How Small Businesses Compete with the Big Guys in Search

The local search landscape has changed a lot. You no longer need to have the biggest ad budget to get to the top of search results. In fact, these days, many tools exist to let local, small businesses out-compete big businesses.

Google Knows Where Searchers Are

Google has always tried to provide searchers with the ‘best’ result for a given query.  Part of that answer is that, in most cases, people are looking for results that are close to where they are. This can give local businesses an edge.

With a search like “coffee shop”, Google can have pretty high confidence that searchers are looking for a local place. Businesses with a nearby address will rise to the top of the results.

Service providers have to work a little harder. If you offer services to help get more Instagram followers, for example, you’ll compete with providers who are everywhere unless, you make your local service area clear.

Place-Based Results

New features that Google has added to search results can also play in favor of small businesses.

Google generally shows more place-based results for local queries and fewer webpage results. Even the webpage results that show up beneath place results on local intent searches favor local business websites.

How to Rank Well Locally

How do you make sure your business ranks well for local searches? While no one knows exactly how the algorithms work, there are known factors that help Google to rank you properly.

Google My Business

Google My Business is an online tool where you can tell Google about your business – the kind of business you are, where you’re located, the hours you’re open and more.

On-Page SEO

It’s important to structure your website in a way that reinforces what you’ve told Google in your My Business listing. Use the same words, hours, name, address and phone, and repeat the service area on your website.


Link to relevant businesses and information, especially local resources. This affirms the community that you are part of.


Citations refer to online mentions of your business that may or may not include a link. Ask relevant websites to mention and link to you.


Customer reviews are one of the easiest and most sustainable practices you can implement to improve your SEO. Include reviews on your website and ask people to leave reviews at Google as well.

Social Signals

Be active on social media with the same information and details you share on Google My Business and your website. The more Google “sees” you online, the stronger the signal it gets about what you do and who you serve.