Although search engine optimization (SEO) can help small companies better level the playing field with their larger competitors, even large corporations are using the tool to help build their niche markets.

Advertising Age points out that while only 2 percent of the population has been diagnosed with celiac disease, General Mills has created products for this small target audience and is making a big push with online marketing.

One of the ways in which General Mills is using online marketing to reach this niche audience is through search engine optimization.

Kelli Ask, interactive-marketing manager at the company, says when a person is diagnosed with celiac disease, "the first thing they do is turn to the search engine to figure out what they can eat."

"We want them to enter ‘gluten-free’ or ‘celiac’ and be directed to our website," she added.

The efforts of General Mills should be a lesson to any small business that believes their product may be geared toward a niche market and is considering using search engine optimization (SEO).

In a column last week for Search Engine Land, Hanan Lifshitz wrote that small businesses should try to make sure they are part of the first page of results when a consumer searches for a business in their area.