Nothing is more frustrating than seeing your toughest competitors in the top search results in Google whenever you type in your most profitable keyword phrases. The stories I hear on a regular basis range from corporations losing tens of millions of dollars a year, to local and small businesses having to close the doors, all because their competitors are found first in Google.
Even worse are the stories I hear about websites that jumped in the linked building / link farm game 10 years ago, only to see their business completely disappear from the search results because of a penalty from Google.
Obviously, having a presence in the top search results in Google is serious business. And the most common question I get asked is “why are my competitors outranking me in Google?”
Another way to ask the same question, but make it more personal, is to say “how do I outrank all of my competitors in Google?”
There are really 3 reasons why your competitors are outranking you in Google. And by addressing these 3 areas in your website (and mobile site), you can address the more personal question about how your business can end up outranking all of your competitors.
Reason #1: User Experience
User experience is one of the most overlooked metrics when it comes to search optimization. However, it’s one of the most heavily weighted metrics in the algorithm that determines rankings in the search results.
Here are 3 key metrics that are used to technically attribute value to user experience:
1) Bounce rate: the % of people who land on your site, don’t like what they see, and then leave to go back to Google search results.
You can find your bounce rate in Google Analytics by visiting “Audience > Overview” and you’ll see the Bounce Rate category. Here’s one of our clients where we improved their bounce rate considerably over a 6 month period. The -65.17% means we decreased the bounce rate, which ultimately means we increased the amount of people who come to the site and stay on the site:
2) Average pages viewed per visit: the average number of pages viewed within your website for each visitor.
You can find this metric in the same location in Google Analytics. And here’s a screenshot of client where we improved their pages view per visit (Pages / Session) substantially over a 6 month period:
3) Time on site: the average amount of time a visitor stays on your website before leaving.
Again, in the same section in Google Analytics, you’ll find the “Avg. Session Duration” metric, which is the time on site measurement. Here’s the same client where we improved their time on site (Avg. Session Duration) over a 6 month period.
30 seconds might not seem like a big deal, but improving the time on site by 44.96% adds considerable fire power to building your overall domain authority. Which is critically important to compete in the search results, especially in hyper competitive markets like this client is in.
These metrics are technical in nature, but point directly to the value users experience when they land on your website.
By improving the user experience on your website (and mobile site), you will increase the metrics that are used to measure the “user experience” of your website.
Here are some tips to dramatically improve the user experience of your website:
- Clearly state what you do, and what value your customers will experience
- Speak directly to your customers’ problems
- Add social proof (testimonials, snippets of actual customer experiences and results)
- Create strong calls to action: buy now, learn more, free download, etc..
- Launch a blog for your industry — this is one of the most effective ways to improve user experience metrics as you are continually providing more content for visitors to engage with.
When you improve metrics such as ‘pages viewed per visit’ and ‘time on site’, you will inherently improve your ‘bounce rate’ because more people will be staying on your site longer and engaging with more of your content.
As you improve the user experience on your website, these metrics will be accounted for in the ranking algorithm, and the payoff will higher search results for your most competitive keyword phrases.
Reason #2: Site Structure
Have you ever seen a website where the homepage rankings for every keyword phrase related to the business? This is the majority of what we see with new clients, and it’s a reflection of the lack of site structure throughout their website.
But the same principles / theory applies to any website that is looking to improve their overall site structure and authority:
When Google crawls and indexes a website, it’s looking for a highly organized structure of information. Think about the Dewey Decimal system and how libraries used to have files with cards that organized books. These were highly structured pieces of information, and each book at it’s own respective place in the network.
Your website should be structured in a similar fashion.
Your homepage should speak directly to your customers biggest problems. And if you have multiple segments within your business, each one should have (in essence) their own homepage with supporting pages of information.
For example, we have law firm clients that have multiple partners and each partner focuses on a unique set of practice areas. So one partner focuses exclusively on personal injury, while another focuses on criminal defense and DUI, and yet other focuses on estate planning. Each of these segments warrant their own silos of information in the overall design of the website.
Along with the overall structure of the website comes the granular level of structure at the page level, and then means keyword targeting and optimization for each page.
One of the best strategies we implement for our clients is to think in terms of a funnel for keyword phrase optimization on each page. The most competitive, or root phrase is optimized in the meta data, and then we focus on long tail phrase variations throughout the content of that page.
Finally, creating internal linking networks, or Silos, is critically important in signaling to Google what the most authoritative pages are within your website. This where you link up to a top level / category homepage from the sub pages within that category. And you do so by using exact match keyword phrases that relate directly to the keyword optimization within the meta data of the top level page.
Another strategy for creating high levels of structure within your website is through the use of canonical tags. Canonical tags allow you to tell Google which page, out of many related pages, should be consider the main page to rank for any giving keyword phrase.
Reason #3: Domain Authority
Domain authority is perhaps the most influential component to determining your rankings in the search results. Domain authority is a function of user experience, site structure, backlinks, and even social signals. But most importantly, it’s a function of inbound traffic to your website.
If traffic is continually increasing to your website, then people are ultimately finding more reasons to come to your website. This means they are sharing your content (creating backlinks and increasing social signals), having a better overall experience on your website (user experience), and finding more valuable information faster throughout your website (site structure).
But one of the most effective strategies we’ve implemented to increase domain authority (and in turn increase user experience and site structure metrics) is:
1) Create a steady flow of new content from our client’s websites (i.e. running a blog)
2) Distributing that content throughout social media (social signals)
We consistently see a direct correlation in rankings for competitive keyword phrases with content production and social distribution.
The reason is, when you publish a steady flow of valuable news and information from your blog and share it throughout social media, you are open the door for more pages of content to be discovered in search and social media, which increases the volume of inbound traffic to your website, and allows your visitors to discover more content within your site which directly impacts every user experience metric associated with your website.
How blogging and social distribution impacts domain authority:
- freshness factor – Google keeps coming back to your site to crawl and index new content
- social signals – content from your domain is shared throughout social media and people click thru to your website and interact with your content more frequently in social media
- bounce rate – when people see an article in search or social media, they click thru because they are interest in reading more, and if they see more articles (blog posts), they are more likely to click thru to additional articles (which also impacts time on site and average pages viewed per visitor)
- Category and topical level authority – the more content you publish around your particular industry, products, or services, the relevant you become within your specific domain. This is the equivalent of building your brand within a specific business category in search and social media.
All of the above addresses the question of “why are my competitors outranking me in Google?”, but likewise, by addressing each of the points above, your can dramatically turn around your own rankings in Google and quickly start to outpace your toughest competitors.