How do you outperform the biggest sites for high competition keywords?



Today’s SEO question comes from Mark in Pittsburgh. Marc asks:

“How do you compete for keyword rankings with a site that generates 400 times the monthly traffic when you absolutely have to rank for the same keyword?” I can’t give specific details for privacy purposes, but here are the facts.

The term my client wants to rank for is an unbranded 3-word phrase with around 500 monthly queries on average. Currently, they are ranked 25th. Result number two is that of a direct competitor who receives 20 million visits per month. The client receives about 50,000 per month.

The competitor’s page is literally 135 words long and fails the CWV benchmarks. The client page has ~ 600 words and CWV passwords. The competitor has thousands of backlinks. Customer has less than 50. Both pages are for competitor products in a very crowded space. Both estates have been around for over 10 years. In six months of testing, the customer has progressed but not close to the main competitor. I want to believe that SEO isn’t all about a popularity contest, but these facts don’t really give me confidence. I would love your thoughts.


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Hi Mark,

Without knowing the website it’s all out of control, but I can help point you in the right direction.

For starters, you look at the wrong things. It doesn’t matter each of the things you focus on (except backlinks).

  • Core Web Vitals (CWV) might give your customer’s site a boost if all other things were considered equal, but your competitor’s site won’t lose its rank if it doesn’t comply.
  • The number of words on the page is also irrelevant, as the number of words is not a factor of quality. What is important is the structuring and formatting of the words of the bulleted H tags, and whether you present the information in the right way.
  • The age of the domain is also not important as domains change hands, change type of service or product, and change subject.
    • You’ll want to look for old backlinks and indexing bloat from old pages that somehow still exist in the indexes.
    • Old versions of the site from previous owners could also have been penalized and this can be carried over and work against you.

Here are the best questions to ask

1. Is the page copy relevant to the user experience?

Check this out:

  • The pictures show how to use the product.
  • The content explains when and how to use the product or service, the benefits of the product or service, etc. Does the content make it clear that the product or service on the page is the best fit?
  • Your FAQ answers specific questions about the product or service.

2. Is there a relevant diagram on the page?

Look for opportunities to use …


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  • Product.
  • See again.
  • Ratings.
  • Additional type.
  • FAQ.
  • The description.
  • SKU.
  • Price.
  • Video object.
  • A service.
  • Etc.

Watch these diagram success stories for inspiration.

3. How many internal links does this product page have from the rest of your website?

If you don’t have a crawler to find this easily, Google Search Console has a report for it.

  • If it isn’t in the first 10 or 15 pages (in terms of internal links) you need to start building some, but make sure the internal links are there to benefit the customer, not just SEO.
  • You can create internal links from:
    • Category pages.
    • Blog articles.
    • Other product pages.
    • Navigation.
    • Etc.

Check out Internal Link Structure Best Practices to Boost Your SEO to learn more.

4. Where and how did the competitor get their backlinks and can you do the same?

It can be advertising, public relations, thought leadership articles, etc.

Backlinks are easy to get, including major media. You only have to work to get them.

Download Link Building for SEO: A Complete Guide and get started.

5. Have you done any influencer campaigns?

Can you ask certified experts to comment or quote the product on the page to build trust?

There are tools to help you build and scale a successful influencer marketing strategy. Raj Nijjer shares some useful tips here.

Final thoughts

From what you’ve shared, it looks like you’re looking at things that aren’t ranking signals yet, or never have been. Instead, try to focus on the things you can do that are under your control.

Most importantly, take a look at what ranks the signals and ask yourself how you can improve them, which also improves the person’s experience on the page.

In short, Google will rank the best response to the searcher’s query first. You need to show Google that your page is the best answer in every way.


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Hope this helps,


More resources:

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