How to Beat the Giants in the Search Results in 9 Simple Steps

A small toy knight battles a giant shoe in a David versus Goliath scenario.

What does it take to beat a giant? Sometimes trying to fight your way up the ranks of search results may feel like an impossible battle. No matter how much you improve your site, establish quality connections and wait patiently, those giant sites above you simply will not budge.

If you’re a David going up against a Goliath, there’s still hope. Let’s go over an SEO strategy that can keep your content alive on page one of the search results when you are competing against the big guys.

I’ll be covering 9 simple steps to help ensure victory:

1. Use SEO Tools

You can’t analyze the competition effectively without tools. So, as you go into battle, the first step is to have a good arsenal of weapons. Here is a list of SEO tools that can help you perform many different functions as you gather intel on the competitors:

It’s amazing how much of an opponent’s SEO strategy you can see in an instant with the right tools.

2. Identify Your Competition

Competitive research strengthens any marketing project, but for search engine optimization, you can’t do without it.

The sites that are the most relevant, trustworthy and high-quality for a given user’s search query and perceived intent rank the highest. So what better way to find out what the search engines want then to look at the victors?

You may think that only businesses offering the same service, product or information you do should qualify as true competitors. But in the search engine results pages, those first-page results are all competing to take your place — no matter what type of website. And so far, they may be winning!

Learn more:

3. Structure Your Site

You may find that all your big competition has invested in their website structure. But in some cases, they may not have. Either way, examine how their navigation and content is structured looking for what may be missing on your own site and/or how your site can do better.

SEO siloing is a strategy well worth investing in. This search engine optimization technique structures a website’s content by grouping related webpages together in hierarchical categories based upon how people search.

Sample SEO siloing structure for a power tools website.
Sample SEO silo structure for a power tools website

Search engines like Google promote organizing your site in a hierarchical structure like this because it’s not only helpful for search engines but also good for website visitors.

Learn more:

4. Rethink Your Keywords

If there are certain keywords that are dominated by big websites (with big budgets) in the search results and you’re simply no match, rethink the strategy. Going after the longer keyword phrases often levels out the playing field.

Long-tail keywords can actually drive a lot of traffic. Ahrefs published some interesting data on the opportunities that lie within long-tail search terms that’s worth looking at.

If you are an ecommerce site, you can add supporting articles that target long-tail keyword phrases. For example, if your business sells frozen yogurt dispensers, write articles about things that fro-yo shops might find helpful like how to install a frozen yogurt dispenser.

This will have the double SEO benefit of increasing your relevance for the main keyword and potentially ranking for some long-tail phrases that will bring new traffic to your site.

You can find other opportunities to beat the competition through keywords too. Say, for example, your competition has just lost rankings for a particular keyword (which you can discover with tools like Semrush’s Organic Research tool). You can analyze those webpages and see how you might beat them with your content.

Another question to ask yourself: Why are they searching for or wanting that information? If searching for “SEO,” for example, consider related queries like “how to get traffic to your website.”

Think about why that searcher cared enough to do the search — why did that search matter?

5. Improve Your Webpages

To be least imperfect compared to your competition, you want to analyze the competition’s webpages and then make sure your page meets or exceeds them. Using the right tools, on-page optimization information is easily attainable. For example:

  • Find out ranges for word count targets, meta data targets and readability targets for your webpages based on the top-ranking pages for the keywords in real time by using the Bruce Clay SEO WP plugin.
  • Find out how the competition optimizes their webpage with keywords by using our Single Page Analyzer (or free version here). See what words and phrases are repeated and included in the important page elements like the meta data and headings. Seeing these on-page keywords should give you a good picture of how focused the page is on your targeted keyword phrase.
  • Take it a step further and use the Bruce Clay WP SEO plugin to help you optimize your webpages well with your keywords.
  • What about structured data markup? When implemented on your webpages, it can help them be more relevant for a search and enhance the way your webpage snippet shows up in the search results, which can increase click-through rate.
Bruce Clay SEO WP plugin summary tab.
Screenshot of the Bruce Clay SEO WP plugin summary tab

Learn more:

6. Structure Your Pages

In some cases, you might find yourself competing in the search results with things like Wikipedia entries or featured snippets (position zero). In these cases, structuring your webpage content can help you compete.

Just some of the ways you can structure a page include using:

  • HTML tables
  • Bulleted lists
  • Ordered lists
  • Table of contents at the top
  • Headings that contain a key term or question, followed by the answer in body text
  • TL;DR (“too long, didn’t read”) summary near the top of your article

For featured snippets in particular, you can use the Featured Snippets+ tool to find out more data on how to optimize the page for your keyword.

If you’re competing against Wikipedia pages, you might get an edge if you take the subject matter a step further than they do. Cover the subject equally well, including the structure of the page, but add “how” content to give it a boost. Wikipedia is good at answering the who, what and when, but rarely addresses the how.

7. Get More, Better or the Same Links

Spying on your competition’s link profile can help you uncover what links and how many of them you might need to beat a certain webpage.

You can use tools like our Link Reports (powered by Majestic) to discover more about your competitors’ link profiles.

Once you have a good picture of the links to their webpage versus yours, you might think about identifying the quality, relevant domains linking to your competition whom you want a link from too.

Remember that quality and relevance can trump quantity of links, so use discretion when sizing up the domains.

8. Get More SERP Visibility

If you have a whole-SERP SEO strategy, you can stop worrying about beating just the 10 blue links.

A whole-SERP SEO strategy analyzes the features that show up most in the search results for target keywords and then optimizes for them. Features can be anything from videos to images to featured snippets and beyond.

Google search results show various opportunities for features.

Screenshot of Google search results showing all the different opportunities

The more real estate you own on the search results page, the less concerned you can be about beating that one blue link. And the more traffic you can drive too.

Learn more:

9. More Quality Content

If you and your competitor both provide the exact same product or service, and they are more authoritative and established than you, you’ll need a lot of original content to have a chance of competing online.

But it’s doable! If you are in ecommerce, for example, it can be as easy as replacing generic product descriptions from manufacturers with unique content. Or, if you can’t avoid them contractually, supplement them with lots of original text.

Take a look at more opportunities to create content by doing a gap analysis, too. You can use Ahrefs Content Gap tool to find out which keywords your competition is ranking for that you’re not.

You’ll also want to poke around the competition’s website to see if it offers any helpful content that you don’t — for example, tutorials, guides, videos, etc. You’ll probably need to make your site at least as full-featured to be competitive. More user engagement can mean a lot of things to Google.

Some of your competition may simply have more E-A-T (Google’s evaluation of a website’s or webpage’s expertise, authoritativeness and trustworthiness). While these kinds of sites may have tremendous clout in the search results, you can increase the E-A-T of your site and its content to compete.

Learn more:

Pre-Battle Pep Talk

As you head into battle and watch your competitors’ maneuvers, you’ll find out their strengths and weaknesses (and yours too!). Capitalize on them to develop an SEO battle plan to do what they do, only better.

I invite you to request a free consultation if you’d like to discuss how we can help with your website needs.

Bruce Clay is founder and president of Bruce Clay, Inc., a global digital marketing firm providing search engine optimization, pay-per-click, social media marketing, SEO-friendly web architecture, and SEO tools and education. Connect with him on LinkedIn and other social networks from Bruce's author page.
Comments (10)
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10 Replies to “How to Beat the Giants in the Search Results in 9 Simple Steps”

What an amazing guide you have shared on search result changes, such a great information in simple easy language that a non-tech can understand. . I will use the information provided and pass the word on, Thank you.

Structure is certainly half the battle alongside other factors but a nice checklist nonetheless.

We need to rank on Google to do better business. In the current situation ( COVID-19), there is a necessity of doing business online. Online marketing is the best option to increase the revenue of your company. So use Google as a search engine for a better move into the competitive world.

fabulous work. I just want to say why you not posting on other platform like programming, android, iOS etc.?

You mention writing unique product descriptions, but what about images? Do original product images help you outrank competitors who all use the same manufacturer supplied shots?

Robert Stefanski

Hi Roger, original images absolutely can help you outrank your competition. In addition to engaging your audience, they help improve your site’s visibility in the SERP. Original images that you create yourself have more value from an SEO and branding perspective because they are unique. You can read more about images and how to optimize them here: https://www.bruceclay.com/seo/using-rich-media/

Thanks,

Will definitely take some time to digest all the information presented in the above article, as well as putting them into implementation. Thank ypu for the well constructed article which gives one many points to ponder in the gargantuan challenge.

Having the right silo structure is super important, I’m always telling that to my clients. Great read!

David only can beat the Goliath with the search technique if there is a good crew behind the search engine. If the back end search engine is infected with bad intentions only custom technique is proper to do this eternal task.

Got a few ‘reminders’ from reading this – thanks :-)

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