For non-branded searches, click-through-rates for the number one organic result in Google average around 28%. For position two, CTRs are halved, receiving an average of only 14% of clicks, and the numbers continue to fall as you scroll. If competitors are outranking you—even by only one position—they’re claiming more clicks, generating more leads, and earning more revenue.
Instead of settling for “at least we’re on page one,” take action to secure the higher position. Conduct a competitive analysis to determine what competitors are doing right. Then, use the results of the analysis to create a plan for outranking your competition in Google.
When you’re ready to get started, scroll to the bottom of this post and download our free SERP Analysis Worksheet!
Google considers 200+ ranking factors for every query, so it’s easy to imagine that there could be hundreds of potential reasons why competitors are earning higher rankings. But it’s usually not so complicated. A higher ranking usually means a piece of content does a better job of answering user intent and satisfying RankBrain’s priority ranking factors.
RankBrain is Google’s machine learning program that evaluates and re-evaluates individual ranking factors for different industries and queries.
Because Google knows that even their sophisticated list of ranking factors isn’t one-size-fits-all. In some industries, links are hugely important, for example, but less so in others. For some topics, timeliness is crucial, but others don’t need updated for years. RankBrain’s job is to figure out what is important and adjust ranking factor priorities accordingly.
Use Google’s SERPs to conduct a competitive analysis, and compare the user intent and RankBrain factors of your content to those of other page-one results.
The number one reason content fails to earn high rankings is because it doesn’t satisfy user intent—the real question or need behind the keyword being typed into a search engine. Google prioritizes organic results that provide the best answers.
To uncover user intent, conduct a depersonalized search for the problematic keyword, and review all page-one organic results. This exercise provides insight into whether user intent is learn or purchase:
With user intent identified, revisit your content and determine if it satisfies intent for the targeted keyword. If the keyword has learn intent and content is a purchase-intent product page, it will never rank well in organic search. Update the content of the page to cater to learn intent—provide more high-level, introductory, and in-depth content. The content should cater to users at the top—rather than the bottom—of the funnel.
Quantity and quality of incoming and outgoing links is another potential ranking factor. It may be higher priority in some industries than others, per RankBrain, but Google has identified links as a top factor so it’s wise to assume it’s a priority. The next step, then, is analyzing link profiles for higher-ranking competitors’ results.
Using the MozBar Chrome extension or another link metrics tool, record the number of incoming links and linking domains (RD = root domains) for higher-ranking competitor results.
Links within the content are also important. Click into the top few content pieces and use the Link Analysis tab in the Moz Bar to highlight internal and external links in the content, to make them easier to count.
Record findings in a table. Complete steps 1-4 for your content and all higher-ranked competitor results.
Compare the results:
Google’s number one ranking factor is content quality. If a competitor result is ranking higher, it’s entirely possible that the content is simply better—higher quality—in Google’s opinion.
Improving content quality can be tricky. There are roughly 77 potential factors factors Google considers when evaluating quality. The best thing to do is dive in, review content like an editor or outside observer, and consider how its quality compares to competitor content.
Some of the more important quality indicators include:
Also, consider how content appears in search results. Review the title, meta description, and other elements of how content appears in the SERPs. Compare your result with others, and record ideas on how to make the listing stand out to inspire more clicks.
In addition to content quality and link profiles, RankBrain looks at many other factors to determine how content should be ranked.
To identify additional factors, return to the depersonalized search conducted while analyzing user intent, and open all page-one organic results in new tabs.
This exercise allows you to develop a personalized ranking factors list by identifying consistencies in high-ranking content for targeted keywords.
Study the SERPs, analyze link profiles, and evaluate the content of higher-ranking results to develop a detailed strategy for increasing user engagement and catering to the factors Google has prioritized.
Then, optimize content using the insights gathered to outrank competitor results; start earning increased traffic, leads, and revenue; and stop losing customers to competitors.
Start by conducting user intent research. If content caters to the wrong intent, it will never rank higher than competitor content that answers the question behind the query. Update content to cater to the correct intent, and see your result starts to climb.
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