3 min read

5 reasons the competition may be ahead of you in the SERPs

Sometimes, taking it back to basics is the best way to see some results in real time. In this article, we run through a few reasons you might be seeing your competitors climbing higher than you in the SERPs, and how you can combat this.


Backlinks have been an integral factor in Google’s ranking algorithm for many years, and in 2019 this remains true. However, that isn’t to say that they are handled in the same way that they used to be.

Historically, a strong backlink profile was based upon quantity and not quality, but as the Search landscape has grown (and with the helping hand of certain blackhat SEO techniques), search engines have begun handling backlinks quite differently. Now, the focus is on gaining high-quality backlinks from relevant and trustworthy sources.

If you find that your competitors are outranking you in the SERPs and you’re struggling to see a difference between your targeting & content and theirs, then the backlink profile is a good place to look. Gaining natural, non-spammy links to your website is one of the most beneficial ways to increase organic positioning – but make sure to follow Google’s guidelines to avoid manual actions and penalties!

Tip: Review all URLs that are returning a 404/410 status code for backlinks. Often, as a site structure develops and changes, pages with external links will be removed and the value of the backlinks is lost. Redirecting these URLs to similar alternatives is an easy way to funnel this equity back into your website.

Technical SEO

Having a technically sound website is more important than ever. As basic SEO practices such as on-page keyword targeting are becoming more popular and highly adopted, it’s becoming vital that you ensure your website is free of technical issues that could negatively affect your performance

Having a website free of technical flaws can improve the trust that search engines have in your URLs and your website as a whole. If your website has a host of technical problems then it’s likely that search engines won’t put much trust in you, and are unlikely to allow your pages to perform well.

Common technical issues that we encounter include:

  • Incorrect use of redirects (302 vs. 301 and redirect chains)
  • Conflict across canonical URLs
  • Multiple H1 tags on a single page
  • Oversized images
  • Internal links to redirected or deleted URLs

Many technical problems lie below the surface of your website and won’t be noticed unless you look for them. Whenever you remove or redirect a URL, make sure to follow best practice to ensure that you prevent any problems from occurring, and make your website as sleek and as close to technically perfect as you can. If you have access to any crawling software then we recommend refreshing your technical review every 3-6 months (depending on how regularly your website is updated).

Clear On-Page Targeting

Sometimes the simplest explanation is the most accurate. This is often the case when assessing why a competitor’s page is ranking higher. The first question you have to ask is “is it clear what my page is about?“. If the answer isn’t a definitive yes, then the chances are that search engines also aren’t fully understanding what the purpose of your page is.

Make sure that you have done your research and know exactly which term(s) is the most viable to target. Next, make sure that your page is optimised fully, including:

  • Title
  • H1
  • Inbound anchor text
  • Image alt text
  • On-page content

Try not to disambiguate your targeting by overloading the above areas with additional keywords; stick to one primary keyword per URL. However, you can introduce related secondary keywords and keyword variations.

If you find yourself being outperformed in the SERPs for a specific keyword then review the targeting of the URLs positioned above yours and see if there are any obvious differences.


On-Page Content

For most, adding optimised title tags and headings isn’t enough to influence rankings alone. A solid SEO strategy has to include a review of your landing page content. Instead of simply mentioning your primary keyword once or twice on your page, do your research and find out what information your users want to see.

Also, look at what content those in positions 1, 2 and 3 have, as this is a good indication (along with all of the above) as to what the search engine wants to provide. For landing pages, this could be additional information in the form of FAQs, additional product/service information, or support on pain points that your users may encounter.

Blog Content

Other ways to utilise content throughout your website is through blog or hub content. This allows you to increase your targeting around your primary keywords through targeting a number of longtail terms or queries. You can then use optimised internal linking to direct this traffic to your key product or service pages, as well as reinforce the context and purpose of your key pages.

If you have any other quick wins for overtaking your competition in the SERPs, let us know. Tweet us @honcho_search to share your thoughts. Like keeping up with the latest news and industry updates? Sign up to our newsletter!

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