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How Do You Outrank Bigger Sites for High Competition Keywords?

How can you compete against much larger competitors on a valuable keyword? Ask these important questions to improve your SEO strategy.

Today’s Ask an SEO question comes from Mark in Pittsburgh. Mark asks:

“How do you compete for keyword rank with a site that gets 400x the monthly traffic when you absolutely have to rank for the same keyword? I cannot give specific details for confidentiality purposes, but here are the facts.

The term my client wants to rank for is a non-branded 3-word phrase with about 500 avg monthly queries. Currently they rank 25th. The number two result is from a direct competitor who gets 20 million visits per month. Client gets about 50,000 per month.

Competitor’s page literally has 135 words and fails CWV benchmarks. Client’s page has ~600 words and passes CWV. Competitor has thousands of backlinks. Client has less than 50. Both pages are for competing products in a very crowded space. Both domains have been around >10 years. In six months of trying, client has moved up but not close to main competitor. I want to believe SEO isn’t reduced to a popularity contest, but these facts don’t give me much faith that it’s not. Would love your thoughts.”

Hi Mark,

Without knowing the website everything is a shot in the dark, but I can help get you in the right direction.

For starters, you are looking at the wrong things.  Each of the items you’re focusing on does not matter (except for the backlinks).

  • Core Web Vitals (CWVs) could give your client’s site a boost if all other things were considered equal, but your competitor’s site won’t lose ranking for not complying.
  • The amount of words on the page is also irrelevant, as word count is not a quality factor. What is important is the structuring and formatting of the words from the H tags to bullet points, and whether you’re presenting the information in the correct way.
  • The age of the domain is also not important because domains change hands, change service or product types and change topics.
    • You will want to look for old backlinks and indexing bloat from old pages that somehow still exist in the indexes.
    • Older versions of the site from previous owners could also have been penalized and that may carry over and work against you.

Here Are the Better Questions to Ask

1. Is Page Copy Relevant to the User Experience?

Check that:

  • Images display how to use the product.
  • Content explains when and how to use the product or service, benefits of the product or service, etc. Does the content clearly communicate that the product or service on the page is the best solution?
  • Your FAQs answer specific questions about the product or service.

2. Is There Relevant Schema on the Page?

Look for opportunities to use…

  • Product.
  • Review.
  • Ratings.
  • Additional type.
  • FAQ.
  • Description.
  • SKU.
  • Pricing.
  • Video object.
  • Service.
  • Etc.

Look to these schema success stories for inspiration.

3. How Many Internal Links Does This Product Page Have Compared to the Rest of Your Website?

If you don’t have a crawler to find this easily, Google Search Console has a report for it.

  • If it is not in the top 10 or 15 pages (internal link-wise) then you need to begin building some, but make sure that the internal links are there to benefit the customer, not just for SEO.
  • You can build internal links from:
    • Category pages.
    • Blog posts.
    • Other product pages.
    • Navigation.
    • Etc.

See Internal Link Structure Best Practices to Boost Your SEO to learn more.

4. Where and How Did the Competitor Get Their Backlinks and Can You Do the Same?

It could be advertising, pitching PR, thought leadership articles, etc.

Backlinks are easy to get, including major media. You just have to put in the work to get them.

Download Link Building for SEO: A Complete Guide and get started.

5. Have You Done Influencer Campaigns?

Can you get certified experts to give a comment or quote about the product on the page to build some trust?

There are tools to help you build and scale a successful influencer marketing strategy. Raj Nijjer shares some helpful tips here.

Final Thoughts

From what you shared, it sounds like you’re looking at things that either aren’t ranking signals yet or never were. Instead, try to focus on the things that you can do and that are within your control.

More importantly, look at things that are ranking signals and ask how you can improve on them, which also improves the experience for the person on the page.

In short, Google is going to rank the best answer for the searcher’s query the highest. You need to show Google that your page is the best answer in every possible way.

I hope this helps,


More Resources:

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!

Category Ask an SEO
VIP CONTRIBUTOR Adam Riemer President at Adam Riemer Marketing

Adam Riemer is an award winning digital marketing strategist, keynote speaker, affiliate manager, and growth consultant with more than 20+ ...

How Do You Outrank Bigger Sites for High Competition Keywords?

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