The Day All Large Companies “Got It”

10 Nov

Everybody who works for an SEM agency, has worked for one in the past, or just visits Fortune 500 company websites from time to time, has probably had this thought at least once or twice; “If only they got it…”. Some websites have much potential, but almost seem to refuse it.

Although topping the SERPs was much easier in the past, we still live in a time where small websites still stand a chance. In about five years, developing a website from scratch and making it profitable within two years (without touching AdWords), will be pretty hard. Why? Because within the next 5 years, most large companies will finally “get it”. These companies will finally realize what they have, how they can use it, and what they can do with it.

Domain age

A lot of Fortune 500 company domain names were amongst the first 10,000 domains that were registered. Do you seriously think that it would be hard to outrank your 1999 lcd tv related domain? Think again. Take a look at Philips, for example. This manufacturer of electronic appliances registered their domain name back in 1987. Try outranking that.


Websites that have been around since the mid 1990s, have probably been attracting links since the mid 1990s as well. Not only will 15 years of link attraction result in a LOT of links, but a lot of OLD links as well. With Philips again as an example, you’ll see that they have over a million links pointing to the .com domain alone. They have around 75 tlds with unique content and unique links. Another great example is Nike, with just under 2 million links.

Now think of what would happen if they’d actually start leveraging these links, let alone optimizing them. No matter if they keep or ditch the Flash, I’m pretty sure that Nike would finally be topping the SERPs for ‘running shoes‘. And this is even without having to obtain new links…


The problem with most Fortune 500 websites isn’t a lack of good content, but the enormous amounts of country selections, Flash, redirects, session IDs, CMS URLs and other search engine barriers blocking this content. If these barriers are removed, not only search engines will be able to find (and rank) a lot of extra content, but visitors will find it as well, through these search engines. The same goes for the linkerati.


I mentioned links before, but the ease of getting attention in the media is worth mentioning as well. If you have developed one of the most brilliant products or services ever, you will find that -even then- it’s pretty hard to get attention or coverage in the media. For some companies, there are entire (and popular!) websites dedicated to news and rumors about new products. Even bad news, such as a big layoff, can result in hundreds of new links from authority news websites.


Whether it’s a team of link developers, web designers or marketeers, large companies have lots of them. Bunches of ’em. And if they’re still short of well-skilled personnel, they tend to just hire a few extra, either directly or outsourcing via an SEM agency. Large companies have complete departments that can develop stuff in a single day, that would’ve taken you (or your team, if you’re lucky) at least a few weeks.


Massive paid link budgets? Not a problem. Developing a kick-ass piece of linkbait for several thousands of dollars? Not a problem. Hiring top notch experts from every internet marketing related field to provide input? Not a p… you get what I mean. Don’t you just love it when money isn’t an issue? Well, for most large companies, this almost seems true. They’ll probably have to convince only a few folks and the money tap will be turned wide open.

Being small has advantages…

Like I’ve mentioned before, being small has its advantages as well. Massive companies will never beat a small business owner on passion, dedication or speed. This is where small websites still have an advantage, but that’s about it.

My advice for everybody who is thinking about developing a website? Do it now! Before all large companies suddenly “get it”.

14 Responses to “The Day All Large Companies “Got It””

  1. Eduard Blacquière November 10, 2008 at 9:45 pm #

    Great post, Wiep! You’ve outlined some big opportunities which large organizations have, but I also think the bureaucracy of such organizations can decrease these advantages.

    Fact is that there’s a lot of work to be done for search agencies and therefore I count it to my responsibilities as well while working for a search company dealing with Fortune 500 companies.

  2. Tertius November 11, 2008 at 1:00 am #

    This is massive leverage and some big companies are actually trying to become more lean when it comes to marketing. And you’re right, a lot of niches will be impossible when these are exploited especially considering, like you say, the value that they already have.

  3. Derek November 11, 2008 at 5:38 pm #

    Definite food for thought and this post is very timely for me personally. Time is certainly not on anyone’s side, but less-so for the small business looking to make a mark online.

  4. John November 11, 2008 at 9:47 pm #

    Here’s something that keeps running in my mind whenever I’m thinking about the future of SEO and the way large corporations play in it. Someone still has to explain this stuff to them: train their content writers to identify and target popular search phrases, or train programmers for best practices – but don’t a lot of SEOs find that they can make more money working independently, using the skillset to sell products directly?

    It seems like for the “if” to happen, someone has to sign on to work for them – and they’ll probably scoff at any sort of non-compete agreements that these corporations love to make people sign off on. Yeah, “if” they got it the little guy could be in trouble, but who other than the little guy can explain it to them?

  5. Cesar B. aka the Mover November 11, 2008 at 10:18 pm #

    This Blog reminds me the reason I like bloging so much, the interaction is very important with readers and you guys have it right. Looks great too, will be back for more posts, David the mover.

  6. MLRebecca November 12, 2008 at 12:57 am #

    This is a great post. It really got me thinking about what it takes to have a truly great website. This is a great time to get involved in the web, whether as an affiliate, or just a website owner. Thanks for sharing this!

  7. MIke November 12, 2008 at 3:21 am #

    Pretty good. Thanks for the read. But I have one thing to say. Big companies now will not have the money anymore to spend on PPC with the economy so they may revamp and start building small product websites once the CMO gets his head out of his A** and meetings to do some real work like the rest of us.

  8. Joe Pulizzi November 12, 2008 at 4:40 am #

    Amen. Here’s the question, if these small businesses with passion suddenly had large-company marketing budgets, would we fall into the same problems?

    I would agree that large companies have plenty of content, but it seems many lack context for where that content can be most helpful to customers and prospects. I also see a lot of big content ideas, without the day-to-day content blocking and tackling that needs to happen to really sustain ongoing conversations.

    Great post.

  9. David Temple November 12, 2008 at 5:21 am #

    You’re absolutely right about the advantages the Fortune 500 have when it comes to seo. When they do “get it” it’s amazing. One problem is that everybody in the organization doesn’t “get it” at the same time so they can’t levarage those advantages.

    Overall nice thinking but wrong conclusion IMHO. What makes you think they will finally “get it” in the next five years when only 8% “get it” after 10 years? I don’t get it.

  10. Wiep November 12, 2008 at 9:02 am #

    @John: Lots of agencies provide services such as training and workshops. For the large companies, the biggest problem is to hire keep the people who’ve been trained.

    @Joe: It would be very interesting to see what would happen when small businesses suddenly got large company budgets, I’m pretty sure they could achieve more with it.

    About the content part, well, that’s your area, and I can only agree with you there.

    @David: A lot of these companies already almost get it. They’re in the process of convincing decision makers that SEM is very important and are trying to make some changes internally. Because of the bureaucracy of these companies, changes like this can take forever.

    Also, the technology adoption life cycle comes into play here. Once the visionaries have been convinced, the rest usually follows.

  11. Matt Ridout November 12, 2008 at 1:19 pm #

    One of the best post’s i’ve read in ages – light hearted and 100% true!

  12. Jan November 14, 2008 at 4:07 pm #

    Awesome post, you nicely pointed that out. \

    Have to agree on all of your points except I’m wondering whether they don’t get it. I find that hard to believe, my opinion is that these big companies are 1. very big and it will take quite some time to change the whole website for obvious reasons (one of your arguments too), but als that 2. these big companies are much more focussing on the image and informational aspect for their websites at the moment, rather than reeling in visitors through great SEO.

    Wonder how many extra sales (in % )Nike would be making if they ranked for no.1 for “running shoes”.
    Still great room for improvement though for these guys to combine these factors.

  13. TomL November 15, 2008 at 5:09 pm #

    Very accurate information.I believe that if you have enough relevant, and useful content you will do exceptionally well online and you don´t even need to be a huge corporation.

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