Matt Cutts, Google’s head of search spam, recently answered a question about improving search rankings in his latest Webmaster Help video where a user writes in to ask:
How can smaller sites with superior content ever rank over sites with superior traffic? It’s a vicious circle: A regional or national brick-and-mortar brand has higher traffic, leads to a higher rank, which leads to higher traffic, ad infinitum.
Matt starts off by disagreeing with the assumption that having a national brand automatically leads to higher traffic and a better search ranking. That doesn’t always hold true, as smaller sites are usually able to roll out fresh content more quickly than lumbering, larger sites. The ability to do that often means being able to rank higher in search results.
Matt goes on to say that smaller sites with superior content are the ones that end up becoming the larger sites. Matt points to Facebook, Instagram, and even Google as examples of once small sites that ended up becoming large because they did a better job of focusing on user experience and delivering more value.
Whatever area you’re in, Matt says if you’re providing a better experience than your incumbents then over time you can expect to perform better. You also have to bear in mind that taking on a website with a full team will be difficult if you’re just one person.
Concentrate your efforts on covering one niche really well. As you grow you will be able to expand into covering other areas of that niche and then grow even more. Matt refers to this as the ‘Katamari philosophy.’
If you step back and look at the history of the web you can see many examples of small sites outperforming larger sites by working harder and doing a better job. Matt suggests to keep producing superior content, because over time that’s one of the best ways to rank higher.
To hear Matt’s full response in his own words, please see the video below: