60 | Big Brands vs SMEs; SEO optimisation differences between small and big websites


This episode covers the different ways to optimise small to medium enterprise sites vs big brands. How does SEO differ depending on the size of your website?  

First, here are my intro references:

  1. Kuriosity podcast
  2. Mastering In-House SEO book
  3. Pi Datametrics Webinar on content cannibalisation
  4. Aleyda Solis – Remote Job Seekers example 
  5. SMX conference (virtual)

Podcast Guest: Juliette Van Rooyen

  • SEO for 15 years, spent half of her career in London agencies and the rest in-house.
  • Worked with eBay and used to work in Gambling industry. (Juliette goes into Gambling intent differences compared to other offerings and the value of a user.)

Juliette did analysis of search intent and found that it depended on the different types of pages that eBay had. As an example, the large site has different groups and types of pages, from products to listings and facets. She monitored how search elements change on SERP (search engine results pages) based on searches, showing the user what they want before they even get into a site and the conversion zone. 

I speak about custom indexation of filter pages but it’s good to point out that a large site will need to find a way to automate this method of gaining traffic via long tail keywords. It’s a great way to increase brand awareness and put the self in front of people who want to buy that particular and potentially niche product. 

When you have a big  site it’s about how to get Google to SEE the 2000 pages so it’s important to focus on crawl. Whereas SMEs can focus their time on optimising those 2000 pages and getting good enough traffic that converts. For the former, you need to work out what content you want to be seen and the level of those pages, in terms of link hierarchy, intent, specificity and so on. 

You want Google to visit the pages you want surfaced and not the ‘faff’ as there’s a limit to the crawls. Section the different areas and then can technically tell search engines what to do with the ones you categorise. It’s about giving people different experiences based on what level of the site they’re in. 

Internal linking is one of the fundamental things you can do to help this by the way. Some of the questions you could be asking are: 

  • Is it getting through the site ok? 
  • Is it getting lost?
  • Is google reaching those pages even if linking is good?

Juliette was on a webinar discussing this very thing and she says linking is the most important in her opinion, above content. Watch the webinar called 5 Hours of SEO with SEMrush  Having multiple paths is an effective method of linking. You should be able to use your navigation without even needing a sitemap. 

Google surfaces different content for different intent, for example results for ‘watches’ shows video prominently but then the same level of query wouldn’t show video on the first page at all. If you’re not sure what to showcase on your pages (content creation) then check it out on Google first. What shows up? Create content that’s similar to competitors… or better, and cater to the intent. 

“These days you need to do as much SERP research as creating the content itself” – Juliette Van Rooyen

With smaller sites you tend to be able to react to things much more quickly. Big brands tend to be stuck with technical restrictions usually before they can make changes. 

“Small clients can make gains against big brands by being more agile” – Juliette Van Rooyen

Find some great examples on the podcast of big brands vs small brand changes. The traffic won or lost also may be more valuable to a smaller brand whereas it may not make a dent for a big site. Also, big brands have a lot more stakeholders to go through to make changes too which is usually a big drawback. There are so many people who will be impacted on any given change, and not just the site but offsite too, whereas smaller brands can get verbal sign off and go ahead with change (generally speaking.) 

Smaller brands are more around education and less repetition unlike in big brands as people tend to move around a lot more as well as have a lot more people. When I worked for Tesco, I spent a lot of time trying to find the person responsible for a particular part of the site. 

A key quality in a good SEO is translating the technical elements to a non-technical audience in order to explain the benefits of it. It’s basically persuasion and how to speak the stakeholders language in order to make a change. 

A number of SEOers, including Juliette in this episode, have told me how they earn trust not not necessarily just in SEO to make a change in the company, in order to make a change and get the trust to get a budget for SEO later on. Luke Carthy in this episode speaks about this too. 

What can Big Brands get away with?

When you’re a big brand you might not care much if it’s only a few thousand users whereas any little optimisation is useful to a smaller site because any traffic and conversion is likely to be needed. 

Google sees the changes a big website makes quicker so it has bigger implications. If it’s good then you will get good ranks and yet at the same time, if it’s implemented incorrectly then you’ll suffer quickly and a lot more too. 

“The bigger the site, the more you have to look to scale any activity.” – Juliette Van Rooyen 

Catch Jules via LinkedIn & Twitter – @JulesGrimm

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Music credit: I Dunno (Grapes of Wrath Mix) by spinningmerkaba (c) copyright 2017 Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license. http://dig.ccmixter.org/files/jlbrock44/56346 Ft: Jlang, 4nsic, grapes.

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