IpadIn 2012, Matt Cutts said Google wanted to “level the playing field” for webmasters that build great content. Now it seems as though they are moving away from that idea to give established channels more visibility.

The search engine recently launched a carousel experience which offers mobile users alternative content from single sources. That content comes from mainstream media channels such as The Guardian, CNN, ESPN etc.

So where does this leave webmaster who are spending time and money to create quality content that Google insists you need to earn better page ranks. The whole point of the ranking system was to create a level playing field.

Web visibility

The goal of the game for webmasters is to raise visibility and build an online profile. With strong headlines and great content this is not beyond small businesses.

However, people are easily distracted and when given a choice can be persuaded to click on another link – especially when the link is flagged with an image.

It is the image of course that grabs the attention, followed by the headline, whereas search results on mobile will still appear as a list with no clue as to what lies behind the link.

And with the number of websites that have superficial content that has been rewritten from other sites, clicking on a link and opening up great articles is like trying to pick up a teddy bear with a metal claw in an amusement arcade.

Content catch

It seems SME’s are in a Catch-22. If you do not publish content, you don’t drive traffic to your website, and if you do publish content, you have to compete with mainstream media channels readers are already familiar with.

Social media is the best way to reach your audience, but people go to these networks to hang out and look for something amusing. Social media users are not interested in purchasing products.

For SME’s, the internet is becoming a space to promote brand awareness, but even that is difficult if you are not publishing regular content to improve your search rank and ultimately your visibility.

Social media solutions

Despite limitations on social media, these networks represent the best chance of reaching your target audience. The key however is accruing the right audience. Far too many business owners befriend anybody regardless of whether they are a prospect or not.

If you haven’t already, join Facebook groups where you should expect to find your target audience. Better still, create your own group and invite “friends” to join. This will sort the gold from the dirt.

Also join up and coming social networks that allow members to hone in on content they want to read about. After all, end-users that use search are looking for specific information, and it is often the case they don’t find the information they want from Google search results.

New social media platforms such as Bubblews, Quora and Medium categorise content into specific subjects such as culture, tech, marketing, sport, travel etc. The benefit to online business owners is that your audience comes to you rather than you trying to find the fish in a vast ocean of content.

Secure your audience

National and international chains are already squeezing small businesses out of the High Streets, and now search engines are doing their best to squeeze them out of online channels as well.

Will it ever end?

Probably not, but you can protect your corner by finding your audience, end-users who are genuinely interested in the content you produce because they have an interest in the products you sell.