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SEO Tips to Rank for Highly Competitive Keywords

Some keywords are easier to rank for than others. If hundreds or thousands of other websites are competing for the same keyword as your site, you may struggle to secure a top search ranking. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that ranking for highly competitive keywords is impossible. Although it requires more time and work, you can still dominate the search engine results pages (SERPs) by following the 10 tips listed here.

Publish Evergreen Content ( related to your competitive keywords )

Content is the most influential on-page ranking factor used by search engines. Rather than publishing current event-style news articles on your site, though, you should publish evergreen content for improved performance in the SERPs. Evergreen content refers to content that’s always useful and relevant.

The problem with news articles and other time-sensitive content is that they are only relevant for a short period of time. They may attract lots of traffic initially, but once they are no longer relevant, this traffic will quickly die off. Evergreen content, on the other hand, will continue to attract traffic because it’s always relevant.

Examples of evergreen content include:

  • How-to articles
  • Company culture articles
  • Product reviews
  • Frequently asked questions and answers
  • Case studies
  • Interviews with industry professionals
  • Educational webinars
  • Glossary of relevant terms
  • Infographics

Include Facts and Statistics

When publishing content on your website, include relevant facts and statistics. Search engines will see this information when crawling your site, viewing your site as an authority and, subsequently, increasing its search rankings. Any website can toss up a generic, poorly researched article, but it takes time and effort to create high-quality content that’s backed by relevant facts and statistics.

Second, including facts and statistics in your site’s content will attract backlinks. Other webmasters will cite your website when sharing these facts and statistics, linking back to it from their own site. These natural, relevant backlinks are invaluable in helping you secure a top search ranking.

You can find facts and statistics by searching for “[keyword or phrase] + facts” or “[keyword or phrase] + statistics” in Google. Just remember to credit the original source or publisher.

Create Meta Titles and Meta Descriptions

Create a relevant, unique meta title and meta description for each page of your website. According to the SEO experts at Moz, the meta title is the second-most influential on-page ranking signal, surpassed only by content. Search engines use this element to create titles for their search listings, and web browsers display them in open tabs. When optimizing your website, give each page a unique meta title that briefly describes the page’s content — with the keywords for which you want to rank — in 60 or fewer characters (spaces included).

While not as important as the meta title, you should also create a unique meta description for each page of your website. This is a longer and more thorough description of the web page’s content that’s displayed below in the title in search listings. In the past, Google had supported up to 160 characters for the meta description, but the Mountain View company recently increased the length to 320 characters. Take full advantage of this digital real estate by adding a unique, detailed meta description — also with the keyword for which you want to rank — to each page of your site.

Adding meta titles and meta descriptions can help your site rank for highly competitive keywords, but you should avoid using the meta keyword element. Popularized by now-obsolete search engines like Altavista and Infoseek in the mid-1990s, the meta keyword element was once a useful SEO tool that helped search engines rank websites. Now, however, neither Google, Bing nor any other major search engine use meta keywords in their ranking algorithm.

Spy on Competitors’ Backlinks

Spying on your competitors’ backlinks can reveal new, effective backlink-building opportunities for your own site. If another site is already ranking first in the search results for your primary target keyword, it probably has a strong backlink portfolio. By identifying the sources of these backlinks, you can replicate the process by building the same backlinks for your site.

There are a few tools available that can help you spy on your competitors’ backlinks, including Moz’s Open Site Explorer and Ahrefs. Enter the URL of your competitor’s site, and these tools will reveal all web pages linking to that URL.

You don’t have to reproduce every backlink that your competitor has. It’s not uncommon for top-ranking sites to have thousands or even tens of thousands of backlinks, so focus on the most valuable backlinks. When using Moz’s Open Site Explorer, sort your competitor’s backlinks by Page Authority (PA) and Domain Authority (DA), targeting the highest-rated backlinks first.

Publish Long-Form Content

The old days of securing a top search ranking for 500-word web pages are long gone. To rank for highly competitive keywords, you must publish long-form content that’s detailed, informative and relevant.

So, just how long should you make your content? According to a study conducted by serpIQ, web pages ranking in the top 10 positions of Google’s search results have more than 2,000 words on average, with the top-ranked page having more than 2,450 words. Therefore, you should stay around 2,000 to 2,500 words for most pages on your site.

Add Images

Don’t forget to include images in your site’s content. Even it’s a text-based article or blog post, it can still benefit from the presence of images. Research shows that web pages with images generate 94 percent more views than text-only pages. This is because, as humans, we respond more actively to visual stimuli than written words or text. When a visitor encounters a web page with nothing more than text, he or she may back out without taking the time to read it.

Other studies have shown that web pages with visuals have higher search rankings and conversion rates than text-only pages. To take advantage of these benefits, include several images on each page of your site. A good rule of thumb is to add one image for every 300 words of text. If your web page is 2,000 words, for example, include six or seven images.

Create a Positive User Experience

User experience and search rankings go hand in hand. If your site offers a poor experience, search engines will take notice and lower its search rankings as a result.

Google and Bing use hundreds of rankings signals in their ranking algorithms. Some of these are obvious, such as backlink quantity and quality, but others are more discreet, such as bounce rate and average visit duration. Bounce rate reflects the percentage of visitors who only view a single page in their session, whereas average visit duration — also known as average session duration — reflects the average time visitors spend on your web page. A poor user experience can increase your page’s bounce rate and lower its average visit duration, prompting search engines to lower the page’s search rankings.

Encourage UGC

Twenty-five percent of the world’s top 20 brands use user-generated content (UGC), according to Kissmetrics. USG is any content that’s created by a visitor but published on your website. It’s a powerful SEO element that can differentiate your site from your competitors and help you secure a top search ranking.

Product reviews are a common form of USG. After buying a product online, the customer may return to the merchant’s website to leave a review so that others shoppers can make well-informed decisions. Good or bad, each review is additional, valuable content for the web page, which search engines love.

Another example of USG is visitor comments on a blog. Like product reviews, they add valuable content to the page. Visitors can ask questions in the comments section, respond to other users’ questions or simply share their thoughts on the post’s subject. Over time, high-ranking blog posts can attract hundreds of visitor comments, each of which can offer SEO value.

Optimize Site Speed

You can’t expect Google to give your site a top ranking for a competitive keyword if it takes forever to load. For more than eight years, Google’s search ranking algorithm has analyzed site speed as a ranking signal for desktop results. And in 2018, the Mountain View company announced that it was expanding this signal to mobile results as well.

To encourage higher rankings, optimize your site for faster load times. There are dozens of ways to speed up a site, some of which include using a content delivery network (CDN), enabling browser caching, using smaller images and placing CSS at the top of the page. Try to keep your site’s load time under three seconds for the best results.

Update Content

You aren’t finished with a web page just because you hit the “publish” button. You should continue to update it by adding relevant content. This shows Google that you actively maintain the page rather than allow it to go dormant, and  Google will respond by increasing its search rankings.

Updating your content also gives you the opportunity to proofread and check your content for errors. Even if you proofread your content before you initially published the page, you may have overlooked a typo. Some studies show that the average typist makes eight mistakes every 100 words.

Ranking for highly competitive keywords takes longer and requires more work than keywords with low or moderate competition. With the right approach, however, you can secure a top search ranking for nearly any keyword.