If you want to start a small website today, you usually face big and established sites as competitors. So you might come up with the idea that today it’s not worthwhile to start a new website. That would be a pity, because there are many ways to compete against big competitors.
First of all, the conceptual and visual aspects come first. This is followed by technical elements. The marketing and thus the aspect of SEO come into play only when everything else is finished.
Why should you build a small website at all?
You need goals and visions in the business, and that is no different in the online business. So why not build a second eBay or an Amazon competitor right away? Experienced website owners will immediately recognize where the problem lies, but there are really many people who think they can handle such a mega website – and that as their first project.
But even if you do not mess with the very biggest, but “only” with the large and established websites in their own industry, this is usually not a good idea. Even these often have years of advantage, a lot of experience and a large content archive in the hindquarters, against which one does not arrive so easily. How should one compete against such a competition, especially with a small website? For sole proprietors or part-time self-employed usually only have the opportunity to build small websites. For more rich time and resources often not enough.
What is a small website?
But first of all, it should be defined what a small website really is. Of course, there is no universal definition here, which is why everyone sees this differently. As a small website, I would refer to projects that have no more than one hundred to two hundred individual pages. This does not mean automatically generated or externally populated websites, but own content.
Depending on the type of website, of course, you have to differentiate here again, because online shops have a different content than a blog. It should be clear, however, that it is a manageable number of articles or pages that can be created by a single person in the foreseeable future.
WordPress for small websites
Setting up a small website has a variety of technical possibilities. Some prefer pure HTML, which makes it possible to run very fast websites, but it is also harder to maintain. On the other hand, content management systems provide a very easy way to maintain the content of the website and build interactive dynamic content. However, most CMS solutions are far too powerful and big to make sense for small websites. This is like shooting cannons at sparrows.
WordPress offers a good balance between possibilities and usability. It is still a relatively slim CMS. Among other things, through the countless plug-ins, it also offers many opportunities to implement special features and create a great website, even if you work on it alone. WordPress is certainly not the only good solution to create small websites. But especially for beginners, it is an excellent choice.
Advantages of small websites
Without a lot of money or extra help, most people will not be able to create anything but a small website if they do not want to spend years in a quiet room – which is not a good idea for a variety of reasons. But that’s no problem, because small websites have a number of advantages that should not be underestimated.
Specialization: Small websites can be much better specialized on a specific topic. The entire website deals with a narrow and complex topic for example, visitors often appreciate the fact that it is much more likely to build trust in the website operator’s competence than if a website had many different topics.
Mini niches: With a small website you can go into niches that would never touch big competitors. Therefore, it is exactly these Mini niches that offer the opportunity to avoid the big competition and to offer the right content to a small, but very precisely fitting target audience.
Flexibility: As a small website operator, you are much more flexible in customizing your website. You do not have to agree with various other people or once the technical department with changes. You can decide alone and implement the changes immediately.
Creativity: Many large websites are very restrained in their practices. Since the courage to new things is quite limited. As the owner of a small website, you can take advantage of that and start creative experiments, be it in design, content or marketing.
Personality: One of the biggest pluses of small websites, especially blogs, is the strong personal level. While large websites have editorial offices that are “faceless”, the operator of a small website often comes to the fore much more. This personal level gives you more confidence and uniqueness.
Speed: There is an interesting new development in the industry, a new affiliate program or something different? As the operator of a small website, you can immediately respond and, if necessary, adjust the direction of your own website. Other changes and measures can be decided alone and carried out immediately.
Passion: While large websites are usually just a regular job for their operators, this is often different for small websites. There is often a lot of passion and passion in it, because the operators usually choose a topic that is close to their hearts. This is exactly what you see in the content, which is higher quality and more interesting than the mass-produced large content producers.
Disadvantages of small websites
As good and important as the advantages of small websites are, there are also disadvantages.
SEO budget: An area where large websites tend to be ahead is the search engine optimization budget. Unfortunately, good content today is not enough to rank at the top in Google. Instead, various SEO factors, especially links from other websites (so-called backlinks), are still very important to reach the top. Big websites often do not spend a lot of money here, and small-site operators cannot keep up.
Content mass: Large websites also have much more content. That too is usually positively rewarded by Google. The more pages or articles, the more rankings in the search engines. This backlog cannot catch up as a normal website operator.
Marketing budget: Advertising on other websites, through Google AdWords or in social networks costs money. As a result, large websites often have a decent marketing budget that attracts many new readers, which, of course, can have a positive impact on rankings. As an operator of small websites, one can not and does not usually want to spend a lot of money on marketing.
Image: Many Internet users already know the big websites, because they stumble over it again and again and are there for a long time. Of course, small websites do not have such a good reputation or even prominence, which makes it difficult to compete directly with them.
So small websites have both advantages and disadvantages. The trick is to take advantage but avoid the disadvantages as much as possible. How to do that, I explain now.
1. Niche selection
The foundation stone for later success is laid right at the beginning. Selecting the niche or topic of your own website is an important factor in order to have good chances against large websites later on. Unfortunately, many newcomers underestimate this step and do not think much about the topic of their website. This often causes them to run into too strong competition, against which it is difficult with a small new website. Instead, you should choose a niche that offers good conditions for success. This is done by analyzing the following three factors:
Competitor: As a small website operator, you should not aim for a direct confrontation with the big players. In the direct confrontation, you will hardly have a chance. Instead, it’s a much better strategy to fill niches that do not tackle the big sites. These are often specific topics that seem unimportant to the big ones but still offer potential. So it is not very promising to start a website for the topic “car”. Likewise, it may be difficult to start a website for a particular make of car because there is still a lot of competition there. But what about the topic “Accessories for car brand XY?” That can be much more interesting since many large websites do not or only very superficially. So it’s important to make sure
But how do you judge the strength of the competition? Just by looking at the Google search results for important search terms. In my example, I would – For example, google for “Accessories for car brand XY” and look at what’s in the results.
Are there any big websites? Product pages of shops, forum entries or any small subpages of large websites… Nobody has specialized specifically so far, so you could be the first to do so.
Another great way to find out which niches might be worthwhile is to analyze the big competitors. What is missing in content? Which questions of the readers appear there, which are not answered? These can be niches that you could go into with your own small website.
Search volume: In the search for the optimal niche, one should not lose sight of the fact that it should still have a good search volume (Fig. 2). Search Volume refers to the average number of users per month searching for a particular term on www.google.com. This value can be in Google AdWords or on www.kwfinder.com , where you can analyze there in the free version only two keywords per day.
Although there is no general minimum search volume, it should be a few thousand searches a month to make it worthwhile. Of course, it also depends on the whole subject area. If even the main keywords in the field do not have 100,000 queries a month, but only 40,000 search queries a month, then a niche with perhaps 1,000 search queries is already good. Therefore, it is highly recommended to simply analyze a whole series of niches (keywords) to get a sense of what the topic area looks like overall. In any case, there should be some interest from users in the chosen topic. Of course, you can start in a “dead” niche and there will be virtually no competition, but no readers if no one is interested in the topic.
Passion: This point is also often underestimated when the main motivation is “money”. But if you want to build a high-quality, readable, individual and personal website that should stand up to big competitors, you should be interested in the topic. If you bring great passion and fun to the topic yourself, you will write much better articles, convey more emotions, do marketing much more intensively, and so on. So, before deciding on a niche, it’s a good idea to think about investing much of your time over the next few years.
A website stands and falls with its content. Of course, some now argue that in Google they often see lousy websites with terrible content right at the top of the search results. That may be, but Google is getting better at recognizing the good content. Google is investing a great deal of work and know-how to improve search results, making it harder for such bad sites to go. If you want to establish a successful website in the long term, you should look after your own content.
What exactly high-quality content is, of course, quite controversial. But I think it’s relatively easy to spot them. Are articles, videos, audio recordings or whatever useful to the reader? Do they offer added value and answer urgent questions from visitors? Do you offer helpful tips and solutions? Then you wrote quality content that readers will love. And then Google will also like this content.
Unfortunately, that’s not enough today. Your own content should also be unique and special, so that users will not find something similar elsewhere. This can be achieved by using your own experiences, examples, and tips, which makes the content truly unique.
It also makes sense to make content on small websites appropriate to the niche. This means that you write background information about the so-called long tail keywords, so very specific searches and topics that are certainly not thousands of people interested, but are perfect for the interested. Such information is missing on many large sites and shops.
Some website operators want to write everything, but not text. These should look for good authors who create such high-quality content. Or they rely on other types of content, such as. For example, videos that are becoming increasingly popular. This is particularly useful if the major competitors do not use such types of content.
3. On-page SEO
As important as good content today is, without search engine optimization it does not work. This means optimization and measures that are specifically geared towards Google, so that your own website and the individual pages are evaluated as positively as possible by Google. In recent years, so-called on-page optimization has gained in importance. Below all search engine optimization measures are taken, which take place on the own website. These include:
- interesting and meaningful title and description texts
- a sufficient length of the texts of at least 200-300 words (like much more)
- a good text structure using HTML tags <h1> to <h6>
- Lists (<ul> and <ol>) that clearly present important contents, facts or tips
- Pictures with legacy and title text that contain important keywords
- a good and thematically appropriate internal linking, where particularly important pages should also be linked most
- speaking URLs that contain important keywords
- a matching domain with keywords or a fantasy domain for brand building
These are some of the aspects that should be considered in on-page search engine optimization. Of course, there is much more, as you can find in a search in Google for “ Onpage SEO Checklist“. On-page optimization will certainly become even more important in the future, which is why you should not neglect this point.
4. Off-page SEO
If one speaks of off-page search engine optimization, one means above all backlinks. This refers to links that point to other websites from their own website. Google has been using backlinks for a long time to rate websites. The more good and appropriate backlinks a website has, the more important and better its content must be – in a nutshell.
But since in the past, a real business for the purchase and sale of backlinks has arisen and Google can distinguish only conditionally, what an honest set and what is a purchased backlink, the importance of backlinks for the calculation of search results has decreased. But without backlinks, it is not synonymous for Google.
Therefore, one should try with your own small website to get backlinks from other websites. If you write really good content, then you should Promote via Facebook, Twitter, so that as many people as possible. Among other things, this ensures that one or the other voluntarily sets a backlink. But also particularly interesting, controversial, unusual, funny, sad, useful content is like linked by others, so you should write anything, just not boring articles. On the other hand, you should not exaggerate it and only pay attention, because that scares off many readers.
You can get more backlinks by linking your website to your own social media profiles, entering good web directories, linking to comments on other blogs, and so on. Beyond backlinks, it is also worthwhile to be on the go in social networks, to use forums, to make contacts and the like, as sooner or later this will have a positive effect on your own website.
Very often the usability of the own website is neglected. That’s probably because it’s not easy to measure and express in numbers. Nevertheless, usability is very important, because it depends mainly on the user experience. Visitors to your website usually have a specific need or goal that they want to achieve. However, they usually do not know where to find the content that satisfies these needs on a website they are visiting for the first time. Using a good usability, For example, if you include factors such as navigation, clear structures, links, and more, you should try to make it easy for new visitors to quickly understand what they are looking for. It usually makes sense to start from the problems and needs and not always just from the solution.
So if someone wants to treat a rash, but does not know the ointment that does exactly that, it makes little sense to place a link “Ointment XY” on the website. Instead, it would be more user-friendly to have a “help with a rash on the legs” link. Here the user recognizes himself again and follows the link.
The usability of websites is a very complex topic that will never be 100 percent complete. In any case, it is important that you put yourself in the company of your readers and, from their perspective, evaluate and design your own website. As the owner of a small website, it’s usually much easier to achieve good usability because you have much less content than your big competitors. That should be used. Apart from that, of course, technical aspects also play a role. More and more people are using websites on their smartphones, and you have to take this fact into account when designing.
6. Loading time
The loading time of websites has become increasingly important in recent years. This refers to the time it takes a page of a website to be loaded to the extent that the user can interact with it. Hardly anyone is prepared to wait 10 seconds to load a page today. On the contrary, many are already gone today if it is more than two or three seconds.
Of course, Google also knows that and that’s why the search engine now attaches great importance to short loading times, and it is allegedly included in the calculation of the rankings. Although this is not a very big factor, you should strive for fast load times, especially since often just the big websites are quite slow. With a small website that has much less ballast, you’ll often get better load times than the big competition. Here you should first analyze the actual situation, which is not a problem due to the large number of online time loader tools. Then, from a mix of minimization (eg use only as many plug-ins as is absolutely necessary) and optimization, you should try to push the load times. Optimization tools such as Google PageSpeed Insights provide helpful hints.
Fig. 3: Google PageSpeed Insights
In addition, well-known content management systems such as WordPress have special plug-ins that help with optimization, since these CMSs are usually not optimized for performance at home. So it is also possible for laymen to make their website faster.
Another reason to look at load time optimization is the conversion rate on your own website. Especially for small websites, the number of visitors is not so high, and therefore you should try to get the most out of existing visitors.
In the end, professional websites depend on the revenue that can be earned. So to stand up to stronger competition does not necessarily mean that you’re standing in front of her in Google or attracting more visitors. It’s about being successful. Large websites are often run by entire editors, while many readers of this article probably build their own websites. This has the advantage that you do not have to earn as much as the big competition in order to be profitable.
In order to be financially successful with small websites, you should be very well with the potential revenue streams and use the most appropriate. So you should – For example, look closely at which affiliate programs exist and test them. Also very important is that you are not too hesitant in the monetization. While many people have a say in big websites, it’s much easier and faster to decide how much advertising is okay. And unlike large websites, which usually have a broad and often sensitive community, as a small website operator, you can usually build a lot of hassle-free new revenue streams.
Even tests and optimizations are usually much easier to implement on small websites than on large portals with thousands of articles. For example, specialization plays a role. While small websites tend to focus on a specific topic, large websites often have a much broader range of topics. Advertisers like it more often when there is no litter loss, and are therefore willing to cooperate with smaller sites.
There are other interesting points where small website operators can score against their big competitors. You’re closer to the community with a small website. Answers to comments and e-mails are highly recommended and feasible. This strengthens the community feeling.
Do not neglect your own activities in social networks. Similar to your own website, you can score here by a personal and open approach, while large websites are often more sober and impersonal. Changes and optimizations to the layout are usually much easier and faster to implement than with large and complex portals that have grown over a long period of time. In any case, you should make the SSL encryption of your own website, as this is already a sore point on Google and in the future probably will be mandatory. For small websites, this is usually much easier to do.
When Is One Successful?
The tips listed are all well and good, but when is your own website really successful? That may sound like a trivial question, but there are very different definitions, and you should be clear from the start about what you want to achieve. Only then can you plan the measures accordingly and also measure whether they have achieved something.
It does not always have to be the # 1 position in Google search results. After all, this is not so easy, especially with highly competitive keywords. Therefore, it often makes more sense to target the total number of rankings or certain numbers of visitors. If you want to earn extra income with your website, then a few hundred euros a month is a success. On the other hand, anyone who wants to live on his website only considers much higher revenue than success. And what if you do not want to earn money directly through the website, but B. want to increase their own awareness or want to build contacts? These too are success criteria.
Therefore, you should definitely define at the beginning goals that you want to achieve with your own website and then check them regularly. This is the only way to initiate the appropriate measures and does not unnecessarily waste time and money.
When is it time to give up?
Unfortunately, there is no guarantee for the success of your own small website. Sometimes you can do all kinds of things, and yet you can not beat the big competition. It is difficult to judge when it makes no sense to continue to operate the site. Some factors that should be analyzed are:
Stagnation or negative development: If the goals are not achieved in the long run and it stagnates as traffic comes, one should think about why that is so and if you can solve the problem. It is even more critical if there is a negative development despite active measures.
New competition in the market: With a small website you have a hard time anyway, and then when new strong competition comes on the scene, this may also be a reason to give up.
Negative growth of the market: You do not necessarily have to beat the big websites. Often it is enough to get a small piece of the big cake. But if the market shrinks, then, of course, that’s a problem in the long term.
Competition, target group misjudged: Again and again I see the case that the basics were not set properly. This often misjudges one’s own target group, but also the competition. Unfortunately, you often realize that later. But rather an end with terror than a horror without end.
If you have decided to give up the website, the question arises, what you can do with the website, the domain, the content, etc. After all, you have invested a lot of work and possibly money. The website itself could be adapted from the layout to another topic. However, there are many details that you have to consider in order to take any contaminated sites.
The contents are usually quite clearly tailored to a topic. Nevertheless, it may be in some of the content, eg. For example, background information may well be used on another related site.
If both are not an option, you can at least consider using the domain for another project. Especially suitable for this is a fantasy domain that does not contain specific keywords. But if that happens, it gets harder and you have to stay close to thematically. Under no circumstances should you use a domain for a topic that it does not suit.