Today’s Ask an SEO question comes from Julius in Leesburg. Julius asks:
How can I compete against websites with over 1 million backlinks and why can’t Google see that these backlinks are bought?
It is possible for David to beat Goliath.
But just like in the old testament, battling Goliath with weapons meant for Goliath may result in a quick death.
Everyone wants to be the best at what they do.
But being the best is subjective.
And in SEO, being the best doesn’t always mean being number one for the most competitive keyword phrase.
As I’ve said before, concentrating too much on your competitor, and not enough on yourself, is a losing situation.
What do you do when faced with a competitor that has more resources, more history, and, just, well… more?
The secret to competing is not to fight with might, but with smarts.
Just like guerrilla warriors that give empires fits, the smart SEO can succeed and build their resources to someday fight on an even ground with even the largest of opponents.
Looking for Weaknesses
When competing for real estate in the SERPs against a “superior” foe, the first step is to make sure you have your house in order.
If you don’t have your own basics taken care of, you will fail, no matter how much you copy what your successful competitor is doing.
This means making sure that your site’s code adheres to the latest best practices of technical SEO.
It means making sure your content appeals to your target audience but also displays expertise, authority, and trust to the search engines, all the while using the keyword phrases you want to appear for when a query is made.
It means making sure you have connections from sites that will link to your site – and that those connections aren’t sketchy themselves.
It means watching your own data by making sure your analytics are set up correctly.
Once you’ve done those things, then and only then should you look at that juggernaut competitor.
And when you do turn your eyes toward that Goliath, don’t look at what they are doing to succeed – look at what they aren’t doing right.
Start by focusing on that competitor’s weaknesses – but don’t attack.
Concentrate your efforts on succeeding where your competitor is failing.
For example, if your competitor isn’t providing enough information on a specific product, make sure your product description is chock full of answers the consumers want.
If your competitor is dominating the main keyword in a topic, look for lesser “tail” terms that you can succeed with.
Look for opportunities to succeed where Goliath is failing.
No matter how good Goliath is, he’s not doing everything right.
No one is.
They’re Cheating & It’s Not Fair!
Frequently, I speak with prospects who are convinced their competitors are cheating.
They are flabbergasted that Google would let someone get away with such blatant disregard for the rules.
Of course, this complaint is only made for sites ranking above that of the prospect.
As the old SEO joke goes, SPAM stands for “Sites Positioned Above Mine.”
The reality is more complex.
Sure, there are plenty of sites that benefit by breaking the rules – both short-term and long-term.
But in reality, Google knows more than they let on.
Frequently, when we dig into why a site is ranking, we find it’s not because of the rules they are breaking.
Most of the time, they rank above their competitors because of the things they are doing right.
Google doesn’t seem to hand out manual penalties as often as they used to.
But many of the tactics that used to warrant manual penalties are now ignored by Google.
That means that most of the folks breaking the rules or buying spammy links are just wasting their time and money, and don’t know that they are.
There may be some short-term benefits, but in most cases, those millions of bought links are just ignored.
I would suggest that before you assume that the bought links are what is causing your competitor to beat you, take a look at the other things they may be doing better than you.
And of course, spend most of your time working on improving your own site.
The benefits of focusing on your own stuff far outweigh the time you spend trying to figure out what your competitors are doing.
- 3 Effective SEO Strategies to Beat Competitors in a Competitive Market
- 10 Important 2021 SEO Trends You Need to Know
- A Complete Guide to SEO: What You Need to Know
Editor’s note: Ask an SEO is a weekly SEO advice column written by some of the industry’s top SEO experts, who have been hand-picked by Search Engine Journal. Got a question about SEO? Fill out our form. You might see your answer in the next #AskanSEO post!