Is Your SEO Competition Too Crowded? Here Are 7 Ways to Gain An Advantage
Search engine optimization (SEO) isn’t new anymore. People have been working to increase their rankings in search engines since, well, search engines started gaining popularity. Today, thousands of firms have dedicated themselves to helping clients rise through the organic search rankings, and tens of thousands of businesses are actively fighting for space near the top of those search results.
With only the top 10 spots in Google searches getting worthwhile traffic, and all those companies already competing, you might wonder whether it’s possible to see success in SEO if you’re just getting started. After all, it takes time to build a powerful presence, and if these organizations are already years ahead of you, it would take a huge investment to try and catch up.
Fortunately, there are some strategies you can use to close the gap, and find a spot for yourself in the crowded space that is modern SEO:
1. Carve a niche for yourself. Provided your business can tolerate such a move, consider carving out a new niche for yourself. The idea here is to distinguish your business in some key way that your competitors wouldn’t be able to match. Rather than trying to directly compete with other businesses, you’ll compete for different keywords by offering something very different. For example, let’s say you and a competitor both sell bookshelves. This is a highly general field, and both of you will be competing for space in searches that are relevant to both of you. But if you specialize in bookshelves for college dorms, or handmade bookshelves, or antique bookshelves, you’ll quickly set yourself apart. You might have a smaller target audience, but you’ll end up getting far more targeted visitors to your site.
2. Get local. Next, consider getting local — even if your business exists in multiple locations or serves the entire country. Google’s local search algorithm operates a bit differently from its national algorithm; it pulls out three local results (called the “local 3-pack”) to serve higher than traditional rankings, and uses slightly different criteria to choose that “local 3-pack.” It looks atf factors including your domain authority, your presence in local directories (like Yelp or TripAdvisor), and the quality and quantity of your local reviews. Again, the idea here is to remove yourself from the competition a bit. You’ll have a smaller overall audience, but will be more relevant for the people who find you. Plus, national and local SEO have much in common, so you’ll incidentally increase your rankings in both areas with the same tactics.
3. Focus on long-tail keywords. Throughout your site, and in your ongoing blog posts, shift your focus to long-tail keywords. “Head” keywords are keywords consisting of one to three words (usually), and have a high search volume, but high competition. “Long-tail” keywords are more extended phrases, sometimes conversational in nature, that have a lower search volume but almost no competition. Research these keyword phrases using a tool like Moz’s Keyword Explorer, and pick off as many as you can — rather than focusing only on one or two head keywords.
4. Accept second place. The most brutal competition is going to be vying for the top spot in Google, which is responsible for more than a third of the overall traffic of a given search results page. However, a second place slot isn’t bad — in fact, nothing in the top three is bad, especially if you only spend a fraction of the effort to achieve. Instead of building your strategy on a philosophy of getting as many number-one rankings as possible, shift down to getting lots of number-two rankings, which will be easier and almost as effective.
5. Match links and content. Next, you can research your competitors’ inbound link profiles using a tool like Moz’s Open Site Explorer. Look at which linking sites are most responsible for boosting their authority and relevance, then tweak your strategy to include more links that fall in line with that underlying strategy. This will help you get to their level faster, since you won’t have to experiment with the same trial-and-error in finding the best sites to approach.
6. Offer something better. You can also get an edge over your competition by simply offering something better — though the execution is much less simple than the concept. The idea is to one-up your competitors in every dimension you can, writing better articles, building better links, and showing more appreciation to your followers. That involves spending more time (and maybe money), but if the end result is trouncing one of your biggest competitors, it’ll be worth the extra investment.
7. Focus on complementary strategies. Finally, if you find you can’t beat your competitors at their own SEO game, try focusing on complementary strategies. SEO works best when supported by a system of other online marketing strategies, including content marketing, social media, and influencer marketing. By shifting your attention (and your budget) to these peripheral areas, you’ll avoid the brunt of the competition, and you’ll earn residual traffic in other areas that can make up for a ranking deficiency. On top of that, all those secondary efforts will help you build a strong authoritative base, so if you step back into SEO, you’ll have more solid ground on which you can compete.
The SEO world may be full with businesses and organizations competing for space, but you have to remember — Google alone fields more than 3.5 billion searches per day. There’s plenty of space available for the right competitors, even if they’re new, so long as they know what they’re doing. The key isn’t a brute-force attack, since you won’t be able to match the existing competition in terms of budget or experience, but rather a surgical, targeted one.
Do your research, pick your targets carefully, and you’ll have no problem reaping a significant ROI.
For more content like this, be sure to check out my podcast, The Entrepreneur Cast!