Getting to the top of Google isn’t as important as being among the top relevant results on Google. If you are a locally-based company selling a certain product and the links above you don’t offer the same products in your area, then you’ll still probably get the lion’s share of the traffic and the business.
Rather than focusing purely on your position in Google then, it pays sometimes to think about your relevant position compared to the direct competition. The real problem starts when there’s a company offering the same thing as what you’re offering, positioned directly above your own listing in the results pages.
The question then becomes: how do you start to rank above that competition on Google? Here are some strategies you can use, even if the site in question perhaps has a bigger budget to spend on social media or has been around longer than you.
Check Their Backlinks
The first thing to do is to perform a backlink analysis of the competing site in question. You can do this using a number of tools (the best one is Open Site Explorer), or even just by searching for the full domain in Google.
Once you do this, you will be able to see where the links to that site are coming from. This is good for you for a number of reasons. For starters, it shows you the strategy of your competition, but at the same time, it will also give you a selection of sites to approach for a backlink that you know are willing to link to sites like yours. In short, these links are almost guaranteed. Then look for sites that are like these and go on from there to get an even wider backlink profile than your competition.
Check Their Keywords
You can also get one-up on your competition by looking at the keywords they’re targeting. Keywords play less of a central role in search engine optimization than they once did, but they are still a crucial factor.
How do you do this? One option is to try viewing their page source, which might contain keywords in their meta tags. Some sites don’t do this anymore, but there’s a good chance many business blogs will.
Another strategy is to look at their AdWords campaigns using KeywordSpy. If they are running one, then they will likely be targeting the same keywords and phrases through here that they are targeting through their SEO.
Learn from Their Design and Content
You should also take a look around the sites of your competition simply to get inspiration for your own design and content. You want to differentiate yourself, so outright copying is not the objective here. Rather, you want to see what works on their site and what doesn’t and then learn from this in your own design.
Likewise, in terms of content, look at the most popular posts on their blog. How can you write similar content, while giving it a unique spin and making your version more informative and useful? You can even consider speaking to some of their visitors (contact them through a forum or even the comments section of their blog) in order to get direct feedback on what they think works or doesn’t.
Work With Them
Finally, if you can’t win them… consider working with them. Well, if you can send customers to each other’s sites (perhaps by catering to slightly different areas of the market), then you can both benefit from one another’s success and both climb up the rankings. Or if you can’t team up with the competition at the top of the food chain, you could always team with those beneath you in order to get that extra boost!