Outranking competition on Google may be easier than you think. Here’s how to use organic and paid strategies to rise to the top.

Here, you’ll find:

  • How to outrank competition on Google
  • How to outrank your competitors in paid search 
  • Expert strategies to win in search engine marketing
  • Common mistakes to avoid 

What’s the best way to build traffic to your business: paid or organic search?

Like so many other digital marketing aspects, it depends.

That’s because different companies have different goals, budgets, and strategies. But if you decide to use one or the other (or both), you need a plan to outrank your competition. 

Let’s jump into what it takes to outrank your competition in Google search and pay-per-click (PPC) advertising.

people running a race

(Image: Unsplash)

How to outrank competition on Google

If you’re looking to improve your position in Google Search results, then follow these 10 steps:

  1. Perform competitor research 
  2. Create a comprehensive inbound marketing strategy 
  3. Conduct keyword (and search intent) research
  4. Optimize your website content and landing pages
  5. Refresh your content regularly 
  6. Implement technical SEO 
  7. Improve the site speed and user experience of your website
  8. Build high-quality backlinks to your website
  9. Outrank your competitors for local SEO
  10. Monitor and analyze your SEO performance

Let’s look into each of these closer. 

1. Perform competitor research 

You can’t know how to outrank your competition without first understanding who they are, what they do, how they do it, and why. With this knowledge, you can identify what they’re doing right, wrong, or not at all. 

The goal isn’t to replicate their strategy, but to build upon it. For instance, you can implement what they’re doing well, avoid the things that don’t work, and fill in whatever gaps they’re missing. 

Example: A competitor is publishing blog posts every week that get comments and shares. However, their social media engagement on Facebook and Twitter is weak because they use it as a marketing bullhorn instead of a community builder.

Then they avoid turning their podcast episodes and webinars into blog posts, social audiograms, and video snippets to attract audiences on their preferred channels. Armed with this info, you can feel confident about continuing to invest in blog content, while also leveraging social and repurposing content across digital channels to gain an edge.

2. Create a comprehensive inbound marketing strategy (and stick to it)

Once you have your competitor research in hand, you have a solid foundation to build upon. Based on your findings, you can come up with the channels, methods, and tactics to implement and test. 

Remember, you may not get your strategy right the first time, so you’ll need to be patient and consistent to gather data to make educated decisions. In other words, it’s a long-term game, not a quick fix.

“SEO is sometimes thought about as a switch that can be ‘turned on’ for six months and then replaced with other marketing tactics when needed,” says Matt Smith, associate director of SEO at HawkSEM. “Instead, it should be considered a strategic layer to your marketing that’s always being supported.”

Create an SEO strategy that aligns with other areas of your digital marketing, such as your social media, PPC, and video marketing. Each should complement the other, generating a flywheel effect that drives traffic and conversions across all channels.

Also, when building your strategy, avoid assigning multiple marketing goals to a single piece of content. Pick one focus, so it’s easier to measure your success.

For example:

  • Drive brand awareness with increased organic traffic
  • Move target audience toward consideration phase of product/service
  • Directly increase lead generation through calls/form fills

3. Conduct keyword (and search intent) research

Some make the mistake of relying on keyword research to guide their SEO strategy. Instead, it should supplement your strategy and revolve around your target audience.

Understanding their needs and intent will guide the topics you select, which will determine which keywords you choose. But don’t just look at the search volume. 

Analyze the search engine results pages (SERPs) to identify the intent, questions, and concerns the top-ranking pages attempt to address. Then use this to inform the approach you take when building SEO content. 

4. Optimize your website content and landing pages

It’d be nice if Google could rank your content effectively for all the search queries your target audience could possibly have. But it doesn’t work that way.

Until that day comes, you must optimize your website pages, landing pages, and blog content with target keywords to attract your target audience (and ultimately outrank your competitors).

Words of advice from Smith:

  • Increase your relevant internal links and optimize anchor text (e.g., use keywords in the words you use to link to other pages on your site)
  • Add authorship to each article, along with the date that it was published (preferably an author with authority in a particular niche or industry)
  • Increase your semantic keyword usage with tools like SurferSEO or Clearscope (aim for a high score)
  • Make content more skimmable with short paragraphs and headings (keep paragraphs to no more than four lines)
Screenshot from hawkSEM blog

Here’s an example of what skimmable looks like from the HawkSEM blog. It’s broken up by subheadings, short paragraphs, and bullet points. (Image: HawkSEM blog)

Then ensure your landing pages are optimized with keywords and for the specific needs of your target audience. If visitors arrive on your site and bounce right away, there’s a mismatch with their intent. Check your messaging, offer, and keywords to ensure your landing page is attracting the right people with the right message. 

5. Refresh your content regularly

Publishing content is one way to show search engines your website is fresh. The other, more overlooked option is to refresh your existing content, ensuring that it too, stays fresh and up-to-date. 

But what does the process look like? Here are a few tips:

  • Identify the content that needs to be refreshed by analyzing its performance metrics and relevance to current trends
  • Conduct keyword research to ensure your target keywords are still relevant and matches search intent — if not, find new ones
  • Update the title and meta tags to make them more compelling and relevant
  • Review the content for accuracy, ensuring that all information is up-to-date and relevant
  • Add new information or insights to the content to make it more valuable to the audience
  • Improve and update the visual elements of the content, such as images or videos, to enhance its appeal and ensure its not outdated
  • Check for broken links and update them with relevant and working links
  • Optimize the content for mobile devices to ensure a seamless user experience
  • Promote the refreshed content through social media channels or email newsletters to drive traffic and engagement
  • Monitor the performance of the refreshed content and make further adjustments if necessary

Sometimes, a good refresh is all you need to outrank your competition. Tools such as Frase, Clearscope, and Semrush exist to make this process easier. 

6. Implement technical SEO 

Sounds technical, and it kind of is. But implementing technical SEO Is a necessary step in the process.

“Technical SEO is akin to the plumbing of a house. It’s the unseen, but vital, part of a home’s inner workings. Common technical issues include large image sizes, indexation issues, and lack of metadata optimization.”

Thankfully, software is available to simplify finding technical SEO issues and fixes. 

For example, Semrush automates this process by crawling your website and finding errors preventing its growth. 

(Image: Semrush)

So, if your site’s performance has been meh lately, even with a ton of quality content published, there could be underlying issues. Use these tools to identify these problems and eradicate them fast. 

Examples of technical SEO issues (and their fixes) include:

  • Duplicate content detected. Fix by implementing canonical tags to specify the preferred version of the content and avoid duplicate content issues.
  • Slow page load speed. Fix by optimizing images, minifying CSS and JavaScript files, and leveraging browser caching to improve page load speed.
  • Broken internal links. Fix by identifying and fixing broken internal links by updating the URLs or redirecting them to the correct pages.
  • Missing XML sitemap. Fix by generating and submitting an XML sitemap to search engines to ensure all pages are indexed and crawled properly.

7. Improve your site speed and user experience

Visitors won’t stick around for more than a few seconds to access a website or web page. If your site is running slow, then there are things you can do to improve its speed. 

Here are a few tips from Smith:

  1. Identify which website pages are the most important from a search and business standpoint.
  2. Put those pages into a page speed tester like Google’s PageSpeed Insights. Do the same for your top competitor’s pages.
  3. If your pages are slower than competitors and/or failing page-speed tests, follow these tools’ recommendations. Top recommendations typically include page caching and image compression.

“If your page speeds are mediocre or good, they should not be considered a top priority,” explains Smith. “If they’re slow, start by doing the minimum work with the highest impact to reduce loading time.”

The purpose of speeding up your website is for accessibility (for those with slower internet connections) and to enhance the user experience (UX). 

Developing a site with flashy designs and graphics can look amazing, but will bog down your site and leave users frustrated. 

Not worth it. 

“UX and design impact how easy it is for a user to navigate and consume your website’s content. It also impacts a user’s perception of your brand and products,” shares Smith. “Search engines don’t care about design, but they can partially replicate a user’s experience through their spiders which crawl your website.”

They also identify user signals, such as traffic, SERP click-through rates (CTR), and dwell time on particular pages. The better your UX design, the better the experience and your ranking. 

So always be working to improve your UX through design tests, fast page load time, and simplifying your website’s content.

8. Build high-quality backlinks to your website

It’s not enough to publish high-quality content to your website. If no one’s linking to it, then it signals to Google that it’s not valuable enough to share. Change this by using the following link-building strategies:

  • Create high-quality, valuable content that others would want to link to naturally (e.g., research reports, guides, deep-dives, interviews, etc.)
  • Contact relevant websites and influencers in your industry to request backlinks or guest posting opportunities
  • Participate in industry forums and online communities, sharing your expertise and including a link back to your website in your profile or signature (just don’t appear spammy)
  • Use social media platforms to share your content and encourage others to link to it
  • Submit your website to reputable online directories and industry-specific listings
  • Develop relationships with other website owners and offer to exchange backlinks or collaborate on content
  • Monitor your competitors’ backlinks and identify opportunities to acquire similar or better quality links
  • Create and promote valuable infographics or other visual content that can be easily shared and linked to
  • Write guest posts for authoritative websites in your niche, including a link back to your website in the author bio or within the content itself
  • Regularly monitor and disavow any low-quality or spammy backlinks that may harm your website’s SEO

As you build your backlink profile, you’ll find your domain authority (DA) increases, along with your ability to rank higher faster, and outrank your competition. 

9. Outrank competition on Google with local SEO

Here’s an excellent move for small businesses with small presences. 

If you own a local business, creating and updating your Google Business Profile listing is necessary. 

Local SEO is important for local brick-and-mortar businesses. Primary strategies include optimizing local business pages, off-site business profiles, and directories, such as a Google Business Profile(FKA Google My Business),” shares Smith.

Do this alongside an inbound marketing strategy and you’ll dominate the SERPs with your brand’s presence. You’ll appear in organic search, paid search (more on that below), and even Google Maps.

10. Monitor and analyze your SEO performance

It’s easier to improve your SEO once you know what’s working and what isn’t. The only way to keep a pulse on your SEO strategy is to monitor it using tools like Ahrefs, Google Analytics, and Semrush. 

 Things you want to monitor, track, and analyze include:

  • Organic search traffic: Identify who’s finding you on Google search, and using which keywords 
  • Keyword rankings: See how well your website ranks for target keywords and identify areas for improvement
  • Backlink profile: Monitor the quality and quantity of backlinks pointing to your website, and identify opportunities for building new high-quality backlinks
  • On-page SEO elements: Analyze and optimize on-page SEO elements, such as meta tags, headers, and keyword usage to improve search engine visibility
  • Website speed and performance: Monitor website speed and performance to ensure fast loading at all times
  • Mobile-friendliness: Analyze your website’s mobile-friendliness to ensure a seamless user experience on mobile devices
  • User engagement metrics: Track metrics like bounce rate, time on page, and conversion rate to understand how users interact with your website and optimize for better engagement and conversions

How to outrank your competition on Google PPC advertising

Google search is more than just organic results. And your competitors know this. It’s the reason they’re likely using a mix of organic and paid search strategies to outrank you. 

Now, you can turn the tables and beat them at their own game. 

Here’s an overview of what you can do to outrank your competition in online advertising:

  1. Identify clear goals and target audience
  2. Conduct keyword research
  3. Use keyword match types and negative keywords
  4. Create and optimize compelling ad copy and landing pages
  5. Optimize ad extensions and site links
  6. Improve your ad Quality Score
  7. Use ad targeting and audience segmentation
  8. Use the right bidding strategies

Let’s delve deeper into each PPC strategy

1. Identify clear goals and target audience

Never build a PPC campaign without first identifying who you’re targeting and how to reach them. The more you know about your potential customers, the easier it’ll be to select keywords, write copy, and optimize landing pages for conversions. 

2. Conduct keyword research 

After identifying your target audience, it’s time to find the search terms they use to find products or services like yours. You can learn this using tools like Google’s Keyword Planner, Semrush, and Ahrefs to pinpoint the most valuable keywords for your campaigns.

3. Use keyword match types and negative keywords

Keyword match types control how closely a keyword needs to match a user’s search for your ad to appear. There are four main keyword match types:

  1. Broad Match: Ads appear in searches that include misspellings, synonyms, related searches, and other variations of the keyword.
  2. Broad Match Modifier: Ads appear in searches that include the modified term or close variations of it, but not synonyms or related searches.
  3. Phrase Match: Ads appear in searches with the exact phrase or close variations of it with additional words before or after.
  4. Exact Match: Ads appear in searches with an exact match or close variations of the keyword, without any additional words.

Each match type offers a different level of control over which searches trigger your PPC ads, allowing you to target a broader or more specific audience.

But what if you want to exclude your ads from certain searches? In this case, you’ll need to use negative keywords. Negative keywords are a list of search terms you DON’T want your search ads to appear for. This can also reduce your ad spend, especially if the negative phrases are very popular (and have a high cost per click or CPC). 

Monitor your ad campaigns to identify keywords that get no clicks or lots of clicks, but no conversions. Both indicate there’s a mismatch in audience and/or intent. 

4. Create and test ad copy and landing pages

What makes people click on your ads is a mix of preferred formats (image, video, etc.) and attractive elements, such as the headline, visuals, offer, call-to-action (CTA), and the landing page. 

Optimizing for keywords gets your ads in front of the right people. However, if you want them to click and buy, then you need to optimize your landing pages for conversions. This means ensuring your landing page aligns with the ad and delivers on educating the visitor about your offer and its benefits. 

To help maximize your ad’s reach and visibility, you’ll need to boost your ad rank. 

“The Ad Rank metric can help set your ads and user experience apart by rewarding an advertiser with the highest quality campaign,” explains Ian Dawson, SEM manager at HawkSEM. “With optimized ad copy and landing pages that are relevant to your keywords, Google will generally give you a higher Ad Rank. The higher the Ad Rank, the easier it is to outrank competitors’s ads.”

Ad Rank is a metric that determines your ad position in the search results. It multiplies your bid amount by your Quality Score. Ad Rank considers the monetary bid and the quality of your ad to determine its position and eligibility to appear.

There are several ways to improve your Ad Rank, such as by:

  • Improving your ad Quality Score
  • Increasing your bid amount 
  • Using ad extensions, such as site link extensions to stand out
  • Enhancing the landing page experience 
  • Testing your campaigns to see what works

At HawkSEM, we offer landing page design and optimization to help businesses increase their conversions. 

5. Optimize ad extensions and site links

Do ad extensions and site links really matter? According to our SEM expert, Ian Dawson — absolutely.

“Ad extensions will often help an advertiser surpass competitors by simply using every possible extension,” says Dawson. “When reviewing competitors, note which ad extensions are being used. Often, advertisers miss out on these opportunities. Structured snippets and callout extensions can showcase unique selling propositions (USPs) and will help differentiate your company from competitors.”

So use your ad extensions to highlight your USP to differentiate from your competitors.

6. Improve your ad Quality Score

Your ad’s Quality Score is a metric Google Ads uses to assess the quality and relevance of your keywords, ads, and landing pages. It scores your ads on a scale from one to ten — the higher the score, the better. 

To calculate this score, Google looks at several factors, such as click-through rate, ad relevance, landing page experience, and historical performance. 

Then to improve your ad’s Quality Score, you must test different strategies to see what works. At HawkSEM, we had a company come to use asking for help with its Quality Score and conversions rate. 

Here’s what we did:

First, reviewed its search terms to ensure relevance to the ideal user searchers. We also added negative keywords for irrelevant searches to prevent ads from appearing. Then for its landing page, we made iterative improvements to improve relevance. 

Here’s a look at the high Quality Scores of the target keywords after our adjustments:

quality score examples

(Image: Google Ads)

Quality scores improved over the last 5-7 months of regular reviews for these keywords from lower scores of 3-5 in Q4 2022. 

“The expected CTR is also important for Quality Scores, so we improve most ads to “Excellent” status for Ad Strength,” explains Dawkson. “Excellent ad strength and improved CTR via negative KW additions continued to help improve.” 

Here’s a look at the impression share for the ad group:

Google ads impression share screenshot

(Image: Google Ads impression share)

And here’s the ad with a top placement, multiple ad extensions, positioned above its competitor:

google search ad screenshot

(Image: Google search results)

 If you’d like us to do the same for your ad campaigns, then reach out to HawkSEM’s experts today. 

7. Use ad targeting and audience segmentation

You’ve done your research, know your audience, and the search terms to use to reach them. Now, you can use this data to create super-targeted campaigns to connect with your audience. 

“You can gain a competitive edge by exploring audiences in an Observation setting,” says Dawson. “In Google Ads, audiences can be added in Observation mode. This allows you to see when clicks and conversions fall into that audience without actively targeting that audience. If the Observation audience performs well against competitors, it can be specifically targeted.”

But how do you do this?

  1. Run Google Experiments to test targeting on effective campaigns to determine if another targeting option outperforms competitors better than your existing effective strategy. The experimental campaign can use your existing ad copy, keywords, and landing pages with an all-new bidding strategy.
  2. Leveraging your historical data and determining the best conversion times will help you outrank your competitors. Knowing you’re more likely to convert a user on Tuesdays opens opportunities for advanced ad scheduling. While you can’t add a bid adjustment to a particular day or time with most automated bidding strategies, you can still take advantage of ad scheduling with active days.

This simple tweak can push your content over the edge and help you outrank your competition.

8. Use the right bidding strategies

There are several bidding strategies you can use for your Google Ads campaigns. But which is ideal to outrank your competition?

“If your goal is outranking competitors, then the Target Impression Share bidding strategy is the most effective tool,” says Dawson. “Target Impression Share allows the advertiser to appear at the top of search results, often above competitors. With highly competitive markets, this strategy helps maximize ROI when a user’s purchase decision can be made after seeing a single search result.”

The takeaway

Being at the top of Google search requires a lot of planning, executing, testing, and reiterating. And it’s all worth it to see your brand’s name rise above the rest. 

The only thing sweeter than the victory of outranking your competition in Google is turning visitors into leads, and leads into customers. 

This is something our experts at HawkSEM can help you with. If you’re ready to accept the challenge of dominating Google search results — we’re ready when you are


Contact HawkSEM for Free Consultation