Getting to the top of search engine rankings can seem like an insurmountable task, but rest assured, it’s possible to outrank the competition on Google. It just takes a systematic and disciplined approach to edge past your rivals.
In this guide, I’ll walk you through tactics that can help lift your site in search engine results pages (SERPs). Remember, your goal is to convince Google your content is the best possible answer for a particular query. For your page to display prominently to users, you need to build an organized and fast-loading site, offer searchers a great experience, and create quality content that demonstrates your expertise and credibility.
Let’s break it down, step by step.
1. Conduct Thorough Keyword Research
To outrank your competition, carefully choose which keyword searches you want your page to appear in. Don’t just pick keywords you think describe your business — instead, use solid search data to zero in on phrases your target audience is actually using to find your business. Pay especially close attention to the search terms your competitors are targeting, as you may discover new keyword opportunities.
- Use tools such as Ahrefs and Semrush to guide your keyword research and build a list of potential search terms to target.
- Consider the search volume for each keyword and how difficult it is to rank for. You’ll want to select search terms that offer a chance to reach a large audience but have less competition.
- Verify the search intent of the keywords. Uncover what type of content Google is surfacing for those queries so you can better map your keywords or create new content.
- Audit existing content to make sure you have pages targeting each keyword, and create an editorial calendar to fill in content gaps. You can start by focusing on core keywords and eventually build out your site to incorporate related keywords or more difficult keywords.
2. Outdo Competitor Content
Keywords in hand, your next task is to create helpful content Google deems worthy of the prized top spots on the SERPs.
This means raising the content bar as high as you can. You won’t see results by paraphrasing content found on other sites. In fact, I recommend forgetting about search engines during the writing process and focusing on giving your human readers unique, insightful information they would share with colleagues and friends.
Make sure your content answers the search intent behind each query and gives your reader a satisfying experience. For ideas, look at pages currently performing well in search and try to improve on them. Perhaps you can elaborate with details, provide real-life examples, add a video tutorial, dig up fresh statistics (with citations, of course), or summarize dense information in an easy-to-read chart. Don’t forget to write in a compelling style and make sure your copy is clean and polished.
Use this approach to improve the quality of every page on your website. No matter how well you execute content on a single page, Google will hold it back in rankings if your site contains low-quality content overall.
3. Optimize for On-Page SEO
Once you’ve crafted outstanding content for your readers, make sure search engines understand what’s on your pages. Follow these best practices for on-page SEO to help Google crawl and index pages correctly:
- Write compelling title tags and meta descriptions to appear in search results and inspire click-throughs.
- Use H2, H3, and H4 headers to organize content and show how ideas tie together.
- Create descriptive URLs that incorporate keywords and/or convey the content of the page.
- Add alt tags that explain the content of images.
4. Improve Internal Linking
Internal links enhance user experience, helping readers navigate to related information on your site. They’re also critical to SEO, enabling Google to crawl your site and interpret content.
- Link to newly published pages from established pages on your site. Search engines discover new content by following links.
- Use anchor text that accurately describes the subject of the page you’re linking to in order to provide Google with clues about the topic.
- Make sure to incorporate internal links to core pages to signal their importance for ranking. Pages with a large number of referring internal links carry more significance than a page that’s only linked to from a footer.
- Share link equity from high-performing pages, which Google already considers authoritative. You can boost the authority of underperforming pages by linking to them.
5. Build Backlinks
Backlinks are external links to your site from other websites and are an important search engine ranking factor. Google considers incoming links as a signal that others find your content useful, which enhances your site’s authority. Generally speaking, the more quality backlinks to your site, the more credible your site is considered, and the more likely you’ll outrank the competition on Google.
Check your backlink profile with a tool such as Google Search Console and monitor your link velocity — the rate at which you’re adding new backlinks. Keep an eye on your competitor’s backlinks as well and aim to surpass them. You can analyze your competitors’ referring websites for ideas of where to build links.
Make sure you’re adding quality backlinks from reputable sites. You can build backlinks by publishing guest posts or placing links in directories and resource pages. You can also search for broken backlinks — whether to your site or a competitor’s — and ask for external sites to replace broken links with new ones. While these outreach activities are extremely important for SEO, they can be time-consuming, so you may want to consider outsourcing link building.
Note: To get valuable link equity from backlinks, aim for do follow links. No follow links don’t pass link equity, so while they can generate some great referral traffic, they don’t count as a “recommendation.”
6. Improve Your Site Structure
Evaluate your website’s structure and make sure it’s logical and well-organized. If you’re not sure where to start, have a look at competing websites to see what information they highlight.
Well-designed sites typically have a hierarchical structure with the most important information at the top, targeting broad keywords. Each subsequent level contains additional details and targets more specific keywords. This structure makes it easy for users to find the information they’re looking for and for search engines to understand your content.
You can also use your site structure to showcase your topical authority, which Google uses as a signal of your expertise. By grouping together related content, you can demonstrate in-depth knowledge of a subject better than if these pages were scattered. This type of systematic approach also helps you focus your keywords and ensure you don’t have pages competing for the same search queries (i.e., keyword cannibalization).
7. Make Sure Your Site Is Mobile Friendly
According to Statista, about 63% of organic searches took place on mobile devices in the last quarter of 2021, so it’s essential your site is mobile friendly. Google now crawls and indexes the mobile version of most websites first — also known as mobile-first indexing.
A mobile-friendly site uses a responsive design that adapts to the device being used. Work with your developers to ensure your audience can effortlessly navigate your site whether they’re using a smartphone, tablet, or desktop.
- Before publishing new content, preview the page to see how it fits on the screens of different devices.
- Use an easy-to-read font size.
- Create buttons that are large enough to tap.
- Format text with lists, bullets, headers, and short paragraphs for readability.
- Ensure the site responds quickly to user requests.
Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test is helpful for detecting problems on individual pages. The report will tell you if pages are poorly optimized or need improvement.
You may also want to expand your keywords for anyone using voice search on their smartphone. For example, people are more likely to speak in sentences when using a voice assistant. They might ask out loud, “What movies did Audrey Hepburn star in?” but type “Audrey Hepburn movies” into a search box.
8. Increase Your Page Speed
Google research shows bounce rates increase the longer it takes a page to load. As a result, quick-loading web pages typically rank better than ones that keep visitors staring impatiently at their screens. Use free tracking tools such as PageSpeed Insights to regularly evaluate your site and make sure it’s loading efficiently.
This tool measures your site’s Core Web Vitals, assessing how long it takes the page’s largest visual element to render (largest contentful paint), the page to become visually stable (cumulative layout shift), and for an action to be performed (first input delay).
Here are some best practices to ensure your site responds quickly to user requests for both desktop and mobile experiences:
- Compress images to reduce file size.
- Disable or remove unnecessary plug-ins or opt for one that can do the job of multiple plug-ins.
- Use pop-ups and interstitials sparingly.
- Minimize redirects to other pages.
- Consider caching information on a visitor’s browser to make load times faster on subsequent visits.
9. Target Featured Snippets
There’s one spot that’s even more visible than the first position in SERP rankings: Position zero. Also known as the featured snippet, it’s a link to a web page that contains a precise answer to a user’s query. Google pulls this snippet from the web page and places it prominently on the first page of the SERPS, after paid search results and before the organic search results.
The key to landing a featured snippet is to first ensure you follow all other tips above for having a high-ranking page. Then, look at the type of snippet currently in position zero for the target keyword (although not all search results have a featured snippet). It might be a few sentences that concisely answer a question, a numbered list, a series of bullets, or a how-to video. To outrank your competition, evaluate the current featured snippet and create helpful content that improves upon it.
Then, optimize your content by using:
- The target keyword in a header near the featured snippet content to signal the importance of the content.
- Proper HTML coding for a table, numbered list, or bulleted list.
- Strong tags for bolding and italicizing important text within the snippet.
- Chapter breaks, time stamps, and a transcript for video content.
- Alt text for images.
10. Regularly Update Content
To beat your competition in the SERPs, keep your site as up-to-date as possible with useful and valuable information. You’ll show customers and Google that your site is active and engaged. As always, use the competition as a measuring stick. If they’re publishing weekly content to their blog and you’re adding new posts a few times a year, consider more regular output.
New content helps with SEO by offering more opportunities to:
- Appear in search.
- Build backlinks.
- Engage new visitors.
- Establish topical authority.
You don’t always have to start from scratch with your content. Save time by repurposing what you’ve already created. For example, turn a webinar transcript into a series of blog posts (each targeting another keyword) or transform an in-depth how-to article into a free checklist or cheat sheet.
You should also periodically revisit previously published content to keep it current. Revamp pages that contain out-of-date information, stale stats, references to old products, and broken links. You can perk up content with new images and update data as new studies are released. Try reformatting old articles to make them more readable or adding TL;DR bullet points to long pieces.
11. Track Rankings & Metrics
As you begin implementing these tactics with consistency, your site should begin to outrank the competition on Google. You’ll ideally see an increase in the number of keywords you rank for, as well as higher search position rankings. Also monitor whether your increased rankings are leading to more organic traffic and conversions. If not, you may not be targeting the best keywords for your industry.
Search engine results do shift based on algorithm adjustments and changes in your competitor’s SEO strategies. By monitoring your rankings, you’ll know where you’re experiencing success, and you’ll be able to respond quickly and investigate any drops in your search visibility.
Outpace the Competition With an SEO Partner
Now that you know how to outrank your competition on Google, it’s time to put these strategies into action. While each of the above tactics gets you closer to the top of the SERPs, there are many moving parts to SEO and rank tracking. It takes a cohesive, long-term strategy to generate results. A trusted SEO agency, Victorious can help you along the journey of climbing the SERPs and getting ahead of your competitors. Reach out for a free SEO consultation today to learn more.