having staff members run their campaigns.

Instead of a financial investment, a time investment can bring about legitimate results.

The point I’m trying to make here is that SEO and social media are both cost-effective marketing channels and can be very affordable if you’re willing to put in the time.

In fact, “those who spend at least six hours per week are almost twice as likely to see leads generated as those who spend five or fewer hours.”


While small companies probably won’t have the budget for expensive mediums like TV commercials or paying big-named influencers like Taylor Swift to promote their products, they can almost always afford SEO and social media.

And when they really know what they’re doing and stay up-to-date on cutting-edge techniques, there’s absolutely no reason why they can’t compete with the big boys.

How can I thrive on SEO and social media?

I’ll be totally upfront with you.

Seldom can you just launch an SEO or social media campaign and get instant results.

And quite frankly, it’s not as easy as it looks.

On paper, it might seem like you simply perform some rudimentary keyword research or post a cool article on your Facebook and Twitter accounts.

Then presto, an influx of traffic floods your site, and your product flies off the shelf.

But that’s just not how it works.

To truly reap the benefits of these marketing strategies, you need to develop an in-depth understanding of the process, go through trial and error, and have plenty of patience.

You also need to stay in the know of what’s going on and continually make adjustments as new trends unfold.

But nonetheless, you definitely can thrive as long as you “get it” and persevere.

The good thing is, there is an abundance of free resources online that will teach you everything you need to know.

Sites like Moz, HubSpot, Quick Sprout, Social Media Examiner, and Search Engine Journal are just a few that can guide your efforts.

So, let’s briefly examine some specific ways you can position your small business to compete with large competitors.

Effective SEO strategies

For starters, it pays to be niche-centric with your approach.

Ideally, your business will cater to a fairly narrow target audience.

Rather than trying to be everything to everyone, you’re usually better off focusing on a smaller demographic and being the company that’s best capable of meeting their unique needs.

This mainly revolves around using long-tail keywords rather than trying to rank for broad terms.

Let’s go back to my example about “razor blades” and “best double edged razor blades.”

While the former keyword phrase would be extremely difficult to rank for, the latter is a realistic possibility.

In fact, small businesses were able to rank for it and bring in a reasonable amount of traffic and leads.

It’s also important that you pursue link-building opportunities.

According to Moz, domain-level link features, such as quality of links, trust, domain-level PageRank, etc., were the number one influencing factor on Google algorithm in 2015.


You can accelerate your SEO campaign exponentially by reaching out to and building relationships with influencers and top publications. If you’re able to get links from reputable sites, this can be the catalyst for a spike in your search rankings.

Some other strategies include:

  • Creating valuable content that’s based around user intent (e.g., answering common questions and addressing customer pain points)
  • Performing on-site optimization (e.g., incorporating keywords into your URL, headers, meta description, etc.)
  • Optimizing your site for mobile

Potent social media strategies

I love social media because it gives small businesses the opportunity to convey their identities and build highly personalized relationships with their audiences.

You can showcase your swagger and let consumers know why your company is worth doing business with.

It may sound a little cheesy, but I think the most important part of finding success on social media is to be yourself.

I, for example, am building my strategy with the specific goal of reaching MY customers and not worrying about the masses.

This coincides with Seth Godin’s concept of building a tribe (a community) around your brand.

Like the old saying goes, “Try to please everyone, and you’ll end up pleasing no one.”

Dollar Shave Club is a great example of a brand that embraces being itself.

Their off-kilter, slightly smart-ass marketing messages are unforgettable and definitely appeal to a certain segment of the population.

Saying things like, “Our blades are f**king great” is ballsy. But it’s hard to deny that this attitude has been a key contributor to their success.


Another integral element of a well run social media campaign is to be constantly engaging your audience.

Whether it’s retweeting epic content relevant to your niche, responding to comments on your Facebook page, inviting others to connect on LinkedIn, or asking questions to ignite digital discussions, it’s important that you’re interacting.

In other words, be on the offense.

The great thing about social is that it can actually be used as an outlet for handling certain aspects of customer service.

People love giving their feedback via social channels, which gives you an opportunity to strengthen relationships and quickly fix escalating situations when the feedback happens to be negative.

It’s also essential that you’re using the right networks.

Each social network has its own demographic and appeals to a different segment of the population. You want to make sure you’re spending your time on the networks your core audience is using.

For example, if your target audience is primarily female, Pinterest would be one of your best bets because 81% of Pinterest users are female.

Some other strategies include the following:

  • Use a consistent tone and style to strengthen your brand identity
  • Be authentic
  • Provide genuinely useful and valuable content
  • Use plenty of images (people respond favorably to visuals)
  • Maintain a consistent presence (e.g., don’t go MIA for months on end)
  • Curate content as well as create your own
  • Use analytics to measure your results and make the necessary adjustments
  • Consider using tools like HootSuite and Buffer to automate some aspects of your marketing (e.g., scheduling posts ahead of time)


In my opinion, the current day and age is the most exciting ever for small business owners.

While in the past, smaller enterprises almost always had to play second fiddle to huge companies and “pick up the marketing scraps,” these days, it’s totally possible for them to compete and even thrive.

Even if you just recently launched a startup and have to watch every penny, you can still get ahead and create massive exposure for your brand.

By getting on board with SEO and social media and understanding the nuts and bolts of these mediums, you can gain traction in your industry and drive quality leads to your site.

Can you think of any other marketing strategies that level the playing field between small and large businesses?

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77 thoughts on “How Any Small Business Can Compete with the Big Boys Using SEO and Social Media”

  1. Joseph de Souza says:

    As longs as you are the most relevant and provide the best answer to a particular query you are surely going to be ranked in the top. It does not matter if you the tiny fish in the ocean.
    this has been proved time and time again that sites with high Page rank or domain authority are beaten by sites with comparatively low Page Rank and Low domain authority just because they are more relevant

  2. Steven Steinberg says:

    Our company certainly fits the description of smaller firm competing against the much bigger guys. We’ve been working on increasing our website presence through SEO and Social and are starting to see slow, steady gains. It’s not always easy, but we believe in creating a foundation for growth based around our website visibility Thanks for the post Neil.

  3. Neil Patel says:

    Glad you’re starting to see the increase. It can be a long process but results come with consistency

  4. Paul Bliss says:

    Sorry Neil, I think this is way off. Just so you know, I am a huge fan of yours, you have been a fantastic ambassador for the search industry, and you are generous beyond many others in this space.
    But the real truth is that Google favors big brands and rewards them when they “play” the SEO game. Big brands can violate all the Google Webmaster guidelines and all they get is a little slap on the wrist.
    And we all know why. It looks bad if JC Penny or BMW doesn’t appear in the search results.
    But, wipe out a no name business like mine? No one cares.
    SEO *used* to be a level playing field. Today the best a small business can hope for is to rank locally for a few of their terms.
    Everything else is just marketing speak trying to sell search services.

  5. varun says:

    Very well researched article Neil.
    Thanks for sharing it.
    Yeah social media is the best free tool for small business success. I get a lot of traffic from it. So would advise all to use it as much as possible.

  6. Neil Patel says:

    Totally, just takes a bit of creativity

  7. Louis Kennedy says:

    This is yet another great post Neil! Now I’m off to the races to apply this in my business!!

  8. Neil Patel says:

    Good luck Louis!

  9. Vishal Ostwal says:

    Hey Neil, thanks for speaking on behalf of us, small guys.
    Succeeding is getting harder as internet is a bit unfair. Yet, I know that’s how it’s supposed to be. So maybe we cannot have the successes like those of BIG GUYS, yet, we can have a small piece of success which we deserve. And most of the time, that would be enough.
    I think of just one tactic, “focus on the long term.” It pays off in the long run, even if gradually.
    You’re awesome!

  10. Jeffrey Collins says:

    Neil, yes long tail keywords are the way to go! I’ve been employing that tactic since the beginning of spring and it works. Thanks for the reinforcing data.

  11. Neil Patel says:

    Glad its working out for you Jeffrey

  12. Hans Witthoeft says:

    First, I just want to say that I love reading your articles. I’m new in the online marketing industry and every day I write down on my to-do list “read Neil Patel’s latest post”
    But secondly, I wanted to give you a heads up that cannot be found.
    Have a good day

  13. Neil Patel says:

    Thanks Hans and appreciate the heads up

  14. Jacob Hurwith says:

    Given Google’s upcoming penalty for popup takeovers on mobile, are you going to remove yours? Curious of your thoughts.
    Thank you.

  15. Neil Patel says:

    Might discuss in a future post

  16. Joseph Mwema says:

    Great post Neil on how small businesses can leverage with SEO and social media. I have created a great awareness about my software product on Facebook for my local market than on any other platform. I think the reason I succeeded in this is because I identified where my likely buyer hangs out on Facebook but for my other software products where I do not target a local market but potential clients from all over the globe, SEO has worked well in my place though I am still experimenting with other social media platforms as well.
    Thank you for sharing with us that s post.

  17. Neil Patel says:

    Glad that has been working out for you Joseph I think that contributed to your success as well

  18. Bhavin Patel says:

    Great post Neil. I love the post picture. How do you identify the best suitable picture for each of your bog posts?

  19. says:

    can you tell us about Backlinks and seo strategies

  20. Beaver says:

    Thanks a lot Neil your posts are always amazing part from learning a lot from you you have always been an inspiration
    I have also started blogging you may hit my website here
    It’s about internet marketing reviews
    I wish to get your suggestions and recommendations on what to add
    Thanks a lot again I have also started receiving traffics

  21. Deb Chowdhury says:

    Hi Neil,
    As usual you’re awesome. You bring lot of hope to small businesses. I have been reading your articles from last few months. Thank you: for what you bring to the world!

  22. Justin Ellis says:

    Thank you for the SERP screen shots. I’m starting the adventure of managing a web presence for my family’s local business and I’ve read a TON of local marketing tips and trick articles but it seems like most of them do a lot of explaining but don’t site specific examples to drive the point home. Thanks, I’ll read more of your content!

  23. Neil Patel says:

    Thanks Justin I’m glad you found this post useful

  24. John says:

    I would very much prefer to read things here in this blog than listen to podcast. I’m sure many people feel this way. Could you please post transcription of your podcasts here?

  25. Neil Patel says:

    Thanks for your feedback John I’ll consider it

  26. Jasmine Bhatt says:

    Such a Great Post. I m newbies, these tectis will help me. Yes it’s absolutely right, social sites provide great opportunity for smally bussines to hit their business.

  27. Neil Patel says:

    Thanks Jasmine happy to help

  28. vipinnayar says:

    Hi Neil, great post nice tips you have shared across as a small business seo provides an opportunity to fight back to big high pocket companies. But now days content marketing basically you get guest post paying some amount to high authority site owners are brokers making again this as money based competition to small business

  29. Jack says:

    Despite of the coming up of the big brands, small brands can really leverage and use the Social Media. Another great post. I have seen many local pizza stores just bang up the marketing efforts of the well known industry leaders like Pizza Hut. And all they have is just a plain and simple Social Media Marketing Strategy. Stealing your competitors business and customers has become really easy. Provided you know where to make an impact. Which also holds true for SEO.

  30. Neil Patel says:

    It’s true, a simple social media strategy can really drive a lot of business when done effectively

  31. Stefaan says:

    One thing to note here might be the Google Mybusiness “knowledge graph”.
    Since the new Adwords policies, organic searches are often only visible after scrolling.
    When you search something in Google all you see is 4 ads and Googe Mybusinesses.
    For brick and mortar small businesses this often times means gold, especially for increasing mobile searches.
    This is a free tactic any small business with a physical address could implement and will make it possible to compete with the big guys.
    The only problem I see, is that Google doesn’t always add these businesses at the top. Or sometimes they don’t show it at all. If anybody has more usefull data about this, let me know!

  32. Alok says:

    Hi Neil,
    I have a question for you.
    I create a new website few days ago. I implemented same google site verification code from old site to new website so both of my website has same google site verification code. My new website is not ranking for any keywords even in 200.
    Please suggest me what to do. Should i change Google site verification code on new website.
    Looking forward for your reply.

  33. Bhushan says:

    Nice free article on SEO. I think it will great help for newbies company to grow organically.Thank You Neil!

  34. Neil Patel says:

    Thanks Bhushan

  35. Ryan says:

    Great points in here – its true that when it comes to Social Media & SEO, smaller businesses actually have some advantages – ie you have an intimate knowledge of and passion for their product / service – that puts you way beyond an outsourced social media manager who might have all the skill and all the resource but half the passion.
    Would have loved a few more practical applications!

  36. Fahad Taher says:

    One thing I’m not clear about is social media. Do you mean to say that if I have a Facebook account that I should expose my business to my Facebook friends all of a sudden? because first thing they are going to do is to start having doubts about what I’m doing and ask what I am getting myself into and distance themselves.

  37. Rad says:

    “To put some perspective on things, “Google processes over 40,000 search queries every second on average, which translates to over 3.5 billion searches per day and 1.2 trillion searches per year worldwide.”
    Thats an amazing number and the question is, where will that lead us in 10 Years from now…

  38. Neil Patel says:

    Even 3-5 years from now would be crazy to think about

  39. Steve says:

    This does see to be a little out of date….graphs from 2011?

  40. Farcas Gelu Danut says:

    I would love to read an article on how to do seo small companies working in the technical niches in countries where the language is not English: Romania, Hungary, Finland, Latvia and so on.

  41. Joel says:

    It takes a lot of self discipline to target one’s SEO campaigns to a narrow audience, but in my opinion, that’s the most important takeaway from this blog post. Google seems to reward specificity and focused content. Your blog post reminded me that — when it comes to SEO — it’s a tactical error to cast too wide of a net.

  42. Neil Patel says:

    Great takeaways Joel

  43. nathaniel says:

    very informative to me. Because I am a newbie. Trying to learn more so I can I know how I can establish mine. Google is really paying the big guys. still learning from all angles. thank you Neil

  44. Neil Patel says:

    Glad I could help nathaniel

  45. Reena says:

    Thanks for sharing it, I am trying to compete with one page website and blog in it. Do you think once page is sufficient to get good rank on google for few long tail keywords related to logo design like “Logo Design Company in Chandiagrh, Logo Designer in Chandigarh”. Please have a look at
    Please suggest if I am doing it right by creating just one page website and targeting few long tail keywords.
    Will be waiting for your response so that I can continue with this strategy
    Thank you!

  46. viva traffic says:

    Don’t know if my company would have been able to get started let alone survive without SEO and social media. Amazing information in this article!

  47. Neil Patel says:

    Glad u liked it

  48. uthman Saheed says:

    Social media campaign really worked well for start up businesses. Especially when you have a new brand and new website which is yet to get much organic traffic. You’ve just said it all, combining both social media and SEO is the best any business can use to experience growth. Thanks boss.

  49. Neil Patel says:

    Thanks uthman glad you liked it

  50. Lee (Excite Media) says:

    It’s great to know we still have an opportunity to beat the big boys in the market! And personally, I think long-tail keywords are much more valuable anyway as these are generally queries searched once a user has already done their research and are ready to buy.

  51. Neil Patel says:

    Indeed it is!

  52. Kathryn Porritt says:

    I love the idea that small businesses can tackle the big boys! It’s totally part of the fun of building a business and the volume. Those little wins can eventually snowball into something of avalanche proportions.

  53. Neil Patel says:

    Very well put Kathryn

  54. Mike Lee says:

    Agree with your points.
    Small boy is hard to compete with big guys in more general keywords.
    However, small boy still can make use of Long Tail Keywords to gain better position in search result.

  55. Neil Patel says:

    Right on Mike

  56. Mohammad Shad Siddiqui says:

    Hi Neil
    Your posts are like rule books to me. Have been following your every suggestions or point to build-up my site, do take out time to visit . It’s been built learning from you, reading and implementing your suggestions in last three years.
    I would have a print of your posts and would make it a checklist to go through our pages to check on page seo rules.
    Starting from scratch we are now giving solid competition in many areas | Destinations ( In our business ) to all the Big Boys, thank to your suggestion summed up in this post.
    Keep up the good work Neil I am sure, many guys all across the worlds and creating new things after learning from your experiences. Look forward to your next one….All the best.

  57. Neil Patel says:

    So happy to hear that Mohammad will check it out

  58. Steve Freeman says:

    Hello Neil,
    As a small business selling antique silver we have a dilemma with social media in that our customer base is usually elderly and do not use or even have social media accounts. We find telephone contact works best with our customers and until the younger generation grows up and starts collecting antiques I do not see how I will be able to engage with them through this medium. I really do enjoy your posts and follow the advice where I can. Regards. Steve

  59. manju rai says:

    Thanks for the post Neil! Only due to Digital marketing it is possible for small business owners to compete with their big competitors, that can’t be possible with traditional marketing.

  60. Neil Patel says:

    You might be right about that manju

  61. Poonam Sharma says:

    Nice Post Neil! Digital marketing gives an opportunity to small business owners to beat the big boys in the market.

  62. Neil Patel says:

    Agreed Poonam

  63. Feroz says:

    Hi Neil
    I can’t thank you more for your post, I’ve learned so much from you by just religiously reading your blogs, you are simply an inspiration for newbie internet marketers like me, I’ve a question and I’ll try and make it short.
    I have just started blogging about internet marketing, video marketing and video production, could you guide me on how to guest post on authority sites without spending money or if you could just provide me link to any of your previous post regarding the same.
    Thanks in advance

  64. Shamaila Zahid says:

    These are some killer tips! I never thought any small business could actually think of competing with the big boys, looks like I was wrong.

  65. Neil Patel says:

    Glad you liked it Shamaila

  66. Jake Keenum says:

    Aye. Super niche! Neil, will you share a case study of an online entrepreneur who built a tiny list and launched a product and validated it? I’m talking… even less than 100. If you already have a case study, where is it?
    You’re the best man!

  67. Neil Patel says:

    Not that I know of but I will let you know if I come across one

  68. Neil Patel says:

    Bring value and consistency and google will notice you

  69. Hamza Sheikh says:

    I agree and I so wanted you to write about it. It is a general misconception that people have regarding the big entities and how they play a part in search market.
    Recently, I was targeting an event related to tech. I had some major players from the market, but I was able to be on the top throughout the event using SEO, majorly on-page SEO.
    I had full support from different social media impactors in my network, they helped me throughout the event to come over major players.

  70. Neil Patel says:

    Wow that’s amazing Hamza. Really glad that worked out for you. Thanks for sharing

  71. Bharat Ratna says:

    You said it Neil! Great stuff. “In fact, “those who spend at least six hours per week are almost twice as likely to see leads generated as those who spend five or fewer hours.”

  72. Neil Patel says:

    Thanks Bharat glad you liked it

  73. Luisana Cartay says:

    Hi Neil. Great article, as usual. I think some of us get overwhelmed by big names and resources and forget that the most important think is focus in our goals and work well done. Content like this one is needed to perform better, even with less resources. I’ve added this article to the Photoslurp ecommerce weekly newsletter, you can see a web version of the email on

  74. Neil Patel says:

    Thats totally true Luisana. Some get intimidated by the thought of competing with large corporations. Thanks for sharing

  75. Shivang says:

    Hi Neil, This is very difficult for small blog website to compete with big website. I will be going to use long tail keyword and then i will see what the result comes out.

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