Why are my competitors always ranked higher than me?

Is there anything more frustrating than seeing your competitor rank above you on Google? No matter what changes you make to your content and no matter how many incredible links you build to your site, they’re always sitting just above you.
It’s a gripe that we hear frequently from new clients. The sad truth is that there isn’t always a clear-cut answer to the question. Google and other search engines use complex algorithms to determine which website appear in their search results. The list is extensive, but the following factors will impact your rankings.

  • Domain age
  • Secure or not secure
  • Mobile friendly
  • Keyword density
  • Content length
  • Backlink profile
  • Internal Linking
  • Sitemap
  • Page loading speed
  • Schema markup
  • Social signals
  • Optimised images
  • User experience metrics

Many of these factors are easily within your control. For example, if you aren’t performing well for a particular keyword, you can refresh the content on your site to see if this has an impact on your rankings.
Other factors are completely out of your control, such as the domain age. This is often an issue that companies face when they rebrand their websites. If you change your domain name and don’t consider SEO in the changeover, then you can lose a lot of your authority. If you constantly see a competitor ranking above you for many different terms, use this tool to check the domain age.

How do I get above my competitors in search?

The first step to getting above your competitors is keyword research. When done correctly, keyword research can help you to hone in on the most profitable and valuable keywords for your business.
Many business owners get caught up obsessing over particular terms which may be seen as “vanity terms”. While it might be beneficial to rank for these, if the search volumes aren’t there, then it might be time to abandon these in favour of more lucrative keywords.
Start by looking at the keywords that actually bring users to your website. You can access some of these in your Search Console. If you are hoping to hone in on your customer’s intent, this is a great source of inspiration.

Build fast, mobile-friendly sites

Next up, you need to look at the technical factors of your site. This might involve the services of a web developer, particularly if your website needs extensive changes. Focus on making your website fast and mobile friendly.

Why do speed and mobile friendliness matter?

Google rewards websites with a good user experience as this is one of the easiest metrics for the algorithms to track. If you have a fast and useful website, users are more likely to spend time on your site. This signals to Google that your website is relevant to the user. Keeping an eye on your bounce rate and time spent on your site can help you to identify user experience issues which might be impacting your rankings.

Other technical issues to consider

Sitemaps are another area that often let websites down. Your website needs to be easily indexed by Google and other search engines, and your sitemap is the easiest way to achieve this.
If you haven’t yet upgraded to HTTPS, this could be another factor which is affecting your rankings. Even if you don’t sell through your website, a secure domain name helps to build trust in website visitors. There is also the risk that your website will be flagged as dangerous by Google which could be very damaging to your brand.

Check for manual penalties

If you used to rank quite well and have noticed a drop in rankings and traffic, there is a chance that your website has been hit by a manual penalty. This can happen for a number of reasons and recovery will depend on being able to identify and fix the problem.
Out of date WordPress plugins have been known to generate spammy code which can lead to a manual penalty from Google. To check if you have been hit with a manual penalty, ensure you have Search Console set up and also make sure you set it up for all variants of your website address. This means having an individual property for each of the following:

If you’d like help building a bulletproof SEO strategy, get in touch with our team to discuss how we can help you achieve your business goals.