You look at your competitor and find him with a better reach, a greater following base, a grander web structure; a better everything, basically. And the only way you, a startup business, can ever beat them is through intangible dreams, right?
Outranking the competition is perfectly possible, although it is an arduous process. (Hey, nobody ever said achieving a grand feat was going to be a walk in the park). The big brand names are obstacles to acquiring that perfect spot on SERPs.
The competition grows ever fiercer and stickier in knowing that you and this big company name market the same product or service. Another thing to consider is that you’re probably selling a more generic version of the branded product.
Well, if you roll up your sleeves and get ready for some serious work, then let’s talk about these techniques startups can do to beat their bigger competitors.
1. Identify Yours and The Competitor’s Strengths
I’m sure you know and have noticed that famous brands (your bigger competitors) have a more established reputation. There isn’t an excessive need for them to make themselves stand out. Those considerable advantages don’t just come with a brand name. They include things like:
- Higher PA and DA: First and foremost, that’s why they’re so famous online and offline. They have leveraged their online fame to build offline relationships.
- Diversity and quantity of links: Bigger competitors and brands have better backlink profiles.
- Financial resources: There are free marketing efforts, and there are paid ones. Evidently, the latter is much more proficient at getting results. (That’s because nothing good comes for free). Bigger competitors have more finances to spare in their marketing efforts — on and off the web.
- Trustworthiness: A lot of your bigger competitors have established their reputation over time. That’s years or months versus you — who are just starting out or been around for perhaps a month or so.
A startup business like yours, however, must grab every opportunity presented to you to gain notoriety and convince your target audience to trust you. But don’t undermine your own business’ pros just yet.
Startups actually have plenty of strengths up their sleeves. We just have to look closer.
- Laser focus: As a startup business, you have the advantage of aiming your focus on one specific thing. Keep in mind that bigger competitor sites are managed by more people, but the number of tasks they tackle doesn’t see an end either.
- Specific niches: For instance, your bigger competitor is a digital marketing agency that offers all manner of services involving digital marketing. As a startup brand, you can aim for something narrower, like web design and development, or local search engine optimization.
- The luxury of trial-and-error: Let’s be honest. A longer chain-of-command is organized, but it’s also much more complicated for innovative ideas to make it across. On the other hand, a startup business can have, probably, a handful of team members. And since they’re also key people in the small business, that means better and more intimate opportunities to discuss things as a team.
- Nimbleness: Moz’s Rand Fishkin emphasizes this point: “Small teams can get remarkable amounts done in small amounts of time compared to much larger teams.”
However, another strength you’d do well to develop or identify is your unique selling point. Why? It can be the focal point of your marketing strategies in the future.
2. Comply with Search Engines’ Ranking Factors
I’m not about to undermine other search engines but to be fair, Google does get the lion’s share when people talk about search engines you want to rank for.
With over 40,000 search queries every second; 3.5 billion searches per day, and 1.2 trillion searches per year all over the world, it’s no surprise why everyone wants to rank for position zero on Google.
Everybody’s on Google, and you and your competitors know that. For this reason, the importance of SEO can’t be shrugged off so easily. It’s a staple for your online marketing strategies to thrive.
And because you want to beat your competitors in the race to the very top, then you have make your web pages rank. I’m sure you know this fully already, but it’s worth pointing out every now and then. Understanding what you need to do so your site ranks this year is crucial.
And while it’s true that Google keeps the official list of ranking factors a tightly guarded secret, it’s not as mysterious or vague. It’s actually pretty obvious.
This is not the place to go in-depth about Google’s algorithms and how it determines the best content to show to its billions of users. Your bigger competitors are doing what they can to rank. So should you. But to simply remind you of what you should be looking out for and constantly developing, it’s these:
- HTTPS over HTTP: The “s” at the end means the website is secure. They include the SSL 2048-bit key and they are capable of protecting site connections by means of authentication and encryption. Remember that 84% of users would abandon their purchases if data is sent over insecure connections.
- Mobile compatibility: Mobile searches have surpassed the number of desktop users. And Google has responded by catering to the majority; thus the birth of the mobile-first index. 91% of mobile users say access to content is very important.
- Site and page speed: A major contributing factor to page abandonment is loading time. Take more than 3-5 seconds to load, and you can say goodbye to your visitors and your rankings.
- Perfect structured data: Structured data lets users see the value of a site even before they click on it to visit. It also creates great results for users. The bottom line? It’s great for optimization and for web users.
- Web page content length and quality: User experience is essential and prioritized. And one of the factors that contribute to a great experience on the web is great content. Subsequently, people prefer detailed and long-form content too.
- Social media relevance: It’s not necessarily a ranking factor, but your relevance on social media impacts your SEO efforts. With it, you gain more online visibility, recognition, broader distribution, and much better local SEO.
- Quantity and quality of backlinks: Backlinks from credible sites aid your SEO efforts because they show search engines that your site and its pages are credible. It also tells that your site is valuable to its users.
- Domain age, URL, and authority: Sites that are three years old or more have top ten Google search rankings — 60% of them, to be exact.
3. Target The Keywords Your Bigger Competitors Wouldn’t
One of the pros of being a bigger competitor is that you can easily get away with general keywords, like web design or toddler shoes. Words of advice from the experts at Moz. Instead of focusing on general keywords, target keywords like:
- Comparison keywords: Bigger competitors won’t choose to compare themselves to other brands. But you, as a startup brand, certainly can.
- Editorial keywords: Consider the fact that a large brand has relationships with a lot of product or service providers from a similar niche. For sure, they can’t create curation lists about the best products in their niche. That gives you a window of opportunity to take advantage of those keywords.
- Long-tail keywords: Bigger competitors can target keywords like, ‘New York City guide.’ Startups, however, can go for things like, ‘best restaurants to go to in New York City.’
4. Target Specifics in The Niche, and Do Some Targeted Advertising
Bigger competitors are more capable of covering a larger and more general area of expertise. But the slew of topics that follow never end there. The specifics of a general term have more sub-topics you can cover.
A startup brand also has the advantage of targeted advertising. As you exercise precise targeting in your PPC ad campaigns, you narrow down your potential target audience considerably. In addition, you’ll most likely hit what truly matters.
5. Better Content Creation and Optimization
Your bigger competitors have the money and the resources to pull off large marketing campaigns. Don’t let it deter you just yet. Consider the fact that it takes weeks to execute properly, and it involves numerous teams and departments.
Startups can capitalize on the benefits of content marketing. Plus, it’s much easier and more effective — when done right.
6. Unique and Fresh Content Marketing Campaigns
You can start by thinking of fresh and new ideas for all of your marketing campaigns from here on out.
Keep in mind that content marketing isn’t the same as advertising. There is no explicit need for you to create content campaigns revolving entirely around that one product or service. It works, but you have to alternate that between a different concept and idea that not everybody can easily replicate.
Think about it. Do you think other sites will link to your resource if they can do it themselves from scratch? I think not.
7. Get Deeper with Content Creation; Be As Detailed As Possible
Remember when it was emphasized earlier on that Internet users nowadays prefer valuable content. And in most cases, especially if they’re after tutorials, they would want content in long-form. As a startup, now’s your chance to dedicate time and attention to a single piece of content. You could do it better than any giant brand ever could.
Go beyond people’s and your own expectations. If the bigger competitor is a three-star resource, then you become a five-star one.
8. If You’re Using WordPress, Pay Attention to Your Yoast Analysis
Yoast has been downloaded over 4.5 million times, for a reason. The WordPress plugin is actually very efficient at pointing out whether the content is well-optimized and acceptable in the eyes of the readers.
Don’t ignore the results of a page analysis. Keep a close eye on your:
- Readability scores
- Copy scores on the Flesch Reading Ease test
- Use of transition words
- Passive voices
- Keyword assessment and density
- Titles and meta descriptions
9. Content That Rivals Your Competitors
This generation’s consumers like to do their research before making their purchases. And even if they don’t, it’s still a great idea for you to put your brand forward through direct comparison. You can produce content that reviews your article compared to your competitors. Another way to do it is to reach out to sites that review products in your industry.
10. Take Advantage of Google Business and Local Citation Listings
Give your clients a variety of ways to contact you. Claim your Google Business listings, and fill out the proper information on local citation sites across the internet.
Not only does it communicate your desire for transparency, but its also a testament to your authenticity. In addition, you also encourage your customers and potential clients to contribute user-generated content in the form of reviews.
11. Build Relationships with Other Groups in The Niche
You don’t have to make an island out of your business. If your bigger competitors are intent and can establish relationships with others, then you really should too.
Your advantage here lies in the fact that you can do it better than they can. Startups are nimble compared to larger brands, and can easily switch focus at a short period of time. So can you spare time to build relationships with other businesses?
You most certainly can!
Climbing the ranks doesn’t happen overnight — unless you’re implementing blackhat SEO techniques. Nevertheless, slowly gaining traction isn’t a reason for startup businesses to lose heart.
Aside from the seven techniques we discussed today, there is one that is essentially very important. And that’s to consistently optimize your pages — onsite and offsite. It takes a lot of time and effort investment to knock a big competitor name off of position zero, but it’s perfectly possible.
Just remember to:
- Know yours and your competitor’s strengths so you know what to capitalize on,
- Comply with search engines’ ranking factors,
- Target the keywords that your competitors aren’t,
- Invest in targeted advertising,
- Create better content and optimize them accordingly,
- Take advantage of Google Business and local citation listings; and,
- Build relationships with other businesses in your niche.
About The Author:
Al Gomez is the President of Dlinkers, specializing in SEO, PPC, & web development since 2008. He has also developed an e-commerce website — Unlideals.com, and an SEO website, Alseoperth.com. He can be found on twitter.