If you plan to take your business online, then the first thing you may want to focus on is the ranking of your website on the search engine result page (SERP).
This is a major factor if you’d like to be found by your customers online. After entering your query on Google, how many listings do you usually go through?
Most people find what they are looking for in the first five links or at least by the end of the first results page. Rarely do we visit the second page or beyond.
Above all, if someone is searching for keywords related to the services you offer, you want to ensure you’re ranking on the first page and ahead of your competitors. Unfortunately, search engine optimization (SEO) is a long, competitive, and tricky game.
Often, there’s no simple, quick fix to help you beat your competition, especially on keywords that can bring you anywhere from 100s to 1000s of organic visits every month.
Depending on how competitive or lucrative a keyword may be, it will take a versatile strategy that optimizes all components to help you beat and outrank the competition on Google’s SERP (Search Engine Results Page).
As opposed to PPC (Pay-per-click), where the results are more immediate for short-term gains. Plus, you can purchase your spot ahead of competitors. While SEO takes more time, it can also deliver more substantial benefits in the long run.
So what’s your game plan for outranking your competitors? We’ll discuss below the various on-page and off-page strategies you can implement to help beat your competitors and deliver the keyword rankings you desire.
1. Keyword Research
Keyword research should be the first step when developing your SEO game plan and initial setup.
To complete your keyword research and boost your keyword rankings compared to competitors, follow these steps:
Keyword Mapping: When developing your sitemap, it’s important to select a few keywords you wish to rank for on each page of your website.
Use Google’s Keyword Planner to find and select keywords to target. To get started, create a sample user persona; that way, you will know what your typical customer searches for when looking for the products/services you provide.
If you’re looking to sell SEO services, perhaps your typical customer would type in “search engine optimization services.” Plugging this into the keyword planner, we would find the following results.
When we look at the sample search terms, it will make it easier to identify what keywords to target based on the search volume and competition.
Moreover, once you plug those into your keyword map, you can begin the development of content and on-page material to help boost rankings for those keywords.
Competitor Keyword Research: It’s a good idea to research your competitors. If they are ranking well, you should look at what keywords they’re ranking and discover what is bringing them so much online traffic.
Tools such as Ahrefs are great for seeing what keywords competitors are organically ranking for and finding the keyword that each of their service URLs target.
Search intent: Perhaps the most critical factor to keep in mind is the intention behind a user’s search.
Because when describing your business or service your target customer may choose to describe your business in a way that’s completely different from how you may describe it.
This causes a miss-match in keyword intent, and you may not find your target customer. This is why it’s important to know what words and phrases your customer is using to describe your product or service.
The best way to know search intent is by doing a SERP analysis; simply search for your keyword and check the following:
- Type of website and/or content that comes up
- Related searches
- Google autocomplete suggestions
This will give you a clear idea of what the search intent is and if you are targeting the right keywords.
2. Creating Content Around Your Targeted Keywords
This is one of the more straightforward SEO strategies that can help you increase your keyword ranking.
Write content based on the keywords in your keyword map. A rule of thumb should be roughly 1000 words, with about 1 – 3% keyword density of the keywords you’re attempting to rank.
You can use tools such as Keywords Everywhere to help illustrate a specific keyword’s density on any page on your website.
Creating compelling and exciting content that supports the keyword you are targeting is also essential.
FAQs, case studies, and before/after results are great sources of SEO juice to help boost rankings for the keywords you are targeting.
3. Create Interlink Opportunities
Interlinking is also a great and simple technique to increase keyword rankings for a page you want to use to outrank competitors.
Do you have service pages or monthly blog updates? Having these pages link back to the original page for which you’re looking to improve its ranking is important.
Building these internal links across multiple pages of your website increases traffic to a specific page, increases average page views, and decreases your bounce rate.
These are all factors that help boost your domain authority and can increase your ranking position.
4. Build Backlinks
This strategy is no secret. Your on-page strategy can only go so far to improve your organic rankings.
You need to build backlinks. To get an idea of how many you need, look at the number of backlinks your competitors have to a specific page that’s outranking you.
Create great outreach material to help acquire these quality links. Infographics, blogs, and video creation are all excellent examples that can be used for outreach when building links.
Also, ensure the backlinks you acquire are topical and relevant to your business. If you have a backlink on a forum that provides teeth cleanings, when your business offers marketing solutions, that link will not be as valuable.
Always look to build links on relevant websites. In this example, you may look for colleges and blog sites offering digital marketing courses.
You can look at using CRM (customer relationship management) software tools that assist with SEO and SEM development.
Keep in mind that Google gives priority to topical backlinks compared to irrelevant links that appear to be blackhat SEO.
5. Optimize Site Structure
When a search engine indexes your website, the number one factor it considers is how easy it is to find all the pages on your website.
Search engines look at how your pages connect and how easy it is for your customer to find all the relevant pages on your website.
This directly affects your search engine ranking; your webpages should be easily accessible by search engines and your user.
While building your website, pay attention to your site structure and ensure that your click depth is not more than four clicks.
This means keeping a shallow structure is much better than many branches and subpages that have customers spending a long time clicking around before reaching the intended page.
Make sure your customer can easily navigate to the page that they want to find.
The best way to do this is by using Breadcrumbs Navigation.
Breadcrumb Navigation lays out the link path users took to reach the current page. This way, users can easily visit any previous pages without having to go back or retrace their navigation path.
6. Increase Page Speed
Similar to your PPC campaigns, page speed is a factor for your SEO rankings.
If you notice that competitors are outranking you for keywords where you have the equivalent amount of backlinks, keyword density, or on-page variables, it may be time to look at your page speed on mobile and desktop.
Google’s PageSpeed Insights is an excellent tool for testing your website speed score and detecting what variables may slow down your website.
Per the image below, text compression, server response times, unused CSS, and off-screen images are just a few of the opportunities you can consider. These opportunities can increase your page speed response time.
7. Optimize On-Page SEO
It may seem obvious, but don’t forget to optimize your H1s, H2s, Meta titles and Meta descriptions.
See the image above. Your target keywords should be included in your title tags, descriptions, H1s, schema, image alt, link anchors, etc.
Do your best to ensure Google recognizes what your page is about when they’re crawling your website and determining your ranking order.
Lastly, take some time to write a creative meta description. Use strong ad copy, and always end with a call-to-action. This is your chance to convince users who search organically to click on your website.
8. Measure Your Ranking
Knowing where you rank is vital if you’d like to rank higher; in fact, you may want to start your SEO efforts by first identifying where you rank.
This will help you clearly see what you must do to rank higher. Knowing where you rank lets you understand who your competitors are and which rank above you.
Measuring your ranking brings clarity to your actions by providing you with a measurable metric that you can work on improving.
It will also give you feedback on whether or not your current efforts are paying off or if it’s hurting your progress. It helps you stay motivated. While measuring your efforts, here are three important metrics you may want to keep a lookout for to succeed:
- Top pages on your website and the top keywords you are ranking for.
- Opportunities for improvement
- Pages and keywords that are underperforming or lost their positions.
These metrics will help you stay on top of your SEO efforts to ensure you outrank your competition.
9. Optimize for Users First and Search Engine Second.
Perhaps the number one mistake marketers make is putting so much emphasis on optimizing their website for search engines that they forget the users.
You should keep in mind that the only job of a search engine is to find ways to rank the most relevant website that provides the best possible experience for users.
All the metrics they measure are for ranking websites that provide the best possible experience for the user.
But when people forget about the user part and put all their focus on a search engine, your audience will likely be turned away.
Even if you perfectly optimize for website for search in every other way, the poor user experience will decrease your ranking over time.
This is why it is essential to ensure that you design your website around your user first and then search engine second.
10. Appear in Featured Snippets, People Also Ask For & Other Sections of SERP
What if you are going toe to toe with your competition with quality content and website optimization? To rank above your competitor, you’ll need to improve your content or focus on other sections of the search engine where you can rank above them.
Google has different sections on its SERP designed to bring more relevant and related results for the user. Here are some of those sections:
- People also ask for
- Knowledge panels
- Featured snippets.
Creating content around your keywords for this content is a sure way to appear on top, which can even give you an edge over your competitor
11. Improve & Update Content Regularly
Once you create good content or a good service page on your website, your job does not end there. You won’t maintain your ranking if you ignore your website after its initial creation.
It’s vital to revisit your web pages from time to time and make sure it’s up to date and optimized.
One part of your effort should be to find new relevant keywords and create content around that topic, and the other part is to visit all the pages on your website on a regular basis to make sure it continues to be relevant and with valuable information.
12. Create a Mobile-Friendly Website
Google has a separate index for mobile search. The reason is that they want to make sure users have a great experience on mobile search as well as web.
This is where mobile-friendly or responsive web design comes in. Before mobile, websites were viewed on desktop computer or laptop screens. These screens are in landscape orientation meaning the width is larger than the height.
But mobile phones are the opposite; mobile screens are in portrait orientation, meaning the height is larger than the width.
This causes problems viewing the website on mobile because the entire site can’t fit on on the screen. If they’re not able to view the site properly, users become discouraged and immediately quit the website.
This is where responsive websites come into play. Websites with responsive designs change the orientation and display of the page, depending on the device it’s being viewed on, giving the users the best experience, irrespective of the device they visit from.
This, along with the fact that more and more people are using mobile search over computers, forced search engines to consider mobile user experience an important ranking factor.
Conclusion: Competitive SEO Analysis
Pinpoint the keywords relevant to your business. List them all down, and run an organic search. See which competitors are outranking you, and list them all in a spreadsheet.
See below for example:
Do an analysis, and if competitors outrank you, pinpoint what they are doing that you are not.
Perhaps they have stronger content and visuals, or better optimization. When completing this analysis, it will be clear why they outrank you and what you can do to catch up.
Whether your on-page SEO needs improvement, or your backlink portfolio needs to be upgraded; doing competitor analysis and implementing the SEO strategies listed above are just a few of the many strategies used to pinpoint opportunities to outrank your competitors on organic searches.