How can I compete with bigger websites with more backlinks?
Today’s Ask an SEO question comes from Julius in Leesburg. Julius asks:
How can I compete with websites with over a million backlinks and why can’t Google see that these backlinks are being bought?
It is possible for David to defeat Goliath.
But just like in the Old Testament, fighting Goliath with weapons meant for Goliath can 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 said before, focusing too much on your competitor, and not enough on yourself, is a losing situation.
What do you do against a competitor who has more resources, more history and, just, well… Following?
The secret of competition is not to fight with strength, but with intelligence.
Much like guerrilla warriors giving adjustments to empires, smart SEO can succeed and grow their resources to one day fight on equal ground with even the greatest of adversaries.
In search of weaknesses
When you’re competing for real estate in the SERPs against a “superior” enemy, the first step is to make sure your house is in order.
If you don’t take care of your own basics, you will fail no matter how much you copy what your successful competitor is doing.
This means making sure your site code follows the latest technical SEO best practices.
This means making sure your content appeals to your target audience, but also displays search engine expertise, authority and trust, while using the keyword phrases you want to appear for when a query is carried out.
This means making sure you have connections from sites that will link to your site – and that those connections aren’t themselves piecemeal.
This means monitoring your own data, making sure your analytics are set up correctly.
Once you’ve done these things, then and only then should you look at this behemoth competitor.
And when you look at this Goliath, don’t look at what they’re doing to succeed – look at what they’re not doing well.
Start by focusing on this competitor’s weaknesses, but don’t attack.
Focus your efforts to succeed where your competitor fails.
For example, if your competitor does not provide enough information about a specific product, make sure that your product description contains many answers to consumer expectations.
If your competitor dominates a topic’s main keyword, look for lower-tail terms that you can succeed with.
Look for opportunities to succeed where Goliath fails.
No matter how good Goliath is, he doesn’t do everything right.
No one is.
They cheat and it’s not fair!
Often I speak with prospects who are convinced that their competitors are cheating.
They are flabbergasted that Google is letting someone get away with such blatant disregard for the rules.
Of course, this complaint is only made for sites ranked above that of the prospect.
As the old SEO joke goes, SPAM stands for “SSite (s Ppositioned Aabove Mine.
The reality is more complex.
Of course, many sites profit from breaking the rules, both short and long term.
But in reality, Google knows more than it lets on.
Often when we investigate why a site ranks, we find that it’s not because of the rules it breaks.
Most of the time, they rank above their competitors because of what they do well.
Google doesn’t seem to give out manual penalties as often as it used to.
But many of the tactics that once warranted manual penalties are now ignored by Google.
This means that most people who break the rules or buy spammy links are just wasting their time and money, and don’t know it.
There may be short-term benefits, but in most cases, those millions of purchased links are simply ignored.
I would suggest that before assuming that bought links are what drives your competitor to beat you, take a look at other things they may be doing better than you.
And of course, spend most of your time improving your own site.
The benefits of focusing on your own business far outweigh the time you spend trying to figure out what your competitors are doing.
Editor’s note: Ask an SEO is a weekly SEO tips column written by some of the top SEO experts in the industry, who have been handpicked by Search Engine Journal. Do you have a question about SEO? Fill out our form. You might see your answer in the next #AskanSEO post!