How to Use SEO to Beat Your Competitors

The state of SEO is constantly evolving- with the past few years have come big shifts in how we think about optimizing web content. While the first step to SEO is to help our websites be read by search engines, there are other tactics we can utilize that extend beyond optimizing for the bots, helping you to rank higher and outperform competitors.

The general principles of SEO have remained the same; as long as search engines use an algorithm to crawl and rank web content, there will always be a need to optimize certain aspects of your site for click bots. For example, can search engines find your site, is it properly structured, is your content relevant and engaging? All this feeds into your website’s trustworthiness, which is a key factor in determining how your site is ranked.

Recently, however, more and more people have begun to think of SEO differently- more strategically, in my opinion. We’ve stopped thinking one-sidedly about optimizing entirely for search engines and begun to think about SEO more holistically, with emphasis on optimizing for a more human, empathetic experience. We’ve begun to focus on HEO- human enjoyment optimization.

It’s quite a simple concept: don’t just solve for the search engines, solve for the humans.

If people enjoy coming to your site, find your content engaging and relevant, have a good user experience throughout the customer journey and stick around– search engines will see that as a sign of quality and it will impact your SERP rankings. In other words, solving for the human will help you to gain trust and authority with the search engines. 

While in some ways, websites are usually focused on the user, solving for humans wasn’t a widely considered tactic to help with SEO a few years ago. Instead, we’d write copy around keywords that bots would find relevant. While you still should be optimizing for keywords, I’d like to emphasize the idea around solving for the customer’s journey, for example, writing query-centric content instead of only using keywords bots find relevant.

Along with HEO, there are several other tactics we can explore to drive SERP rankings that don’t directly involve solving for search engines. Keep in mind, the tactics you pursue should always tie back to your SEO strategy and main principles.


Create engaging content and promote it

Shift content towards writing for customers. It is better to create high-quality content then spit out low-quality just to simply produce content. Even if the content is completely optimized for search engines, it won’t necessarily help your sites rankings if people don’t find it engaging.

  • Write for industry publications and blogs
  • Respond to press alerts from journalists
  • Share your content with online communities (reddit, quora)
  • Re-optimize content – squeeze more juice out of your previous work
  • Remember backlinks matter, and content without promotion is a failure


Don’t forget the user 

Find the answers to the questions people are searching for and write engaging, valuable content. 

  • Informational searches are usually long tail – looking for an answer to a question
  • Navigational searches are people who know what they are looking for
  • Transactional searches – purchase intent; “buy red dress”


Keep perspective

Tailor your website to your customer and make their experience valuable and enjoyable – remember to keep your customer’s perspective.

  • A/B test website content (copy, buttons, colors, etc.) and track results- do this often
  • Get feedback from customers 
  • Optimize for the customer journey – don’t let them bounce immediately (this hurts rankings)


Test & measure content success

Where is your content performing the best?

  • Which content topics get the most links?
  • Which word-count brings the most traffic? (the sweet spot is usually 2250-2500)
  • How many social shares per content piece? What are the contributing factors?


Optimize for mobile

Figure out your mobile search behavior so you can optimize for visibility and performance. 20 industry niches out of 24 see mobile as their first source of traffic.

  • Make sure your site is optimized for mobile, be it m. site, responsive, adaptive, PWA, or independent
  • Implement structured data in mobile version (helps with speed)
  • Pending your strategy and search analysis, reevaluate your user experience and conversion optimization for your mobile site
  • If you don’t think mobile will be valuable, and you have a poorly optimized mobile site, it would be in your interest to stick to desktop only and nix the mobile version


Local SERP

Dig into search queries that bring in local organic traffic from mobile (exclude branded searches) and strategically plan how you can conquer the market by intercepting traffic.

  • How are your pages being displayed in comparison to your competitors? How does their featured snippet look compared to yours?
  • Local business websites should work to gain traffic generated by searches related to local queries. Right now, Google fails to provide relevant results. There is a wide array of opportunity available to strategically pull new traffic.


“The way to win at SEO is to focus on HEO (human enjoyment optimization).” – Hupspot founder, Dharmesh Shah.

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