Do you know that one competitor that is just always at the top of Google search results? You may have a better website than them. Maybe you have been around for longer. Perhaps your product or service is of better quality. Question is – why do they always come out on top?
Gymnastics Direct is that business in the world of gymnastics equipment. For the past 5 years they have consistently ranked in the top 2 positions for any keywords related to the equipment they sell and it has translated to enormous growth in organic traffic year on year.
So what is the secret?
You may have heard this before: SEO is a popularity contest. This is true to an extent. However, there is faked popularity and real popularity. For many years Search engine optimisation has meant faking this popularity to make it seem like a business or website is more popular than they really are. Building links that people will never click on, or writing articles that no one will read. It is easy for Google to tell what is real and what is not just by looking at real users. What links are real users clicking on, what content are real users reading?
The secret is real popularity, real credibility in an industry. Lets take a look at some of the real reasons that Gymanstics Direct has been able to maintain such a strong presence at the top of Google.
- Branded Search Volume
How often are people in your market searching for your brand? This is a very strong indication of how well known a brand is in your market. If people are searching for a brand directly rather than typing in general searches like ‘gym equipment’ it indicates that they would prefer to do business directly with that brand rather than look at the competition. If you were Google, wouldn’t you take that as a big tick of approval from the market?
You can see here that Gymnastics Direct is far and away the most searched among its main competitors. You can check this by using Google Keyword Planner. (If you have an Adwords account)
- Search Trends
While branded search volume does give us an indication of which brands are the current market leaders, it doesn’t indicate the market trends and where things are heading. Google keyword planner also offers the ability to compare current search volume data to previous years. By doing so you can see which businesses are rising and falling in popularity.
Using this tool we can see that Gymnastics Direct has increased the gap on the competition in the last 12 months.
- Social Communities
Think of a brands social media page as the community of people that associate with the brand and want to keep in touch with the brand. This is as close to a voting system as it gets. The number of real people who like, follow, subscribe etc. is a strong indication of the number of fans a brand has and their audience. Of course, similar to Google people will try and game the system and inflate the numbers. However, just like Google, Facebook is getting increasingly good at weeding out fake likes.
When reviewing the Facebook pages of Gymnastics Direct and it’s competitors it again comes out on top in regards to it’s community and followers.
The Beam Shop
The Beam Store
Little Gym Shop
- Community Participation
There are many ways to measure the engagement levels of a brands social media page, such as average number of post likes, shares or comments. An easy way to measure brand engagement on social media is to see how many people are actually creating content referencing the brand rather than just interacting with content the brand has created. This shows a high level of engagement and is easily quantifiable.
A quick way to do this is to go to Instagram and search for branded hastags. This will tell you how many times people have created Instagram posts referencing your business. Only the most engaged brand advocates will bother to do this, so it is a good way to measure how passionate the community is around the business.
The Little Gym Shop has used their branded hastag in almost all of their 300+ Instagram posts, so discounting those the community participation on Instagram between Little Gym Shop and Gymnastics Direct is very close. However there is a large gap between these 2 and the next best which is The Beam Store.
Gymanastics Direct have also done a good job of encouraging branded hashtag use by embedding a feed of branded Instagram posts on their website.
- Relationships with 3rd parties
The final major signal I will cover here is the businesses relationship with 3rd parties. Fostering relationships with major customers, industry associations and related but non-competing businesses is a great way to built trust in your market. Links to and from these organisations is the obvious SEO benefit. However, it also increases the chance you will receive referrals and referral traffic, positive testimonials and have your content shared by organisations with a larger audience than your own.
A quick look at the Gymnastics Direct website will show that they are associated with large organisations they have supplied, gymnastics clubs, local councils and industry associations. Not one of the other competitors comes close to having these industry connections and if they do, it certainly isn’t obvious.
The Bottom Line
While you may not know why another business always outranks you on Google there is typically a good reason. The businesses that appear at the top are more often than not market leaders with strong brands that are well known in the market.
There is no doubt that Google and other search engines are using the above signals to decide whether or not a business is trustworthy and worthy of a place at the top. So take a look at all the “real” authority or popularity signals in your market and see how you really place against the competition.
Then think about how on building real brand authority instead of sending fake signals to Google. It takes longer to build brand awareness and relationships within your market but it is far and away the best and most sustainable way to drive traffic from Google.
- Organic traffic that has grown year on year
- Top rankings for 5+ years
- Significant Brand traffic