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Oh, that’s the question I get asked over and over again.

Whether it’s a smaller company that competes for a single product line against their big box competitors or it’s an independent insurance company providing niche coverage competing against the biggest insurance companies in the world online, the question is always the same: how can I be #1?

Well, first, it’s important to set expectations. Being #1 in a highly competitive industry with larger authority sites is difficult- sometimes impossible. It takes time – and money. There is not quick way to displace a larger competitor, especially if you’re trying to rank for highly competitive search terms.

But all is not lost. Here are a few things you can do:

  1. Optimize for long tail keywords. These are keyword phrases with 4-6 words. They have much fewer searches, but typically have higher conversions because the user is more specific in the search criteria.
  2. Provide compelling blog content that get’s a following with supporters and social shares. This will give you more “Google points.”
  3. Ensure your site is “mobile friendly.” This is a ranking factor now with Google, and you don’t want to miss an opportunity to engage your users on mobile devices.
  4. Make sure you landing page content is relevant to the search query. If someone searches for “Sony Digital Camera Review” they should see reviews for Sony digital cameras.
  5. Compare your site structure, naming and navigation to larger competitors to see what you can learn – and emulate what’s working on their sites.
  6. Learn from the best. Look at the URLs and content of the pages that are currently ranking well for keywords you want to rank for. Are these sites deliberately optimizing their pages? Do you see keywords in the content? Look to see how long their content is on the pages that are ranking – and do the same.
  7. Make sure you include social sharing on your site. This is another variable in your site’s search engine friendliness.
  8. Backlinks. This is probably one of the most important things you can consider. Look at your competitors’ backlinks and see who might link to you, too. You can do this by typing this in the Google search bar: This will provide you a list of indexed pages that link to your competitors’ site.
  9. Revisit old pages and make sure they are still a good experience for today’s internet users.
  10. Don’t make me think (never underestimate how lazy or uneducated users can be). Keep your navigation simple. Make sure nothing gets in the way of checking out or whatever other conversion metric you’re tracking.

These are a few tips. At the end of the day, learn from the big guys, exploit their weaknesses, and offer your customers a better experience and more relevant content.