Is there one particular website that consistently outranks yours? This can be an extremely frustrating experience. It seems like no matter what you do, you just can’t seem to improve your rankings.
This post will give you a checklist you can follow to outrank nearly anyone online. If you can consistently carry out these tasks (you likely don’t even need to do all them), you stand a fantastic chance of outranking even your toughest competitors.
Choose the right competitors.
A better title for this article might be “20 Tips to Outranking Your Key Online Competitors.” These tips will likely not allow you to outrank a huge, multinational organization with millions of dollars dedicated to marketing. Choose your competition wisely. Here’s how:
- Choose realistic keywords. Google the keywords you want to be found for, and analyze the SERPs to see which keywords are dominated by small to mid-sized businesses. If large brands have overtaken a particular keyword, stop complaining about it and move on to other keywords.
- Analyze the domain rank of your competitors. Once you’ve spent some time in the SERPs, you should be able to identify your key competitors (sites that consistently outrank you on a number of different keywords). Check out their page and domain-level MozRank (find this using the completely free MozBar) and compare them to your own. If they rank considerably higher than you, move on to target other sites that will be easier to go up against.
- Check the on-page SEO of your key competitors. Now that you know who you’re going up against, analyze their on-page SEO. Are they using their keywords in their title tags, headings, alt image tags, URLs, etc.? If not, you’ve just found a way to improve on their SEO.
Engage in competitive link building.
- Utilize your competitors’ links. Use a tool like Open Site Explorer to see which sites are linking to your key competitors. Now figure out how you’re going to get help from these links, from those same sites (or even better ones).
- Get brand new links with HARO. It’s great to get the same links as your competitors, but you’ll need more than that to outrank them. Get free, high-quality links from huge sites like Huffington Post, Forbes and even CNN by responding to media queries from Help a Reporter (HARO).
- Local businesses: Get local links and citations. If you’re trying to rank for local search, there’s no better way than to acquire citations (non-linked mentions of your business or brand name) and to get local links. Make sure to register your website with Google My Business and local reviews sites like Yelp and Yahoo Local. Actively pursue links from local business organizations like the BBB or your chamber of commerce, and pitch interesting story ideas to local media.
Create amazing content.
- Write longer content than your competitors. 85 percent of the content that’s out there is less than 1,000 words. Yet we know that longer content (particularly 1,200 words+) ranks better. If your competitors are writing short content, write longer, more-in depth content targeting the same keywords. Here is my content marketing guide to help you along in this process.
- Write better content than your competitors. Look at the content that’s currently outranking yours and figure out what you can do better. Does the other content use poor grammar? Is the reading level appropriate to the audience? Figure out what they’re doing poorly and improve on it.
- Go after the long tail. One of the best ways to rank for long tail phrases is to consistently add longer, more in-depth content to your site. When you do a fantastic job of covering all angles of a topic, you naturally use semantically-related long tail phrases. For some extra help, you can also find long tail phrases using a tail like HitTail.
- Write evergreen content that will serve as a resource. Consistently add content that will serve as a resource to your readers, to other bloggers and to journalists (these last two are key for getting links). How to posts, list posts, top resource lists and in-depth tutorials and guides are always good bets. If you have insider knowledge in your field, even better; this will make it more difficult for your competitors to replicate your content.
Perfect your own on-site SEO.
- Make sure your site is optimized for mobile. With more Google searches now being done on mobile devices than desktop, you stand to lose a lot of business if your site isn’t mobile-optimized. Use Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test to find out whether your site is mobile-friendly, and to identify specific steps you can take to improve on your site’s mobile experience.
- Optimize your on-page SEO. I’ve already alluded to this above, but the importance of your on-page SEO can’t be stressed enough. Use your keywords in strategic locations on your page. Most importantly, place valuable keywords in your title tag, URL, header tags (particularly your H1 tag), alt image tags and throughout your content.
- Use relevant schema markup. Schema helps the search engines interpret the information on your site. There are tons of types to choose from: Recipe, event, person, local business, product, review, etc. For more on this, check out this primer from WordStream.
Promote your site and content.
- Guest post. Guest posting can be a great way to acquire high-quality links to your site. That said, it should never be done exclusively as a way to earn links. Guest blog on sites where your audience hangs out. This is a great way to get referral traffic to your site, and to build up your reputation online.
- Share your content on social media. While we know that Google doesn’t consider social media likes, shares and retweets as ranking factors, the indirect benefits of social media are clear. The more your content is shared, the more people there are who see it. The more people who see the content, the more links you will naturally attract. Having a large, targeted audience that’s ready and waiting to see and share your content is invaluable; and if your competitors are focusing exclusively on SEO, this can give you a serious advantage.
- Investigate how your competitors are using social media. Find out which social media platforms the competitor is using, and evaluate the media performance. Is this competitor noticeably absent on a platform where their (and your!) target market is known to hang out? Has this competitor failed to take advantage of a popular niche hashtag on Twitter or Instagram? Do they have pages and profiles on certain platforms, but don’t regularly engage? Figure out what they’re doing poorly, and use this valuable information to your advantage. If you don’t use this information from competitors, it is wasted and so will much of your effort, then, be wasted in the future.
Build a community.
When you’re able to build a community — rather than just an audience — you don’t necessarily need to outrank your competitors for every keyword. As you become a trusted and respected leader in your field, your readers and followers will naturally want to buy from you; even if you aren’t outranking the competition.
- Build a community on your website. Maybe it’s not your rankings that will set you apart from your competitors, but your engagement and genuine interest in your readers. Responding to all blog comments (à la Neil Patel) is one way to build your community. Providing an on-site forum is another way (and is great for ranking for long tail phrases).
- Build a community on social media. Create a Facebook or a LinkedIn group where you can interact with your community every day on subjects that are most relevant to your readers. These types of one-on-one interactions will quickly help establish you as a trusted entity in your niche.
- Regularly engage via email. Regularly email your list to maintain a constant connection and keep your business top of mind. Make sure at least 80% of your communications are non-promotional, or you risk alienating your community.
- Respond to all emails. When your subscribers and website visitors email you, always respond. You have no idea how much this can mean to people, and really reinforces the feeling of the community you’re building on your site.