Are exchanged or reciprocal links okay with Google?
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How do you outperform larger, highly competitive keyword sites?

How do you outperform larger, highly competitive keyword sites?

Today’s Ask an SEO Question comes from Mark in Pittsburgh. Mark asks:

“How do you compete for keyword ranking with a site that gets 400 times the monthly traffic when you absolutely have to rank for the same keyword? I can not give specific details for the sake of confidentiality, but here are the facts.

The term my client wants to rank for is a 3-word phrase without a mark with about 500 average monthly queries. Currently they rank 25. The second result is from a direct competitor who gets 20 million visits a month. The customer gets approx. 50,000 pr. Month.

The competitor’s page literally has 135 words and fails CWV benchmarks. Customer page has ~ 600 words and passes CWV. Competitor has thousands of backlinks. The customer has less than 50. Both sides are for competing products in a very crowded space. Both domains have existed for> 10 years. In a six-month trial, the client has moved up, but not close to the main competitor. I would think that SEO is not reduced to a popularity contest, but these facts do not give me much faith that it is not. Will love your thoughts. ”


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Hi Mark,

Without knowing the website, everything is a shot in the dark, but I can help get you in the right direction.

First, you look at the wrong things. Each of the topics you focus on does not matter (except backlinks).

Core Web Vitals (CWVs) can give your client’s site a boost if all other things were considered equal, but your competitor’s site does not lose position for non-compliance. The amount of words on the page is also irrelevant as number of words is not a quality factor. What is important is structuring and formatting the words from H-tags to bullets, and whether you present the information in the right way. The age of the domain is also not important because domains change hands, change service or product types and change topics. You will want to look for old backlinks and indexing bloat from old pages that are somehow still found in the indexes. Older versions of the site from previous owners could also have been penalized and it may transfer and work against you.

Here are the better questions to ask

1. Is page copy relevant to the user experience?

Check that:

Pictures show how to use the product. The content explains when and how to use the product or service, the benefits of the product or service, etc. Does the content clearly communicate that the product or service on the site is the best solution? Your FAQs answer specific questions about the product or service.

2. Is there a relevant form on the page?

Look for opportunities to use …


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Product.Review.Ratings.Additional type.FAQ.Description.SKU.Pricing.Video object.Service.Etc.

Look at the success stories of these schemes for inspiration.

3. How many internal links does this product page have compared to the rest of your site?

If you do not have a crawler that can easily find this, the Google Search Console has a report on it.

If it is not in the top 10 or 15 pages (internally linkwise), start building some, but make sure the internal links are there for the benefit of the customer, not just SEO. You can create internal links from: Category pages.Blog posts.Other product pages.Navigation.Etc.

See internal practice for internal link structure to increase your SEO to learn more.

4. Where and how did the competitor get their backlinks, and can you do the same?

It could be advertising, pitching PR, thought management articles, etc.

Backlinks are easy to get, including larger media. You just have to put in the work to get them.

Download Link Building for SEO: A Complete Guide, and Get Started.

5. Have you done influencer campaigns?

Can you get certified experts to comment or quote the product on the page to create some trust?

There are tools to help you build and scale a successful influencer marketing strategy. Raj Nijjer shares some helpful tips here.

Concluding thoughts

From what you shared, it sounds like you’re looking at things that either do not rank signals yet or never were. Instead, divert your thinking to good things in life, such as being in control of your life.

More importantly, look at things that rank signals and ask how you can improve them, which also improves the experience for the person on the page.

In short, Google will rank the best answer to the searcher’s query the highest. You need to show Google that your site is the best answer in every way possible.


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I hope it helps


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Editor’s Note: Ask an SEO is a weekly SEO consulting column written by some of the industry’s best SEO experts that has been hand-picked by the Search Engine Journal. Do you have a question about SEO? Fill out our form. You may see your answer in the next # AskanSEO post!

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