Trying to get found on Google can feel impossible. But there's a secret to outrank those big brands and get found by your ideal customers: specialize your business.

Here’s a question I hear a lot: “Should I even bother with SEO? I mean, it’s not like I’m going to outrank the big companies in my industry, they’ve already claimed the top spots.”

It’s a great question, because to be honest … you’re  not going to outrank Lululemon for “yoga pants,” or beat the Green Bay Packers for “America’s oldest (and best) football team” or the New York Times for “all the news that’s fit to print.”

But here’s the thing: you don’t need to beat the big companies in order to get search traffic to your site, because yours is not a numbers game.

Chances are: You don’t need a million hits on your page every day … you need 100 of the right people to find you. (Or maybe 10! Or just one!)

You can use SEO to attract people who are already interest in what you’re selling, and people who are eager to buy from you.

So here’s a secret to outrank those big brands on keywords that matter to get found by your ideal customer: Specialize, specialize, specialize.

Specialize by audience to get found more easily by your ideal clients

There are thousands of web designers out there … but Connie of Pixality Design has become an industry leader by positioning herself as a Squarespace designer for yoga studios and fitness businesses.
By niching down to serve only this audience, Connie has become THE go-to person in this space. Her content ranks for a ton of industry specific search terms (she’s #67 for “squarespace website” and #5 for “mindbody website integration” — mindbody is the most used booking software for fitness studios) and she’s developed a relationship with a major industry publication, Yoga Journal, that has sent her site a ton of backlinks and increased her credibility & domain authority.

Tips to specialize your audience to improve your Google rank:

  • List out all your clients & customers, and figure out traits you like about your favorites. It doesn’t have to be an industry, like Connie chose — it could be a lifestyle choice (retired men looking for a second career, working moms of teens) or a common interest (you could be a life coach for fashionista cat ladies!).
  • Make it clear who you serve in your copy, using the terms that your audience uses to define themselves. Not sure what those are? Check out Google Trends to get some ideas.
  • Understand that client’s struggles, so that they know that you have a unique interest in helping them … not just everyone who stumbles onto your website. Stacey from Semi Crunchy Mama makes her audience known in her company name, and her page title adds her tagline — “natural parenting in the real world” — that appeals to her audience before they even see her site.

Specialize by location to show up in local organic search results

Sure, Starbucks is everywhere (freaking.everywhere.) but that doesn’t mean neighborhood coffee shops are a thing of the past! It just means they have to get more creative about the way they promote themselves within their community.

My town has 3 amazing locally-owned coffee shops. One has the world’s most amazing breakfast sandwiches, one has fresh-roasted artisan coffee blends, and one has a great selection of microbrews available.

When I search “coffee shop near me” on Google, these three listings are the ones that show up — even though Starbucks is closer than 2 of them to my house! — because they’ve done such a great job with their local SEO.

So how can you specialize your local small business to outrank the big brands online?

  • Encourage customers to leave reviews on your Google listing. (You’ve set up your Google My Business page, right?)
  • Include the name of the town or city you serve strategically throughout your site, including title tag & footer.
  • Support other businesses in your community. Team up for promotional events, add them to a resource page on your site if appropriate, join your local chamber (and get a backlink on their directory).

Specialize by products or services

If you’re looking for travel-themed gifts—special orders available customized down to the zip code!—look no further than Paperfinch Designs.
Amy has over 1,500 products available in her shop, representing all 50 states and over 100 international locations. And because her products are so specialized to the needs of her clients (all the town maps in her shop were created as custom orders), she kills it with long-tail keywords, including “city map prints” and “new york skyline pillow“.
(My personal favorite? Amy’s art for my town of Pittsford, NY. She didn’t know it when she surprised me with the design, but the silhouette she chose includes the pavilion where my husband & I shared our first kiss back in ‘09!)

Tips to specialize your offerings:

  • Figure out what you love to do best. My friend Sara used to do ALL types of copywriting (blog posts, print materials, website copy), but once she discovered how much she adores writing sales pages and emails, her business started to thrive.
  • What are your most popular products or services? If you have an item that you can’t keep in stock, do more like that and promote them harder. If you have a waitlist for a certain service, trim out other options and focus on what people want to hire you for.
  • Don’t be afraid to say “no.” It’s really scary at first to turn down work, but people really respect you for it, and when they need something that you do offer? They’ll remember that it’s your specialty.