I recently wrote about situational link building in response to a lot of silly reactions I had seen and heard of happening after the “medic update”.

In that post, I argued that trying to use links to build your way out of an algorithmic slap isn’t necessarily the best idea.

Unfortunately, I’ve seen the other end of the spectrum as well from more than a few people who have pinned too much of their hopes on on-page changes making all the difference.

The question I’ve then been inevitably asked by each of these people where it didn’t fix their problems was “why are my competitors outranking me?”.

Seriously these kinds of questions have just been flooding in. Everyday conversations where the half-question, half-statement of “I just don’t get why they are outranking me” keeps popping up.

And that’s what gave me the idea for this blog post.

I personally see it as another massive flaw in the education of SEOs and the generally poor state of the industry leaders intentions out there today that anyone should need to ask this.

8 Common Reasons Why Your Competitor Outranks You:

Disclaimer: In no particular order for the anally retentive among us.

These are just 8 of the most common reasons, and ones that were ignored by 100% of the people who messaged me. Which I actually find a condemning view of the state of SEO as I already mentioned.

Any one of these reasons can be why your competitor outranks you, but in many cases there is more than one at play.

Ultimately this is why so many SEOs recommend a match and exceed strategy, and while I agree with that sort of it’s still better than relying on tactics to try and win.

8. User Metrics

It’s taking the SEO world the longest time to catch on to the fact that user experience matters a hell of a lot in SEO today.

A piece of content that performs well will often not only just increase in rankings but start popping for more and more keywords.

Content that performs badly doesn’t usually stay on the first page anymore even in absence of evidence that external competitors are improving and knocking you down.

The reality is you have no idea how well your competitors content performs.

What you can do is improve your own metrics starting with improving your click-through rate.

7. Link Diversity

This one doesn’t get talked about enough anymore.

Just a few years ago it was a hot topic and it was part of any good advice about your link building…

Link diversity at its most basic is making sure you have a lot of links from different kinds of websites. E.g. Blog Comments, Forum Links, Q&A Links, Contextual Links (In content).

These days most people only bother with guest posts, sponsored posts, private blog networks and the like. All basically one type of link.

It’s not uncommon to see competitors outranking you that have a lot more link diversity.

6. Number of Backlinks

We’re all obsessed with referring domains these days, but the number of backlinks is still an important metric.

Remember that any regular (“DoFollow”) link is an entry point to your site.

More entry points = more crawls. The more pages you have crawled, the more frequent you are crawled; the better the indexation and thus rankings.

5. Number of Referring Domains

We can talk about this from the perspective of your overall domain or individual articles. Much the same as with the previous example.

However, of all the people I have spoken to recently, they all pointed out a single competitor who outranks them for certain or multiple keywords.

In all cases, the competitors had more Referring Domains to both the specific article/keyword targeted page and their entire domain.

I consider this to be SEO 101 so I was shocked to have to point it out. The fact I had to point it out either showed these people don’t even check, or they’re oblivious to this making such a big difference.

4. Quality of Domains

You can quite often outrank your competitors with less backlinks or referring domains if yours are of a better quality.

The same holds true the other way round.

At no point did those asking me for advice reference the fact that their competitors had far better backlinks as well as more of them.

4. Better On-Page

Better on-page is just another potential reason why your competitors can outrank you.

There are so many factors to this that it’s not even worth going into in-depth.

What I will say though is that on-page alone is rarely enough to win you the top spot.

So even if you do have better on-page (which those I spoke to did) it doesn’t guarantee you anything and this is a form of bias and potentially the effort heuristic in play to assume that yours is better and therefore you should outrank them.

3. Domain Authority

Every domain will have a certain level of authority attached to it that is based on a myriad of factors such as age, backlinks, traffic, user metrics and so much more.

Most of us use proxy metrics such as Domain Rating by Ahrefs to attempt to measure this.

While DR (Domain Rating) isn’t always very accurate it does a fairly good job. In the case of several of those I have talked to recently who use Ahrefs they totally ignored the much higher DR of their competitors when asking why their competitors outrank them.

2. Trust

Trust is a big deal and I’d say that’s especially true right now.

Trust can play into things such as Domain Authority, the quality of your content, backlinks, referring domains and so on. All of those things and more play into trust also.

In the “medic update” which focuses on YMYL (Your Money, Your Life) style sites I have seen websites that lack trust signals in one way or another suffering badly.

I recently managed to acquire a Wikipedia link for one of my sites that had been fairly stagnant since June and within less than a week the organic keyword growth was around 21%. Keep in mind that sites like Wikipedia mark external links as NoFollow, but this doesn’t mean that there isn’t some trust flow between domains that have NoFollow links.

Trust is a massive factor and it’s a big part of the reason why PBN links aren’t as effective anymore. It’s also why guest posts aren’t always as effective as expensive niche edits you can get from people like Charles Floate, James Gregory etc who provide a service for getting links on existing content.

1. Hidden PBN Links

As I wrote at the beginning – this list is in no particular order so this ISN’T the number one factor. It is last or first on our list though depending on your outlook.

As I said in the last point, PBN links aren’t as effective anymore but it doesn’t mean they don’t work.

PBN links are alive and well as part of any grey hat link building campaign, and some sites in certain niches can rank off of nothing else but hidden PBN links.

Some times you will see competitors ranking above you where nothing else on this list seems to play into it and it’s usually because of a hidden PBN bolstering their rankings out of public sight.

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