Search engine optimization is an important part of your digital marketing strategy, and it’s all about getting your web pages to show up on search results pages where potential customers can see them. As more businesses invest in their SEO, ranking well on search engine results pages requires you to beat your competitors to earn those top results spots.
SEO is cumulative, so the longer you’ve been doing it well, the better results you’ll have. It can be particularly difficult to beat your competitors in markets where the top websites have been around for awhile and are well-trusted. In highly competitive markets, you have to step up every aspect of your SEO in order to rank well.
However, there are also some steps you can take to improve your ranking in a competitive market where there are many sites vying for the top search results spots for high-value keywords or where the top ranking sites are well-established. You can also employ these strategies to beat your competitors in less competitive markets—after all, the goal with SEO is always to rank above your competitors.
- Find a less competitive niche in your market.
While the keywords you want to rank for or the audience you want to reach may be highly desirable and contested by many businesses, there may be opportunities within that market that are less competitive. Look for gaps you can fill.
A niche or submarket is often the best way to find an audience because it allows you to target people more specifically. While it may be difficult to rank for large, general keywords, you can often find a way to target your intended audience more directly. This can be especially effective if you’re able to target your ideal customer more directly.
However, it’s important that your niche makes sense. Whoever you target, there needs to be a reason to cater to those people specifically. For example, if you’re selling coffee mugs, it wouldn’t make sense to narrow your market down to people between the ages of 40-60, because how are their needs in a coffee mug different from someone at any other age? It would make more sense to target people who are interested in the theme of your coffee mug, for example. Don’t choose a niche just for the sake of narrowing your audience—find a market with a specific need you can appeal to, or a specific solution to their problem.
Start by defining your audience. Then look for questions you have that haven’t been answered or needs that haven’t been served by the content that exists in your larger market.
- Run a competitive assessment.
One of the best strategies to outrank your competitors is to learn from them and beat them at what they’re already doing well. This starts by running a competitive assessment. Start by identifying your top three competitors. What are a few of the main search terms you want to rank for? Choose from the top results, and figure out what they’re doing that made them reach that spot. (However, avoid assessing competitors that spend a lot on advertising, as that may skew the results.)
First, look through your competitor’s website as though you were a potential customer. You can learn quite a bit simply by doing this exercise. Do they have better website design or better content than your business website?
Next, you can use a crawling tool to find out more about their website. Use the crawling tool to discover their total number of indexed pages on Google; the number of organic keywords they’re ranking for; their organic traffic, branded traffic, and non branded traffic; the number of referring domains they have; and their domain rating. Examine their top pages and the keywords those pages are ranking for consistently. I recommend creating a spreadsheet to keep track of this information. Once you have all of these numbers, you’ll know what you need to do to beat each of your competitors. It’s a matter of outdoing them in every category.
Another way to beat your competitors is to consider the difference between the intent of the user searching to buy versus researching before they buy. When the customer does research prior to a purchase, it’s called “the zero moment of truth.” Many customers will research before making a purchase, and this gives you an opportunity to outshine your competitors: What makes your offering better than theirs? If you can showcase what you offer and answer the customer’s questions in a way that makes them trust you, you may be able to win their business over that of your competitors, even if they are ranked slightly above you. Even if the browsing customer doesn’t decide to purchase from you or connect with your business, if you can answer their questions and provide useful information, that can boost your search ranking.
- Control your online reputation.
Your website’s reputation—along with your business’s reputation—is a major factor in the way Google’s algorithm determines how to rank your website. Google wants to recommend the best options and information to its users, so it prioritizes sites and businesses that have great reputations. One of the biggest indicators of reputation is the reviews on your Google My Business (GMB) listing.
Fortunately, you can be proactive about your reviews. First, always respond quickly to reviews, whether positive or negative. This shows that you’re active and engaged with your customers. It also affords you an opportunity to save a piece of your reputation in response to negative reviews. You do have to be careful about the way you respond to negative reviews—always remain professional. Think about it from the customer’s perspective: If you’ve ever searched for a product and encountered negative reviews that were met with a defensive or unprofessional response from the business, it doesn’t increase your trust in that business. If you receive a negative review that isn’t true, there is a process you can go through to have it taken down, so it’s important to monitor your reviews closely. However, reviews are federally protected, and you won’t be able to get a review taken down simply because you don’t like it. Write a response that acknowledges the person’s feelings about the situation, and offer to correct the situation or improve your product, if appropriate. Remember that your future customers are reading how you deal with dissatisfied customers.
You can also be proactive about gaining positive reviews by asking your customers to give you a positive review on Google. Most of the time, people just don’t think about it, even if they were happy with your service. You can even reach out to past clients or customers to ask for reviews.
A great SEO strategy relies on beating your competitors in order to increase your search ranking. In a competitive market, these methods can help you get a leg up and find the edge you need to outrank your competitors. So it’s time to use these tips to take a fresh look at your site to gain a new perspective and rank above your competitors.